An Unjust Slur on Bobby Peel

Published: 1997
Pages: 8
Author: Rosenwater, Irving
Publisher: Private
Rating: 4 stars

When I first started to take an interest in cricket history I recall seeing somewhere the story of Bobby Peel. I learned how the career of the second in Yorkshire’s long line of top class orthodox left arm spinners ended in ignominy when he was sacked by Lord Hawke for urinating on the pitch after over-imbibing the evening before.

I assumed, having read it in a ‘proper’ book, the tale must have been true, and that was the end of my thinking on the subject. Several years later however, having acquired something akin to an addiction to the writings of Irving Rosenwater, I had to reconsider. At some point in the not too distant future I intend to devote an entire feature to Rosenwater but, for present purposes, it is sufficient to record he was something of an eccentric, and a most combative character.

For years cricket history, when it mentioned Peel at all, recorded that turning up to play the worse for wear was the reason for his summary dismissal and there was no mention at all of an act of on-field urination. Then in the 1960s, via his scholarly publication The Cricket Quarterly, a historian every bit as eccentric and combative as Rosenwater, Major Rowland Bowen, rewrote history and first put the ‘full’ story in the public domain.

An Unjust Slur on Bobby Peel comprehensively and none too gently dismantles Bowen’s account and debunks his myth beyond any possible doubt. The trenchant style of the writing is typically Rosenwater and the only regret on reading it is that, given it appeared two decades after Bowen’s death, we will never know the Major’s reaction to it. From what we do know of the relationship between the two men we can be sure it would not have been pretty.

The problem with Rosenwater is that he is, more so than any other writer whose work continued into the 21st century, highly collectable. Some of his later booklets appeared in limitations of such numbers that, whilst still expensive, they are relatively easy to find, and the prices not too outrageous. Unfortunately for the casual reader that cannot be said of An Unjust Slur on Bobby Peel which appeared in an edition of only 20. A copy was priced at £300 in a recent McKenzie catalogue and, having seen copies listed in the past for rather more, I would be surprised if it were still unsold. All is not however lost for those interested as, not unusually for Rosenwater, the text of An Unjust Slur on Bobby Peel also appeared elsewhere, in the February 1997 edition of the White Rose Magazine. A copy of that should prove a little easier to track down, and if located will cost no more than a few pounds.


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