All good things come to he who waits. That was certainly the case earlier this month for those who had waited 77 years to see a British man win Wimbledon. The fact that Andy Murray hailed from Scotland and wasn't Tim Henman was beside the point; for once the English were united with their Scottish brethren in claiming Murray as one of their own.
England's attempts to take back the Men's Wimbledon Tennis Cup is evocative of the "curse of the Bambino", after their last winner Fred Perry was ostracized for having the audacity to turn professional following his third consecutive Wimbledon win in 1936. It would be another 48 years before England's Lawn Tennis Club would publically recognize Perry by erecting a statue of him at Wimbledon in 1984 to commemorate his first Wimbledon win. In the meantime, Perry had moved to the United States, became a U.S. Citizen, served in the U.S. Air Force during the Second World War, married four times and put his name to a sports shirt that would become the uniform for working class "mods".
The Fred Perry statue in the
All-England Club, Wimbledon.
It was Perry's own working class roots that lead to him being shunned by the tennis establishment. "I was a rebel from the wrong side of the tramlines", the Stockport born son of a cotton spinner, once told a reporter. His first Wimbledon win in 1934 went virtually unrecognized. No one shook his hand, no one congratulated him, and even the presentation of his All England Club tie was a non-event. It was wordlessly strung over his chair in the locker room. Not at a loss for words was the committee member Perry overhead commiserating with his opponent, Australian Jack Crawford. "This was the day the best man didn't win", said the tactless twit-of-a-man. This despite Perry's straight set win of 6-3, 6-0, 7-5 and previous thrashings of Crawford in both the US and the Australian finals.
No wonder then that after Perry's death, his family took back the trophies and medals he'd won as an amateur, which were on display at the Lawn Tennis Museum at the All England Club in Wimbledon and auctioned them off. Perry had presented them to the Club in 1986, stipulating that they "always be there for everyone to see, for perpetuity."
2013: Andy Murray.
Perry's wife of almost 40 years, however, decided that perpetuity had an expiration date. Along with his daughter, his widow felt that Wimbledon's recognition of the tennis great came too late to afford them any feelings of loyalty. Plus, "they never even made me a member", complained Mrs. Perry of the All England Lawn Tennis Club. Consequently the revered Fred Perry Collection was split up and went on the Christie's auction block in 1997. It may have been game, set and match to Mrs. Perry, but her win was surely a loss to the many young tennis enthusiasts eager to visit the museum in an attempt to soak up the aura of Britain's one and only male tennis champion. Now though, the youngsters have another idol to emulate.
Andy Murray was seven when Perry died in February 1995 at the age of 85. A year later, on March 13, 1996, after he had just turned eight, death would come a lot closer to home when a 43 year old unemployed former shopkeeper and boy scout leader, Thomas Hamilton, entered a gym at Murray's primary school in Dunblane and opened fire before taking his own life. Sixteen five and six year olds, along with their teacher lost their lives that day. Murray could have been one of them. His class was next up for P.E. and were walking to the gym when the massacre occurred. They were pulled into a classroom for safety and all survived. At least physically.
Murray poses next to the
gold-painted postbox in Dunblane
after returning "home" following
his Olympic Gold Medal win.
Recalling the incident for the first time publically on national television shortly before his Wimbledon win, the normally stoic Murray broke down in tears. As did his mother Judy, who sat next to him. Both she and her son knew the shooter personally; he led a group the young Murray attended at the local high school and was a frequent passenger in the Murray family car.
Although Murray no longer lives in Dunblane many of his relatives and close friends do and Murray's connection to the small Scottish town of just 8,800 recently intensified when he purchased the nearby Cromlix House Hotel where his brother Jamie got married.
Andy Murray supporters, in his home
town of Dunblane, watch his Wimbledon
men's singles final victory.
After seeing the residents of Dunblane on television watch Murray play Roger Federer in last year's Wimbledon final, many supporters wanted to come to Dunblane this year to watch the watchers and soak up the atmosphere. Whether the twenty-six year old is Scottish, English or British is of no concern. Above all he's playing for Dunblane.
As one resident told the Guardian newspaper: "Andy's exorcised a ghost in Dunblane. It is no longer the town of Thomas Hamilton. Dunblane is Andy Murray's town, and he has helped its people get their town back. Of all his achievements, this may be his greatest."