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At the helm in 1994.

Obituary: Turf Turpin, Britain's last hippy groundsman

Edgar 'Turf' Turpin, Britain's last hippy groundsman has died aged 80.

He joined the MCC groundstaff in 1959 after hearing the best 'grass' in London was at Lord's.

In 1962, Turpin met the controversial 'Peat Poet' and head groundsman at Old Trafford, Todd Manning. The two men became close friends and it surprised no one when Turpin made the move north in 1963.

"Things were really heavy at Lord's" recalled Turpin in 1970. "Groundsmen were forever being dragged before the president of the MCC for all sorts of minor things like crooked ties, nose bleeds, or burnt eyebrows.

"Being mentored by Todd changed me forever. He taught me there was more to life than sweeping and watering. The whole vibe at Old Trafford was very different to Lord's and I really got into it.

"No one cared that the groundsmen were growing opium and the concubines living in the cellar under the old printing department were hardly a secret. We tried to lure them out some years later when the whole scene got a bit freaky but in those days we knew nothing about Stockholm syndrome."

Turpin spent an idyllic 15 years under the tutelage of Manning before their partnership went the way of uncovered pitches thanks to a newly appointed and especially vigilant steward by the name of Malcolm Spanner.

"I was puzzled by the sporadic appearance of animals grazing on the field on non match days. It took a while but I eventually figured out that groundsmen were using them to place orders with drug dealers operating from trees near the Brian Statham Stand," said Spanner in 1991.

"A sheep meant they were after a few ounces of cannabis, unless it was shackled to a cat with a white stripe painted on its back; in which case they were after skunk.

"Yes sir, no sir, three bags full."

"A horse indicated they wanted heroin, and the number of goats grazing represented the required number of crack cocaine rocks. The addition of a Turkey meant stocks were low and they were at risk of suffering from withdrawals."

Manning was arrested and imprisoned in 1978 after Spanner relayed his observations to the police. The poet refused to implicate his right-hand man and Turpin slipped the net despite being caught in the act of strapping a crow to a walking cane.

He weathered the storm and succeeded Manning as Head Groundsman within a matter of weeks.

Turpin proved to be as relaxed a leader as his predecessor but by now he was fighting a losing battle. Despite his best efforts young groundsmen were far more likely to be 'Goths' or 'New Romantics'. It was an ill match: "They were perfumed and image conscious whereas I reeked of solvent fumes and was frequently unconscious."

Turpin became increasingly isolated. "By the start of the 1980s I was the last of a breed and became pretty introverted," he admitted shortly before his death.

"When the opportunity to take early retirement came up I jumped at it. You can only get by being stoned on your own for so long - eighteen years in my case."

Experimental to the end, he suffered a fatal heart attack whilst sitting in Soho Square with a meerkat on his lap.