World when people were courteous, charming, honourable - and didn’t suffer from massive egos
- Credit: Sally Allen
Last week, I told you about an evening I organised for Godfrey Evans CBE’s 70th birthday in 1991, which obviously included Denis Compton among other luminaries of cricket.
A couple of weeks before the event I had a phone call from John Major, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, asking if he could come to the dinner.
Obviously, I agreed, and I asked him if he would pay for his dinner by saying Grace, which of course he agreed to.
So, with all these fun-loving legends gathered together and a few hundred guests, the scene was set for a wonderful evening.
On the night, there was a very boozy and lively champagne reception so by the time we all sat down everyone was quite well oiled!
I had arranged that the speaker order would be Denis Compton, Brian Johnston, Jeffrey and then Godders.
During the reception, Johnners pulled me aside and said that he might have to leave early, so could he go first... more of this later!
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I had invited my mother and a couple of her friends to join us as they were all keen cricket fans – particularly of the great and hugely charismatic Keith Miller.
This amazing man lived up to his reputation of when he was a young man. His ability, irreverent manner and stunning goods looks had made him an idol – known as the 'golden boy' he inevitably was nicknamed 'Nugget'.
Like Denis, his best friend, he embodied the idea that there was more to life than cricket – particularly wine, women and song.
Nugget arrived on walking sticks and was suffering greatly from skin cancer. No matter, the women at the event were queuing up to meet him causing quite a commotion.
He was the epitome of charm and still had the charisma for which he was famous.
Sir Len Hutton also needs special mention, as very, very sadly this dinner was to be his last ever outing and he passed away the following week.
Now to the events on the night.
The ever-safe pair of hands for emceeing stood up, Andy Peebles, and his first task was to introduce John Major.
This he did with the greatest intro ever referring to a great metaphor referring to the Chancellor’s red and battered box. You will have to ask Andy to tell the whole story, but it was hilarious, and I understand that John Major still refers to it when he is in contact with Andy.
I had given Andy my new running order, so he then moved on to Johnners who gave his speech. Well... Denis was not amused.
It turned out that Johnners wasn’t intending on leaving early after all, he just wanted to tell a number of stories that Denis was going to tell – so needed to get on first.
To say the least Denis was furious and kept complaining to me that it was typical of Johnners and what on earth was he going to say now! Denis, of course, was brilliant and made sure that everyone knew what Johnners had done.
During the evening I ran a raffle for Godders to raise some cash for him. It amounted to a couple of thousand pounds, which he insisted on spending by taking a couple of us to the Ritz Casino the following evening and putting it all on red.
Sadly, he lost but what a great couple of evenings. I have been so incredibly lucky.
I know it sounds trite, but we seriously will not see the like of these men again.
Their world was the world of Captain Sir Tom Moore when people were courteous, charming, honourable and didn’t suffer from massive egos. We really do have a lot to learn from them – it really was a better time.