In cricket, triumph and disaster will come again; in this world, C. B. Fry will not.
Charles Burgess Fry (1872-1956) was not only one of the greatest English cricketers of all time and holder of the world long jump record, he was also a full back for England, Southampton, Portsmouth and Corinthians (a team who were such sportsmen that they would deliberately miss penalties because they refused to believe that the other team would intentionally foul them) He also played rugby for Oxford, Blackheath and the Barbarians, and could have played for England.
He was supremely athletic; one of his party pieces was to jump backwards onto a mantelpiece from a standing position on the floor. And, had he taken part in the 1896 Olympics (he didn’t, probably due to financial difficulties), it’s believed that he would probably have won the 100 metres and the long jump.
However, Fry’s lifetime of achievements was so huge that when he appeared on This Is Your Life in 1955, Eamonn Andrews’ introduction didn’t even mention his sporting career.
As well as being a great sportsman, Fry took on an extraordinary range of careers including being a teacher at the prestigious Charterhouse public school, a journalist and a captain in the Royal Naval Reserve – the ‘territorials’ of the sea. In December 1908 he became the Captain Superintendent of the Training Ship Mercury, a nautical school designed to prepare boys for service in the Royal Navy. Fry held this position until 1950.
He failed three times to become a Liberal MP and made an ill-advised trip to persuade Hitler and von Ribbentrop that the Nazis should take up test cricket. He also claimed to have been asked to be King of Albania. It supposedly happened at the League of Nations held in Geneva in 1920. Fry was there as secretary to India's delegate, Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji, the Jamsahib of Nawanagar (he and Fry were old friends, having played cricket together for Sussex.) But Ranjitsinhji was known for his practical jokes, and it seems probable that the offer of kingship was one of them.
There was a dark side to C B Fry. He was frequently short of money, resorting to nude modelling to make ends meet. He suffered several bouts of depression, and was hospitalised for years at a time. A mental breakdown at the end of the 1920s left him with a pathological horror of Indians who he believed cast spells on him.
He married a woman - Beatrice Sumner – who was 10 years his senior and who became involved in a major sex scandal with Charles Hoare, a man twice her age and married with 5 children. The gossip pages reported that Hoare had been found in her bedroom ‘in circumstances which he could not satisfactorily explain’.
Oh God! If there be cricket in Heaven, let there also be rain.