Early Days, 1954 Part One – Inclement Weather, the Naming of Children and Sport

I first started this blog in November 2009 and I called it ‘The Age of Innocence’ and I intended it to be a look back over the first twenty years or so of my life by examining some of the key events of the years that were making the big news.

The blog was a slow starter, in the first month the statistics show six views increasing to nine in December.  On the basis of these figures it is fair to assume then that not many people have read my early posts so I have decided that ten years since first publication I will go back and review them and repost:

1954 Part One – Inclement Weather, The Naming of Children and Sport

1954 weather-forecast

The weather in England is often, no mostly, disappointing and a source of amusement for people in other parts of the World who have the benefit of warmer and drier climates. Australia springs immediately to mind.

According to official records the year 1954 was especially poor.

The Monthly Weather Report of the Meteorological Office was produced by the Air Ministry and printed by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.  It had been in circulation since January 1884 and a note on the front cover explained that it was a “summary of observations compiled from returns of official stations and volunteer observers”.  As far as I can  make out it wasn’t an especially exciting publication and at a cost of two shillings, which wasn’t an inconsiderable sum at the time, I imagine that you would have had to be a really serious weather enthusiast to order a subscription at the newsagents.

For anyone that did buy the June 1954 edition (actually published in September), it reported that the month was all rather bleak and depressing, beset with frequent rain, below average temperatures for the time of year and the lowest ever recorded hours of sunshine for June since records began.

Rain In Wales 1

This sad statistic was not surpassed until over fifty years later in 2012.  I didn’t mind too much about that because at the time I was away backpacking in the Greek Islands.

Island Hopping, Back Packing, Greek Islands, Paros

It turned out to be the worst summer of the century and the official verdict was confirmed by a weather report in the cricket journal Wisden’s Almanack in its annual review of the season which included reports on the international matches of that year.

In 1954 the Pakistan cricket team made their first ever tour of England and on Thursday 10th June were due to play their first Test match in London at Lords Cricket Ground but heavy rain meant that no play was possible on the opening day.  It rained all of the next day too and the day after that as well and this became the first Test match in England when all first three days were completely washed out.  This was unfortunate for anyone who had bought a ticket of course because unlike the US baseball rain check system if there was no play in a Test match then that was just plain bad luck.

The match was drawn, England won the second Test at Nottingham but the third Test at Manchester also lost three full days to rain and was drawn.  Pakistan won the final match at The Oval to square the series.

I wonder what was going through the minds of the Pakistan team as they sat in the dressing room wearing several jumpers and watching the rain pouring down when they knew that back home average June temperatures were around about 38°; they all look rather uncomfortable in this official team photograph…

1954 Pakistan Tourists

The only man genuinely smiling is the Wicket Keeper Imtiaz Ahmed and I guess that is because he was wearing the gloves!

The weather was providing all sorts of bizarre incidents and raising all sorts of questions but none more freakish than what happened on 12th June when a heavy rainstorm hit the city of Birmingham.  People fled for cover and visitors to a city park heard what sounded like the patter of unusually heavy raindrops beating against their umbrellas and then they were astonished to discover that the rain consisted of not just water but hundreds of tiny frogs!

Reports of frogs falling from the sky go back some way and some scientists account for these strange rains by explaining that frogs and fish are sometimes swept into the air by whirlwinds or tornados, transported along by the winds and then later on unceremoniously dumped from the sky.

It was around about now that I was due to make an appearance and more or less on time I was born in the afternoon of Tuesday 15th June at about the same time that the Midlands and the North of England were experiencing one of the wettest June days ever.

On an average day in the 1950s roughly about 340,000 people were born around the World so there must be a reasonable chance that most people will share a birthday with someone famous.  I’d like to tell you that mine is the same day as someone really, really famous but I have to make do with the actor James Belushi.

Based on that statistic and assuming an average life expectancy of 70 then I currently share my birthday with about twenty-four million other people!

I was given the name Andrew which in 1954 was the twelfth most popular name for a boy in England.  Over the last one hundred years the name was at the peak of its popularity in the 1950s.  The most popular that year was David (in the USA it was Robert and in Australia it was Peter) and for a girl it was Susan.  Nine of the top twelve boy’s names were Christian Saints.  By 2018 Andrew had slipped down as far as two hundred and tenth in popular baby names.

Front cover of Look Magazine 15th June 1954 – Grace Kelly…

1954 look-magazine-15-june-1954

There was another birth, of sorts, on June 15th because this was the day that the footballing countries of Europe got together and founded EUFA, The Union of European Football Associations, as the governing body of European football.  It originally consisted of twenty-five members including three countries that no longer exist in the way that they did in 1954, The Soviet Union, East Germany and Yugoslavia.

Another fascinating fact is that another founder member was Saarland which today is a State in Germany but in 1954 was an occupied Rhine State that was under post war French control at the time.  Saarland is/was more or less the same size as Luxembourg.

1954 Saarland Football Team

The following day the fifth FIFA World Cup competition began in Switzerland and competitors included West Germany who by a curious twist of fate had qualified for the finals by beating Saarland!  I can’t imagine that would have been terribly difficult, rather like England playing Cornwall or USA playing Hawaii.  The day after I was born the cup holders Brazil beat Mexico 5-0 and the following day England drew 4-4 with Belgium.  West Germany went on to win the World Cup by beating Hungary 3-2 in the final.

Despite the objections of France who wanted to retain the occupied territory on account of its coal and mineral wealth, Saarland was reunited with West Germany in 1957 and so was no longer entitled to independent membership of EUFA.

I can’t help wondering now what my dad thought about all of this at the time.  He must have been proud to have a son but he was also mad keen on football and his home team Leicester City but I’ll keep that for a later story.

My first given name was Andrew, my second was Ivan after my Dad.  Ivan was not a name that made even the top 100 most popular names of 1954 (205th).  I often wonder how he got that name, I could have asked my grandparents but they are gone now of course.

My Dad was a really good man, I miss him every day. This was a post about him here.

1954 Ivan Petcher

29 responses to “Early Days, 1954 Part One – Inclement Weather, the Naming of Children and Sport

  1. Interesting reading.

    James Belushi, eh? Heady company, indeed.

    Like

  2. I Started my blog november 2010 !

    Like

  3. So, a plague of frogs 62 years earlier! Your dad looks a cool dude, very 1950s.

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    • We only really know our parents as our parents. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to go for a drink with him as a young man and get to know him from an alternative perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

      • These are exactly my own thoughts Andrew about my own dad and his life in the Coldstream Guards. I actually got very little as my parents separated and I never saw him again after the age of 11! My mother lived to be 91 however and in our Cotswolds village from the age of 75 so I spent lots of time with her in later life.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I think about my Dad a lot too. I remember his once telling me that he never had a day when he didn’t think of his own Dad. Perhaps it’s what sons always do, although it does make you rather sad on occasion.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Little did the wickie realise that a ball can slip so easily in wet gloves….;-)

    Liked by 2 people

  6. A welcome journey back. Your Dad does look a lovely man

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow! That sexy picture of Grace Kelly, about to undo the top button of her blouse if I’m not mistaken! What a shocker for the times.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. adorable, . . . I wonder if the weather at our birth is as influential on our lives as the star and planet alignments?!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Love the photo of you and Dad 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. 1954 was a good year; One of the happiest of my life.
    Now I’ll go read about your dad, mine was a good man, too, straight as a die and honest to a fault , and he’s 114 yo tomorrow, the 4th march

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I won’t be making an entry for another 3 years. I’m also summer-born (July) but have no idea what the weather was like – I’ll need to ask my mum. She might not remember, being otherwise occupied. As for names, i’m the third generation though the name decreased each time (Annabella, Annabel, Anabel). My sister also has a third generation name – no imagination in our family! Neither name would have troubled the top 100 or anywhere near.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Cornwall won Olympic Silver at rugby in 1908, being beaten by Australia. Only two teams entered. 🙂

    When I moved to Nottingham 30 years ago I met a number of men called Ivan. Seems to be locally popular. I always put it down to local support for the International Brigades in Spain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Might be some truth in that although I never had my family down as Commies.

      One night in 1977 I was spending an evening with our next door neighbours Neil and Nettie and the conversation turned to the subject of the Ouija board. Neil laughed it off as nonsense and just to prove it set up a séance table. Sure enough we managed to make contact and Neil was dismissive of everything that happened. Then I suggested that I should take my finger from the glass and ask a question only I could know the answer to. We all agreed and I asked the spirit if he could tell us my middle name. Without hesitation the visitor spelled out ‘J.A.C.K.’ and I had to admit that this was wrong so we wound the session up.

      While we poured more drinks Neil looked up Jack in a dictionary of names and read out its foreign language equivalents and when he got to Russia he read out IVAN and I had to stop him there because Ivan is my middle name.

      Liked by 2 people

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