The Contribution of Henry Putnam
to The Milan Cricket Club
The year probably 1971, and a discussion possibly in John Dexter's house in
Milan, at which the idea of a Cricket Club was mooted. The essentials were that
John De Vita, then the Manager of Ronson Italy, reckoned that he could provide
some basic "Kit" probably sponsored by his company. John Dexter , with his
family holiday house up at Menaggio , said the he might manage to find a pitch
in that area.
They went about their tasks and at some future occasion were saying that they
were almost ready and that they had a team forming up.
In 1969/70 shortly after my arrival, as Manager of CCC, I had found that our
Milan Sports area, in Via Giambellino, consisted of 2 Tennis courts and 2 Squash
courts (the only ones in Italy at the time). They had been built on the space
of a 3rd Tennis Court , by one Jim Ruffell , Sir James Henderson's successor as
CCC Manager and one of my predecessors. The courts had fallen into disuse and so
I had created the "Giambellino Squash Club of Milan" with an
annual subscription of Lit 10,000. ( today €5 ! ). Squash players still around
today , include Chris Beavan, Mark Dawson , Jo Varley, Luke McFarlane and
myself. There may be others.
It was 1972, and seeing their anxious faces , with the "No one to play
against look", I challenged them as the "Giambellino Squash Club XI". A team
of Squash players was raised, and went on being raised for many years, involving
players travelling from as far afield as Glasgow , and Jesse Vaugan, the
American scratch Golfer and crack Baseball player , even had coaching at Lords
to improve his style. He didn't hit any 6's after that though! One will never
forget his 6 that went through the windscreen of the Visiting Vicar's car!
This became an annual fixture, usually a 2 day, 2 innings match, with results
covering wins on both sides, draws and once memorably a tie. When CCC had to
sell the sports ground in Milan, I was asked to keep the fixture going , and our
Team became HTP's Eleven and on one occasion had 5 members of the Putnam family
playing , with Mrs Putnam as usual providing special lunch time refreshments.
Your score books will record the results , but I doubt if we won that one !
The task of producing a valid opposition to the MCC was an annual struggle for
me , involving getting the Consulate on occasions , players from CCC's visiting
group specialists , and EX CCC men , who had left Italy with a promise to
return. Players were drafted in from the MCCC (Monte Carlo) and the Ispra
Euratom team , when numbers were down. I even had to ask for an MCC player once
The MCC kindly presented me with a plaque after 21 years and a set of brass
stumps after 25! I also have a 1986 signed miniature bat with some great names
signed on the face. These include such as, SR Bramley, David Sweetman, John
Thorpe, Richard Murray, Roger Barker, Derek Oakes, Roy Day, Paul Brown, Jesse
Vaugan, John Ford, John Hanrahan, to name those still legible!
It was only after 27 years , when I heard the MCC Captain , David Sweetman , say
quietly to a Sri Lankan fast bowler "Slow it down a bit for Henry"
that I decided to hang up my boots. That was in 1999.
I have kept on attending the occasional match and more often the Christmas
dinners, and on one very special occasion, when Bram, the MCC President from
1989, was unwell and unable to attend the dinner he asked me to read the
following speech on his behalf, and present the trophies: " Since that first
game in 1972, the passage, usually brief, of well over 1000 cricketers has
enabled the MCC to survive, at times, even to thrive. This has been possible,
only due to the Club's two permanent officials. Without the optimism and
enthusiasm of David Sweetman, and the realism and administration of John Thorpe,
the club could have folded many times, when one wondered where the next season's
side was to be found. The Club has recognized some of the departed thousand
with a small token of appreciation. As David and John are rooted in Italy, this
is a little "Thank you" from a non performing but most appreciative President.
It is said that at the back of every successful man there is a woman, so these
are for Gill, Marriuccia and Liliana, best barbecue utilities."
It must be said that Bram's fund of jokes, when making the President's speech on
Saturday evenings was unparalleled. He had a meticulous filing system, so as
never to allow the same joke to be heard twice by the same person!
Indeed many of the 27 lunches were most successful Barbecues, organized by such
worthies as John Hanrahan , Chris Leech , Hugo Putnam and others. The Saturday
evenings enabled players to get to know many of the best eating places up and
down the lakesides, both in Lugano and Como.
Note by D.S. Over the many years during which Henry raised a team to play
against us, he found a considerable number of players who subsequently joined
our club and as a result strengthened our team.