Rebel tour to S. Africa. Still at Thorp.

What on earth happened between these dates?

Apartheid 1948. D’Olivera, Olympic ban 1968. International sports boycott 1971. 1976 S African cricket union set up to promote multiracial cricket but not enough to be invited back into the international cricket community. To keep S African cricket alive, substantial sums of money were offered to touring rebels, beginning with an England team of older test players in 1982, under Graham Gooch. They were well beaten and given 3 year bans, effectively ending the careers of half. Teams from Sri Lanka, W Indies and Australia subsequently toured. An England team went again in 1990, but ad it coincided with the unbanning of the ANC and the release of Nelson Mandela, it was a disaster.


The family moved to Snape in 1982. A village near Bedale, just west of the A1. The castle is well known for its associations with Catherine Parr and the mother and wife of Richard III. I asked the bloke at the village post office if there was any cricket locally. Yes he said, I’ll take you up Saturday. We walked up a track near the castle into a large estate of rolling fields, trees and sheep. Thorp Perrow, Sir John Ropner’s estate. The mansion overlooked tennis courts and an ornamental lake beyond which grassland stretched up to an idyllic oval. To one side, square leg as you faced the house, was a green battered wood pavilion, two basic dressing rooms separated by an open eating area, much in the style of Saxton’s hut. Fixtures were very attractive to sides from the north east and the west riding, enough for Thorp to play every Saturday and Sunday. These were good cricketing social sides like ‘The Doghouse’ and ‘Men of Derwent’, or league teams, made up of juniors, those not getting a full game on Saturday and seniors wanting to keep playing. And they brought their families and social whirl with them. Unlike Romany, or The Casuals, Thorp played all but nine of their games at home, forty one to be precise, travelling away six times a year. A four-match tour near Skegness, and five trips to places like Hawes and Escrick Park. Hawes is a small town at the top of Wensleydale. The pitch nestles in a bend in the river Ure, surrounded by low fells. We attracted quite a crowd on a warm summer Sunday evening and the odd holiday visitor guested for them.

Whilst we had ringers and regular occasionals from teams like Ben Rhydding, Doghouse, and Alford, the core of the team came from local people. Gardeners, farm labourers, those like me, transients due to work, the odd army officer, a Theakston or two. We had a dutch international fast bowler once. No idea who brought him. In 1984, I played 8 Sundays, 12 Saturdays and 3 midweek, averaging 19 with the bat. The weekend 30th June, 1st July I managed 53 caught behind and 47 not out against South Northumberland and Chapel Allerton, both strong sides. It goes without saying, I was tickled pink. Family and friends who visited were dragged up to watch and my nephew, Nicolas, even turned out aged 14. He fielded brilliantly and took a catch. Not sure he got many runs. Our wives and daughters prepared great cricket teas. Carrick’s had a fish and greengrocer business in the village and their lad used to play. Not to be muddled with ex-Yorkshire captain, Phil Carrick, who tragically died aged 48. The opposition would sometimes get confused and then reassured when they saw our Carrick. He was only eleven. The club was run by John Sellers and his wife Rosemary scored. John was brilliantly connected, so it was largely through him we got a regular full side. They’ve moved to a Scottish Isle somewhere now. The cricket was serious. You weren’t expected to be good, but you were expected to take it seriously. You wouldn’t be dropped after a bad game, but you’d be moved after a misfield. At two games every weekend there was room for everybody. I went back one Saturday afternoon, four years ago to see how they were doing. Apart from the two teams, the ground was deserted. No families, no picnicking, no bbq’s and no bottles of beer and bubbly. Young Carrick was the captain. ‘Couldn’t get a full side,’ he told me, ‘we had to join the league to attract players.’ His face broke into a wide smile,’ You won’t remember, but I once gave you out LBW. Gosh you were grumpy. I was scarred for life. Never umpired since. . . only kidding.’ I could see he wasn’t scarred for life, but there’s no doubt who was the grump.


We played The Army in a time match, starting 11.00 am. I took the day off work. The Ropners came to tea but only spoke to John. Our main ringer from Skegness was given LBW early on and clearly not out. The umpire looked about eighteen. The bowler was a captain or some such. Our ringer stood still for what seemed a long time, but he had to go. I was too nervous to bat properly. After the match I was stood with their colonel, ‘that early LBW looked dodgy, still it’s same for both sides.’ He was not impressed. I noted he kicked the ball on his dismissal. When they were all out, we didn’t stop for tea. They went off and we went in, until the preset time for tea. That was a first for me. I think it must have been a draw.


Played St Mary’s hospital one Wednesday afternoon as part of their tour. We had an SHO who could bowl off spin and we draughted a few more in. We lost.


We’d all have a drink before the game. I used to brew loads of wine and beer. I took some rhubarb wine up one afternoon, to have with tea. Rosemary said she’d never seen me look so fluid at the crease. Took some stick, even from one of the patients, a player’s relative who’d been told what to say.


Was Thorp CC a plaything of the aristocracy? Did Sir John’s ancestors employ a row of terraced houses full of professional cricketers as estate workers? Move it forward a hundred years. Did the sons of the gentry play for Thorp rather than travel to play for the county? As expected, my romantic notions are cobblers. Sir John’s grandfather didn’t buy Thorp until 1927 and I’ve no evidence that cricket was played there before then. We weren’t sons of the gentry either and we didn’t have big social events. An annual supper in The Castle Arms, the Snape village pub, was as lavish as we got. We never saw Sir John except for the timed Wednesday Army CC fixture, when the mobile kitchen provided a great feast. There were no funny handshakes or talk of the 14th down the golf club.

And its all change at Hambledon. They no longer play at Broadhalfpenny Down, and like Thorp, are in the local league. I wonder if Thorp’s transformation was brought about by John and Roesemary’s move?


The bloke we bought the house from was a farmer also the manager of one or maybe two Fijian rugby players who signed for Fartown after an RU tour. He left some strange fuel in our tank which had to be replaced. It was too thick and wouldn’t go round the system so the engineer said. Must have been something off the farm.


Emile Ford came to sing in the bunkhouse behind the village pub. Tony Capstick also came; the audience was small enough for him to buy us all a drink. I got talking with the village postmaster on one of these occasions and somehow got into a tuck about privilege and the big house. Presumably too much to drink had been taken. He wasn’t impressed and we didn’t speak much after then. Pity. The Ropners were important local employers and a source of gossip. The postmaster’s daughters played with ours and went to the local school, and he used to do favours for us, like mow the lawn when we were away.


We averaged two emergency admissions a day. I still played plenty of rugby and cricket.


Thornton Watlass is just outside Bedale, quite near Thorp. The ground lies within the triangle of three roads that makes up the village centre, and yes, there is a tree at square leg. Domestic houses make up two sides whilst the third is a pub and community centre where my daughter used to go to nursery school. I worked in Northallerton at the time. A local gp, Andrew Curry, invited me to play for the rugby club. In summer they ran an evening league cricket team and I turned out for them too, sometimes twice a week. There were twelve teams in the league and we played each home and away. Twenty over a side thrash. Clubs like Silton, Carlton and Crathorne, spread along the A19 and the A172 between Thirsk and Stokesley. Some were great little clubs with more than adequate squares. Others were interesting. The ball could pop up from anywhere on the dust bowl they called a pitch next to the dairy in Northallerton. The rugby club strip, sporting to say the least, was next to main East Coast line. If you were bored you could always wave to the railway passengers. My mate Big Dave, a twenty stone prop used to turn out in his glasses. He got one that started in the bowler’s half, bounced three time finishing just on a length, then reared up breaking his glasses and producing a nose bleed. Big jesse strutted off when we all fell about laughing. There was just the one ground where we had to shoo the cows off before we could play. Imagine a rough exaggerated crown bowling green. The playing area was on the peak. The batter only saw the top half of the bowler as he started his run up. We had someone on the cut strip to shout to the lad fielding at square leg who had no idea where the batter had played the ball. Boundaries along the ground were rare because of the length of the grass. But, as the ball often got lost, the batters could easily run a four.

I note the league is sponsored by Sam Turner and Sons. This has got to be the biggest country store in the world. Anything from a tractor to a pair of boots.


Part of my work was at Catterick Garrison. I don’t know what the politics were at the time, but they wouldn’t provide any junior doctor cover, though in an emergency, what would have happened? The army resented us, or that was the impression I got. I wasn’t invited to join the mess, though I did attend their clinical meetings. They had one colonel surgeon from the paras who’d served in The Falklands. He solved everything with an operation, and didn’t even acknowledge I was there. The officers hung on his every word. I did get to one of their events, but the local gps and NHS staff sat on one table, and the officers sat on another. I referred him someone with large bowel cancer and he did the op, returned him to our ward and prescribed care appropriately. Only I didn’t think so – some stupid notions about fluid balance, which I was very good at and surgeons were well known not to be good at. He took the bloke over to his ward. It certainly wasn’t about the standard of care. He should have stayed with us. All I had to do was let the fluids be.

The head of the army medical services opened the ward. He was a Sir, and one of their juniors was one too. We were invited to the CO’s house the night before, Derek, a colonel ENT surgeon who’d treated my external ear infection some five years earlier when we were on holiday. We had a cottage at Reeth when Louise could just about walk. He called it Singapore ear. We had to arrive at 8.00pm. He was stood at the door as the five cars arrived together. We’d been parked just out of view for ten minutes. I was sat next to Sheila, the matron, a colonel in the Queens something nursing. The first course was toughish chicken with bits in it. I said nothing but soon discovered it was grouse that Derek had shot the previous week. Sheila said, ‘You know David, Derek always sends his weekly programme round with ‘S’ every Monday afternoon. ‘S’ is for sickness and I couldn’t work out how he could know he was going to be sick so often. Until he told me ‘S’ was for shooting. We had mousse for desert, or was in moose. I made a polite enquiry but they’d heard it all before. Between courses, Derek’s wife rung a handbell as part of her place setting. Two ladies would promptly appear from the kitchen, or through a door anyway, and clear up or serve. At the end of the meal, she stood up, ‘right we’ll go upstairs. Don’t be too long Derek.’ So the ladies left.

Sir somebody opened the ward the following lunchtime. We said all the right things, much to the disgust of the ward staff. We got our picture in the paper. We had a gp who was on the health authority insisted he be known as Dr in the paper. He came to see me in the hospital the week I arrived and when I look non-plussed, he said to sister, ‘He doesn’t know who I am,’ Why should I?

He was fat and fielded at slip against St Mary’s Hospital.


I injured a knee badly enough to see one of the orthopaedic surgeons. No need for further treatment, but I was off my legs for a while and couldn’t drive. Came back to work as soon as I could and the head-porter ferried me around the four hospitals. In a previous life he’d driven British Rail steam locos up and down Wenslydale. Ammunition trains during the war, because there were no tunnels. Couldn’t have sparks and bullets. In 1947, during the great snow, the railway was the only thing that got through. Milk, hay, newspapers, the lot. In summer, pheasant would fly into the side of the boiler. They weren’t allowed to pick up the bits, though there was just something in his tone of voice.


I knew within a month I wasn’t going to stay.

They made me unit management representative. Me, a manager and a nurse. What did I know? The senior consultants carried on as they wished. Ran rings round me. Not very nice. I went on an Industrial Society leadership course. Didn’t do any good, but one thing lead to another. My work commitment mushroomed. I wasn’t just going to save older people’s services from the heathen hordes of general physicians. We were all going to march into a bright future together. Not forgetting I had three young children who were rapidly growing up.

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