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John Prince
Draws the stars

by John Prince
Posted September 12, 2009

"My Life in Croquet," the John Prince memoir
Paintings and other art by John Prince
Classic croquet caricatures by Horace Francis Crowther-Smith

The artist is better known as the legendary New Zealand player who anchored the national team for several decades of memorable competition - usually (but not always) as second place to Britain's croquet powerhouse. His three-part memoir, "My Life in Croquet," is by far the longest piece of writing in this magazine, recounting many great moments on the court and in his life, along with some heart-wrenching disappointments. As his prowess on the court diminishes somewhat in his mid-sixties, the output at the easel increases, to our great delight. To the observations only a fellow champion would make, he adds the finer points of pencil drawings in colorful commentary.


IAN LINES, a member of the Bowdon Croquet Club in North England, is one of the world's leading players. I have always thought that as a small boy Ian may very well have looked like Christopher Robin (from the stories by A.A. Milne), so I have drawn him with that thought in mind. Also note Ian's characteristic slightly raised front foot as he settles into his stroke-making rhythm. Of course I had to include Christopher Robin's companion - Winne-the-Pooh. Though he waits patiently for his turn, I'm sure half his mind is on "a little something" usually found in a honey pot.


JAMES DEATH of England plays with a somewhat unusual "pen" grip. He makes croquet appear very easy, with his effortless and relaxed style, so I've added an extra challenge for him. If he can run the hoop without spilling a drop of beer from the pint handle perched on top of the hoop, he gets to down the contents before tackling the next shot. James makes his living as a Bingo Caller, but I resisted the temptation to include a leggy "Legs Eleven" girl in the picture - which might well cause him to spill the beer.


STEPHEN MULLINER has represented Great Britain countless times over a 30-year period and is still a major threat in any top competition. Perhaps the time he spends on all fours sighting shots in the most painstakingly meticulous fashion accounts partly for his continuing string of championship titles. So I've drawn him in a double portrait. He's an extremely energetic fellow, usually adopting a press-up position as part of the lineup drill before running each hoop; and before making a peel, he needs to take a worm's eye view of the shot (as pictured) to be absolutely sure of the angles. Although he has been Mayor of the English town of Haselmere where he lives with his family, I resisted the temptation to put a Mayoral Chain around his neck.

DAVE MAUGHAM, aka "The Beast"

DAVE MAUGHAM, aka "The Beast," member of England's Bowdon club, seems to play at his best when the chips are down and everything is at stake. He has been the hero of some critical team matches in bringing home the glory. When the chips were down, with his opponent seven hoops ahead, Maugham bagged the MacRobertson Shield for Great Britain at Rich River in Australia in 1993 with a last-turn two-ball break from hoop one to the peg, defeating the venerable Bob Jackson, New Zealand number one player. He also brought off a magnificent Triple Peel against Toby Garrison (N.Z.) when the 2000 MacRobertson series decider between Great Britain and New Zealand stood at 10 matches all, with Garrison and The Beast locked at one all in their best-of-three match. The Beast is about to become a Black Belt in the martial art of Jujitsu and would certainly qualify for any comparable order of merit in the sport of croquet.


KEITH AITON represents Scotland and Great Britain, and should the Great Britain team be reduced to the English team when contesting the next MacRobertson Series (a much discussed possibility), no doubt he'll play for England as well! Keith is an elegant player with sublime touch. He was once observed when playing in a tournament as a young man by the legendary Humphrey Hicks, who later commented to Keith Wylie on how elegantly young Aiton played. Keith Wylie replied that he could not see how anyone who played in trousers with an elasticised waist band could be described as elegant. The story got back to Aiton, who was greatly amused and has retold the story often. And now, I have told it to you.


REG BAMFORD, the 2009 World Champion, hails from South Africa. A tall, athletic figure, he could just as easily be an inside back for the Springboks, South Africa's rugby football team, and if his goal kicking were as accurate as his roquets, he'd be a match winner at rugby as well. His swing is one of the straightest in the game, and he is the textbook example of how to play standard grip with feet level. Reg is fiercely patriotic, so I have drawn him with appropriately coloured sun-block.

These drawings may not be reproduced in any form without the permission of the artist. All six drawings are A3 size (420mm x 300mm) and drawn with graphite and coloured pencils on Mi Tentes paper - a high quality art paper, acid free 280/300gsm. All are available for purchase, unframed, with first option to the subject, for GBP120, USD200, AUD240, or NZD300. The artist invites comment and inquiries at or through, where paintings and other artwork by John Prince can also be seen.

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