‘He had a remarkable passion for croquet, perhaps partly because the character of the game – more than any other – gave special latitude to the expression of his natural cunning, imaginativeness and resourcefulness. And it was here, as in every other place and in every matter where the opportunity arose to show his individuality that X was organically incapable of tolerating rivals alongside him; and the winning of victory over him at croquet was the surest way of making him into your worst enemy’
David Barwell, an occasional player at Rye challenged us to name who was being described in the quotation above. Guesses included Napoleon Bonaparte until it was revealed that the subject had a Mexican connection. It turns out that it was Leon Trostsky.
It transpires that the description comes from the pen of Grigori (Grisha) Zin, a medical doctor who got to know Trotsky in Nikolaev, Ukraine. In his autobiography My Life published in 1930, Trotsky remarks; ‘In the country I played croquet and ninepins, led in forfeits, and was insolent to the girls.’
Trotsky’s love of croquet must be well known, a distinguished Professor of Classics at the University of New Mexico put up a sign naming his front garden (where he did, indeed, play croquet) ‘The Leon Trotsky Memorial Croquet Lawn’!