PG Wodehouse Society to plant tree in honour of Jeeves, the cricketer that inspired a legend
Almost exactly 100 years after his death at the Battle of the Somme, Warwickshire cricketer Percy Jeeves will be honoured when the P. G. Wodehouse Society plant a tree in his memory during the Cheltenham Cricket Festival.
A Jeeves Chronology
5th March, 1888: Percy Jeeves is born at Earlsheaton in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
1905: Aged 17, Jeeves makes his cricketing debut.
1910: Jeeves plays his first season as a professional cricketer at Hawes Cricket Club before being signed by Warwickshire CCC.
14th August, 1913: P G Wodehouse watches Jeeves play at Cheltenham.
9th July, 1914: Jeeves is selected for the Gentlemen vs Players game at The Oval.
4th August, 1914: Britain declares war on Germany.
10th October, 1914: Jeeves volunteers for the Army.
18th September, 1915: The Saturday Evening Post publishes a short story, ‘Extricating Young Gussie’, in which Jeeves makes his debut.
22nd July, 1916: Percy Jeeves dies. His body was never recovered.
As a young cricketer, his skill impressed Wodehouse and he subsequently chose Jeeves as the character to star in a short story. That character went on to become his most famous creation - the all-knowing gentleman's gentleman - and a central character alongside Bertie Wooster in some of the world's most popular books.
During the Cheltenham Festival, on 14th July, the tree will be planted on the Cheltenham College Ground where Jeeves once played - watched by Wodehouse - for Warwickshire. Members of both families will plant the poplar tree: Jeeves' great-nephew Mr Keith Mellard and Wodehouse's grandson, Sir Edward Cazalet while younger members of both families will also attend.
A memorial in the shape of a book will sit alongside the tree to commemorate Jeeves, who volunteered to serve for the army and was one of thousands killed in the assault on High Wood on 22nd July 2016. His body was never recovered and his name is one of the 72,000 inscribed on the Thiepval Monument, which until the event, is his only memorial.
His name became famous worldwide as a happy accident as Wodehouse, then a young author, happened to see him play, liked his bowling action and remembered him when he needed a name for a character - all of this completely unbeknown to the man himself. Jeeves was one of 34 professional cricketers who lost their lives in the First World War and one of millions killed between 1914 and 1918 whose lives are being remembered 100 years on from the Somme.
The 33-year-old Wodehouse watched Jeeves in action at Cheltenham in August 1913, visiting his parents. "I remember admiring his action very much," he wrote, and "It was just the name I wanted."
Jeeves the character made his debut in 1915 and would go on to feature in 35 short stories and 11 full-length novels by Wodehouse.
Furthermore, the P G Wodehouse Society will present Cheltenham College with a set of books that have 'Jeeves' in the title which will become part of the school library.
"We are so grateful to the College for allowing us to place Percy’s memorial in their grounds," said Society Chairman, Hilary Bruce.
"We are keen to encourage young readers to enjoy P G Wodehouse’s glorious writing so we are especially glad to present these books as a memento of the day.
"Ours is a thriving society of Wodehouse enthusiasts with around 1,000 members and we encourage everyone who appreciates Wodehouse’s work to join."
To find out more more about Jeeves, read The Real Jeeves: The Cricketer who Gave his Life for his Country and His Name to a Legend by Brian Halford.
© Cricket World 2016