Ranjitsinhji – better known as Ranji – is one of the legends of Indian cricket, but new details of his stay in England as a student suggest that while living with a reverend’s family in Cambridge until 1892, he fathered an illegitimate son.
Ranji, who was the first non-white cricketer to play for England, was a student at Cambridge, and lived with the family of Rev Louis Borrisow, who was the chaplain of Trinity College and his tutor. The son was born with Borrisow’s eldest daughter, Edith, it is claimed.
According to a report in The Sunday Times, had the scandal become public, it would have rocked the Victorial establishment of the time. According to the son’s birth certificate, Bernard Kirk was born on May 22, 1897. The father’s name was not recorded and Kirk was listed as the mother’s.
Kirk was adopted by Paul Beardmore, a Bradford shoemaker, and his wife, Jane, and 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.”
“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,” his great- granddaughter, Catherine Richardson, told the newspaper.
The report says that there is no evidence that Ranji had any contact with Beardmore, but (Lord) Martin Hawke, the then Yorkshire and England cricket captain who lobbied for Ranji’s inclusion in the team, wrote Beardmore several letters and reportedly informed him of Ranji’s death in April 1933, aged 60.
“What was striking was that Lord Hawke always seemed to know where my grandfather was,” said Sean Beardmore. “We don’t know the full story behind what happened. Pieces of the puzzle are missing but the circumstantial evidence points to Edith Borissow being the mother and I’m sure any DNA test would show a connection with Ranji.”