Our impending holiday in Croatia…
John and I went to what was then Yugoslavia for our honeymoon, staying on the island of Krk in the Adriatic. In those days we were blissfully ignorant of any family or sporting connections with the area…
Obviously, we had a lovely time on Krk, once I’d got over the shock of finding stone slabs instead of my fondly imagined sandy beaches. We met some very interesting people including some rather aristocratic Czechs who were planning a future escape to the west. One was certainly aware that in spite of outward appearances conditions were still pretty bleak.
All that is ancient history, and we know things will be utterly different in what is now Croatia. Fifty three years later, we are planning to visit Vis, another island in the Adriatic and much easier to pronounce. (It used to be called Lissa.)
We are going, not as some have supposed, to drool over the spots where the latest Mamma Mia was filmed; nor are we going to do some extreme rock climbing nor even daily yoga before breakfast. And sadly not even to take part in a cricket match. But there is a family/cricket connection.
We are going because a great great uncle of mine, on my mother’s side, Captain Sir William Hoste, a trusted colleague of Admiral Nelson, was in charge of the Adriatic during the Napoleonic Wars. And he did play cricket here, over 200 wars ago.
He spent much of his time when not actually patrolling the waters and causing havoc to the French, anchored in his ship, the Amphion, off Vis (Lissa). He was only a young man, and confided in a letter to his mother that he often very lonely and homesick without any means of communication with the outer world for months on end. No doubt he realised that his men would feel the same. In a letter to his mother (June 15th 1809) he writes, somewhat tactlessly,
“We have stablished a cricket-club at this wretched place, and when we do get anchored for a few hours, it passes an hour very well.”
Life wasn’t all cricket. He took part in six major campaigns including the capture of a heavily guarded fort. To his great dismay he had not been present at the Battle of Trafalgar having been sent on a diplomatic mission with gifts for the Bey of Algiers but by all accounts he was a fearless and very inspirational commander, credited with the exhortation ‘Remember Nelson’ to rally his men, which I am told is still used today.
I have his journals which are fascinating reading. He comes across as a pretty impressive person but upon re-reading Tom Pocock’s ‘Remember Nelson’ I am reminded that they were edited by his wife, Lady Harriet Walpole, who saw it also as a ‘work of piety’ to inspire their six children.
Perhaps even then she was concerned for the future of their daughter, Priscilla Hoste, but that is another family story. He might not have been very wise in his choice of a guardian, but be that as it may. I am proud to be connected to the Hoste family.
Meanwhile we are nearly all packed up and ready to go, with the inevitable panic looming – Passports up to date?… How to cram 100ml liquids into a tiny bag… Will I really not need any warm clothes at all…?
I’ll report back how we get on.