Percival Henry Biddulph Furley was born on February 10th 1900. He entered the High School on October 2nd 1906 at the age of six. His father was Willis Furley and his mother was called Bertha. The family lived at 72, Cromwell Street, which is fairly close to the High School. Look for the orange arrow. The pale orange buildings of the High School, edged in maroon, are in the top middle of the map, bounded by Waverley Street and Arboretum Street:
Willis Furley was a Hosiery Manufacturer, and the whole family used to go to All Saints’ Church in Raleigh Street, just a short walk from the family home. The church has a ring around it in this late 19th century map. Further towards the top of the map are the High School, looking like an inverted Letter “T”, and the Forest Recreation Ground, complete with Grandstand:
I do not know if this young man was called Percy at home, but he was certainly called “Dab” at school. Apparently, none of his contemporaries knew where his nickname came from. I have researched the word “Dab” as a nickname on the Internet, and the best solution comes from The Word Detective, who believes that “Dab” means “someone who is an expert in or proficient at something” as in the phrase “dab hand”. While “Dab” on its own dates apparently from 1691, this particular expression of “dab hand” first appeared at the end of the 19th century, with the oldest example being dated as 1870 (“He was a dab hand at water-colours.”)
The Word Detective is unable to supply a guaranteed origin for “Dab”, but I suspect that he is right to say that it comes from “dapper” which means “neat, elegant, smart, stylish or well-groomed”.
Dab certainly proved to be a dab hand at a great many things in his time at the High School, not least in his academic subjects. In 1912, after his first year, for example, he had clearly impressed enough to become a Foundation Scholar. Dab finally left the High School in May 1918.
He was always one of the favourites of Sammy Corner, the Deputy Headmaster, especially in the Latin and Ancient Greek classes in the Lower Sixth.
As a teacher, Mr Corner was famous for how easily he could be diverted from the work in hand. If anybody started talking about an interesting subject, especially in his Scripture lessons, the class would seldom, if ever, have to return to what they were supposed to be doing.
Dab’s other claim to fame was his talent in school plays. At this time, all the female parts were taken by boys, and, given his youthful good looks, Dab could always be made up into a very good looking girl or lady! Perhaps this was what made him an especially “Dab hand”.
The High School had stopped playing football, or soccer, at the end of the Christmas Term in 1914, ironically, just in time for the Christmas Truce in the Great War. The First XI finished with a 2-7 away defeat against Leicester Wyggeston School on November 25th 1914. The Second XI, playing at home at Mapperley Park against the same opponents’ 2nd XI, lost by 1-5. Dab probably did play for the High School at football, but we have no record of any of the team line-ups for this shortened season. When the school began playing rugby in early 1915, they did not play any official fixtures, but instead, spent their time trying to learn this rather complex game.
In the summer, though, Dab was to be a player in the school’s First Eleven at cricket for three years. The website “Cricket Archive” does have some of Dab’s performances listed. Here is the High School’s First Eleven in an unknown year. The coach on the left is the much respected Mr Onions, and the three young men in blazers are, left to right, Dab Furley, Roy Henderson and FL Oldham. Nobody else is named unfortunately:
On May 29th 1915 against Derby School at Mapperley Park, Dab batted seventh and was run out for a score of two. He did not bowl. Derby School managed 58 all out but lost to the High School who were 78 all out, having batted on after victory, as was the custom at that time. On June 2nd 1915, playing in another home fixture, this time against Worksop College, Dab again did not bowl, but he batted sixth and was run out for a score of 17. Worksop College were all out for 113, but the High School managed an all-out total of 125, having again batted on after victory was achieved. Here is my first attempt at an enlargement:
The next season, on June 10th 1916, Dab travelled to Parker’s Piece, Chester Green, Derby to play against Derby School. This venue has been used for cricket from 1883 to at least 2006. Derby managed a record breaking low score of only 13 runs. JH Boyd took five wickets for only seven runs and GA Wright claimed four wickets for two runs. The rest of Derby’s total came from four extras. When the High School batted, Dab opened the innings as number two, and scored just three runs before he was out caught by Cotterill of the bowling of Stray. The High School, not surprisingly, were the victors, and batted on to score 158 all out.
In later years archaeologists began an excavation to look for Roman remains at this site and duly found a Roman hypocaust just to the left of the pavilion:
Nowadays, the area has clearly gone downhill with even horrific dog attacks being reported there. Such things were clearly not a hazard in those bad old days of 1916!
I have found no more scores, but Dab went on to win the School’s Prize for the Best Batting Average during the 1917 season:
The following year, in 1918, he was the Captain of Cricket, although this cannot have lasted long if he was to leave the school in May of that year.
Tomorrow, more about the life of Percival Henry Biddulph Furley.
3 responses to ““Dab” Furley Part One”
An interesting post as always John. It certainly is an odd nickname, I always thought of it as a ‘modern’ word ‘dapper’ being much older but, it certainly sounds plausible. I look forward to more.
I hope that I have the correct reply box this time! It’s always very difficult to find the correct origin of a word. I suspect that had I tried a different etymological dictionary, it would have provided an equally plausible origin for the word. I’ve always thought that “Dab” is a pretty cool nickname. Certainly better than a lot that I can remember from school.
No worries. I thought it quite amusing, I get muddled with it all sometimes and am forever checking and still getting it wrong! No doubt there will be a number of origins and, considering how diverse our language is, probably near impossible to find the true origin.