Roald Dahl's near 100-year-old school sport trophy goes up for auction

The world-famous Great Missenden author gifted the trophy to his next door neighbour's grandsons

By James Lowson
Tuesday, 1st March 2022, 4:01 pm
Updated Tuesday, 1st March 2022, 4:02 pm

A sport trophy won by Roald Dahl in the 1930s go up for auction next month, the world famous author had gifted the cup to his next door neighbour's grandsons.

The unique piece of Dahl memorabilia was gifted to a Bucks family back in 1982.

There are Roald Dahl Museums in both Aylesbury and Great Missenden and the author is a local Bucks hero. Aylesbury has also staged hugely popular annual Roald Dahl Festivals in the town.

The trophy which headlines next month's lot, photo from Hansons Auctioneers

One bidder will receive Dahl's Junior Myers Fives Cup from Repton School in Derbyshire, won by The Twits author in 1932.

Also being sold in the same lot is a signed copy of Dahl's most famous story, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, which he gifted to the same family.

Such was Dahl's close relationship with the family, who lived next to him near Great Missenden, he took both grandkids to the Danny, the Champion of the World, film premiere in 1989.

With the boys aged seven and 10 at the time, it was about as close as real life could come to resembling the joy of receiving a golden ticket to Willy Wonka's factory.

A look at the lot in full photo from Hansons Auctioneers

One of Dahl’s sports trophies and the book, signed, To Stephen, with love, Roald Dahl, together with a ticket for the premiere of Danny the Champion of the World, Odeon, West End, 27 July , 1989, will be up for auction.

Hansons Auctioneers’ Library Auction is scheduled for 9 March, experts have valued the lot at £1,000-£2,000.

But Jim Spencer, books valuer at Hansons, thinks worldwide affection for Dahl could send the price rocketing.

He projects as Repton School is linked to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a book that’s sold 20 million copies and sparked two films grossing £349 million, things could escalate quickly.

Roald Dahl

He said: “It’s thought Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was inspired by Dahl’s time at Repton.

"Amazingly, Cadbury’s opened a testing facility at Repton, and Dahl and his schoolmates had the rather wonderful task of testing out chocolate.

“Dahl didn’t enjoy his school days but he excelled at sport, particularly Fives, a ball game played by two or four players in an enclosed court. It’s a bit like squash but you hit the hard ball with your hand.

“He was so good at it he became team captain and yet he happily parted with his trophies to put a smile on the face of two boys. It was his way of thanking them for attending the premiere.

The personally signed book up for grabs and a ticket from the Danny, the Champion of the World, London premiere, photo from Hansons Auctioneers

"What a generous spirit Dahl had.

“And of course, his random acts of kindness didn’t stop there. Getting an invitation to go to a film premiere with Dahl must have been akin to finding Willy Wonka’s golden ticket.

"The fact that the boys’ gran was invited along, too, reminds me of Charlie taking his grandad to the chocolate factory.”

It is the father of the boys who has made the decision to sell some of the invaluable souvenirs the famous former Bucks resident gave them.

The seller said: “My first recollection of Roald Dahl was in the early 1960s when my granddad took me next door to Gypsy House to see the garden.

“The only thing I was interested in was the aviary full of brightly coloured budgerigars. He was just the man next door who wrote stories. I remember one hot summer's day sitting in the garden with my family when Mr Dahl burst through the back gate and said, ‘Has anyone seen my goat? I've lost her’. We did laugh. There were also regular visits from his dogs.

“My grandparents bought the house next door to Mr Dahl in the 1930s and my mum later inherited it.

"It’s no longer in the family now. My dad worked as a gardener for Mr Dahl for several years and mum helped in the author’s house, ironing and sewing.

"If mum was caught rushing around, Mr Dahl would say, ‘Anita, slow down, have a rest, make a cup of tea’. They loved their time spent with him.

“My mum gave Mr Dahl's books to her grandchildren on their birthdays and would often ask him to sign them, hence the autographed copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In the summer of 1989, I had a phone call from mum saying Mr Dahl had asked if she had a couple of grandchildren he could borrow for the day to see the premiere of Danny Champion of the World.

“My mum and my two boys, then aged seven and 10, had a great day out. They went on a coach trip to London, enjoyed the film with all the celebrities and had lunch out. They thoroughly enjoyed it - a lasting memory.

"A few days after the event, mum called again saying Mr Dahl had given a gift to the boys as a thank-you for coming. The gift was his junior and senior Myers Fives Cups from Repton School.”

Given its sentimental value, the senior trophy is remaining with the family.

The author mentioned winning the Myers Fives Cups at Repton School in 1932 in his autobiography, Boy. He wrote: ‘Fives is possibly the fastest ball-game on earth, far faster than squash, and the little ball ricochets around the court at such speed that sometimes you can hardly see it.

“You need a swift eye, strong wrists and a very quick pair of hands to play fives well, and it was a game I took to right from the beginning. You may find it hard to believe, but I became so good at it that I won both the junior and the senior school fives in the same year when I was 15.

“Soon I bore the splendid title 'Captain of Fives', and I would travel with my team to other schools like Shrewsbury and Uppingham to play matches. I loved it. It was a game without physical contact, and the quickness of the eye and the dancing of the feet were all that mattered.”

Potential bidders can contact Jim Spencer ahead of the auction directly, by emailing [email protected]