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Post 5 Pachabo - Mr. A. E. Whitelaw

Sunday, 20th August 2017.

Good afternoon everyone.

With all the excitement of what’s going on in Lyon, I thought it might be interesting to provide a little light relief. “Pachabo" ticks most of the boxes.

i. He didn’t write many Bridge books and they are all fairly scarce. By far the rarest (in my opinion) is his review of the famous "Buller International" match - I can only find a single copy in a British library, at the Bodleian. Here’s the full collation of my copy - “Pachabo, Review Of Anglo-American Bridge Test, [1931], privately published, 1st edition, 12.8x18,3 cm, 26+(2) pages”. Although that match has been well written up, I intend to post about it later because it was, in my humble opinion, the most significant match in the whole history of Bridge - the moment “British Bridge” was eclipsed, and the long term effect that has had on the popularity of Bridge (at least the version I’m familiar with) - a game mostly for aficianados and seniors (no offence meant to all those who may be younger and love the game too).

ii. Pachabo was an Australian born & bred, and played cricket as a young man. He often sat at Lords Cricket Ground when taking time off from running his successful soap importing company. But it was rather unfortunate for him that there was another gentleman with the same name, “A. E. Whitelaw”, and contemporary newspapers often referred to him as an Englishman. This may be why in the above book he sought to clarify things when he wrote - “Realising that it is not etiquette for critics to avail themselves of the mask and domino of a pseudonym, I shall, for the occasion, relinquish the mysterious “Pachabo”, and come from behind the curtain in my true colours. A. E. Whitelaw. London, 15th January, 1931.”

iii. He made his money by inventing a soap and importing it into Britain. His adverts began in the early 1920’s for “Perservene” and were being printed everywhere by the end of the 1920’s. Here’s a typical advert in the “Sheffield Independent, Wed., 21st June 1922, page 8” - “Millions of women all over the country are looking for the right kind of soap. They want the right kind of soap much more keenly than men wanted safety razors. Men did not know they wanted safety razors until they were invented. But with women it is different. For hundreds of years they have been seeking a soap that would make washing day easy and do it well. They wanted spotless white linen and the job finished. That is why Perservene was invented. … Get a bar to-day, or write to us for a free sample, Dept. 101, Australian Soap Co., 6, New Compton Street, London”. There appears to be no mention of the soap after about 1930, so I wonder what happened. To me, the word “Perservene" doesn’t quite have the panache of, say, “Lux" soap.

iv. Here’s his obituary in “The Mercury, Hobart, Monday, 25th March 1940” - “Mr. Arthur Ernest Whitelaw, the well known Australian business man and philanthropist, died in Sydney on Thursday after a long illness. He was aged 63 years. He was born in Ballarat, and educated at the Doncaster School and the University of Melbourne. Mr. Whitelaw was in England for 29 years. He retired from the company about three years ago, and returned to Australia. A former cricketer, Mr. Whitelaw was interested in all forms of sport. He wrote several authoritative books on Bridge. The Pachabo style of play was evolved by him”.

This is the confirmation that the so-called Englishman was none other than that famous Australian who gave Don Bradman £1,000 for an outstanding performance at Cricket one day.

v. He endowed two tournaments, the very first of their kind, at least in Britain. Both were highly significant. Everyone’s heard of the “Pachabo Cup”, no more needs to be said.

vi. Then there was his baby, the “Whitelaw Cup”. This was instituted as a competition to match the Gold Cup, as a teams-of-four annual competition for women only. 81 entries had arrived by the start date 15th October 1934. Local honorary secretaries of the B.B.L. were not allowed to accept entries after that date, but they must have done, because in the end 88 teams registered. The final was reported in “The Times, 6th April 1935” - “The final of the Whitelaw Cup contest for women’s teams of four took place at the Albany Club on Thursday and resulted in a win for the Cheltenham team, captained by Mrs. Weech and consisting of herself, Miss Gairdner, Mrs. Noel Davies, and Mrs. Mackenzie, which beat the Yorkshire team, captained by Miss Burnett, by 2,500 points". On the E.B.U. website, Miss Gairdner's name is reported as "Miss Gardiner" & Mrs. Mackenzie's as "Miss Mackenzie". I wonder whether that cup, “a beautiful silver trophy”, still sits on someone’s mantlepiece ?

vii. My two books uncover many mysteries in the history of Bridge, but the reason Mr. Whitelaw choose the name Pachabo remains. There is a clue though, which he gave on the title page of his “The Pachabo One Club Convention, [1934]”. He explains that “Pachabo” should be pronounced “Pa ’Charbo” - any ideas anyone ?

Best wishes,

Ken in Bournemouth..

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