Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Memories and Newsreels and Cricket Scoring

Dorothy Nixon scores Cricket at the Royal Selangor Club in 1952, captured in a March of Time TV program about the Malayan Emergency and posted on YouTube. Dorothy is my grandmother and the subject of my eplay Looking for Mrs. Peel.  She was also head librarian at the Kuala Lumpur Book Club from the 1930's to the 1960's.

When I first discovered that there existed a 1953 March of Time about the Malayan Emergency it was so frustrating. I wasn't able to find a video tape of this television program anywhere.

 Lucky for me someone, eventually,  posted the same video on YouTube.

 The title he gave the YouTube video is Kuala Lumpur 1952...Cricket whilst fighting goes on.

Malaya Cricket Video  on YouTube. So see for yourself.

The bit with Dorothy is in the last minute of the 7 minute video.

The M of T voice over says "Dorothy Nixon is a fixture at the Club."

It's ironic. The bit talks about how the Royal Selangor Club has opened up to non-Europeans, yet I know, from talking to a former rubber planter, that my grandmother was the only woman allowed into that section of the club.

My grandmother was  the "Grand Dame of Cricket" in Malaya in the 1950's. For a while, they were giving out a Dorothy Nixon trophy. I read this in the Malaya Straits Times, in their archives.

My late Aunt Denise visited the Royal Selangor Club that decade and she saw mother's score books, meticulously rendered, apparently.

I have this still of Dorothy and the team from 1947 or so, before this March of Time.

 I was born in December of 1954. I wonder if my father, Peter,  saw this 1953 March of Time  on the television? (Did we even have a TV then? I remember a  machine with a tiny tiny screen.)  

If he did he never mentioned it.  The film would have shocked him, I think.  He hadn't seen his mother since the Depression years, when she had travelled steerage from Malaya to England, where he and his sister were attending school.

He once told me a story of her wanting to come to Oxford to see him after WWII but he declined, giving the excuse that there was no place for her to stay.  (He told me this in old age when he was suffering from Alzheimer's, so who knows if it is true.)

The next time he would see his mother for certain was in 1967 the year of my eplay Looking For Mrs. Peel. 

Here's a Wikipedia cricket score book. (A friend of mine recently visited Kuala Lumpur and she tried to sneak into the Royal Selangor Club for me, but did not succeed.) 

Scoring cricket is complicated, or so a certain Mrs. Hague of Montreal, also a Child of the Raj,  told me. Mrs. Hague, whose father died in Changi, where my grandmother also ended up during the war, learned to score cricket at her English school and then, later,  became the scorer for Singapore. My grandmother must have learned the skill at her Quaker Co-Educational School in North Yorkshire. She became the official scorer for Selangor State.

My brother, in the late 1960's, when the Montreal Expos launched, taught me how to score baseball. It's  not hard at all.

So 15 years later this tiny  'girlish-looking' woman (who survived the infamous Double Tenth torture incident at Changi in 1943) came to visit us on our very ordinary maple-lined street in Montreal and what did I see? A wizened old crone, always with a cigarette in one hand and often with a tumbler of gin in the other, and always frowning. (A friend of made fun of her frown.) It's all written up in my true story Looking for Mrs. Peel

No photographs remain of my grandmother in Montreal on her visit in 1967, but many images are emblazoned on my brain. No, "Granny" did not enjoy herself cooped in our duplex,  in a strange city, with loud, unruly teens all around her. (Typical of Colonial Brits of her era, she hadn't raised her own children.) Indeed, it must have reminded her, somewhat,  of Changi Prison!

My grandmother went from here (Teesdale, Durham) to Kuala Lumpur in, the 60's. The still, below, is from another Malaya video posted by the same guy who posted the Communist Emergency one.

Actually, Dorothy's father was an intinerent Primitive Methodist preacher, who moved every two years to a new town. In 1912,  he was in Helmsley, Yorkshire.

Malaya, to my grandmother, must have seemed just another posting, in 1921, as she took a boat to Malaya in late December,  to make a life with her new husband, Robert, a rubber planter, and native of Helmsley, Yorkshire.  My father would be born the next October!

 Dorothy would stay in Malaya all her life, dying in 1977 in her rooms at the Majestic Hotel, surrounded by her precious books.

In the interim, Dorothy would give birth to three children, one of whom is still alive, party with sultans on the padang in front of the Selangor Club and entertain legendary British officials in her humble bungalow.

In the 30's, she got bored and started working at the Kuala Lumpur Book Club, a lending library, beside the Selangor Club, that provided planters living in the boonies with literature, of both high and low quality.

In 1943, Dorothy was elected  Women's Commandant at Changi Prison, then, soon after, accused of spying by the Japanese Kempei Tai and put in solitary confinement where she was tortured for 5 months.

Many post-Edwardian types were contemptuous of these Colonial wives or "Corporate Wives" as they were sometimes called.

 Author/spy Giles Playfair (who seemed to admire my grandmother in his 1944 book Singapore Goes off the Air) wrote that these women lorded it over servants and attended illustrious parties when - if they had stayed at home- they would have been "sweeping out a four bedroom cottage."

Below: a page from my grandmother's 'memoirs' I used to write Looking for Mrs. Peel.

My Aunt Denise told me my grandmother didn't think too highly of this Gilles Playfair, either,whom she met during the fiery Fall of Singapore in 1941.

I personally like his writing style.