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What we know about Fly Tier and Cricketer George Mortimer Kelson 

So who was George Kelson

I am privileged to own most of the fly tying items known to have been associated with George Mortimer Kelson. I have read every article and available comments regarding his character and achievements,  by various authors - so one might think I am well qualified to comment.

However, Kelson is an enigma of sorts and that is part of his attraction I think. I rather like him for his humanity,  like many of us - he was an ordinary man trying to make a living in a complex society - going through a class revolution. Talented - yes,  a man prone to exaggeration, yes - and full of weaknesses. He was no doubt 'punching above his weight' in social circles, and his position and access depended on being seen as an 'authority' - as well as a charmer, athlete, 'bonne vivant'..and all-round focal point of the Salmon Fly Tying world. In order to maintain this position he obviously 'embellished' his CV like so many before and after him, and got caught out,  but ultimately outlived those who attacked him, had the last laugh, as the fame and relevance of his books far outlived the publication and the editor that had been his initial demise. Was he a fraud, yes - in terms of detail, but as a person in real life I sense those around him probably enjoyed his company, as a sportsman and raconteur. When he died at a ripe age and was buried in Sevenoaks - I'm sure he was fondly missed.


If he looked back, with hindsight I think he would be happy - he lived ' the life'...and got away with it on the whole....with much credit, and the majority of criticism came from those consigned to history, with less fame than himself.


He would have been a good man to spend an evening out with for sure!


On this page, you can read much that is known about the man, and maybe build the historical affection that I have! 


I would have loved to have met him!


'The Inky Boy Saga'

Plus Flies, Hooks and Reels - and a certain Selina Victoria Fane

Link to an Archive Document of the 1908 Fishing Gazette

containing  the Marston - Kelson Clash - Please Copy and paste into your browser

Link to an Archive Document of the 1908 Fishing Gazette

containing  the Marston - Kelson Clash - Please Copy and paste into your browser

PDF Version of The Salmon Fly

- GMK's Book at the centre of the debate

An interesting and informative article - published in two parts in American Fly Fisher in 2015 by Andrew Heard documenting the 'spat' between Kelson and Marston

Part One

Part Two

Two Collerette de  Magnifique (Collar of the Magnifique) Patches - Dyed by Monsieur Jacquet in Paris, and one of the many Green Touracou Patches in the current collection (Not Wompoo Dove as first thought  but Magnificent Bird of Paradise -which makes sense given the French)

Farlows Kelsons Favorite Store for materials  -

Farlows was founded in 1840 by Charles Farlow as a fishing shop in the city. He manufactured his own products and advertised 'half an hour with Mr Farlow' to promote his unique brand of personal sales attention.

- George Mortimer kelson

- George Mortimer kelson

The Hotel des Etats-Unis as it is today

Items relating to the Inky Boy in the original discovery at Cheffins -sold abroad -  now in a 'Private Collection' - notice the packet of horsehair - deemed to be too narrow. the New York Fisheries envelope confirmed the legitimacy of the other similar packets in the collection - which at first seemed odd!

Rue D'Antin Paris in Kelson's time -location of his prefered Hotel - Many items in the current collection are in notepaper from the Hotel

Rue D'Antin Paris in Kelson's time -location of his prefered Hotel - Many items in the current collection are in notepaper from the Hotel

A Green Turacou showing the Crest Feathers

A Green Turacou showing the Crest Feathers

A Magnificent Bird of Paradise..clearly showing the 'Collarette' that was dyed! Not Wompoo Dove as claimed by some modern commentators!

MR. GEORGE MORTIMER KELSON'S first match at Lord's, where he did not often appear. Was born at Sevenoaks, in Kent, December 8th, 1835. Height 5ft. lOin. and weight list. Bats in a fino free style and has made most excellent scores, especially for his county. Is also an admirable field, generally taking longleg and cover-point, and vas for some little time (after the retirement of W. II. Fryer from that important post), wicket keeper in the Kent Eleven. As a bowler he is fast round-armed, and has been occasionally successful in that department of the game. At the Kent County Club anniversary dinner held May 2nd, I860, at the Roshervillo Hotel, Gravesend, he was presented by the Earl of Darnley (on the part of the Club) with a valuable gold keyless watch (made by Messrs. Aubcrt and Linton, of Regent Street), in recognition of his services as a Cricketer to the County of Kent, especially when Kent played Surrey, Julv 6, 1865, he then suffering from an accident. The watch bears the following inscription " Presented to G. M. Kelson, Esq , by the members and -friends of the Kent County Cricket Club, in appreciation of him as a gentleman and cricketer." In addition to this he has had 39 or 40 presentations during his cricketing career, which must be termed a brilliant one. In 1867, during a minor match at Richmond, he received a blow on the knee which caused him much pain and consequently he played but little that season. In January-, 1868, it was announced that he had entirely abandoned the game owing to this injury, but his name will be found in the Kent Eleven about that time and occasionally since. Subsequently he generally participated in minor matches, and in 1871 he four times scored 100 in one innings, but these will not be recorded here. He became Hon. Sec. and Treasurer of a new club called the Anomalies, and in 1873 he made with that club several innings over 100, viz., 175 not out, 140 not out, 108, and 103. These deeds can be seen in the columns of Sell, and it was to be regretted that he did not assist his county more frequently. Resides (1876) at the Deanery, Great Marlow. His father's name will be found in the match between the Gentlemen and Players of Kent in 1828.



Billiard and Cricket Parallels

A most interesting letter appeared in The Observer of April 23 from Mr. G. M. Kelson, an old gentleman player for Kent, whom the editor of The Billiard Monthly well remembers to have seen playing many times for his county in the beautiful Mote Park at Maidstone as many as forty years ago. Very singularly Mr. Kelson was the gentleman player whom the editor had in his mind when answering Question No. 44 in this month's issue, although he little imagined when doing so that "G. M.," as the Kent schoolboys of 1870 affectionately called Mr. Kelson, was still not only in the land of the living but hale and keenly interested in sport as of yore.

Mr. Kelson used to wear a flannel jacket of many colours and would sometimes keep it on during play. The present writer wonders whether Mr. Kelson remembers that coat of "the summer of his career" as well as he does.

The Letter

In his letter to The Observer, under the heading "Tiring Billiards: What Changes are Desirable?" Mr. Kelson writes:—

You suggest that there is a way of putting a limit on any particular billiard stroke, and that the principles of the game should remain as they are. Quite so; and these words of yours are cheered to the echo by all true lovers of sport. Of course, you were referring to the long spells of losing hazards we are now accustomed to see played.

Undoubtedly some steps must be taken sooner or later to deprive a match player of keeping possession of the table from the time he enters to the time he leaves the room.

An offer of peace from Marston - turned down by Kelson - he would have been wiser to accept!

Traherne is dragged into the argument as the name calling continues

Even Kelson's son tries to come to the rescue!

Morehanger (Moggerhanger) Park - Home of Selina Fane and address on Envelope in collection
Selina 'Violet' Fane
Selina 'Violet' Fane - Life Story
George Mortimer Kelson - Life Story

One of Kelson's Daughters

Kelson was also a Freemason at St Andrews Lodge - which kept him in the right circles

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