The Times and Sir Don Bradman
In the Archive of The Times there is a series of correspondence between Roy Curthoys, the paper’s correspondent in Australia, and Sir Donald Bradman, the renowned Australian cricketer, in Curthoys’ files of correspondence with the Foreign News Editor. The documents record his negotiations with Bradman for a preview article on the 1954/1955 Ashes Series.
It is not surprising that The Times wished to employ Bradman. After 6 years in retirement, his fame was undiminished. During his 52 match Test career he had been a relentless scorer of runs, scoring 29 centuries with an average of 99.94 runs. Bradman also had unrivalled experience of the Ashes, having captained the Australian team through four successful series.
A receipt for £150 in the files shows that that Bradman had written for The Times early in 1953. But, though his letters show that Bradman was keen to write for The Times again, he had to refuse the offer. The documents show the intensity of the competition to secure Bradman’s services.
A newspaper cutting from The Argus dated July 29, 1954 describes how an Australian company, News Ltd., had “secured world rights to Sir Donald Bradman on the 1953 Test series at the highest fee ever paid an Australian for a single newspaper feature.”
In his letter to Curthoys dated July 29, Bradman explains that his ongoing arrangement with News Ltd. would make it difficult for him to write for anyone else, especially as News Ltd were to syndicate his articles to the Daily Mail. It was also possible that he might become a selector for the series which would preclude him from writing about team matters prior to the first match. The Times had been taken by surprise by the escalation of fees and had entered the bidding too late. With its ground breaking payment, News Ltd had set a standard which other newspapers would have to meet to attract the great man’s services.
As Curthoys stated bluntly in this letter to the paper’s Foreign News Editor, “If The Times wants names like Bradman’s it will have in future to look ahead and bid up.”
The Times and The Ashes, a new book documenting the paper’s coverage of these series since 1877, is available to buy at http://bit.ly/1Iy712E.
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