You’d have thought that spending a life in the public eye for being a master in your chosen field would warrant you a few well-chosen lines in the national papers’ obituary columns when it came your turn to snuff it. But the Law of Sod often has one last laugh at your expense by somehow arranging to kill-off another celebrity and thus depriving you of the plaudits your time on Earth deserved.
Thus when Mother Teresa of Calcutta threw a seven, she had the misfortune to throw it during the official month of mourning afforded to that other living saint, Lady Diana Spencer, Princess of the People’s Hearts and unofficial Patron of the English Rugby Team. Old Ma Treesa didn’t get a look in. The world is only geared up to mourn one deity at a time and the aged nun missed out by a short head.
When the brilliant Ian Carmichael finally curled up his tootsies, you’d have thought he who brought us the celluloid embodiment of Bertie Wooster, who starred in the Trade Union-bashing I’m All Right Jack and thrilled us in School for Scoundrels (the funny one, not the 2006 version starring Billy Bob Thornton) would have warranted page upon page of tributes and gushing obits. Sadly for Ian, Alexander McQueen had recently shuffled off and there wasn’t enough column inches to dedicate to two geniuses [sic] at one time unfortunately and the frock-botherer prevailed.
Now I have nothing against Elizabeth Taylor. If you are a certain generation I’m sure she was the greatest thing since sliced cheese. I’ve seen a few of her movies and she was no more or less wooden than the rest of her fellow actors (I never really got Richard Burton either. How could Mark Anthony have a Welsh accent?). I know Liz won a couple of Oscars and her charity work is legendary. Fair play to her.
But did she ever take 7 wickets for 79 runs against the Australians at Sydney ? Fred Titmus did.
Did Dame Elizabeth ever take 9-52 against Cambridge University at Fenners ? Fed Titmus did.
Did Liz ever lose four toes in a freak boating accident yet the following season take 111 wickets in the season, while at the same time topping his club’s batting averages ? No she didn’t but, incredibly, Fred did that too.
Did Taylor ever open the batting for her country against the West Indies in Barbados, whilst suffering from Bells Palsey and confined to a wheelchair due to chronic gout, nevertheless scoring a half-century in 43 balls including two sixes ? No, neither did Fred, but it would have been a great story.
So while you’re ploughing though the tributes and re-runs of Liz Taylor and nestling down in your armchair to watch the seventeen hours of boredom that is Cleopatra or maybe the drivel that is National Velvet, spare a thought for Fred Titmus, a man who’s career spanned five decades, was a great all-rounder, and had a very fine song written about him.