Lord of the Manor
By Katherine Adams
Cricketing fans will know David Gower as the elegant, left handed batsman and former Captain of England. To non-cricketing fans, he is the posh one from They Think It's All Over, mocked for his penchant for the finer things in life
David Gower has not had a conventional childhood. Born in Tunbridge Wells fifty years ago, he spent the beginnings of his life in Tanzania where his father was working in the Colonial Service. “He had been there pretty much since war-time. Although he had two brothers that were actively involved in the war, my father wasn’t actually fit for service strangely because he had dodgy eyesight so spent the majority of his career in Tanganyika, as it was then called."
My mother came to England specifically for the purpose of bringing me into the world and because we had Kent connections, it just so happened that I was born in Pembury Nursing Home.”
Gower in 1992
Return to Kent
Six years later the Gower family returned to the county where David was born and spent some time living in the village of Goudhurst. “My grandmother owned a biggish house with some land and a cottage there so we lived in the cottage for about 18 months while my father worked out what was to happen next. It was a gorgeous part of the world, surrounded by apple orchards and hop fields and with all the land that my grandmother owned I felt totally free in the orchards that would go on for miles!” However, there was a downside to living there: “I went to the village school in Goudhurst and it was in the good old days when you walked to school and it was quite a hike too! I can’t forget that hill!”
While the rest of the family moved up to the Midlands, David remained in Kent to do his schooling – first at Marlborough House in Hawkhurst and then at Kings in Canterbury. “I had a very successful time at Kings both academically and on the sports field. Schools like that are very good for people like me to be honest because they have all the sports you want and obviously the academic side is very strong too.”
It was during his youth that David realised he had a talent for cricket. “I got into it through my father initially. He was a very good sportsman – a Cambridge hockey blue and often played sports while in Africa. However, my mother encouraged me just as much. I was an only child and always needed someone to bowl the ball to me and my mother filled that void just as much as my father. I also had two very good masters in charge of cricket at Marlborough House and Kings so I got all the right coaching and encouragement from them.”
The coaching was worth it. At the age of 18 he made his debut for Leicestershire and at 21, for England where he hit a boundary from his first ball. By the time of his retirement he was the leading scorer in English cricket. However, the highlight of his career undoubtedly was winning the Ashes in 1985 as England Captain. “That was a very special time for me. It was a fabulous summer as a team and for me personally. To be the captain of the winning team, to be performing as well as you can yourself and contributing as much as possible – you can’t get any better than that.”
The Tiger Moth
While considered to be one of the English cricketing greats, David Gower will also be remembered for being a bit of a prankster. Most memorably, he was fined £1000 in 1991 for going on a joy ride in a Tiger Moth biplane while training for the Ashes in Queensland. Does he feel any remorse? “No, not at all. That was too good an opportunity to miss. The plane was there; it had to be done!” And what does David think of occasions like Freddilo where former England captain, Andrew Flintoff was severely reprimanded for reportedly getting drunk and falling out of a pedalo two nights before an important match? “I think Ian Botham put it well when he said that Freddie’s biggest problem was getting caught. We can’t afford to be too harsh when commenting on things like that because we’ve all done something similar at some stage. If you’re not allowed to have fun somewhere along the line and you’re spending two thirds of the year away from home then it’s mighty tough. You’ve got to be able to relax; you’ve just got to find the balance.”
They Think It's All Over
They Think It’s All Over
It was possibly this evident sense of fun that led to Gower being picked as a panellist on the highly successful ‘They Think It’s All Over’, a show in which he was constantly mocked for being posh. “The mocking is what you might call ‘typical exaggeration’. The show was not known for being strictly accurate in any sense so the characterisations were almost cartoon-like, which I have nothing against, of course. It was great fun to be a part of. The trick was not to take any of it too seriously. I know what I am in terms of my status, both in the comedy world and in the real world and the mockery was just a part of the job description!”
Bearing in mind its popularity in the past, does David think it will ever return? “No, I think it’s a dead duck. It was fun while it lasted but we have to get our fun somewhere else now.”
Despite his Kentish roots, Gower never actually played county cricket for Kent. “By the time that I got to the age where I was good enough to be considered I was living in Loughborough so it seemed more practical to play for Leicestershire. Kent in the mid-70s were very strong and I wasn’t really a big blip on their radar. It was only when I came to play at Canterbury when people would say “why don’t you play for Kent – you were born here, schooled here”, but when I got 0 they’d say, “Well done. Now you can stay at Leicestershire!” A fickle crowd indeed.
The ‘Arctic Fox’
One thing that David is also known for is being what they call a ‘silver fox’, a tag he laughs at. “I like to call myself an ‘Arctic Fox’ – it’s whiter than silver! The great thing is I can’t see it from where I am but as long as you never lose that twinkle in your eye that’s all that counts!”
Having spoken to David for half an hour I have to admit that he does seem to warrant the title, ‘Lord of the Manor’ given to him by his former panel mates. However, along with the privileged background, the public schooling and the acres of land, this ‘arctic fox’ also has a wicked sense of humour and a charisma that would hit anyone for six.
last updated: 02/04/2008 at 15:17