Extract from ‘Rugger Shorts’: reflections on the amateur game
The late archivist of Radley College, Tony Money once a boy at the college in the 1930s, served during World War Two as an officer in the Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) winning the Military Cross in 1943. Returned to the college as a don after the war in the 1950s. He was to accurately described Peter Cook a pupil at that time as ‘Not a rugby man’ . Cook had established himself amongst his contemporaries for his impersonations of dons and those in authority. He was already a brilliant mimic and the seeds had been sown for some of his later comic characters.
Peter Cook (1937-1995) was of course made to play -but ‘detested rugby’, and as an act of subversion, would organise illicit football matches at the end of a local forest track. By the time he left the college the ‘Radleian Magazine’ would lament that ‘every square mile of waste land was dedicated to the cult of association football’.
Cook went on to become an influential figure in modern British comedy. One of the leading lights of the satire boom and anti-establishment comedy that emerged in Britain in the 1960s. His views on rugby never changed.
“I was forced to play it. For some reason I was placed at full back. I spent the whole time avoiding the ball. Often they’d forget what to do and actually come at me. In my rush to get away from the ball once, I fell on it. I was then hacked to bits by the forwards’ feet and got a spurious reputation for courage.” He went on to declare later, “Rugby is a game for the mentally deficient… That is why it was invented by the British. Who else but an Englishman could invent an oval ball?”
If not a rugby man – certainly an amusing one!