A book of original contributions brought together by

The Lord's Taverners in honour of their patron

HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, KG, KT



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Cassell, 1971  

The Twelfth Man


The background


‘Genesis of Tarka’


Book covers



Cassell, 1971 (£3.25)  

Edited by Martin Boddey











The Twelfth Man:


HRH Prince Philip, son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Alice of Battenburg, was born in Corfu, 10 June 1921 and so reached his half century in 1971.


The dust wrapper blurb explains the title, and the function of the Lord’s Taverners:


The Twelfth Man, in cricketing parlance, is the player who acts as a fielding substitute when a member of his side is ill or injured; more important, perhaps, it is the Twelfth Man who brings out the trays of drinks to sustain players wilting in the hot sun of an Australian, West Indian, South African, New Zealand, or even English summer’s afternoon.


His Royal Highness the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, is the Twelfth Man of the Lord’s Taverners, that remarkable Commonwealth-wide organisation of “good fellows” from the worlds of sport and the arts, dedicated to the task of raising money for charity.


It continues:


The happy idea of the Twelfth Man’s fellow Taverners was to ask the writers, artists, sportsmen and show business personalities listed on this jacket to give an original piece of work of their own choice to Prince Philip. These were combined by the editor and founder-member of the Lord’s Taverners, Martin Boddey, in a book, the royalties from the sale of which go to a fund administered by Prince Philip.


There are fifty-eight contributors to this anthology, all well-known names of the era. HW's contribution is his essay ‘Genesis of Tarka’ (pp. 71‒8).


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The book opens with a short Foreword by HRH the Prince of Wales, which ends:


The aim of all the contributors to this book is to wish the Twelfth Man the happiest of fiftieth birthdays – and so do I.


The Contents pages lists their contributions:



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Nicolas Bentley, cartoonist and caricaturist (and son of E. C. Bentley, inventor of the clerihew) contributed a caricature of 'Sir Arthur Bliss—Master of the Queen's Musick':


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Readers of this page may not be aware that he also drew a caricature of HW, which was published in the Sunday Telegraph on 6 September 1969 to accompany Francis King's review of The Gale of the World, the final volume in HW's Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight series:



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The background:


There are only a few details concerning the background of this item in HW's personal archive. It coincided with the period of intensive work on the series of treatments for The Vanishing Hedgerows BBC film and the writing of his essay on Field Marshal Earl Haig, ‘Reflections on the Death of a Field Marshal’; and once again with various and continuous emotional turmoil. He was also having trouble with his left eye which was weeping continuously at this time, and on 14 April 1970, with considerable nervous apprehension, went into the Edward VII Hospital for Officers to have the tear duct cauterised, which he found was a fairly simple affair. HW spent much time travelling back and forth to London and elsewhere at this period, either for work purposes or personal reasons. It is evident from notes repeating information of telephone numbers and appointments etcetera in his diaries that he was in a state of great tension, and is worried about forgetting important details.


On 20 February 1970, while in London staying at the National Liberal Club and working on the (first) treatment for The Vanishing Hedgerows, HW recorded in his diary:


A letter from Martin Boddey, 137 Kings Court, London, W6, about a 3000-word article (on Nature) I am to write for Prince Philip's Birthday – 50th in July 1971.


Wrote several letters in the A.M. and tried to settle down to the Flypaper, sticky-fearful TREATMENT. (I am afraid of failure, in that job.)


That letter is not present in the archive, but a few days later there was another letter from Martin Boddey on notepaper headed 'The Lord's Taverners', dated 24 February 1970, showing that HW has agreed to write on a nature subject as his contribution for the forthcoming (and prestigious) book.


His appointment diary notes on 1 May 1970:



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Then on 20 May (in his main diary, but there is also a short note in his appointment diary):


I started writing again this morning.


Subject – a rehash of Otter data taken from the pages of Goodbye West Country; the 'essay' developed into a 3000-word article for the Lord's Taverners birthday book for Prince Phillip's [sic] 50th birthday.


His appointment diary for the same date states:


Finished Lords Taverners article 3pm – 3000 words ex Goodbye West Country.


The reference to Goodbye West Country (Putnam, September 1937) can be found in Chapter XI of that book (each chapter represents a month in the year, so XI is November), pp. 330–40, where it is the entry for '2 November', relating his first sighting of an otter in 1912 as he was cycling to North Norfolk for a camping holiday; and the subsequent sighting of one on the River Ancre in early 1917, when he was Transport Officer with 208 Machine Gun Company on the Front Line – a very poignant contrast; followed by the tale of the rescued cub of 1921 and its development.


The opening entry for this Chapter XI, 1 November, relates what is obviously a joke against himself:




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However 'The Otter' (as in that paragraph) was a real BBC radio broadcast, made on 28 October 1936 as the second in the series 'Lives of English Animals', which was printed in The Listener on  4 November 1936. The text of that broadcast can be found in Spring Days in Devon and other Broadcasts (ed. John Gregory, HWS, 1992, pp 58–64; e-book 2014). This text does not, however, include the opening paragraphs about the very early sightings which appear in both the Goodbye West Country version and the 'Prince Philip' text, and which of course add greatly to the interest from a research point of view!


The day following HW's diary entry above, on Thursday 21 May, he noted:


I revised the Otter essay, which isn't too bad.


He must have posted it to be typed up as clean copy by Liz Cummins there and then, for the next day he left to stay with the photographer Ossie Jones, with whom he was close friends, at his home, the Mill House at Rowlestone, in Herefordshire. He noted:


Ossie is a kind man: I've known him for some years, and like him more and more. I have returned a little of his kindness by recommending him for lecture jobs, etc, on photography, at various universities. Recently I recommended him for a BBC photography job.


(Ossie Jones took the superb photograph of HW that fronts this website. Typically, he very generously gave the right to use the photograph to the Society.)


The next day they went on to Spode House, near Rugeley, for an Aylesford Review literary weekend (for more details about this weekend, with photographs of HW and Ossie taken at the occasion, see HW’s involvement with Aylesford Review literary events). Then it was back to Rowlestone Mill, before he returned to Devon on 28 May.


Main diary, 2 June: . . . after going-over The Genesis of Tarka, which arrived cleanly typed by Liz Cummins . . . I posted it with a letter to Martin Boddey . . . My contribution to Prince Philip's 50th Birthday present, June 1971.


Liz Cummins’ note is pinned to his original corrected typescript, which is produced below.


A few months after the event there was a further development:



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HW noted in his diary on 27 January 1972, after delivering 'my rewritten copy of the last section of the Hedgerows script' (to David Cobham at his London Studio – this was after the 'Fourth Treatment', and refers to the 'voice-over' script):


Thence to walk to 178–202 Gt. Pollard St. where I recorded the article I wrote for The Twelfth Man (Prince Philip) his 50th birthday, a collection of articles etc to celebrate that occasion. It took about 20 minutes, & was a success, I was told.


His appointment diary also recorded:


HW to record Taverners' Tarka article Blind's Talking Library.


The Royal National Institute for the Blind has no information about the resultant book, but somewhere, perhaps, the recording still exists?






‘Genesis of Tarka’:


This is HW's corrected typescript for the essay. The last page of the typescript is missing, so the short last paragraph is taken from the printed book.



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Book covers:


Although there was only one edition of the book, there are two variants of dust wrapper. The reason for this is not known for certain, but probably the plainer, royal purple one was the first issued. Perhaps the second rather gaudier version, giving more prominence to the illustrious contributors, was produced later to encourage sales. Matthews' Henry Williamson: A Bibliography sheds no light on the matter.



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