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A wry view of life for the world-weary

There Ain’t ‘Alf Some Clever Bastards – Part Twenty

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Anthony E Pratt

The latest inductee to our Hall of Fame is the wonderfully named Anthony E Pratt whose surname, as events revealed, was quite appropriate.

Born in August 1903 in Balsall Heath, a suburb in Birmingham, our hero left school at the age of 15 to pursue a career in chemistry. However, he was also a very accomplished pianist and with the absence of formal chemistry qualifications blocking his progress in his chosen career, he decided to concentrate on honing his musical skills and earned a living playing piano recitals in country hotels and on cruise ships. During the Second World War Pratt worked in an engineering factory, the dull (but vital) work giving him time to think.

The inter-war years were the golden age of the detective novel – Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Dorothy L Sayers etc – and quite often the soirees that Pratt played at also  staged murder mystery extravaganza. With no television and restrictions on movement in force, evenings during the War were deadly dull. Pratt thought that a way to enliven evenings would be to develop a board game involving the unmasking of a murderer. A country house with all its sprawling rooms – so often the setting for a who-dunnit – could be hosting some form of evening entertainment. One of the guests could be found murdered, all the guests could fall under suspicion and by putting clues together the players of the board game could work out who the murderer was and how the crime had been committed.

And so the seeds of a game germinated in Pratt’s brain and during the course of 1943 he and his wife, Elva, had designed a game which was sufficiently well-developed that by 1st December 1944 he had filed for a patent. The game was originally called Murder and Elva designed the artwork that went along with the game.

The game was taken up by Waddingtons, who after a few minor modifications and a rebranding of the game to Cluedo – and amalgam of the word “Clue” and the Latin verb “Ludo”, to play – launched it in 1949. Sales weren’t brisk and by 1953 Waddington offered Pratt the princely sum of £5,000 for all the overseas rights of the game. Unfortunately, Pratt took the silver, the equivalent of around £106,000 in today’s money, but in the process he denied himself access to the millions that would have rolled as overseas sales picked up.

The British patent expired in the early 1980s and so the money from what became a pre-eminent parlour game dried up. Pratt died at the age of 90 in 1993 having suffered in his later years from Alzheimer’s disease.

Anthony, for developing a favourite game of mine, Cluedo, and foolishly tossing away the key to untold riches, you are a worthy inductee to our Hall of Fame.

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If you enjoyed this, why not try Fifty Clever Bastards by Martin Fone which is now available on Amazon in Kindle format and paperback. For details follow the link https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=fifty+clever+bastards

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