A goalkeeper who bowled WG Grace – his only wicket

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the 1920s
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the 1920s

THIS WEEK IN 1993: Gift of life put on ice – surgeon preserves transplant organs

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Next Monday sees the third and final instalment of Arthur and George in which Martin Clunes portrays Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Today we devote Remember When to 10 things about the author’s years living and playing in Portsmouth.

Martin Clunes as Conan Doyle

Martin Clunes as Conan Doyle

1 Poor beginnings: Edinburgh-born Sir Arthur Conan Doyle arrived in Portsmouth in June 1882. With less than £10 (worth about £900 today) to his name, he set up a medical practice at Bush Villas in Elm Grove, Southsea, on what is now the site of a block of flats called Bush House. A plaque on the building commemorates his time there (see opposite page).

2 Name in the paper: Victorian doctors relied on the fees they charged patients. To boost his reputation – and earning power – Conan Doyle tried to make sure that his name was mentioned in The Portsmouth Evening News whenever he attended an accident.

3 The forgotten middle name: Many of Conan Doyle’s patients probably thought he had a double-barrelled surname, but in fact at some point Arthur Doyle had decided also to use his second middle name as well. He presumably liked it more than his first middle name – Ignatius.

4 An elementary move: In an effort to boost his income after a struggling start, Conan Doyle turned to writing. His earliest fiction, The Haunted Grange of Goresthorpe, had been unsuccessfully submitted to Blackwood’s Magazine, but in Portsmouth he created Sherlock Holmes, who first appeared in A Study in Scarlet in 1886. Ward Lock & Co gave him £25 for all rights to the story.

Bush Villas, Elm Grove, Southsea

Bush Villas, Elm Grove, Southsea

5 The inspiration for Holmes: Sherlock Holmes was largely styled on Conan Doyle’s former university teacher Joseph Bell. The resemblance was not lost on contemporaries. Writing from Samoa, Robert Louis Stevenson told the Southsea doctor: ‘My compliments on your very ingenious and very interesting adventures of Sherlock Holmes. ...can this be my old friend Joe Bell?’

6 Portsmouth’s own Dr Watson: Conan Doyle said that Holmes’s sidekick Dr (John) Watson owed his surname, although not any other obvious characteristics, to his Portsmouth medical colleague Dr James Watson.

7 He never played for Pompey: It’s a common myth that Conan Doyle was Pompey’s first goalkeeper. In fact, under the name AC Smith, he turned out for a precursor of the club, Portsmouth Association Football Club, an amateur side.

8 A famous wicket: Conan Doyle played cricket whenever he could and was an accomplished batsman, good enough to play 10 first-class matches for the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) between 1899 and 1907. He was an occasional bowler and managed only one first-class wicket, albeit a prized dismissal of WG Grace.

Undershaw House, Hindhead

Undershaw House, Hindhead

9 Public talks: He joined the Portsmouth Literary and Scientific Society and gave public talks on Edward Gibbon, Thomas Carlyle, and George Meredith.

10 A grand home: After Portsmouth he lived at Undershaw the home he built near Hindhead. It was later used as a restaurant and hotel and the crumbling remains now stand beside the A3 south of the Hindhead Tunnel.