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Yesterday (Sunday 6th July) I ran 5km for Race for Life, a race that is put on every year by Cancer Research UK for women to raise money for, and awareness of, female cancer; although many run in honour of men, too. It was a fantastic experience and I ran my best ever time of 30.45, which almost hit my (very ambitious) 30-minute target, knocking off a full 4 minutes from my best time during training. However, though it was great fun, was for a great cause, and was a challenge for me (my aching muscles are proof of that), I have realised that I am not much of a runner. To be in the runner category of the race you have to be aiming for a sub-20 min 5km. Just the thought of that makes me want to collapse in exhaustion! Anyway, it also got me thinking about Doyle:

Arthur Conan Doyle was a man of many talents and writing was only one of them. He was a keen sportsman throughout his life and participated in many sporting activities in his spare time. He was the goalkeeper for Portsmouth Football Club (though it was only amateur back then) and Doyle’s sense of adventure meant he was willing to try his hand at most things.

I love seeing pictures of Doyle participating in sport. I find that when I read Holmes or the later spiritualist writings, I forget that Doyle had a sense of fun and adventure, and that he wasn’t always the serious man you see in photographs. His seriousness in the images we see now can be partially put down to the fact that a serious expression was far easier to hold for the photograph than a smile, especially in the early days of photography when you’d have to stay still for a long time. Yet, Doyle was always on the go and loved to get involved with anything outdoorsy, even if it was dangerous.

A perfect example is from when he was still studying at Edinburgh University to become a doctor: he needed to make some money, so what did he do? He joined an Arctic expedition and went whaling for a few months (and almost drowned a few times). Whaling is not as common now due to conservation efforts, but in Doyle’s day there was not the same understanding as now. Whaling was a serious business venture and the carcasses, skin, etc. were sold for a huge profit, but it required groups of men to sail out into icy waters for months at a time. When they eventually reached a whaling spot, they would hop into a little dinghy, harpoon a whale and hope to God they didn’t end up being pulled in the water with the whale, rather than the whale being pulled into the boat. Doyle wasn’t so good at the staying out the water part – he fell in so much so he got a reputation for it with his crew mates! But that was Doyle all over, he never let a little thing like freezing water get in the way.

So here are some happier, less posed, photos from Richard’s collection of Doyle playing sports. As you can see, they are varied in the type of sport, the location and the date. Doyle played sport his whole life and loved it, as I hope you will love these.

ACD playing his winning stroke in the 2nd round of the Billiard Association Amateur Championship against GWS Willins at Messrs Ormis in Soho Square, 1913

ACD playing his winning stroke in the 2nd round of the Billiard Association Amateur Championship against GWS Willins at Messrs Ormis in Soho Square, 1913

ACD playing baseball in Jasper Town 1914

ACD playing baseball in Jasper Town 1914

ACD testing the ropes before a hot air balloon ride. June 1902

ACD testing the ropes before a hot air balloon ride. June 1902

ACD swimming in Bloemfontien. November 1928

ACD swimming in Bloemfontien. November 1928

ACD on his motorbike outside his home Undershaw in Surrey. February 1905

ACD on his motorbike outside his home Undershaw in Surrey. February 1905

ACD testing Norwegian skis at Davos Platz, 1894

ACD testing Norwegian skis at Davos Platz, 1894

ACD riding a donkey with his wife, Jean in Egypt. 1907

ACD riding a donkey with his wife, Jean in Egypt. 1907

ACD playing tennis with his brother-in-law, Malcolm Leckie. 1912

ACD playing tennis with his brother-in-law, Malcolm Leckie. 1912

ACD playing archery. 1920s

ACD playing archery. 1920s

All photos are copyright of the Doyle Collection, Portsmouth and can be found at Portsmouth Central Library.

 

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