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The Duke of Edinburgh

Royal Association: Prince Philip and the Lord’s Taverners

On Thursday, The Duke of Edinburgh who serves as Patron and Twelfth Man of the Lord’s Taverners will present County Cricket Championship Medals at Buckingham Palace. The Duke has held these positions since the formation of the Lord’s Taverners in 1950 after the crushing victory by the West Indies team by 326 runs during the Lord’s Test Match. This charity serves as the leader in the UK in supporting youth cricket players and those with disabilities. It’s roots were originally in cricket, but the sports charity has expanded to include rugby, tennis, squash, basketball and boccia in its network. It seeks to give disadvantaged youth a ‘sporting chance.’

The Lord’s Taverners originated as a Club where gentlemen would meet on the balcony of the tavern at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London. Over a pint or two, they would watch cricket matches and share in their common comradery for the sport before returning to work in the west End. By September of that year, the club had approximately 71 members and a first donation to the National Playing fields Association, (NPFA), was authorized.

The Lord’s Taverners Programme 1971 Portrait of Prince Philip, Patron of The Lord’s Taverners.

The Lord’s Taverners Programme 1971
Portrait of Prince Philip, Patron of The Lord’s Taverners.

John Mills was elected as the first President in 1950. The Duke of Edinburgh would hold that position 1960 to 1961. However, in the beginning, it is said that when asked if Prince Philip would like to be President, he claimed it would be too much work. He created the role of the Twelfth Man. After all, every cricket team needed someone to keep the team’s equipment in order, serve drinks and watch over the pavilion.

From its beginnings, the Club’s membership has been well-represented. It has included individuals from the entertainment community, cricket and other sports such as golf and those from large companies.

Celebrity cricket matches have been ongoing since 1952, and they still serve as the Taverners core fundraising event. These matches see teams comprised of a mix of film, screen and sports stars who compete and play along former Test and County Cricket players.

With the election of captain Tony Swainson RN as Director in 1972, The Lord’s Taverners would go from being simply a club to a club and charity. The atmosphere remained one of comradery and fellowship. The membership expanded.

With the creation of a new category of membership, “Friends of the Lord’s Taverners.” This category was the step a new member took before becoming a full member. Local clubs began popping up over England. Currently, there are 25 of them who collectively raised over £600,000 in 2001 for the charity. That wasn’t all Swainson sought to accomplish.

IN 1975, whilst still continuing to fund youth cricket through non-turf pitches through the NPFA, he added funding for young people with disabilities. Money poured in, and the program took off. The well-recognised green minibuses used by organizations who work with youth with special needs use this mode of transportation to give these young people the opportunity to participate in sport.

In 2012, the Lord’s Taverners saw the delivery of its one thousandth bus. Paralleling this program is another that assists youth with disabilities by providing specialized equipment such as hydrotherapy pools, sports wheelchairs, pool hoists and special canoes.

Up until 1980, the Lord’s Taverners was an exclusive Club for gentlemen. Every Prime Minister, if not yet a member would be invited to join. When Baroness Margaret Thatcher became PM, she accepted the position as #1 Honourary Lady Taverner. Soon after, many women followed her lead; and now, women may become Honourary Lady Taverners.

When the Lord’s Taverners became the corporate Trustee for the Brian Johnston Memorial Trust in 1999, it was realised that the BJMT would only complement the Taverners in its existence. This Trust provides scholarships to youth cricket players in financial difficulty and to blind cricketers. Three years later would see the establishment of the sports Wheelchair Sponsorship Scheme, a program that, to date, has funded over 300 wheelchairs.

To ensure that funds are allocated and spent correctly, the charity closely works with the England and Wales Cricket Board, (ECB), the NPFA, MCC, and the English Schools Cricket Association.

During the past 60 years, the Lord’s Taverners have grown and matured into an entity that still focusses on its primary goal of allowing the disadvantaged the opportunity to participate in sport. It has become more inclusive in its scope of giving and welcoming to women and members of other professions who, with their abilities continue to raise funds for those it serves.

Featured Photo Credit: Joe Lane via Flickr

Photo Credit: Marilyn Brindley via Flickr