Monday, 30 May 2011


Coat of arms of the Merchant Venturers of Bristol
On Friday Alastair Ross and myself travelled to Bristol to dine with the Merchant Venturers of Bristol.  The Merchant Venturers are a very active livery company carrying out a most impressive range of activity.  This is related particularly to the support of school and care of the elderly.  In addition to Colston's School, an independent school, the Company sponsors two academies in Bristol. Care of the elderly is conducted principally through the St Monica Trust that looks after some 800 people locally.  For more details go to The ancient Hall of the Company was destroyed by bombing in 1941 and the Company is now located in a large and elegant base in Clifton within the shadow of the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Giles Clarke continues a tradition set by both his father and grandfather in being Master. He is a well known serial entrepreneur and, as a great fan of cricket is currently the Chairman of the English Cricket Board and has guided the national team to some recent notable successes.  Additionally he is a fluent Arab speaker and only a little further behind with Persian. 

He told me that his English Cricket Board visits, especially to the Indian sub-continent had allowed him to indulge in his interest of military history and he had recently visited the site of the Battle of Plassey 1757.  We agreed it was hardly a monumental feat of arms.  The crushing British victory relied essentially on Robert Clive's organisational competence but even more on his brilliant ability to manipulate the Bengali princes and military leaders and ensure the right people were paid off so as not to participate.  Plassey, some 150 miles north of Calcutta on the banks of the Bhagirati River, is Giles admitted not much to look at but getting there is a challenge across miles of provincial roads and is now in an area where bodyguards are strongly advised.

As a boy I knew Bristol well as an uncle, Reggie Holloway who was married to my mother's sister, lived there.  He was a well known Bristol character being under-sheriff for many years as well as being the Chairman of both Gloucester Cricket Club and Bristol Rovers he was also an outstanding bridge player.   It was good to know that although he died in 1980 he is still remembered and Giles in particular said his cricketing interests had been, in part, stimulated by him.  It is interesting how lives intersect.

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