Lieutenant Colonel William Inglis is not one of the most celebrated figures in British military history, yet he apparently coined a phrase which has become commonplace in cinema, politics and sport
In 1811 Inglis was leading the 57th (West Middlesex) Regiment in the battle of Albuera, one of the bloodiest conflicts in the Peninsula War, when he was grievously wounded in both neck and chest. Refusing treatment, he exhorted his men to keep their positions and resist the French attack. "Die hard, the 57th!" he cried, "Die hard!"
Inglis's troops heeded their dying commander's words. Of the 570 men in the regiment, 422 were killed at Albuera and the Middlesex Regiment became known as the Die-Hards.
Over two centuries the phrase has acquired other meanings. Partly thanks to Bruce Willis it still has connotations of male bravery, but it can also refer to someone who strongly opposes change or someone who tenaciously adheres to a seemingly hopeless cause.
Saturday's cricket at Aigburth was an occasion for Lancastrian diehards in more ways than one. You had to be very well wrapped up to brave the bitter weather on Merseyside this morning; and some would say that you also had to be pretty devoted to the cause to turn up for a game in which Glen Chapple's team had come off second best in the preceding two days.
That, though, is what support is all about. In some respects it was easy for Lancashire followers to attend last September's home game against Hampshire, and even easier to be present at Taunton a few days later. Making my first, shivering circuit of Aigburth late this morning, I felt I was briefly in the company of people for whom watching county cricket was almost an act of faith.
The devotion was even greater for some Lancashire supporters living on Merseyside, especially if they had other sporting interests. It had escaped almost no one's notice that an association football match of some consequence was taking place in London this lunchtime; later on, 40 horses galloped round Aintree and jumped a few fences in the process. There were plenty of reasons to stay by your fireside today, and every justification for piling the fire high too.
What Lancashire fans wanted, of course, was to see Ashwell Prince and Luke Procter share a partnership which would transform the game. So it was encouraging to see Procter take the fight to the Sussex attack and cover drive James Anyon for two sweetly-timed boundaries in the fourteenth over of the morning. Also heartening was Prince's mighty six over long-on off Monty Panesar.
The excellent Sussex attack had its revenge though, and by early afternoon the players were making their way from the field, Michael Yardy's side having completed their ten-wicket victory. It has been a chastening start to their title defence for Chapple's men.
All the same, on Friday evening and Saturday morning the loyal Lancastrian regiment at Aigburth had at least seen Prince and Procter put on 88 runs for the fifth wicket. That resolute partnership constituted some reward for supporters who, if they could not see their team win, wanted to see their heroes die hard.
Photo of Luke Procter and Ashwell Prince (c) Simon Pendrigh
Article (c) Lancashire CCC