Even among MCC’s most senior Members, few can claim to have seen more than 100 Test Matches at Lord’s.
But one familiar face on the Ground has done just that. He first watched England beat West Indies by an innings and 58 runs in June 1928. He was at Lord’s for Don Bradman’s legendary innings of 254 in 1930 and for West Indies first victory here in 1950; he was there when Bob Massie swung and swerved his way through England’s batsmen in 1972 and when Graham Gooch took 456 off India’s bowlers in 1990. His first Test at Lord’s was the Ground’s eighteenth; only a freak accident in March 2015 prevented his attendance at its 130th. It would have extended his unbroken run of attendance to 112 Lord’s Tests. Instead he was left stranded on perhaps the most poignant ‘Nelson’ in the Ground’s history.
It was during a heavy gale in the early hours of Monday 30 March 2015 that an unusually strong gust left Father Time, the famous Lord’s weathervane, flat on his side, bent at a 90-degree angle towards the St John’s Wood Road. The damage was serious, but not terminal and Father Time was able to resume his familiar perch above the scorers’ box between the Mound and Tavern stands in time for the England v Australia Test later that summer. The weathervane was a gift to MCC from Sir Herbert Baker, the architect of the second Grand Stand, which was completed in 1926. The gift may have been intended as compensation for the high cost and late completion of the stand, caused in part by the 1926 General Strike. For 70 years he occupied a position on the top of Baker’s stand, until its demolition in 1996.
The figure represented is the mythical Father Time (similar to the Roman Janus, after whom the first month of the year is named) who watches over the passage of time. There has always been some debate in cricketing circles as to whether the figure depicted is placing the bails at the start of a game or removing them at the end of a day’s play. Diana Rait Kerr, MCC’s first Curator, suggested that he is removing the bails. However the cricket writer EW Swanton took the more optimistic view that the bails are being placed in anticipation of a day’s cricket.
Father Time has been one of the most recognisable symbols of Lord’s for almost a century. Rarely has a gift become so treasured and such an intrinsic part of the recipient’s property.