1959-68

Yorkshire won The County Championship seven times in ten years. The players were household names. Boycott, Illingworth, Trueman, Hampshire, Hutton (R), Sharpe, Padgett, Binks, Bird, Taylor (K), Wilson (D) et al. The captains were Burnett, Wilson (JV) and Brian Close.

New house in 1953 and New College in 1958. Older brother was in the sixth form and a prefect. He left the year after to go to university. I was put in the ‘a’ stream. We had exams at Christmas and I was still in the ‘a’ stream in the new year. A couple went up to the rapid form to take ‘Os’ in four years like older brother. Mum and dad thought I’d be upset, but I was simply bewildered. Mum said it would be for best. Older brother didn’t get into Brasenose College, Oxford. Weekends away taking exams and nothing to show. Mum supported Cambridge in the boat-race after that. I think he was sad. He was certainly cross.

Dad said older brother was a big head and know-all. They fought like cat and dog. Older brother had to lock himself in the toilet once. Dad took the lock away then. Mum said he had an ulcer. Stayed in bed for days at a time. Burped a lot. Horrible white powder in a big white tin, stirred in water, drink it before it settles. White fish in milk. No onions. “I like them, but they don’t like me.”  I burped. “David, that’s rude.” “Dad does it.” “Its his stomach.” No answer to that. “Dad’s in a bad mood.” “Its his stomach.” Dad didn’t have bad moods.

At the college we played cricket with a hard ball and pads in nets, wearing short trousers. And then hand-me-down flannels from uncle Ray. Cousin Colin had worn them. Somebody famous had them before him. Ron Capper coached with a woodbine and his trousers tucked into his socks. Games lessons. The pitch right next to Longwood edge. A double period to fight it out with the rapid form and John Beaumont. I loved smacking him over long on, cocky sod. I was picked for the school U14’s when I was twelve. Big for my age. Played with the likes of Frank Taylor. Same at soccer with Rick Thom, the school tough guy. Thom got a detention off older brother. Not good when you’re walking through the old army camp in Almondbury on your own. I was tall on the outside, but it ended there. He punched me in the face and I collapsed, crying, a mess. Even Thom didn’t have the heart to put the boot in. ‘Soft as shit!’ He was right too. Centre-half, Thom at right half and Taylor on the left. I simply stopped it and passed it to one of them. Not so easy at cricket though. The third year nicotine addicts didn’t speak to me. Grunted if I ask something. A catch dropped just in front of me. Mutterings and whisperings. I got a duck. Desperate for something. ‘That turned.’ Frank Taylor looks at me unsmiling, ‘It were a straight ball.’ I told dad and he wrote to the headmaster. I didn’t play again. Didn’t even play for my own age team. Jimmy Dakers, the sports master, fancied himself that he understood boys. He’d had time off to do psychology.

I stopped going with dad to Town and Fartown. I went with my pals and I could smoke. Paper round money went a long way. Ten Nelson or Park Drive, get into the match and the pictures and some left. Possibly chips. Names to remember, Kenyon in goal, McHale, Metcalf  and then Massie, Stokes, Wood in goal, and O’Grady. Beat Wolves at home midweek, floodlights, snow. Wolves were a good side. Drew away on the Saturday. I went on my own, to see if I can stand next to Sheila Sykes and her dad. She’s there, behind the goal, Kilner Bank end. O’Grady’s cross and Stokes’ header, he jumps, soft contact, hardly changes direction, top corner of the net. You let go. Put my arm round her and she me, quickly. Didn’t keep them there though. And then they’re all over us, passing and running and we hold out. What a night.

At school, I carried on playing cricket for Frank Taylor but not much else. He was house cricket captain. Didn’t do much of anything else. Not much work. More mooning about and thinking about women. Going to the youth club and the Naldred sisters. They lived in a police house on the main road. Their dad asked me if I had a license for my pipe. He smoked one. I didn’t twig for a good bit. I must’ve bragged about how I was doing with Ann. It got round. ‘What was that about being dirty-minded with me?’ I’d no answer and no girl and I wasn’t doing it with her. She went out with Kenyon after that. We went on a long club walk over the moors and we held hands. ‘What about Kenyon?’ ‘I’m not finishing with him, if that’s what you mean.‘ Leading me on. I couldn’t speak to her after that. Her older sister was called Elizabeth. She was gorgeous, I thought so. I ached, too far too good looking for me. We’d kissed and stuff when you play sardines at parties. I’d even kissed Sheila Sykes in sardines. Soft , nylony and sweet – marvellous. Daren’t do anything else. Something inside stopped you, or them. I wrote a letter to Liz. If she wanted to go with me, come to the Friday club. She didn’t. I spent the night watching the door. Stupid. I was hopeless.

We went to Bradford to see Yorkshire and Australia on a bus paid for by school. Bobby Simpson got a lot of wickets, but our lads carted him around a bit. He got the best clap though. It rained a bit. I kept score in the house score-book.

House matches were great. All ages, all in it together. What a slip-catch off Taylor to get rid of John Berry. Mr. Wilson umpired and taught English. Next lesson over he came. Head down, pretend you haven’t done anything. ‘Good catch,’ he whispered, a bit loud. I didn’t know he’d seen it. Just a bloke at one end to shout over and sort out the leg befores.

We had some good players. Currie, Hellawell, Roblin, Beaumont and many others. We were in different houses and played against each other in night matches. Ainsty got the junior cricket cup the year I was captain. We got Hellawell cheaply against Merton and batted Currie out for a draw with Stratford. John Currie had a super windmill action as a swing bowler, but boy was he skinny. Played for a club. He and Hellawell lived at Netherton. They were the ones we lost to in the Red Triangle League when I was still at Dalton. Currie lived in a square and his dad ate Park Drive cigarettes. Hellawell lived on the main road just up from the Meltham railway. We played cricket under the railway bridge down the back. Hellawell taught me how to tickle trout. Mum and dad couldn’t believe it when I brought trout home for tea. Mum cooked it though. Netherton youth club was good. It had a pool table. I biked up a few times to get to see Ann Shaw. It didn’t do any good. She ignored me. Michael Brook always had the women. He went on to be  policeman. Currie left to join a bank. John Currie and his dad were the only ones to work out why I was late for school when I had to go to juvenile court. Got caught chucking stones at George Haigh’s roof tiles. We’d done more damage than that to his houses over the years, god knows why. Anyway a policeman was sent to patrol the buiding site, probably to stop thieving. Instead he got us. Booked us, me and Chris Burns. Had to go to court, but no one knew who the tiles belonged to. Waste of time. But I was late for school. Dad rehearsed me in what to say to the form master, Doc Harley. ‘My dad says I don’t have to say where I’ve been.’ And that was that, except Currie and his dad knew. Read it in the examiner and put two and two together. Dad banned me from George Haigh’s building site after that. Not that I took any notice.

That’s where we met the girls. Sheila Sykes, Maureen Bailey and Ann Shaw. Sheila Sykes’ dad told me dirty jokes on the bus. They lived up the road from us, on my paper round. I delivered her paper, and Janet Raby’s. Her dad had the men’s hairdresser at Waterloo, across the road from the pictures and Baraclough’s paper shop. I went with Ann Shaw, but I never did. No courage, even in the big concrete pipe in the quarry at Ellis’s brick works. They thought I might’ve though. It muddled me a bit. What was right. Mum and dad didn’t help much. I left out the bit about what I really wanted to do and couldn’t, touch and things. What was wrong with me? None of us got off with the girls. We just walked and talked about it. And sat on buses next to each other, the closest you got. Until Whitwham. He took Sheila Sykes to the pictures and held hands in public. Didn’t last long, he said he’d had an outside feel. Things we dreamed about. We drifted away after that. I asked Janet Raby out once but she was doing her hair. Tried to hold her hand too. She must’ve thought I was daft.

In July 1961 dad took me on the train to the test match at Old Trafford against Benaud’s Australians. I can’t remember the details of the scorecard, but we were there on the day Brian Close got out to Benaud’s bowling. We were so disappointed. For the record, England were set 256 to win in just under four hours. Benaud bowled round the wicket into the rough and got both Dexter and May. In came Brian and smacked him for six. He then hooked or did something that looked great, but it didn’t go far enough and he was out caught. The people around us were annoyed. He’d taken a risk. I guess he could’ve looked at it for a bit first, but wow, what if it’d come off?

Unsurprisingly Brian fell out of favour, and then got a recall for the 1963 W. Indies series. The drawn June Lords test was the famous one when all four results were possible in the final over. England finished four short with one wicket intact in front of 110,287 spectators. It was that time of the school curriculum when the masters didn’t know what to do with us, after ‘O’ levels but before the holidays. So they sent us to a Sheffield steel works. We finished in the canteen with a ham salad and the TV was on just as Fred Trueman was piling into them. He finished with ten wickets in the match for 152. Magic after a less than riveting visit. During England’s second innings, Brian came in when Cowdrey retired with a broken arm. He walked down the pitch to Hall and Griffith. Scored seventy and took a severe pounding from short pitched balls. The week after we visited Huddersfield Sewage Works. They’d an industrial press in there which must have burst once. There was an outline of a bloke on the wall – in sh.. you know what.

I think it was the same year, a school pal, Graham Cartwright, and I went to the Old Trafford Roses match. It rained and we went home. Dad stayed, somewhere over the other side of the ground, the sun came out and Fred skittled Lancashire out. Dad stayed, somewhere over the other side of the ground, the sun came out and Fred skittled Lancashire out. They played extra time. Bugger. Dad laughed.

My end-of term reports were crap. ‘You know the adverts on TV better than your lessons,’ dad said. Mum quiet. I wasn’t doing well, at anything. Physics was okay. Had to do better at school. Had to buck up generally. Got ninth in the class the year before O-levels. I worked it out so’s I’d know where I was, and how it would be at home. Had Harlock down as bottom and him in my face at break time. He did come last though. He was six foot and had a moustache in the first form. Snappy dresser and a squint. He could only see out of one eye. Good runner and a bully at rugby. He ran for Huddersfield. His balls dropped first and his knob was immense. I was second. Fatty Hirst, bully-boy from the third form. ‘You’ve got big balls for second yearer.’ Harlock smoked Capstan full-strength. Pink sick packets. I tried one on the top of the bus back from Halifax after rugby on a Saturday morning. In a cold sweat. Did I need to get some fresh air when I got off at the bottom of town? Dad gave me a funny look when I got in. Harlock carried on smoking them. Eventually breathless and last to the line-out, stayed on the floor after I’d smacked him with a hand-off. Lost his way.

This was the close of a two year period when I’d fallen out with everything: school, older brother, parents, cricket. I still played a bit of soccer and rugby. I didn’t do a scrap of work and end of term reports produced grim silences. Now, I think they call it low self esteem. Then, I was a rebel and a waste of space. Something changed and I tried hard to catch up for summer’s ‘O’ levels. Waiting for August results, I went with mum and dad on a bit of a treat to Bramall Lane, Sheffield to watch the W. Indians. We sat on a football terrace next to a crowd barrier and saw Sobers get a hundred. We lost by an innings. I scraped into the sixth form, needing two or three resits. Like yesterday, I remember going for my results.

‘How many?’ asked Dad.

‘Six,’ I replied.

‘Is that all?’

B…..  h… ! Older brother only got six. Of course he had higher grades. What a plonker.

Six O-levels. No English Language. Surprise really with my best grade in literature. Mr. Wilson spotted the questions and I liked “A Tale of Two Cities.” Bernard Daly didn’t enter me for Latin.  Waste of the fee. That Vicar who stood in for a year was useless. And Henry Strachan, a joke, an idiot.  Butterflies, sinking feelings when we got him for form master. A paddy every Monday morning when the dinner money didn’t add up. Half-crowns chucked at us and board-rubbers.  When he really got mad he’d push his desk forward into ours. Desks, tables and boys all over the place.  He supervised the school mag. Missed master-bating one year. In the scouts. He looked a right pillock in shorts. Hours of boring scotch Ovid.

French was the same. Two years of Gilbert Gowans after George Redmonds. We kept empty milk bottles in one of the desks. “Its all about washing, you know, gentlemen,” said Gowans. Somebody opened the desk-top. He jumped up and down. Served him right for being rubbish. You needed French to go to University. Big brother got German and French and this and that in four years instead of five.

I got my head down and eventually fooled the examiners. Saved by two or three masters who took an interest. Something personal as well; how was I going to succeed? How was I going to live with myself? So not totally about money, but it was there. Learned from the master of biliousness when it came to life chances, my dad. In the sixth form I knew everything. I’d just needed a bit more time. Development of personal confidence: scouts, sports and exams. A talent for leadership. Deputy head boy. House captain. Queens Scout. Conviction though, and not enough leeway. So okay up to a point. Not cocky, just serious. How you ebb and flow. Ups and downs. Soccer at primary school. Doing well in exams at the college. Decline, girls, youth club. Penny drops. University and you start all over again at the bottom. And a girlfriend.

Picked for the local RU team first XI when I was still at school.

Six O-levels. No English Language. Surprise really with my best grade in literature. Mr. Wilson spotted the questions and I liked “A Tale of Two Cities.” Bernard Daly didn’t enter me for Latin.  Waste of the fee. That Vicar who stood in for a year was useless. And Henry Strachan, a joke, an idiot.  Butterflies, sinking feelings when we got him for form master. A paddy every Monday morning when the dinner money didn’t add up. Half-crowns chucked at us and board-rubbers.  When he really got mad he’d push his desk forward into ours. Desks, tables and boys all over the place.  He supervised the school mag. Missed master-bating one year. In the scouts. He looked a right pillock in shorts. Hours of boring scotch Ovid.

I got my head down and eventually fooled the examiners. Saved by two or three masters who took an interest. Something personal as well; how was I going to succeed? How was I going to live with myself? So not totally about money, but it was there. Learned from the master of biliousness when it came to life chances, my dad. In the sixth form I knew everything. I’d just needed a bit more time. Development of personal confidence: scouts, sports and exams. A talent for leadership. Deputy head boy. House captain. Queens Scout. Conviction though, and not enough leeway. So okay up to a point. Not cocky, just serious. How you ebb and flow. Ups and downs. Soccer at primary school. Doing well in exams at the college. Decline, girls, youth club. Penny drops. University and you start all over again at the bottom. And a girlfriend.

Picked for the local RU team first XI when I was still at school.

I volunteered to sort out the second eleven in upper sixth. So I picked it, captained it and so on.  Sports masters had an easy time of it. Had all my pals on the team. Not bad cricketers. And the odd ringer that didn’t want to play in the first team. Linsell, a child prodigy of a spin bowler turned into medium pace with swing.  Crowther, the big rugby forward, a decent batter. Huff and puff, left arm over, Waddington. A few wides and a few wickets. Oates at stumper. Never caught anything.  Summer Saturday afternoons. Caught the train to Wheelwrights in Dewsbury. I’m last in with Clark. Five to win and we’re batting OK, and he goes and gives a soft caught-and-bowled.  Smashing day out to King Ted’s in Sheffield with a tree on the square. I declare too early. So Archenold says. Big German physics teacher who pronounced Descartes in English. Poor bloke didn’t half get the bird from the snooty arty lot. And Roundhay. Their captain got shirty about Linsell just keeping them outside off stump. He couldn’t bat, that was his problem. I hole out at long on after their fast bowler gets me in the midriff. Clarkson umpires. King James’, good win.  We’re all round the bat in their last over. Heady days.

I was picked for the master’s match. Real honour. All the school watching. They go home at ten past four and we’re still battling. I’m last man again, but easier somehow. Last ball and we run.  Good throw and I just make the crease, grass stained trousers. Mum’l complain. Horrible little Mr. Haigh makes yet another sarcastic remark. I laugh, walk away. They hadn’t won had they?

Brian Close was my hero. He and Fred Trueman kept me going. They were aggressive cricketers and not frightened to say what they thought. Even when they finished up in the soup. They somehow gave me permission to be socially inept, say the wrong things or not say anything at all in a sulk. Years later, I met Brian, on a campsite next to Ulleswater in the Lake District. We went to the bar and I thought, I recognise that voice. It reverberated round the whole room. He was sat with a bloke who played the penny whistle.

The Casuals, having played fifteen years or so by 1968, were established.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s