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From the Archives: Was Sherlock Holmes a Villa fan?

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From the Archives: Was Sherlock Holmes a Villa fan?

Unfortunately it's not Elementary my dear Steve Watson. 

But if you take a leap into the fantastical it's not difficult to come upon the theory that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - and therefore his fictional detective Sherlock Holmes - was indeed a man of claret and blue curiosity. 

 As Holmes said in 'A Study in Scarlet', "there is nothing like first-hand evidence", but unfortunately when it comes to facts to back up this hypothesis there are few. 

Holmes further eulogised "when you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." 

So, along those lines, we're promoting that Holmes - the master of crime deduction - was a Villa fan, living as he did in 221B 'Nathan' Baker Street. 

Doyle, his author, was a fascinating man, who lived a long and eventful life. 

One of ten children born into poverty and with an alcoholic father, he did not have the best of starts in life. 

He trained to be a doctor, was a novelist and lifelong traveller, all-round sportsman, popularising skiing in Switzerland. 

He once bowled out W.G. Grace at cricket, he stood for parliament twice, made a fortune and squandered most of it promoting spiritualism. 

So how might he have been a Villa supporter? 

Here are our findings. "The game is afoot." 

 In 1879, Conan Doyle was a medical student with Edinburgh University. 

As part of his training he moved to Aston for several months each year, working as an assistant to Dr Reginald Ratcliffe Hoare at Clifton House on Aston Road. 

He was paid a salary of two pounds a month and was responsible for making house calls and dispensing medicines. 

In fact he and Dr Hoare got on so well he returned to help out in the surgery many times after finishing his training in 1882. 

During his first stay in Aston, Doyle published both his first story, 'The Mystery of Sasassa Valley'. 

He had begun writing medical essays too at this point. 

But despite such learned work, Doyle was not all serious and was cautioned by Aston Police for sending out fake invitations to a Mayor's Ball, as a practical joke. 

He also indulged his musical talents in the area, buying a violin from a shop in, believe it or not, Sherlock Street. 

It is thought that he also took inspiration for the name of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" from John Baskerville, a famous printer from the area. 

Doyle's time here is commemorated by a blue plaque on the front of the modern building which now stands on the site of his former home at 63 Aston Road North, near the northern end of Aston Bridge flyover. 

In 1879, Villa were still an amateur side, playing at the Wellington Road ground in Perry Barr. 

It is more than possible that Conan Doyle, who was of course a keen sportsman, could have known Villa's early founder members. 

Remember Conan Doyle was a Scot, who were at the very heart of the Villa board with great men such as William McGregor, Archie Hunter and George Ramsay in charge. 

He also lived only a cab ride away from the ground! Holmes once screamed "Data! Data! Data!" in the 'Adventure of the Copper Beaches' but unfortunately it's impossible to prove conclusively that Conan Doyle received his football fix via Villa. 

The very thought and concept that he did - this being the man whose wedding in 1907 was attended by such luminaries as fellow authors JM Barrie [Peter Pan] and Bram Stoker [Dracula] - is a wondrous thing. 

We also can't discount the theory that the "gigantic hound" mentioned in his most famous book 'The Hound of the Baskevilles' was Villa's rampant lion! 

Paul Brown
By @paulbrownavfc 5th March 2013