Forty Five Years in the Middle

Forty Five Years in the Middle_1981 Centenary

Back Row: -,-,Peters,Peter Griffiths,-,Micky Walker.  Middle Row: Bill Hansell (groundsman),-,-,C F Bonner,L A Swain,R Hocking,-,Bob Smith,N S J Burell,Hunter,John Waldon.  Front Row: B W Vincent,-,J Hodgson,N Barber,J McIntyre,LA Bayman,W F Newberry,D Banks,H Waldon,Andrews,E J Crook.  Sitting: -,J A Smith

Having been associated with Brentwood Cricket Club for nearly half of the hundred years - though living all the time some seven miles away - I am happy to respond to the invitation to contribute to this brochure.

It all started in 1934 when a few Brentwood players, the brothers Jack and Cyril Collis and Meric Hignett among them, turned out on occasional Sundays for Ongar. I was umpiring on my home ground and they asked me to go to Brentwood.

For the first two or three seasons I was, I suppose, breaking the strict amateur code, being paid half-a-crown (12 1/2p) per game! But it was "for love" that I soon reverted and so continued till 1979.

A look at the fixture lists for those early years is interesting. Brentwood then travelled more widely, playing such clubs as Battersea, Lyons, Great Western Railway, Lensbury and Worcester Park. One intriguing note: in 1935 there was a fixture with the London School of Economics; in 1936 this had been dropped and in its place was one with the National Liberal Club....

My first season, 1934, was noteworthy of course for the 803 for 4 amassed by Kent during the county week, with W. H. Ashdown hitting 332. What a tribute to groundsman Arthur Joslin, despite what the Essex bowlers might say! He looked after the ground up to the war; later there was the reign of Bill Hansell and how well he did it - cow dung and all. I remember with pleasure, too, how solicitous Bill was for my welfare, particularly with the lemonade after the game!

Among my happy memories of those pre-war days, incidentally are the lunches at the White Hart on all-day games, and the annual dinners there, pre and post war. I was often the subject of ribbing in the post-prandial speeches but must admit I was chuffed when Arthur Barren, of Westcliff, chose the occasion in the 1950's to devote much of his time to paying me a rather fulsome tribute.

My pre-war skippers were the aforesaid Meric Hignett and Howard Wilkins. After I returned about 1949 I was happy to be associated with Dennis Banks, Jack McIntyre, Ken Letch, John Whitcombe, Brian Goodwin, Bob Mayes, Keith Goodman and Brian Baker, in that order. I'm not starting a merit list of captains!

Secretaries with whom I dealt included Basil Vincent, Jack McIntyre, Sidney Parker, Ken Letch, Mick Hall, Brian Douthwaite, Alan Taylor, Lionel Cole, Ian Souter, Alan Lyres, Geoff Burnell.

One wartime memory of the club remains with me - the match on June 20, 1942 against London Counties XI. It was notable for me in that I stood with the redoubtable Frank Chester; he made me well aware that I was the junior member of the partnership ... Brentwood was skippered by Basil Vincent, London Counties by Joe Hulme of Middlesex and Arsenal F.C. fame. His team included such names as F. S. Lee, W. F. Price, Leslie Compton, Jack O'Connor. Brentwood was actually Brentwood and District, with a couple of Romford players and two from the Mental Hospital, including Ian Chapman.

Mentioning the Mental Hospital recalls the games there, always wars of attrition, especially pre-war with the hospital team led by Dr. W. G. Masefield.

There were several other regular games I particularly liked over the years. Those at Westcliff and Ilford before and just after the war, with the crowd sitting five or six deep all round and the cricket keen but sporting. Chalkwell Park was an especially happy hunting ground for Jack McIntyre, with his drives trying to break the windows of the car showrooms across the road, and for John Whitcombe. The atmosphere was always pleasant at Colchester - and not only for the courting couples in the outfield!

Brentwood personalities? The accolade for the outstanding player of my time must go to John Whitcombe. He was certainly the most reliable batsman on all wickets, an excellent wicket-keeper and later a bowler of some merit. The award for best hitter I give to Tony Hillary, recalling his glorious blows over the trees in the adjoining school field. Lionel Cole was an excitingly quick scorer, he could demoralise the opposition with 40 or so in the first few overs but would then get out with a daft shot. For style, I rate Jack McIntyre top - I recall also his agile catching at slip - and the elegance of Charles Edgson I remember with pleasure. Denis Foxall was a swashbuckling opener - he brought that characteristic to a memorable drive to Colchester once with a couple of us in his car - and for straight driving - something I wasn't keen on when I was at the bowler's end - I recall Ray Morris.

Bowlers? For sheer steadiness I must mention Jack Collis, Laurie Swain, Charles Bonner, Oliver Roberts, Gwynne Harries - in order of appearance. For speed, something Brentwood never had much of in my time (I didn't see Kortright), perhaps Jim Lundman and Des Connell. For guile Ken Ford, Jack (Doggie) Crook, Brian Goodwin...

These judgements are of course just mine, from memory. But all the players mentioned, and many others, gave their all when turning out for Brentwood and gave me pleasure watching them.

Other memories crowd in. Peter Griffiths and his screeched appeals from behind the wicket ... Jim Cutmore, ex Essex pro, returning to Brentwood in the 50s - making 157 when he was 57, against Cornhill I think - and being very irate when I called a wide when he was bowling.

The beautiful ground, with the house built by a Canadian railway magnate in the background, always a subject for inquiry from visitors, and, for some years, Club president Mrs. Horne-Payne on her seat just inside the garden.

Each April I would resume my place at the pavilion end and everything would come back as though the winter months were no more than a week.

I started umpiring at Brentwood when I was younger than the players; I ended it when all of them could be my sons. I enjoyed practically every minute.

Congratulations to the Club on attaining its century. It gave me many happy days. I hope I was able to render it some service, even if some of the bowlers might not agree! Now it must take fresh guard and proceed to its second hundred. Let's hope the environment remains as pleasant.

STAN WILMOT as his article reveals, started umpiring for Brentwood C.C. in 1934 and continued until 1979. To belong to any Club for 45 years is an achievement in itself, but to actually umpire for all that time and to thereby subject himself to having to watch closely some of the rubbish which has paraded as cricket down through the years goes far beyond the call of duty. It is typical of his character that he can find only pleasant things to say of his career as umpire for us. From our side of the fence there is absolutely no doubt that he was one of the very best umpires ever to grace club cricket in Essex, a fact which we know would be readily endorsed by all our opponents. As a very small token of our gratitude, he was elected a Life Vice-President of the Club on his retirement.

                               Australian Touring Side '81

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