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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, June 15, 2007
    Played in Liverpool
     
    "How dreadful water tastes without the benefit of whisky," said Captain Martin Becher on being thrown from his horse into a brook at the 1839 Grand National, thus unknowingly birthing a legend. Becher's Brook is almost certainly now the most famous jump in the whole world.

    Full of small significances like this, Played in Liverpool is a pure delight. It is the latest in English Heritage's series of books detailing the sporting heritage of our cities. These histories illuminate the cultural and architectural gems which lie hidden or neglected in our cities, and Ray Physick and Simon Inglis have done a marvellous job in bringing them to light in a book where every page is rich in delightful details.

    I knew of course about the Toffee Lady, unique 'dispenser of sweets to the Everton faithful before every match', but Played in Liverpool has introduced me to Charles Melly, the 19th century philanthropist cotton merchant who ensured that the lumpen public got parks, and whose lobbying helped provide Liverpool with seven Olympic Festivals staged long before (and influencing) the modern Games' reintroduction in 1896. I knew of course about the canny city engineer John Brodie who designed football’s original goal nets, but reading about the Royal Mersey Yacht Club revealed a whole new world to me - a world blessed by the presence of the Mylne Class boats, the club's signature craft, the originals built by Alfred Mylne on the Clyde in 1935.

    Physick writes, '... in looks and in its handling, the Mylne remains a classic, and to its admirers, no less emblematic of the Mersey skyline than the city's more familiar landmarks.' And this detail, alongside the hundreds more in this rich book, indicates a wealth of Liverpool people's history previously unrecorded, wonderfully celebrated here.