1971

Illingworth’s ashes. February in Sydney. Australia had to win the final test to retain them and they had a lead of 80 after the first innings. When John Snow was warned for bowling one bouncer and cutting Jenner’s head, the crowd threw beer cans onto the pitch. He then fielded on the boundary after his spell and a drunken spectator grabbed his shirt and more cans were thrown. Illingworth led his team off the field in protest. After the umpires threatened to award the match (and therefore the Ashes) to Australia he brought them back. Australia were set 223 runs to win and England dismissed them for 160. England won the series 2-nil, and Illingworth became the first captain in 16 years to regain the Ashes. It was the only series made up of seven test matches. Snow took 31 wickets at an average of 22.83 and Boycott led the batting with 657 runs at an average of 93.85. In fact Boycott’s average for the 1971 season was over 100 (and he did it again in 1979). Illi didn’t get on with the management. Hugely respected by Australian players as a competitive Yorkshire skipper. Very muted congratulations at a celebratory Lords dinner. Sat next to Mickey Stewart,‘Did you win The Ashes?’, ‘You wouldn’t have thought so looking at this lot.’

It was our last year and we were working our way towards ‘Finals’, around May or June. We still lived above “the lady of the night”. Sadly, we heard plenty of disturbances. Once, after a particularly noisy hour, we feared the worst and when it was quiet we checked if we could help. We couldn’t but our concern was appreciated. Usual story of being beaten up by her pimp and powerless because she feared her children would be taken from her. Brown sauce over the walls, clothes strewn everwhere, bruised and tearful. She had some well known clients, but I couldn’t possibly say who they were.

Four of us each had a bedroom in two flats, with shared toilet, kitchen and sitting room. It wouldn’t have passed any sort of public health inspection, but it served well as a base to swat and play rugby. The fixtures included Headingley and Gosforth away, and a long home run, Harlequins, Northampton, Mosely, Rugby, Birkenhead Park for example, who were all “first class” sides then. We lost more than we won. We had some names. Greenwood played for England, and there were county players like Hanley, Lyon and Smaje. But they weren’t regular with us, we’d no coaching and morale was low..

Our priority was the “exam”. It went on forever. My first time to continue to feel anxious and irritable after the stress had gone. We wrote essays and did multiple choice papers, two clinical exams and a viva in each speciality: medicine, surgery, orthopaedics, O&G’s and paediatrics. A marathon. Summer off and back to house jobs in September, all in different hospitals. It’s a cliche, but things have never been the same again. I played rugby for two further seasons, dodging between on-call commitments. The abiding memory was beating Orrell at a home evening game in front of a packed house. We moved to Cardiff soon after.

And Boycott batted on and on. He was never our favourite because he was so certain about everything. Brian and Fred had a vulnerable air about them. They made mistakes and they bled a bit. You could follow and be inspired by them.

Illingworth’s ashes. February in Sydney. Australia had to win the final test to retain them and they had a lead of 80 after the first innings. When John Snow was warned for bowling one bouncer and cutting Jenner’s head, the crowd threw beer cans onto the pitch. He then fielded on the boundary after his spell and a drunken spectator grabbed his shirt and more cans were thrown. Illingworth led his team off the field in protest. After the umpires threatened to award the match (and therefore the Ashes) to Australia he brought them back. Australia were set 223 runs to win and England dismissed them for 160. England won the series 2-nil, and Illingworth became the first captain in 16 years to regain the Ashes. It was the only series made up of seven test matches. Snow took 31 wickets at an average of 22.83 and Boycott led the batting with 657 runs at an average of 93.85. In fact Boycott’s average for the 1971 season was over 100 (and he did it again in 1979). Illi didn’t get on with the management. Hugely respected by Australian players as a competitive Yorkshire skipper. Very muted congratulations at a celebratory Lords dinner. Sat next to Mickey Stewart,‘Did you win The Ashes?’, ‘You wouldn’t have thought so looking at this lot.’

After two preclinical years, lectures came second to hospital placements. Groups of eight or so students were allocated to a firm, located in hospitals up and down the city. Next to the docks, in the city centre, out by the ring road. Some were the same vintage as the anatomy lecture theatre – Victorian teaching hospitals with more gold letters and statues in the entrance hall, high ceilings, circular wards, large baths, nursing sisters and midwives with bad smells permanently under their noses. Others would have had a specific role once, but the disease or the fashion had moved on and so they were converted, piecemeal prefabricated lumps and bumps, added on when needed.

Each firm was a double act, Walker and Money, McDonald and Wood and so on. Two surgeons or physicians or whatever. Many of the older consultants were legends. Reputations built on the things they got up to as students and juniors, or their record as teachers. The younger ones were a different breed of steely professionalism. Lots of new things could be done for illness and litigation was just around the corner.

Different hospitals, different generations of consultant, same fear and trepidation for the teaching ward round. Adversarial, like the law. Sarcastic if you were lucky. Teaching by humiliation. Not fun. Whilst the pompous consultant was the norm there were exceptions. One senior guy punctuated his clinics with explanations of the derivation of words and phrases. Another taught in his rooms in the city’s Harley Street, on an endless quest to write a book on signs and symptoms. Yet another took them on home visits. They once discovered a confused old lady on her upstairs bedroom floor, more or less flattened by an ancient wardrobe she’d pulled over. The local football ground was visible from the window.

What kept us sane was the firm. Andy and Chris were easy going ex-public schoolboys from the healthy North Wales coast. We also had Dick and Barry and the three girls. It worked, until Andy started going out with Jan. I may not have being able afford toothpaste but I coped. I even asked the bank manager for an overdraft.

Uncle George died in Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, aortic aneurysm on the death certificate. The new concrete hospital. State of the art replacement for the marble pillars, stone statues and gold letters of the old one. I was near the end of my university course, a resident in a children’s unit.

‘My uncle’s just died.’

‘Oh,’ said Andy, ‘Didn’t know you had an uncle. Were you close?’

‘We were once. Mum and dad still were.’

They were sat in the lounge. Nothing special. A place for students to be together. Minimal, modern, newly built. Chairs and a TV. Lots of windows, white walls. Okay for parties. Better than some of the places they’d stayed. Better than the Lodge Lane flat. Damp, mouldy, dark drafty staircases, small windows, greasy kitchens, polluted bathroom. Just perfect for parties.

‘Better catch the next train. Chris might give you a lift to station.’

‘Oh, I don’t know. Too much to do.’

‘You’re always working. Can’t be a problem taking one or two days off. There’s no roll call. Who is going to notice whether you are there or not?’

I had to admit we were left to it a lot of the time. You got signed up at the end of a firm, but not a lot of checking went on. Some had a short exam, but lots didn’t. I wanted to clear it with somebody though, ‘I’ll give the dean’s office a ring,’

Gladys came up to Me after the funeral, just as I was arranging a lift down to the station.

‘Good of you to come, you must be busy? How goes it?’

‘Always something to do. I’m in paediatrics at the moment, but we have pathology finals in September. So it’s busy.’

‘I was wondering what your uncle George died of?’

I tried my best to describe the likely series of events. Gladys pursed her lips, apparently not satisfied, ‘What’s happened to your accent? It sounds posh.’

‘Does it?

‘Well it’s changed.’

‘Must be rubbing up against public schoolboys,’ I said. Not that Andy, Chris and the others spoke like The Queen. But Iwas training up in a profession. There were certain standards, a certain position to adopt. Distance to be created.

It was our last year and we were working our way towards ‘Finals’, around May or June. We still lived above “the lady of the night”. Sadly, we heard plenty of disturbances. Once, after a particularly noisy hour, we feared the worst and when it was quiet we checked if we could help. We couldn’t but our concern was appreciated. Usual story of being beaten up by her pimp and powerless because she feared her children would be taken from her. Brown sauce over the walls, clothes strewn everywhere, bruised and tearful. She had some well known clients, but I couldn’t possibly say who they were.

Four of us each had a bedroom in two flats, with shared toilet, kitchen and sitting room. It wouldn’t have passed any sort of public health inspection, but it served well as a base to swat and play rugby. The fixtures included Headingley and Gosforth away, and a long home run, Harlequins, Northampton, Mosely, Rugby, Birkenhead Park for example, who were all “first class” sides then. We lost more than we won. We had some names. Greenwood played for England, and there were county players like Hanley, Lyon and Smaje. But they weren’t regularly with us, we’d no coaching and morale was low..

Our priority was the “exam”. It went on forever. My first time to continue to feel anxious and irritable after the stress had gone. We wrote essays and did multiple choice papers, two clinical exams and a viva in each speciality: medicine, surgery, orthopaedics, O&G’s and paediatrics. A marathon.

Summer off and back to house jobs in September, all in different hospitals. It’s a cliche, but things have never been the same again. My house jobs were at Broadgreen Hospital. Medicine on the professorial unit, surgery with Mr Moroney. He was your old fashioned surgeon who did gall bladders and mastectomies and went missing when anything bigger turned up, like a Whipple’s pancreatectomy, which the senior registrar did. He smoked Manikin cigars and got breathless while operating. Had a private practice at the local catholic run clinic and, from time to time, could be seen disappearing from our hospital with a couple of pints of blood, presumably to cover a paying gall bladder. He used to do relieving incisions after mastectomies, four or five laid open skin cuts across the chest. Nobody knew why but the women must have been devastated by what, effectively, was mutilation. Me and Pete Gibson, the other houseman, assisted Moroney during these procedures and when he was away, we got to do some hernias, appendicectomies and an assortment of lumps and bumps. I never wanted to be a surgeon though.

We played cricket with a tennis ball on a strip behind the doctors quarters next to the Jewish cemetry. A good hit would make matron’s garden. She was a caricature, a battleship in full steam. She used to leave a flotilla of nurses in her wake when they toured the wards on Christmas Eve, singing carols. We had a high tea delivered every 4.00 pm to the doctors’ lounge. Spam slices was a favourite. On a good day you could skim them into the cemetery. We also played a formal game in whites. A surgical SHO bowled me behind my legs with a leg break. Must have hit a divot.

I played rugby for two further seasons, dodging between on-call commitments. The abiding memory was beating Orrell at a home evening game in front of a packed house. I scored from the back of a scrum over in the corner between the main stand and the Southport railway line.

We moved to Cardiff soon after. And Boycott batted on and on. He was never our favourite because he was so certain about everything. Brian and Fred had a vulnerable air about them. They made mistakes and they bled a bit. You could follow and be inspired by them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s