London: Maharaja Ranjitsinhji, the first Indian to play Test cricket for England, may have fathered an illegitimate son with his Cambridge University tutor’s daughter over a century ago, according to a media report published in UK.
Ranji, as he was affectionately known and after whom the Ranji Trophy has been named, was born in Nawanagar and went on to become its ruler as Maharaja Jam Sahib in 1907. According to ‘The Sunday Times’, he had an affair with his Cambridge University tutor’s daughter, which was hushed up to avert a scandal in Victorian England.
Ranji made his debut for England against Australia in July 1896, scoring 154 runs in a scintillating debut innings, more than half of the side’s total of 305. During that season, Ranji scored a total of 2,780 runs in first-class cricket, breaking the record of W G Grace and prompting one cricket writer to describe him as "the midsummer night’s dream of cricket".
The paper said that within months of breaking the record, Ranji is believed to have fathered a son with Edith Borissow, the eldest daughter of Reverend Louis Borissow, his tutor at Cambridge.
According to the birth certificate, Borissow's son Bernard Kirk was born on May 22, 1897. The father's name was not recorded in the certificate. Kirk was adopted by Paul Beardmore, a shoemaker from the northern city of Bradford, and his wife Jane and he took their surname.
He trained as an apprentice welder and boilermaker at a factory where, according to his grandchildren, Edith Borissow made several unsuccessful attempts to see her son.
"My grandfather said that he was given for adoption through a reverend," said Sean Beardmore, Bernard's grandson.
"He also said his mother tried to come and see him as a young boy but he didn’t want to see her. She was well dressed, perhaps middle to upper class."
At the age of 20, Bernard married Clarice Brayshaw, a millworker, and they moved with their two children to Plymouth about a decade later, where he worked in the dockyard.
He died in 1976, aged 79.
"Various bits of information have been passed down through the family about my great-grandad but the story with us was always that Ranji was his father – no doubt about it," said his great-granddaughter Catherine Richardson.
There is no evidence that Ranji had any contact with Beardmore, but Lord Hawke, the Yorkshire and England cricket captain who lobbied for the inclusion of his Indian prince friend in the team, wrote Beardmore several letters and is understood to have informed him of Ranji's death in April 1933 at the age of 60.
Ranji scored almost 1,000 runs in 15 Test matches for England at an average of almost 45.