Lionel Charles Hamilton Palairet played for Somerset from 1890 to 1909. He scored over 15000 first-class runs at an average of 33.63 in an age when pitches were far from as reliable as they are today, and when they were left exposed to the elements in inclement weather. He made 27 first-class centuries. He has often been referred to as the archetypal classical batsman of cricket’s ‘Golden Age’. He played with immense grace off the front foot with an off drive second to none. The grace of his driving could be matched by its power and it was not uncommon for him to launch a drive into the River Tone or St James churchyard. In this poem I have tried to capture what it would be like to be transported back in time to watch Palairet – the nonpareil …
Come with me down to the County Ground
Where we’ll cast our sight to its past.
We’ll take a breath, then glaze our eyes
And make the moment last.
Dissolve the stands and boundary boards
And replace them with grass and a rope.
Vision ourselves in Palairet’s time;
Into our veins let the atmosphere soak.
Close our eyes while today’s players fade
And six score seasons offset.
Let Victorian sunlight brighten the glade
And set the stage for Palairet.
Let monochrome watchers line the ring
Wearing suits and hats of old;
We’ll build our dream as our canvas unfolds,
And to our pumping hearts keep hold.
As the noon day falls the batsmen emerge
And the bowler’s field is set.
There, tall and erect, striding forth with his bat
The incomparable Palairet.
We’ll behold the god-like grace of his stroke
As we witness the nonpareil.
And savour too the control and style
In the power of his lofted drive.
And the rest of those present at the County Ground
Will cheer and clap and fret
As their day unfolds, but blind to the fact
That you and I saw Palairet.
Originally posted on grockles.com in 2016