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H.V.Hesketh-Prichard: Amazing Stories

Written by Simon Sweetman

Hesketh Vernon Hesketh-Prichard. It turns out that this curious combination of names is a contrivance and so it attracts twenty-first century doubt. His Edwardian friends shortened it to Hex.

But there is little to doubt about his achievements. While still at school he was asked to play cricket for Scotland. Appearing in 86 first-class matches as a pastime, mostly for Hampshire, he secured 339 wickets at 22 with his fast bowling, though his batting drew comparisons with shovelling. He played country-house and weekend cricket with artistic and authorial cronies as well as some of the best amateur cricketers of the day.

Around his cricket he fitted in a remarkably diverse range of activities. Giving up life in a solicitor’s office, he had a ‘gap year’ in Spain and Portugal when these were distant countries, and went on to Morocco where he tried the local narcotic. His experiences set him on a lifetime of travelling. In Argentina he sought a giant sloth; in Haiti he discovered voodoo and found that ‘black ruled white’; in eastern Canada he visited the tundra and its migrating caribou.

He wrote up his travels for newspapers, magazines and academic journals and drew on his findings to write, with his mother, pulp fiction – serialised in the days before broadcast media – whose popularity rivalled the mighty Conan Doyle. His concerns triggered early conservation legislation. Twice decorated in the Great War, he did much to raise the effectiveness of Allied sniping to German standards.

Simon Sweetman traces a life from near penury in infancy, via the Channel Islands, the pre-independence Dublin social season and an unlikely marriage into the aristocracy, to its tragic end at 45.

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