Our archives hold a sizeable amount of material relating to MCC tours and international cricket tours of the British Isles, all of which I have had the pleasure of cataloguing and making available to researchers via our online collection.
The touring files generally contain information you'd expect; itineraries, match reports, invites to dinners, playing and financial conditions for matches.
All of which are very interesting, but the real highlights are the rarities you wouldn’t expect to see, which crop up from time-to-time.
For instance, the touring file for the Australian Cricket Tour of the British Isles in 1964 (MCC/CRI/5/2/43) contains a remarkable series of letters between MCC and Humber Public Relations, which brings a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘getting a duck’.
Joe Nickerson, a client of Humber Public Relations, had agreed to offer ducks from his Lincolnshire farm for outstanding performances by both the England and Australia teams during the 1964 Ashes Series.
Despite regulations on imports denying the Australian tourists this unique opportunity, the MCC Secretary, who at the time was Billy Griffith, agreed to the offer.
Those who were entitled to ducks needed to obtain a century during an innings or take five or more wickets in a match, effectively the same requirement for getting on the famous Honours Boards at Lord’s.
One of the original letters
The clients stated that if anyone was to ‘[do] a Hammond’ and get a century in both innings - as Wally Hammond had achieved for England in Adelaide in 1929 - then Mr Nickerson would be happy to provide a player with the whole duckling farm - though whether Mr Nickerson would have really agreed to that is debatable!
In the end, England lost the series 1-0, and Mr Nickerson gave away six birds in total.
The lucky recipients of the birds were John Edrich, who scored 120 in the Second Test at Lord’s, Fred Trueman, who took 5 for 48 in the Lord’s Test, Ted Dexter, who scored 174 in the Fourth Test at Old Trafford, Ken Barrington, who scored 256 in the Fourth Test, and Geoffrey Boycott, who scored 114 in the Fifth Test at The Oval.
The Secretary of MCC also suggested to Humber Public Relations that Colin Cowdrey receive a duck for getting 90 not out in the Fifth Test Match, which Mr Nickerson agreed to.
It’s almost certainly the only occasion in their esteemed careers that messrs Cowdrey, Edrich and Boycott enjoyed earning a duck.
The birds were sent to the players in September, they had to be delivered to their home addresses. They were frozen and oven-ready so they needed to be sent directly to the players rather than through their counties. Perhaps Mr Boycott remembers the arrival of his duck?
Boycott in action during the 1964 summer
After inheriting his father’s farm in Lincolnshire in the 1930s, Joe Nickerson founded the Cherry Valley farm which became known as the world’s foremost duck company, pioneering scientific duck breeding and production.
He was knighted in 1983 for services to agriculture, was president of the Lincolnshire Agricultural Society for thirty-two years, and was also a Home Guard Commander during the Second World War.
Frequent shooting guests on his Rockwell Estate included Prince Charles. Nickerson died in Palm Beach, Florida in 1990.
Watch the video - Down in the MCC Archive
What is in the MCC Archive?
Work on cataloguing the MCC Archive, held next to the Ticket Office at Lord’s, commenced in March 2012 as part of a wider Documentation Project.
So far over 45% of the material held in the archive has been catalogued.
This has included minute books, scorecards, plans of the ground and surrounding areas, personal papers of past Secretaries of MCC, deeds relating to the ground and surrounding properties, touring files, audio interviews with famous cricketers and personalities past and present, cash books and scrapbooks belonging to famous figures within MCC such as Gubby Allen and Sir Pelham Warner.
Around 1,400 of over 2,250 cataloguing entries of archival material are currently available to view online at Lords.org, through the online catalogue, which also contains details of our Museum and Library collections.
As the cataloguing has progressed we have been able to open our collection up to Members and researchers, and as a consequence we have now had more visitors than ever before.