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Kent Cricket Heritage Trust

A GREAT COACH

I was recently at the annual dinner of the Kent League, a very enjoyable occasion which celebrated the successes of the leagues and the clubs in 2018. Among the prizewinners was 17 year old Jordan Cox, a wicket-keeper batsman who has just signed his first professional contract with the club, and of whom the club has very high hopes. He will, of course, have to wait for his chances because there is a long list of wicket-keeper batsmen ahead of him in the pecking order at the moment. Sam Billings is the club captain, Adam Rouse his very able deputy behind the stumps, and then there is Ollie Robinson, who broke into the first team as a batsman at the end of the summer, but who is also an excellent keeper, not to mention Heino Kuhn who has kept wicket for South Africa, and even Daniel Bell-Drummond who has been seen wearing the gloves on occasion. But DBD’s current bowling ambitions probably drop him off that list. And I don’t think Stevo’s ever kept wicket.

We may have a glut of wicket-keepers, but the issue that has haunted the side for many years is our lack of fast bowlers. If we look back through the lists, we note that since the turn of the century, only one player who is a genuine home-grown opening bowler has been capped by the county – Matt Coles. And he has moved on to pastures new. Yes, we’ve had some great imports and canny signings, from Matt Henry and Mitch Claydon to people like McLaren, Kemp, Andrew Hall, Amjad Khan and Martin Saggers, but none of these are home grown. The last opening bowler to come up through the leagues to win his county cap was one J B de C Thompson, capped in 1999, who retired soon afterwards to become a full time doctor. He is now the club’s honorary medical advisor. Many potential fast bowlers have made it to the fringes of the county side, but have not then kicked on to become mainstays of the attack. It is not a proud record.

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Dr. Julian Thompson

Can we put this down to the Thatcher years, when the mines were closed and no longer could we go to a pithead in Betteshanger or Snowdown and whistle for a burly fast bowler, as legend says they used to do in Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire? Or is that there is something in the Kentish air that works for wicketkeepers and left arm spinners but not for fast bowlers? Actually, it’s a combination of chance and, perhaps, something about Kent that just doesn’t suit the really fast stuff. In the 2018 KCCC Annual, Hon. Curator David Robertson picked his all time Kent eleven, and opening the bowling were John Shepherd and Fred Ridgway.

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Fred Ridgway

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John Shepherd

Both excellent players, and brilliant servants of Kent, but neither of them Kent born, and neither of them likely to strike fear for their physical safety into the hearts of opening batsmen.

This is not a diatribe against the Kent League nor against the Academy or any of the coaches there. The raw material has to be there too, and a look back at the history of the club shows that it was ever thus. When the Tonbridge Nursery was established under Captain William McCanlis, he too found that there were few opening bowlers to be found in the Garden of England.

William McCanlis is a hugely important name in the history of Kent County Cricket Club. He played 46 matches for Kent between 1862 and 1877, scoring 1113 runs at an average of just 13.97, and with a best score of 67, opening the batting for Kent against Lancashire at Gravesend in 1873, and taking 18 wickets for 496 runs (ave. 27.55) with as best of 4 for 67 against Yorkshire at Middlesbrough in 1864. He was a right hand bat, and a bowler of whose style no description seems to have survived. Nor, for that matter, does a photograph of him. Although his playing record was mediocre – he was described as ‘a fine and powerful hitter, excelling especially in the drive, and likewise a good field’ – he proved to be an inspired coach and talent scout. Like so many in every sporting field who have to struggle to make the most of their skills, McCanlis knew the nuts and bolts of his own game and was therefore able to pass his knowledge on to players who had far more natural talent than he ever had. Think of Jose Mourinho or Roy Hodgson in football – average players but great coaches – and compare them with Bobby Charlton or Stanley Matthews – great players but because they did not have to analyse their skills to understand why they were the best on the park, only average coaches. It’s the same in every sport – with exceptions, of course. Those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach. And the best teachers are worth at least as much as the best doers.

In 1897 McCanlis was appointed coach of the newly established Tonbridge Nursery, in many ways the equivalent of today’s Academy. Among the players who came into the county eleven via the Tonbridge Nursery in his time were Colin Blythe (discovered by McCanlis in the nets at the Rectory Field, Blackheath), Arthur Fielder (a fast bowler from Plaxtol, near Tonbridge), “Tich” Freeman, Wally Hardinge, James Seymour and Frank Woolley. That’s four of the all time top six wicket takers for Kent and three of the top four run scorers, as well as the two most prolific catchers in Kent history. Quite a record.

When he retired in 1912, the committee noted that “what the club owes him for his lifelong services to the county as cricketer, counsellor and friend it is impossible to estimate, but so far as his coaching is concerned he has the extreme satisfaction of having lived to see and enjoy the most satisfactory results.” Between 1906 and 1913, the county won the county championship four times.

In McCanlis’ day, over a century ago, cricket was simpler and the key to success was in identifying your talent from within your county’s borders and then nurturing that talent until it flowers naturally. Today things are a bit more competitive and the search for talent covers the whole world, not just Kent. But the basic need to have a nursery, these days called an Academy, and to have people who can pass on the skills and attitude that a top cricketer needs still remains. I believe the Kent Academy is serving us well, and I know their keenness to find genuine quality opening bowlers is stronger than ever. But it all takes time.

 

 

 

 

 

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WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE WAR, FATHER?

Two different stories grabbed my attention this week, and then combined in the shape of one Kent cricketer. The first story began with Joe Denly being chosen for the T20 international against Sri Lanka, and opening the bowling – with great success it must be added. The question arose – when was the last time that a Kent player opened England’s bowling in any Test match or white ball international? Thoughts of Martin Saggers, Martin McCague, Dean Headley, Mark Ealham, Richard Ellison and even Alan Igglesden came into my head, and then I wondered if James Tredwell had ever opened the bowling in an ODI. And then another name cropped up, that of Amjad Khan, who played his only Test for England in the West Indies early in 2009. A quick check showed that he did not open the bowling in either innings for England – captain Strauss left that to Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad – and so the search went on. But I was then sidetracked into looking up Kent’s other one-Test wonders, a list which now contains fourteen names. There are only two one-ODI wonders from Kent, incidentally, one of whom, Mark Benson, is also a one-Test wonder. The other played one or two more Tests than Benny. His name was Colin Cowdrey. There are also two players on the one T20 international list – Rob Key and Amjad Khan again, but again Amjad did not open the bowling. I’m still not sure who the last England opening bowler from Kent before Joe Denly was. I’d be happy if somebody could put me out of my misery.

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Amjad Khan

One of the fourteen Kent one-Test wonders also featured in our recent remembrance of the Armistice. Kent CCC held its annual Service of Remembrance at the Blythe Memorial on 8thNovember, the anniversary of Blythe’s death, and this was as moving as ever. But it was watching the wonderful Peter Jackson film, They Shall Not Grow Old, on Remembrance Sunday evening that really hit home. One of the soldiers was quoted as saying that he did not fear death, because that would be quick and an end to it all. He feared injury, being broken and useless for the rest of his life, much more than death. It seems to me that though we quite rightly honour those who have made the ‘ultimate sacrifice’, we have not necessarily honoured those whose sacrifice may not have been so final but was at least as hard to bear, for both the soldiers and the families.

The one-Test wonder who went to war, but did not die, was Lt. Charles Stowell Marriott, known to his team mates and to a generation of Kent supporters as “Father”. His war story was told in Paul Lewis’ excellent book, For Kent and Country, and also in a recent Sunday Telegraph article, and it shows how the visible wounds are not always the deepest. Charles Marriott, a sickly boy who had been educated in Ireland in order to protect his health, was commissioned as a 2ndLieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers, his county of birth, in 1915 and was posted to France the following year, aged 20.

On 1 July 1916, Marriott took part in the attack on Thiepval, a strategically important Belgian village, but the attackers were quickly caught in German machine gun fire. The slaughter was immense. Marriott, not part of that suicidal first wave, was ordered to take his men to the front line trench, as replacements for those who had just been cut down. As he later wrote, “Our scrambles were speeded by the German machine-gunners above, who weren’t missing much that morning. After all these years I can still clearly see certain gruesome sights, burnt into the memory, as we struggled up to the front line.” He wrote of “hands, feet and shin bones protruding from the raw earth” and a soldier, “sitting in as shell hole, hands on knees, a sandbag over his shoulder. I lifted it to see if he were alive, and he had no head.”

Marriott’s platoon was saved that day by a last minute order not to go over the top. His troubles were by no means over, however, and on 22 July, he was caught in a mustard gas attack near Nieuport. He was the only officer, along with a dozen men, who was hospitalized by the attack, and sent back to England. By November that year, he was diagnosed as suffering from what we would now know as shell shock. His active war service was over, but the effects lasted all his life.

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Charles “Father” Marriott

After the war, he went up to Cambridge, aged 25, and won his cricket blue as a leg-spinner in 1920 and 1921. Because he was several years older than his university team-mates, they christened him “Father”, a name which remained with him all his life. On graduation, he took up a teaching career at Dulwich College, and Lord Harris, who only a year or two earlier had prevented the Kent-born Wally Hammond from playing for Gloucestershire without the proper residential qualifications, was hoist with his own petard and had to wait before the Lancashire-born Marriott was allowed to play for Kent. Marriott went on to play 101 matches for Kent between 1924 and 1937, but his only appearance for England was against West Indies at the Oval in 1933. He took 5 for 37 and 6 for 59, but never played for England again. He was only picked for England as a replacement for the injured Hedley Verity (later to become a Second World War casualty), and his teaching career meant that he could never play a full season of cricket, and thus was unlikely to catch the selectors’ eye (or eyes). His career batting average of 4.41 and his fabled immobility in the field would not have helped, either. Marriott remains one of the select few regular first-class cricketers to have taken more wickets (711) than he scored runs (574). For Kent, he took 463 wickets and scored 356 runs.

When he died in 1966, aged 71, Wisden noted that during the Second World War “he served as an anti-aircraft gunner in the Home Guard”, but did not mention his service in the Great War.

Lest we forget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fred ‘Nutty’ Martin – An Underrated Great

We have recently been asked, “Do you have any information or archive material re Fred “Nutty” Martin? I’m curious as to his history, and how his career evolved, as well as how he managed to get 12 wickets on his Ashes debut, and then get dropped? Thanks.”

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Fred Martin

Ah yes, Fred ‘Nutty’ Martin, an underrated Kent great, a left-arm bowler of the type that is all too rare these days. At the Heritage Trust we have plenty of information about Mr. Martin, but all too little archive material or memorabilia. A brief outline of his career, abridged from Derek Carlaw’s soon to be published Who’s Who of Kent Cricket, follows.

 Only eight bowlers have taken more wickets for Kent than Fred ‘Nutty’ Martin and of these, only Colin ‘Charlie’ Blythe and Percy ‘Tich’ Freeman did so at lower cost. For over a decade widely regarded as one of the best left-arm bowlers in England, he took 947 wickets for Kent, over 1,300 in all first-class cricket. When he was at his peak, England had more left-arm bowlers of quality than could be fitted into one Eleven (if only that were the case today!) but in his first and only Test match against Australia, at The Oval in 1890, Martin had his moment of glory, 12 for 102 and victory for England by two wickets. In that year he bowled 1,701 overs and claimed 190 wickets (ave.13.05). In 1892 Wisden made him one of their ‘Five Great Bowlers of the Year’.

In his early days Fred Martin bowled fast, or, more likely, as fast as he could, which is not quite the same thing but, according to his own account, he had “fallen into a way of bowling very slow” when he came to Kent. It was on the advice of fellow cricketers George Hearne and Jim Wootton that he switched to medium-pace.

At this distance in time it is impossible to determine whether Martin bowled orthodox finger-spin or cutters, possibly both. In more recent years we have seen Derek Underwood spin prodigiously at medium-pace and Martin’s method may not have been so very different. The difficulty is that when Victoria was Queen, writers tended to use the term ‘spin’ to indicate any deviation from straight. Even very fast bowlers such as Kortright, Tom Richardson or Kent’s Bill Bradley, are sometimes described as bowling with ‘plenty of spin’.

As a batsman, he was a prolific scorer in club cricket but for much of his career neither Kent nor MCC seem to have taken his batting seriously. As for his fielding, he seems to have been adequate by the not very demanding standards of the time. In photographs he looks to weigh rather more than the 12 stone four pounds (76.8 kg.) quoted in every Lillywhitefrom 1889 to 1899. He was certainly no greyhound, with his large drooping moustache, receding hairline and hint of a paunch. The exploits of the likes of Matt Henry and Ivan Thomas in the outfield in the 2018 season would have been entirely alien to him.

Frederick Martin was born in Dartford on 12thOctober 1861 to William and Ann Martin. His father was a ‘labourer in an ironworks,’ and both his grandfathers worked in the industry. Although none of his five brothers and two sisters displayed any interest in cricket, Fred played cricket with other boys on Dartford Brent before moving to the Darenth Vale Club and then to Dartford Albion. By 1882 his success began to attract notice, and his uncle Arthur Blackman,who had played as an amateur for Surrey, Kent and Sussex, used his contacts with Herbert Knatchbull Hugessen, long term member of the Kent committee and shortly to be President, to secure a place for his nephew in a forthcoming series of three Colts trial matches due to be played over a period of seven days in May. He did little to impress, but in 1884 he joined the St Lawrence Club in Canterbury. In his first season there he took over 100 wickets at around nine each, averaged 35 with the bat and hit two centuries. Next season he took 117 wickets, and in July he made an uneventful debut for Kent, v Sussex at Gravesend – 0 and 0 for 1 from one over.

His first three games for Kent in 1886 brought him just two wickets. Recalled to the side at the end of August, he responded with figures of 12 for 86 v Surrey at The Oval, 7 for 77 v Lancashire at Mote Park and 8 for 72 at Trent Bridge. 29 wickets at 10.44 placed him top of the Kent bowling averages. 1887 was disappointing with only 38 wickets, although it was the year he was capped by Kent and also the year he married his wife Esther at Bridge Parish Church. In 1888, he was paired with another left-armer, Walter Wright, for the first time and for half a dozen seasons these two would be the backbone of the Kent attack, delivering over two thirds of the overs bowled for the County between 1888 and 1891. Three times they bowled unchanged through a match, ten times through a complete innings.

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Walter Wright

1890 and 1891 were Martin’s best seasons, 190 wickets at 13.05 each in 1890, 105 of them for Kent, 140 at 13.77 in 1891, again 105 for Kent; top of the Kent averages in both seasons. In 1890, apart from his tour de force for England v Australia, he achieved his first hat-trick, and as icing on the seasonal cake, at Gloucester he bowled WG before he had scored.

When the team was to be selected for the Oval Test match against Australia in 1890, Lord Hawke, the supreme authority at Yorkshire, in a huff because Andrew Stoddart had opted to play for Middlesex at Bradford rather than for his country, refused to release Bobby Peel. The obvious replacement, Briggs, was injured and so the Surrey executive chose Fred Martin. He had already taken 32 wickets in four matches against the tourists.

With so many Australian wickets already under his belt Martin can hardly have lacked confidence on his Test debut and rain made conditions ideal for him. Bowling unchanged with Lohmann, bar six overs, he produced figures of 27-9-50-6 and 30.2-12-52-6. By the end of the season in seven games against the visitors, two each for Kent, MCC and South of England, one for England, he claimed 56 wickets at 11.51 each.  Seven times he took five in an innings, three times ten in a match and dismissed every member of the touring party (except Harry Boyle the manager who played occasionally) at least once. Oddly enough, he never seems to have seriously troubled the 1893 or 1896 teams.

Martin was never again picked for a Test match in England. Well as he had performed, this is not so very remarkable. Peel and Briggs were generally regarded as the best left-arm spinners in the country, both were genuine allrounders and better in the field, Briggs especially so. Martin did, however, receive one more England cap, albeit retrospectively. He was one of the team taken to South Africa by Walter Read in 1891/92 with an itinerary consisting, with one exception, entirely of matches against odds. The exception, against ‘An Eleven of South Africa’ at Cape Town, was subsequently upgraded to Test match status. Not called on to bowl in the first innings, Martin bowled unchanged in the second with Gloucestershire’s Australian John Ferris to dismiss the home side for 83 (Ferris 7 for 37, Martin 2 for 39).

In 1896 Kent acquired two amateur fast bowlers, Bill Bradley and Eustace Shine, which took some of the load from the professionals and Martin bowled more than 400 fewer overs than in 1895. Nevertheless, with 101 wickets at 21.15 apiece (79 at 20.48 for Kent) Martin passed the landmark 100 for the sixth and last time. Although more expensive than usual, on his day he was still a match winner. 1898 proved to be Fred Martin’s penultimate season with Kent. Although no longer likely to run through a good batting side, he was still economical and 73 wickets at 18.98 each (79 in all matches) placed him top of the Kent averages.

Some aspects of Fred Martin’s final season are unclear. According to Wisden he was ‘incapacitated for part of the season’. In fact, he played in every Kent game up to the end of July but in his final match, against Essex at Leyton he bowled only four overs. He missed his own benefit match, v Surrey in Canterbury Week, which in the event finished in two days.

Martin played no more for Kent, but played three first-class matches for MCC in 1900 and remained on the staff at Lord’s until 1908. In 1902 he was accepted on to the umpire’s list and between 1902 and 1906 stood in 50 first-class matches, but never in a Test match. He did not live to a great age. Despite apparently being in good health, Fred Martin died suddenly from a cerebral haemorrhage on 13 December 1921, in his home town of Dartford.

There remains the question of why Fred Martin was called ‘Nutty’. Martin himself apparently had no idea. The word was of course used to indicate ‘eccentric’ or worse, but Martin was not that type. In photographs of Martin in civilian clothes he looks what might have been called a bit ‘flash’. As a variant of ‘natty’, ‘nutty’ was at one time used to indicate ‘smart’ or ‘well turned out’. In one team photograph from 1898 he sports a broad brimmed hat, carries a smart cane and looks the personification of a Parisian boulevardier.Maybe that is where the ‘Nutty’ came from.

To add to the puzzle, Frank Reginald Martin, the Jamaican opening batsman who toured England with West Indies in 1928 and 1933 and played nine Test matches was also known as ‘Nutty’, without being particularly ‘natty’ to look at. J.W. ‘Young Jack’ Hearne, another always well turned out, was also seemingly known as ‘Nutty’.

Your guess is as good as ours.

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DECISIONS, DECISIONS!

One thing about having a collection of memorabilia, portraits, cups, books, blazers and cricket balls – along with all the other strange objects that have over the years attached themselves to Kent County Cricket Club – is that decisions have to be made about what to collect, what to keep and what to dispose of.

Some things are obviously an essential part of the collection. We have to have the trophies we have won over the years, the ball that Tich Freeman used to destroy an unfortunate eleven in the 1930s, the scorebook showing W.G. Grace’s 344 not out for M.C.C. against Kent, and a complete set of Kent “Blue Book” annuals. We have to keep photographs of winning teams, autographed scorecards and one of the plates manufactured to celebrate Colin Cowdrey’s one hundred hundreds. Decisions on those items are simple: they are part of the fabric of Kent’s cricketing heritage and they belong in our collection.

But when we come to some other items, we have to consider carefully whether they ought to be preserved. How do we decide what should be in our collection and what should not? What is surplus to requirements and what do we absolutely have to keep? And what is missing from the collection that we really ought to have?

The first decision is that we are only interested in things that are relevant to Kent cricket. We then add a few peripherals, like our complete set of Wisdens, but in general we can be ruthless about anything that is not part of Kent’s cricket heritage. For this reason, we held a very successful sale of second-hand books during the summer, including several copies of Dickie Bird’s autobiography, and will probably repeat the exercise next year. It also means that we are less interested in, for example, Colin Cowdrey’s England blazer than his Kent cap. The best place for England cricket memorabilia is Lord’s, but we hope that everybody will agree that the best place for Kent memorabilia is the Spitfire Ground in Canterbury (and Beckenham, too).

The next decision to be made is regarding the definition of “Kent cricket”. We have decided that we are dealing with the heritage of all cricket played in Kent, since the first mentions of the game around 400 years ago. We obviously concentrate most of our attention on the men’s game at professional level, but we are also trying to build up the collection of club and league cricket memories, as well as items connected to the women’s game which, beginning with the fabled Christina Willes two centuries ago, is now a thriving and successful part of our cricket story. All donations gratefully received!

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E.H.V. Weigall

The collection should not just be a collection of bats with which centuries were made, or balls with which hat-tricks were taken: we have plenty of them and although we will always accept more, there is much more to our heritage than that. What about the coloured kits that our white-ball cricketers have been wearing over the seasons? Should we not have a complete collection of them, for the record if nothing else. Some of our kits have been quite smart, and some have been truly disastrous, but they all have a place in our collection. This leads on to another point, one of aesthetic taste. Even though one item may be less pleasing to the eye than another, it does not mean it is less worthy of a place in our collection.

Which brings us on to our collection of paintings. There are in the Long Room of the Chiesman Pavilion two paintings which illustrate the point. The first is the painting that takes pride of place on the back wall of the pavilion, a portrait of our 1946 President, E.H.V. Weigall, by his father, the noted portrait painter Henry Weigall. This is a good quality painting of an average quality player. Evelyn Weigall played just one first-class match, for his much more talented brother Gerry Weigall’s XI against Cambridge University in 1908. He made 0 and 14 and did not take a wicket in 13 overs of right-arm medium pace, but he served on our county committees with distinction before being elected President in 1946. He sadly became one of a handful to die in office, at the age of 70. The question is, should this comparatively unknown Kent stalwart take pride of place on the pavilion wall, just because it is a pretty good portrait? For the time being, we answer yes.

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George Marsham

We have recently been given a portrait of an earlier Kent President, one George Marsham, who played three times for Kent in 1876 and 1877, as a wicket-keeper. He batted at number 11, and conceded more byes (58) in his first-class career than he scored runs (36). He had a long and distinguished career on the Kent committee, and became President in 1886, when he was 36 years old. The problems with his portrait are many. Firstly, it is of such a size (5′ x 6′) that there is no suitable wall to hang it on. Secondly, it is in such poor condition (it was rescued from a building about to be demolished) that an expert’s estimate is that it would cost about £3,000 to repair, and thirdly, it is not a particularly good portrait anyway. So we have decided against keeping it. This may be hard on George Marsham, whose nephew C.H.B. “Slug” Marsham led Kent with distinction in the early years of the last century, but his is not the first painting to have been disposed of by the Club.

The famous “Kent v Lancashire 1906” painting by Albert Chevallier Tayler – which incidentally includes Slug Marsham – was sold by the Club twelve years ago because it had become too expensive to insure. Before it was sold, a copy was made by the brilliant copyist Barrington Bramley and it is that painting which now hangs on the same wall as E.H.V. Weigall in the pavilion. It is probably the most valuable painting in our collection, even though it is a copy. The original sold for around £600,000, making it at that time the most expensive cricket painting in the world. If you want to see it now, you need to go to Lord’s, where it hangs in the pavilion.

So the Kent collection is growing, but along carefully defined lines. All we need now is enough space to display it all!

CHARLES TAYLOR AND CANTERBURY CRICKET WEEK

 

This year we held the 167th Canterbury Cricket Week, in July rather than August because of the vagaries of the cricket fixture list, which gave Kent no first class games in the county during the month of August. Thus we had a Vitality Blast match against Surrey (rained off after Surrey had made 250 in their 20 overs, thus allowing us to pocket a useful point which might not have been ours had the match been played out), a Championship match against Leicestershire which we contrived to lose in two days of scorching hot weather, and another T20 game against Sussex, which was also cut short by rain. In the end, meaningful play only took place on two of the eight days set aside for the celebration of Canterbury Cricket Week, the oldest cricket festival in the world. There was no Ladies’ Day (which perhaps in this era of #MeToo is no bad thing), no link with the Old Stagers and not even the laying of the wreath at the Blythe Memorial, which had to be postponed because of the brevity of the Leicestershire match. Things have changed, and changed rapidly, in the 21stcentury.

The first Canterbury Week was held in 1842, but its roots go back a little further, to 1839. In that year, the Beverley Club, which played its home matches at St. Stephen’s Field near Canterbury, staged a match billed as “Kent versus England” on 19thAugust. Over 6,000 people came to see the great players of the day – Mynn, Pilch, Wenman and others – do battle. It was a tense and exciting tussle, eventually won by Kent by just two runs. Two years later, another Kent versus England match took place at the Beverley Club, and this time England triumphed by the somewhat larger margin of 74 runs. The match lasted a full three days, even though only 364 runs were scored in all. Perhaps it was the fact that “300 sat down to luncheon in the large booth” according to reports at the time, including many of the more aristocratic players in the match, which made the scoring so slow. All the leading county families were there, and the Beverley Club realised that a properly organised Cricket Week could well be a financial success. For 1842, a gala week in August was planned, publicised and played out.

One of the leading players in these early matches was Charles Taylor, a useful cricketer and a keen amateur actor. Taylor was born in Middlesex, played for Sussex and died in Surrey. He never played for Kent but nevertheless played an important part in the early success of the Cricket Week, both as a social and a cricketing event. When the idea of theatricals was put forward as a way of filling up the long summer evenings during the week, Taylor enthusiastically took up the challenge to make sure the plan became a reality. Charles Taylor and Frederick Ponsonby, heir to the earldom of Bessborough, had become friends at Cambridge University, and they set about forming an amateur theatrical troupe that became The Old Stagers, to add a new dimension to the enjoyment of the Week. The first performance was given on 1stAugust, 1842, in “the old and time honoured Temple of the Drama in Orange Street.”

 

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Taylor obviously took his theatrical duties seriously, as despite an injury that prevented him from playing in any of the cricket matches during this first Week, he was just about fit enough to take roles in three of the four the productions put on by the Old Stagers in their first ever season. The first evening was introduced by a Prologue, during which it was explained to the audience that “though our best man’s arm be out of joint, despite his splints, he’ll try and make a point.” The ‘best man’ was Charles Taylor, who was taking on the roles of Frederick Bramble in Colman’s comedy “The Poor Gentleman”, of Sir Anthony Absolute in Sheridan’s “The Rivals” and, most interestingly, of Desdemona, a striking beauty, in “Othello Travestie” “being the most excruciating Comic-Operatic-Tragedy that was ever tragedized by any Comical and Pastoral Company of Tragical Tragedians”. He had suffered a serious injury some weeks before while playing cricket and was playing all these roles with his arm in splints and a sling. I am not sure that the production of Othello with Desdemona (a striking beauty) played by a swarthy bloke with his arm in splints would have been the highlight of the week, but the Canterbury newspapers were full of praise: “The delicate Desdemona and her waiting woman Emilia (played by a military gentleman, M.G. Bruce Esq.) continually drew forth bursts of laughter by their feminine behaviour.” We have very faded photographs of both Charles Taylor and Col. M.G. Bruce in later life, and neither man looks particularly feminine.

The following year saw Charles Taylor back on the cricket field, scoring runs and taking wickets for England against Kent and for the Gentlemen of England against the Gentlemen of Kent, and also reprising his success as Desdemona. In 1846, after featuring in the celebrated single-wicket match at Lord’s between Alfred Mynn and Nicholas Felix, he again played for England against Kent during Cricket Week and played the part of “Ready” in the play, “You Can’t Marry Your Grandmother”.

In 1847, Canterbury Cricket Week moved its playing headquarters to the St. Lawrence Ground, and Charles Taylor is no more noted among the lists of players, either on the field or in the theatre on Orange Street. He must have made his move to Sussex by this time. He continued playing occasionally for Sussex until 1854, by which time he was 37 years old. He never played for the Kent county side, but his contribution to the initial success of Canterbury Cricket Week should not be forgotten.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KENT’S FIRST OVERSEAS PLAYER

We have been wondering recently who was Kent’s first overseas player. These days, every county has a whole raft of overseas players (not that they arrived in Britain on a raft, necessarily), and in Kent we have two born in South Africa – Dickson and Kuhn, three from Australia – Claydon, Stoinis and Stewart, not to mention Adam Rouse, born in Zimbabwe, our two New Zealanders, Matt Henry and Adam Milne, and the big West Indian Carlos Brathwaite. And of course there’s the man from north of Watford, Darren Stevens, born in Leicester.

Since the 1950s, when South Africans Stuart Leary and Sid O’Linn played for Kent, into the sixties and seventies when we were blessed with great overseas players like Asif Iqbal, John Shepherd, Eldine Baptiste and Bernard Julien, and then on into the present day, Kent have always welcomed players from around the world into the eleven. And so have all the other counties, even Yorkshire once they admitted that Lord Hawke was born in Lincolnshire and therefore not really a Tyke.

But who was the first? We have found four candidates, who could possibly win the title. They are, in alphabetical order, Bransby Beauchamp Cooper, Frank Hearne, Kanwar Shumshere Singh and Thomas Spencer Wentworth Wills. We will rule out Lord Harris, although he was born in the West Indies, on the basis that no more thoroughly Kent man ever lived.

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Frank Hearne

The case for Frank Hearne as Kent’s first overseas cricketer is a very flimsy one. He played for Kent from 1879 until 1889, when he emigrated to South Africa for health reasons. He had already played Test cricket for England, but now played for South Africa against England, and even toured England with the South Africans in 1894. However, as all of his cricket under a foreign flag took place after he had left Kent, he hardly qualifies as an overseas player, let alone our first.

Bransby Beauchamp Cooper is another interesting case. He was born in Dacca (now Dhaka) in what was then India but is now Bangladesh, in 1844. He came to England as a boy and was educated at Rugby school. Despite being a fine sportsman with the right background, he did not go on to Oxford or Cambridge, but instead played cricket as an amateur for Middlesex from 1864 to 1867, and then turned out in a handful of games for Kent in 1868 and 1869, the year before the formation of the present county club. He then left the country, travelling first to the United States, and then a little later he moved to Australia, where he spent the rest of his life. He played once for Australia, in 1877 in the first Test match of all, and thus became an overseas cricketer who had played for Kent. But like Frank Hearne, his qualification rests on cricket played after he left Kent, so although he played a full decade before Frank Hearne, he is not Kent’s first overseas player.

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Bransby Cooper

Who, I hear you cry, is Kanwar Shumshere Singh? Kanwar Singh was the grandson of the Maharajah of Kapurthala, then a small state in the Punjab, not far from Amritsar, the Sikh holy city. He was born in 1879 and sent to England as a boy where he studied at Rugby school (as did Bransby Cooper and, as we will see, Tom Wills) before going on to Pembroke College Cambridge, where he played just once for the university, against Surrey, in 1901. After graduating, he studied medicine at Bart’s Hospital in London, and played four matches for Kent in 1901 and 1902. It is not quite known how he qualified for Kent, but he had a brother living in the county, with whom he might have stayed while studying to become a doctor, and he was a Cambridge contemporary of both Dick Blaker and Sammy Day, who became Kent stalwarts. Singh’s career with Kent was not particularly brilliant, although he played more Championship games for the county than Daryll Cullinan. He scored 140 runs for the county, at an average of 20, with a highest score of 45, against Worcestershire at Maidstone. He was described as “a batsman with a strong defence” – clearly more Gavaskar than Kohli.

He subsequently joined the Indian Army and reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Medical Service. When he died (or to be more precise, the split second before he died) in India in 1975, just short of his 96thbirthday, he was Kent’s oldest living cricketer. Although he never played first-class cricket in his home country, his claim to be Kent’s first overseas cricketer is very strong, if we are only counting official County Championship matches, which of course began in 1890.

The other claimant to the title of Kent’s first overseas cricketer is the splendidly named Thomas Wentworth Spencer Wills. Tom Wills was born in Molonglo, now a suburb of Canberra, Australia in 1835. He was clearly from the outset a very talented sportsman, and his near contemporary Tom Horan, who played Test cricket for Australia in the 1870s and 1880s, described him as the W.G. Grace of Australia. This was probably laying it on a bit thick, but Wills was a remarkable player. His family background was archetypically Aussie – his grandfather had been deported from Britain in 1798 for armed robbery – but within fifty years the family fortunes had turned round to such an extent that young Tom was able to be sent to England to complete his education at Rugby school. This was the era of Dr. Arnold and “Tom Brown’s Schooldays”, so we have a good idea of what life at the school was like, and it does not sound, to modern ears, like fun.

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Tom Wills

But Tom Wills enjoyed himself. He first played for Rugby in 1852, and took ten wickets with his fast round arm bowling against Westminster School in the first ever game between the two schools. In 1855, aged almost 20 but still at Rugby, he took eleven wickets for the school in their first ever match against Marlborough, at Lord’s. He left school that summer, and played for Kent for the first time. There seems to be no reason why he qualified for Kent, but this was before the county championship began, and before many county clubs were properly constituted, so we have to presume that he had friends who persuaded him to come to Kent for a few games. He played for Kent, for Gentlemen of Kent and for M.C.C. (of which he was almost certainly not a member) without achieving anything exceptional.

The next year, 1856, proved to be his last in England, but probably his most successful, if only for his achievement in gaining a Blue at Cambridge without actually being a student there. He seems to have specialized in playing for clubs for which he was not qualified. In “Oxford v Cambridge At The Wicket”, Pelham Warner explains that “as Cambridge were a man short, they took in T.W. Wills, who, although his name was on the College books, was never actually in residence”. He batted at number 9 and was, somewhat ironically, bowled by Cloudesley Marsham of Oxford and Kent, for 3. As Cambridge won by three wickets, he did not bat a second time. He did however, bowl in Oxford’s second innings, and took one wicket for 14 runs. After that he played once more for the Kent county side, and also several times for other teams. He played in Canterbury Week that year for the Gentlemen of Kent and Sussex, against M.C.C.

On his return to Australia, he lived near Geelong in Victoria, and spent most of his time playing cricket rather than studying law, as he was supposed to. He captained Victoria against George Parr’s touring team in 1864, played against W.G. Grace’s touring party in 1874 and also found time during the winter months to help develop Australian Rules football, of which he is now considered a founding father.

He survived a massacre in October 1861, when aboriginals attacked a settlement at Cullin-la-Ringo, and his father and eighteen others were massacred. The Wills Tragedy, as it is often called, affected him greatly. He got married in 1864 (to a lady who was actually already married to someone else), but later descended into alcoholism and general mental disintegration, and stabbed himself to death with a pair of scissors in 1880.

So there you have it. The first player from overseas to play for the full county side was probably Tom Wills, but the first overseas player to play championship cricket for Kent after 1890 was Kanwar Shumshere Singh. They both add significantly to the history of Kent cricket.

 

With grateful thanks to Derek Carlaw for much of the information about Tom Wills and Kanwar Singh

LAND AND WATER

Sometimes a stone gets turned over almost by accident, to reveal a long forgotten part of Kent cricket history, and names which mean nothing to us now but which a century and a half ago were on everybody’s lips. An article in a recent issue of Trout and Salmon magazine featured a gentleman called George Mortimer Kelson, described not only as a “Colossus of the salmon fishing world” but also in his prime “the best bat in the Kent eleven.”

There have been many cricketers who also enjoyed their fly fishing, with Ian Botham and Michael Atherton among those of more recent vintage, but it appears that George Kelson was truly a giant among fly fishermen, the man who produced what has come to be considered the definitive list of fly patterns. If you, like me, have almost no knowledge of salmon fishing, and not much greater interest, then do not worry. At this point I will turn my attention to Kelson the cricketer, a man who played his last game for Kent only three years after the formation of the present county club, and well before the start of the official county championship in 1890.

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George Mortimer Kelson

Kelson was born on 8th December 1835, in Sevenoaks. His father was a doctor, and Kelson enjoyed a comfortable upbringing. He played cricket for Kent between 1859 and 1873 and in 124 innings for the county, scored 1,810 runs at an average of 15.33, with a highest score of 122, his only century. That was made against Surrey at the Oval in 1863, when Surrey had the strongest team in the land. Despite his heroics, Kent still lost the game by nine wickets, Surrey successfully chasing 192 to win, a huge target in those pre-lawn mower days.

As an aside to that game, Wisden pointed out that “there used to be a little harmless betting on cricket, and the task looked so formidable that (Billy) Caffyn (of Surrey), who had backed Surrey, hedged all his money.” These days he would have been banned for life (subsequently commuted to twenty minutes) for such a ‘harmless’ offence, but until cricket and other sports stop taking money from bookmakers, these stories from Victorian days will repeat themselves interminably.

Kelson also took 41 wickets at 21.17 in his Kent career, with a best bowling analysis of 6 for 30, against Yorkshire at Gravesend in July 1870. In that match he also top scored with 51 in Kent’s first innings, but despite these efforts, Kent still lost the match by eight wickets. He seemed fated to produce his best performances in a losing cause. When he was not playing for Kent, he also played several times for an England XI and for the Gentlemen against the Players, and in all cricket, he scored 2,240 runs and took 76 wickets with his round arm fast medium bowling. In his History of Kent Cricket, R.L. Arrowsmith describes him as “a fine hitter, who did not mind lifting the ball, a useful fast bowler and a good field.” In Kelson’s obituary in Wisden, the editor is a little less enthusiastic, stating that “I cannot recall Mr. Kelson’s batting, though I saw him play, but from all accounts he was a fine punishing player with as free, attractive style.” Kelson also captained the county side when the official captain of the day, W.S. Norton, was not playing.

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Tony Pawson

After retiring from playing first-class cricket, Kelson turned to his other love – field sports. He was not only a great fisherman, but also a keen shot, a fox-hunting man and a breeder of racing pigeons. I have no idea whether he had time to earn a living as well, or even if he needed to, but he soon became an authority on fly fishing, and his 1895 book, The Salmon Fly – How To Dress It And How To Use It, quickly became a classic of the genre. I have not read it, and doubt if I ever will, so cannot comment further. I do not think, however, that it earned him huge sums of money. Kelson became fishing editor of a magazine called Land And Water (no connection with the current magazine of the same name), which must have earned him a small crust, at least. He didn’t die of starvation, anyway, and lived to a good age, dying in Sevenoaks in 1920, at the age of 84.

The next year, 1921, another Kentish fly-fishing cricketer was born – Tony Pawson. Pawson, who died aged 91 just a few years ago, was not only a cricketer, but also a fine footballer and a world champion fly fisherman. I well remember seeing him at many Canterbury Weeks and other occasions over the years, a remarkable man who remained mentally and physically fit into old age. He finished with the statistically satisfying – and by no means poor –  batting average for Kent of 33.33, and also found time to win an Amateur Cup Winners’ medal with Pegasus in 1953, followed by two games for Charlton Athletic, and, a little later, the world individual fly-fishing championship in 1984. There have not been many all-rounders with as broad a cv as Tony Pawson’s.

I am not aware that any of the current Kent squad do any fishing (except occasionally outside the off stump, which should be discouraged), but I am sure that most of our players have sporting interests that go beyond computer games or Gillingham F.C. George Mortimer Kelson, a typical Victorian sporting gentleman, lived a life that may be difficult for today’s professionals to emulate, but they could do a lot worse than try.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NAMING OF PARTS

Henry Reed, the Second World War poet, wrote a poem called “Naming Of Parts.” It begins

“Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning.”

It is a great poem, and it re-emerged from the back of my mind, stored there since the days of my ‘O’ Level English before even Matt Walker was born, as we were sitting down in the Committee Room preparing to sort, catalogue and store much of the archive. This is an archive which glowers at us from the shelves of the storage area, daring us to try to bring order to its randomness. Yesterday, or figuratively yesterday, we did the cleaning, turning the junk room at the top of the Woolley into a heated, humidity-controlled storage area. So today we have naming of parts.

Actually, the work upstairs is not quite finished. We discovered rolls of lino, bedding materials and carpet, not to mention much unwanted cardboard, underneath the eaves, and they will be going into a skip fairly soon. But the work on cataloguing the material, mainly papers, in boxes and files on once dusty shelves, has begun.

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Before the cataloguing began

The thing about going through old documents is that it is a slow process. It is not meant to be a slow process, but because each piece of paper holds its own fascination, sorting and cataloguing seems to take second place to reading. To be an efficient cataloguer, you need to glance at the document in front of you, decide quickly what it is about, and then sort it and store it, safely wrapped in acid-free paper if necessary. To be an amateur cataloguer, however, which is what we all are, requires a nosy interest in every word you read, with frequent cries of, “Who’d have thought it!” or “I bet you didn’t know this” to your fellow cataloguers. I bet you didn’t know, for example, that the public toilets for the Tonbridge ground (not Tunbridge Wells) were built by the county club in the early years of the last century on ground specifically purchased from Tonbridge CC for the purpose, and the plans for them (not architecturally very exciting) are still in the club’s archive. Future researchers on the subject of public toilets at cricket grounds in Kent will have plenty to rummage through in our archive.

We also discovered who was earning what in the 1970s, and how Lord Harris dealt with the owners of a laundry that backed on to the St. Lawrence Ground in the 1920s. Even what would seem to be the dullest of items – a random death certificate or a mortgage document from 120 years ago – has a value as another piece of the jigsaw of cricket history in Kent, and it is very hard to steel yourself to move on as quickly as you can or ought.

There are of course, many other objects that need to be catalogued. The process involves answering a few questions about each item – What is it? Who gave it to us? When did it come into the collection? Where is it stored? The “What Is It?” bit is the most complicated, because, if for example it is Martin van Jaarsveld’s cricket top (which we found upstairs under the eaves and several layers of crumpled cardboard), then we need not only to identify it, but also to be able to cross-reference it to other items relating to MvJ, as well as to other items of clothing and other items relating to the date it was used. If somebody wants to know how many items of Kent clothing over the years we have in the collection, we want to be able to tell them, and if somebody else wants to know what we have relating to van Jaasrsveld – letters, contracts, bats, boots or X-rays of broken fingers – then we want to be able to tell them.

The “Who gave it to us?” bit is important, too, because if you do not have a clear idea of where it came from, preferably with a countersigned Accession Document, then if ever in future there should be a dispute over ownership, for example. We will have the necessary records to prove ownership one way of the other. Several counties have recently had problems of ownership to deal with, and most counties, including Kent, have items which are given to the club on a long term loan, but do not belong outright to the club. Without a document proving ownership, you can bet that somewhere down the line, in maybe 50 years, the great-great-grandson of somebody who donated a bat in 1934 will want it back.

The storeroom today, heated, humidity controlled and you can see the floor

“Where is it?” is obviously important. If you don’t know where you put it, you won’t find it very easily. But this is the one piece of information which can change, so when setting up a numbering system for the archive, the location is the worst thing to base it on. If we move an item to Beckenham, for example, (which we have done and will do again), we don’t want to have to change the catalogue number simply because of where it is – you need a system which gives a code to each location, which can be easily changed as an item is moved.

The other main rule is that you throw nothing away. So if we find in one box, for example, a receipt from 1988 for a couple of sandwiches and a banana, which some researcher probably had for his lunch that day, it is given a catalogue number and it stays in there, part of the Kent CCC archive for ever. I have to add that we have not yet found a receipt for two sandwiches and a banana in any of the piles of paper we have sorted through, but if we did, we would not throw it away.

The only thing we can get rid of is books. We have still hundreds of books which are surplus to requirements, either because they are duplicates, or else because they have nothing to do with Kent cricket. We are sorting them as fast as we can, and intend to hold a sale of these books, ranging from Wisdens, Playfairs and Kent annuals to several books by Brian Johnston and Dickie Bird, some signed, some from E.W. Swanton’s personal library and some of almost no value whatsoever. The sale will take place on Tuesday 26th and Wednesday 27th June, during the Middlesex day/night match. Please bring a large bag with you to carry away all the bargains you can afford.

In the meantime, we carry on naming the parts.

 

TRUST CHAIRMAN’S STATEMENT 2017/18

The Kent Cricket Heritage Trust’s AGM will take place on 11th May, in the Chiesman Pavilion after close of play. The Chairman’s Statement has just been issued, as follows:

 

CHAIRMAN’S REPORT 2017/18

The Heritage Trust is happy to report another extremely busy year, under the indefatigable leadership of David Robertson, our Hon. Curator. Possibly the main achievement is one that most members of the Trust will not be able to see – the repair and revamping of the storage area at the top of the Woolley Stand. Where once was a slightly shambolic and definitely not heat and temperature controlled collection of papers, bats, balls and other memorabilia is now a neat and well ordered area, with heating, lighting and humidity controls, where we can safely store those items which we do not have room to display. There is still much work to be done in packing and storing the paper archive, but at least we know that when that work has been done, the items stored there will be safe for years to come.

In the process of sorting out the storage area, we had a clear-out of many unwanted items – mainly books – which had been stored up at the top of the Woolley Stand for many years, and were very much the worse for wear.

The new signs on the Ames, Woolley, Cowdrey and Underwood-Knott stands, celebrating the achievements of the men they are named after, have proved to be very popular, and we hope to create more signage over the years to come which will add to the enjoyment and knowledge of visitors, and make the Spitfire Ground show off its long cricketing heritage more effectively.

“Inside Edge”, under the able editorial control of Howard Milton, continues to come up with stories and photographs from our past to amuse and enlighten the reader. Howard always welcomes contributions from our members – or anybody else with something to add to our knowledge of cricket in Kent – so please do not hesitate to get in touch with him if you have something to want your fellow enthusiasts to know about.

We have acquired a number of additions to our collection during the year, of which the most exciting is a bat used by Jack Hubble in 1906, and signed by many members of that Championship winning side. We have also been able to hang the new portrait of Frank Woolley in the entrance to the pavilion.

The County Cricket Heritage Forum, which was set up in 2015 at the suggestion of ourselves and Sussex CCC, and where every six months the Heritage officers of every county club discuss the issues that concern us, continues to be very popular. Meetings were held at Bristol and Lord’s during the year, and all first- class counties, and MCC, are now involved with the Forum.

The Blythe Memorial was rededicated at a service in November, and the club intends to hold a similar event every year at that time, the anniversary of Blythe’s death. The Memorial still needs work to bring it back to its original condition, with some names still needing restoration, but this is being undertaken by the county club rather than the Trust.

We will of course be having another exhibition at the Spitfire St. Lawrence Ground during Canterbury Week. The exhibition will celebrate 40 years since our ‘double’ year of 1978, when we won the County Championship and the B&H Cup. Another project for 2018 and beyond is to set up an audio library of Kent memories. This will be done in conjunction with the Community Cricket team and the Sporting Memories charity, and will involve recording conversations with past Kent cricketers, officials and spectators, to build up a collective memory of our county’s cricketing heritage.

Our relationship with the county club remains excellent, and not even the departure of Jamie Clifford has diminished the importance the club places on its heritage. We continue to be very grateful for their support.

Finally, I would like to thank my fellow committee members for their unstinting efforts over the past year, all of whom have contributed strongly one way or another to the progress we have made this year. We are sorry that John Websper has decided it is time for him to step down, but thank him for all that he has done for us during his time on the committee. We are always in need of more help, and if you feel you would like to give a little of your time to help us at the Trust, please get in touch. We can always use an extra pair of hands.

Jonathan Rice
Chairman
Kent Cricket Heritage Trust

April 2018

 

We hope to see as many members, prospective members and other interested parties at the AGM as possible.

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