The Old Father Time weather vane at Lord’s © Getty Images
Above the clock and the scorer’s box, Father Time stands as a weather vane, one of the most recognisable icons of this most famous ground of the world. Arunabha Sengupta traces the history of the symbol of permanence on Lord’s.
Law 16.3 is perhaps the most metaphorical in the rulebook of the noble game. With eternal wisdom it states, “After the call of Time, the bails shall be removed from both wickets.”
On the most famous of all grounds, the wisdom is depicted by Old Father Time, the famed weather vane in the shape of time. The scythe is carried over a hunched shoulder while a thin shrivelled hand removes the bails from an ancient wicket.The weather vane stands at six feet six inches, while the Old Father is an archetypal little master, at the prescribed height of five feet four inches.
Former England fast bowler John Snow may not have been too fond of the original Indian little master Sunil Gavaskar. It was on this very ground that the two were involved in the infamous collision, leading to the exclusion of Snow from the England side for one Test. However, the rebel in Snow surrendered to the poet in him when he penned ‘Lord’s Test’, a poem which finds Old Father Time as the protagonist.
The vane was presented to Lord’s by Sir Herbert Baker, the architect of the Grand Stand in 1926. Father Time perched on the old Grand Stand. However, a couple of accidents which succeeded in pulling the shroud of impermanence over Father Time,the famed vane now finds its place on the Mound Stand.
The first accident was the Blitz. Like the ideal patriarch, Father Time spread himself over Lord’s and was the only casualty – becoming entangled in the steel cable of a barrage balloon. The rest of the War was spent in an uncomfortable cellar. After the atrocities, repair work was carried out with care and Father Time returned to Grandstand where he perched for the next 40-odd years.
Then in 1992, the old man was struck by lightning. The children’s television programme Blue Peter showed the repairs being made on the relic. After that, in 1996, the Grand Stand was demolished and rebuilt and Father Time was permanently located to the top of the Mound Stand, where he stands above the clock and the scorer’s box.
In many ways he resembles the grim reaper removing the bails. The Indian batsmen walking in to bat at Lord’s may do well not to dwell on his sinister presence on a ground where the team has traditionally struggled.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry.He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)