Conan Doyle - A Good Sport
‘The football match does not come within my horizon at all.’
With these words from the story of 'The Missing Three-Quarter', Sherlock Holmes loftily dismisses the beautiful game. Yet football meant much more to his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle. During his eight years in Portsmouth, Doyle became a founder member of the town’s original football club and, under the name of ‘A C Smith’, was listed as the team’s first goalkeeper. He later played at right back.
A year later in 1885, Doyle became captain of Portsmouth Cricket Club, of which he was also a founder member. For him, cricket was ‘a game which has on the whole given me more pleasure during my life than any other branch of sport’.
This was quite a compliment. While cricket remained an interest, at different times Doyle enjoyed – and usually excelled in – a variety of sports. These included rugby, boxing, cycling, riding, hunting, golf, billiards, motoring, bowls, and the new-fangled sport of skiing.
Doyle began playing bowls on Southsea bowling green. As he had a keen eye and was well coordinated, he was good at ball games.
Arthur Conan Doyle not only practised sports, he featured them in his novels and short stories as well:
'Tomorrow is the 'Varsity football match'
'I have no sympathy with these childish games. The young man's fate interests me deeply,
since I know him and like him. The football match does not come within my horizon at all.'
- The Missing Three Quarter (The Return of Sherlock Holmes)
'There were others besides the students who were excited about the coming struggle. All
Edinburgh was in a ferment. Football is, and always has been, the national game of Scotland
among those who affect violent exercise, while golf takes its place with the more sedately
- The Firm of Girdlestone (Chapter 7)
'Wilson's carriage and pair were at the door, the horses with blue-and-white rosettes at their
ears, which were the colours of the Wilson Coal-pits, well known on many a football field.'
- The Croxley Master (Chapter 2)
Books containing references to Arthur Conan Doyle and sport:
- Best Sporting Stories edited by J Wentworth Day, 1942.
- Green flag, and other stories of war and sport by Arthur Conan Doyle, 1906.
- The outsider: A history of the goalkeeper by Jonathan Wilson, 2012. Includes a brief mention of Conan Doyle.
- My Favourite Cricket Stories. Edited by John Arlott, 1986. 12 stories, including Sir Arthur Conan
- Doyle's 'The Story of Spedegue's Dropper' from The Maracot Deep.
- Sherlock Holmes was a Pompey keeper by Kevin Smith, 2004.
- Book of Winter sports: an attempt to catch the spirit of the keen joys of the winter season edited by J C Dier. Contains Sir 'Arthur Conan Doyle's Crossing an Alpine Pass on ski'.
- British Ski Year Book 1923-24 edited by Arnold Lunn and H C H Marriott. Contains Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's A ski tour in 1893
Sherlock Holmes sporting references:
- The Sign of Four (boxing)
From the Return of Sherlock Holmes:
- The Priory School (cycling)
- The Three Students (rugby, long jump),
- The Solitary Cyclist
From The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes:
- The Sussex Vampire (rugby)
- The Firm of Girdlestone
- Beyond the City
- The Croxley Master
- Edward Malone in The Lost World is a rugby player.
This exhibition was put together by Loewood House, a day care service for adults with learning
and physical disabilities.
For more information or to see the original photographs, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Conan Doyle and companions on a mountain in Switzerland.
Conan Doyle skiing in Davos.
Conan Doyle and companions riding in the countryside.
Playing golf at Le Toucquet.
This first edition of Baker Street Studies was published in 1934.
Arthur Conan Doyle posing with other members of a cricket team in 1875.
Arthur Conan Doyle pictured with the cricket team which toured Holland in 1891.
Photograph of Arthur Conan Doyle with members of the Stonyhurst Cricket Club
Arthur Conan Doyle in cricket whites at Stonyhurst, where he went to school, in 1873.
Photograph of Arthur Conan Doyle seated on a donkey with his wife Jean on a camel in Eygpt.
Photograph of Arthur Conan Doyle participating in archery, in the 1920s
Mountain walking was one of the many activities Conan Doyle sampled when in Switzerland.
Mountaineering was one of the many activities Conan Doyle sampled in Switzerland
Arthur Conan Doyle playing the winning stroke in the second round of the Billiard Association Amateur Championship against G W S Willins, at Messrs Ormis in Soho Square, 1913.
Conan Doyle and his wife ice skating in Switzerland.
Conan Doyle helping to prepare the 'City of York' hot air balloon for flight
A postcard of Arthur Conan Doyle on a bicycle.