Staff cricket : the Golden Years (1)

Just after I started work in the High School, my interest in cricket began to grow. Luckily, there was a well established Staff Cricket Team. Indeed, it was during the Summer Term of 1947, that the staff had fielded their own cricket team for the first time ever, playing several friendly fixtures against the staffs of other schools. The most likely suspects would be the local Grammar Schools, Bilborough and High Pavement, and possibly Henry Mellish and the Old Nottinghamians.
Sooo….I decided to give it a go and I asked the team if I could play. I am no expert at playing cricket, but I was assured that this was just social cricket, played merely for amusement and companionship. Weeks later, I realised that the staff matches that I played in were played for amusement and companionship as if they were the last decisive test in an Ashes series in Australia:

In my bestselling book and my two screenplays for both Hollywood and Bollywood films, “Nottingham High School: an Anecdotal History”, I mentioned staff cricket on a number of occasions. The first occasion was the year before I began at the High School in the Summer Term of 1974:

“One of the most famous incidents in staff cricket occurred when according to “The Nottinghamian”, David Matthews “courageously stopped the ball with his head”. It cost him a pair of glasses, and two black eyes. Other participants during the season were Paul Dawson and  Brian Hughes, specialist batsmen David Padwick and Dave Phillips, specialist bowlers John Hayes and Marcus Coulam, and Jimmy Sadler, who in one match took four wickets in the last over, to snatch an unlikely victory.  John Hayes and Allan Sparrow were the usual umpires.”

This old staff photo from 1973 has John Hayes (front left) and in the centre of the front row, Dave Phillips.

Alas, David Padwick has now passed away and the rest of those names must be well into their sixties if not older. Certainly, it is a good while since any of them taught a lesson at the High School. I did find one or two of them on some pictures of the staff which I scanned in the early 1980s. They are not very good, but they are recognisable. On this photo are Bob Dickason, Ed Furze, Chris Smith and Me on the back row, and Ian Driver, John Hayes, Edwin Harris and Dave Phillips in front.

Here are David Matthews and David Padwick :

Luckily, colour film was invented in time to capture the greatest moment of John Hayes’ life. The day he took delivery of the High School’s first ever minibus::

It was during this season that David Padwick passed into legend. In a game against Trent Polytechnic, as it was then called, played at the Clifton campus, there was a fairly steep bank on two sides of the ground, about three feet high, just inside the boundary. Padders was fielding on the long on boundary, where he was theoretically unlikely to get up to too much mischief. At this point he was standing quietly at the top of the bank.

Suddenly, the ball was hit high, high, high into the sky in his direction. But he couldn’t judge the ball’s trajectory properly. Surely he was too far back to catch it. Quick, go forward, down the bank!  But no! Surely he was now too far forward to catch it. Quick, back up the bank! No, that’s wrong. Quick, quick, down the bank!  No, no, no!  Quick, back up the bank! For a good fifteen seconds or more, Padders became the cricketing Grand Old Duke of York. And did he catch it? Well, what do you think?

The next mention of staff cricket comes when:

“There was a report of staff cricket in 1977 in the Nottinghamian of December 1999.  It appeared in William Ruff’s “From the Archives” section of the magazine. Mention was made of Tony Slack, “our benevolent dictator”, Dave Phillips who “wields the straightest golf club in the business”, Phil Eastwood, “for whose particular torture the LBW rule was invented, and Clem Lee, “whose pectorals imitate the motion of the sea as he runs up to bowl”. The regular umpires this season were Allan Sparrow and John Knifton, although the latter did play in one game, “and took an impossible catch to win the game”. The more often I read that, the less possible it seems.

Again, I have found one or two old staff photos to enlarge. On the 1970 photo, there are Phil Eastwood (top right) and David Matthews again (No 3 on the front row). The back row also has Allan Sparrow and, I think, Brian Hughes  :

This photo has at least one more cricketer, Marcus Coulam, the young man to the right on the very back row:

The photograph also shows Norman Thompson, Dick Elliott, Stanley Ward, Ian Driver, Martin Jones, Chris Curtis, Jeff Leach, Gerry Seedhouse and, I think, Will Hurford. The two young ladies, I do not know.

More chat about the sporting superstars next time. Incidentally, I had a second hand operation on February 8th, so I won’t be able to reply to any of your comments for, probably, a couple of weeks. As soon as I am able to, though, I will answer what you have been kind enough to contribute.



Filed under History, Humour, Nottingham, Personal, The High School

31 responses to “Staff cricket : the Golden Years (1)

  1. You’ll know I enjoyed this one, John. Congrats on the catch. The David Matthews story prompts me to offer this one:

  2. “Our bag is green & made of canvas, strong and leather bound,

    Overfilled with kit we’ve purchased, borrowed, begged or found;

    Emptied out on summer evenings when it doesn’t rain,

    But frankly half the stuff it holds we’ll never use again-

    Worn out gloves with pimply rubber stitched up to the knuckles,

    Floppy pads with leather straps & little jingly buckles,

    All marked ‘Brookfield School’ in pen in prominent positions,

    And some with names of other clubs, nicked from the opposition.” – Arthur Salway

    • Lovely! At our school, we were lavishly equipped with kit but, as in the poem, very little of it got used because everybody wanted to show off what they could afford to buy. Back in 1975, I always thought that I might well have been the first step on the slippery slope when I turned up in cricket trousers but also sporting blue suede trainers.

  3. I’ve had cricket explained to me, but I’m afraid I didn’t quite comprehend all the positions, rules, etc. But thoroughly enjoyed this post, John.
    Don’t bother yourself with answering, take care.

    • And miss a chance to explain cricket to the United States? It’s the ancestor of baseball except that there are just two bases, each one with a wooden wicket about three feet high and six inches across. The pitcher tries to hit the wicket of one batsman and if he does, the batsman is out and is replaced by a colleague. If the ball is hit away by the batsman, the two of them run to exchange positions and every time they do this, it counts ‘one’ to the team score. If the ball is hit and is caught by the fielding side before it touches the ground, the batsman is out. That’s it in its simplest terms.
      The most famous American cricket club was Philadelphia and the history of cricket is at
      (Not bad typing for left hand and nose)

      • You did good, John, but I wish you’d get better before you do replies.
        [can’t help it – still laughing at your left hand and nose!!]

      • This is the best explanation ever. I will have to remember this to explain it to my American friends who understand baseball so well n are clueless about cricket how many times I try to explain !!!

      • Thank you. Cricket makes people a lot less violent and a lot more thoughtful, which might help a lot of young Americans. I would not dream of being violent to an Australian or a New Zealander, fellow cricket lovers. There have even been episodes in the India-Pakistan wars where fighting has been suspended while they listen to the cricket commentary on the radio.

  4. It was good to read about your experiences. What were the two screenplays about ? Hope your hand is getting better now. Regards, Lakshmi

    • No, Lakshmi, I was just joking. My hand is lots better. The only thing I can’t do is to lift things or to put the hand under very much stress. I can type but not for too long yet.

  5. Born and raised in a region that was formerly known as the West Indies, where cricket was part of our national identity, I learned to play soft-ball cricket with the boys in our neighborhood. My father, who played at a local cricket club, suffered a broken nose following a direct hit with a hard ball.

    • Absolutely. We have problems here in England with boys and girls who would play cricket except for the risk of injury. Guyana has a fabulous history of great cricketers including Basil Butcher, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Colin Croft, Lance Gibbs, Carl Hooper, Alvin Kalicharran, Rohan Kanhai and Clive Lloyd, Cricket seems to be such a friendly sport….off the pitch!

  6. jan

    The lady on the left was a lab assistant in the Biology Department. Do you remember the vivarium on the top floor corridor? Also lovely to read about Clint, Arthur Stan, Babs and Freddie (as we knew them!)

  7. How vary dashing of David Matthews to stop the ball with his head. I’m sure given a second chance he’d be a little less likely to make that mistake! The very thought of a cricket ball flying at sped toward me fills me with dread, hence I’m rubbish at it and will use all the known schoolboy excuses to avoid it!

    • Apparently, there are particular places to field which seem harmless because they are far away from the batsman but in actual fact, if the ball does come it will be rocket powered and difficult to deal with. That was why they put him there and he was probably lucky not to be really seriously injured. I’m not sure he ever played again.

  8. Oh does it sound like you are going down memory lane, John. As for that catch good for you! As for that “madman” David Matthews stopping the ball with his head …. he could have been killed. Unreal! What you “boys” do for sport!! LOL

    • When men are younger, Amy, they think that they are completely invulnerable. They never think that something bad might happen to them. I suppose that this was one of the sporting examples of what can happen on occasion. At least he wasn’t on a motor bike or flying a hang glider!

  9. As a large person with slow reactions and a lack of coordination I always felt vulnerable on a cricket field. 🙂

    • You are not wrong. I am a large person too, and I always felt that anything good I ever did was substantially based on pure luck. I suppose that was the reason that I finished up being an umpire but even that can be dangerous if the ball is hit straight back at you.

  10. I am not a huge cricket fan but watched loads of cricket growing to give company to my dad and to escape studying 🙂 . Enjoyed reading your post 🙂

  11. jan

    I think the other lady is Gill Hunter (maths department 68-74) and it is definitely not not Dr Brian Hughes. You can see him on the back row, far right, of the 1970 line-up.

  12. David Parker

    I spent some time a few months back, with the aid of the relevant School Record, putting names to the faces in the final two photos of your post, which was actually taken in June 1973 and appears in the Nottinghamian of October that year. The left-hand lady is indeed Gill Hunter. The right-hand lady I’m not sure about; might she have been the Headmaster’s secretary or Gerry Seedhouse’s assistant? The chap you originally thought might be Brian Hughes is, I’m pretty sure, Ian Warburton. Some of these august members of staff can be seen nearly forty years on here:

    • Hi ! You have accomplished a great task with all those identifications! I would urge you to contact Yvette, the School Archivist and Librarian. I know from my own experience that she often has quite modern staff photos which she cannot identify fully. A couple of years ago I gave her somewhere in the region of a half a dozen people from the 1975 photo. She would be pleased to hear from you if you could help. Her email address is
      Thanks again for your interest,
      John Knifton

  13. David Dickinson

    My memory of John Hayes and cricket is of him umpiring a charity match at the Raleigh ground (now underneath the Tordean estate). Leslie Crowther was playing and proceeded to be out first ball, much to the crowds disappointment. After some head scratching, John called a no ball when Leslie was almost back at the boundary rope, and Leslie returned to continue his innings. Incidentally, Crowther was a former High School pupil.

    • Yes, he was, from 1940-1944, aged from seven to eleven, so he was mainly in the Prep. His father was a retired postmaster, and the family lived at 12 George Road in West Bridgford. There used to be a story that he was expelled for cutting boys’ ties off with a pair of scissors as a joke, but that’s not true, sadly. I know because one of my own pupils wrote to him to ask, when he was on Crackerjack. He said it wasn’t true, but he wished it was, as it was such a funny story.

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