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
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.
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.
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…
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…
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.
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.