There is no greater personification of the rivalry between England and Australia than cricketer Douglas Jardine. To some a national hero, to others a disgrace, the memory of the man who captained England during the Bodyline Tour of 1932-33 is destined to justify future accusations of underhand Poms or whinging Aussies for as long as Ashes cricket continues to be played.
Yet although the reality of his story is considerably more nuanced than the polarised caricatures that have endured, both sides of the argument can at least agree on something. Jardine, they say, was the very embodiment of the character of his nation; England expected, and, for better or worse, its captain did his duty.
A fly swims in the ointment of that neat summary, however. Modern English icon he may be, but Jardine’s heart lay very much to the North of Hadrian’s Wall.
Born in Bombay to Scottish parents, the nine-year-old Douglas had been sent to St Andrews to stay with his Aunt Kitty prior to starting at his English prep school in 1910. Her imposing Scottish mansion was to become home for the majority of her nephew’s schooldays, and although a young boy so far from his parents must have known difficult times, Jardine later spoke of his overriding affection for “that old grey city by the sea.”
Oxford University, Surrey County Cricket Club and, in due course, England subsequently took him elsewhere, but Jardine’s bond to his spiritual home remained. Speaking in 2006, his eldest daughter Fianach – named after the Sutherland lochan from which her father caught his first trout – recalled how “ferociously proud” he was of his ancestry, and elaborated further on the character of a much-maligned but well-loved man.
“He had a lovely dry sense of humour and used to love reading Kipling’s The Jungle Book to my brother, two sisters and myself before we went to sleep at night,” she said. “But he had a sadness about him right up until his death in 1958.
“He was never angry about the furore surrounding Bodyline but, yes, there was this distinct air of sadness more than anything else in that father believed he had done what the MCC had agreed to.”
In 1957 it was discovered that Jardine was in the advanced stages of cancer. The end, when it came, was swift.
“We took his ashes to [Cross Craigs] by Loch Rannoch where he had loved shooting and stalking,” said Fianach. “Although it was July, it was really quite cold and cloudy until the moment came to scatter father’s remains when the sky turned blue and a brilliant sun came out.”
Douglas Jardine was home at last.