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Guest Speaker: David Frith




David Frith was born in London not far from Lord’s on 16 March 1937. He attended Roxbourne School in Harrow and in 1949, he emigrated with his family to Australia. His first job as a copy-boy for the Daily Mirror, then joined the Commonwealth Bank. He played his early cricket for the famous St George Club and then Paddington before returning to England in 1964.




 

Our Chaplain, The Reverend David Brown, said Grace.

The President, Douglas Miller, welcomed all members and their guests. Apologies for Absence: Stephen Saunders, Terry Johnson, Leslie Lloyd, Jane & Peter Parsons, Grayston Burgess, Ann Knott, John Fingleton, Andrew Bruce, Pat Atkinson, Bernard Frowd OBE, Verity Crump, Neil & Jilly Jenkinson, Jo & Derek Coulson, Stephen Toogood, Richard Wilson, Michael Gordon. Prize Draw: DM invited everyone to put their place names in the containers provided for the prize draw for collection by our Steward, Dick Orders. Next Speaker: The President announced that, regrettably, Charlotte Edwards MBE, England Women’s Cricket Captain, is unavailable to speak to members at our autumn luncheon. However, she had written stressing how much she would like to come at a future date. Plans for the autumn meeting will therefore be notified to all members as soon as they are settled. Ashley Mote on e-Book publication of ‘The Glory Days of Cricket’: AM spoke of the re-publication of his book in the autumn as an e-Book for Kindle and other e-Book readers. Should this be successful, illustrated talks about how cricket evolved to the game as it is known today, will be available to schools (say 13-year-olds and upwards), cricket clubs and societies. Anyone interested can contact Ashley via this link: http://www.contactanauthor.co.uk/index.php

An e-Book of ‘John Nyren’s Cricketers of My Time – The Original Version’ could also be available should the above re-publication be successful. It, too, will be a new edition expanded with a contribution from Roy Clarke based on his own book, ‘James Aylward : The Untold Story’. Roy’s insightful research was a vital addition to the understanding of John Nyren’s masterpiece, and both Roy and Ashley agree that the two books now belong together. Website: The secretary, told members that the Newsletter and recordings of our meetings can be accessed on the Hambledon website, with a reminder that all information regarding future events will also be posted there. She asked if members were having difficulties in accessing the website still; if so, they should contact her. Committee Election of Officers: Douglas Miller, the President - willing to stand again Stephen Saunders, the Treasurer - willing to stand again Dick Orders, the Steward - willing to stand again Lou Allen, the Secretary - willing to stand again All voted unanimously Other Administration: Ties - In the Treasurer’s absence, Dave Allen will collect payment and names of those wishing to purchase ties which will be forwarded to Stephen to deal with. Meal costs & cancellations - The President reminded guests of the increased price of £27.50 which is set by the Bat and Ball management. Members cancelling within 24hrs of the eve of the event will be charged the full cost of the meal. Payment - only by cash or card. NO cheques accepted. Booking policy - DM spoke of the booking policy, which is working very well and which has, again, resulted in a full restaurant this Spring.

Prize Draw in support of Hambledon Youth Cricket: The customary draw - won by a guest Anthony Mason - raised £295. After deductions of the prize draw, speaker’s expenses, and administration costs, £162.70 was raised for Hambledon Youth. The Loyal Toasts: DM asked members to be upstanding for the traditional toasts: The Queen’s Mother; The King; The Hambledon Club; Cricket; The immortal memory of Madge. Dave Allen asked members to toast The President. The Speaker: DM introduced our guest speaker David Frith.


David thanked the President for his introduction. He had not been to the Bat & Ball for two decades and, while the President had told him it wasn’t necessary to talk about Hambledon, David couldn’t think of a more fitting subject than Broadhalfpenny and the Bat & Ball. He told us that recently he had been writing the history of Guildford in Surrey where he has lived for the past 40 years, and this had led him to the conclusion that Guildford may well be the ‘cradle of cricket’ - much to the amusement of his audience. He offered a number of “pointers” as evidence: One: John Derrick, in 1598, testified that as a boy in Guildford “he did run and play at creckett and other plays” – the first known reference to cricket in the English language, advising us to ignore the one in Thoreau’s dictionary which had nothing to do with cricket at all. Two: ‘Lumpy’ Stevens, was born in Send, a village on the outskirts of Guildford. ‘Lumpy’ was the greatest underhand bowler of the day. Time and again he got the great John Small out when the ball went between the two stumps, but Small was allowed to continue. This he found very frustrating because the bails would not come off, which is why we now have a third stump. Three: Bob Robinson from Ash, along the Hog’s Back, was a tall, left hander, with a great club of a bat, and had a very active mind. He had had enough of constantly being pummelled in the shins by the underhand deliveries, some at quite a pace, so came up with the idea of leg protection by tying a couple of small planks to the front of the shins. However, he gave up on this idea due to the embarrassment on the field of the sound of the ball hitting the pads, much to the amusement of the crowd. Nevertheless, he came back to improve these, with Robert Robinson game to first try them out. He also invented spikes, but unfortunately these tore up the pitch and he was laughed out of the game! However, he was a pioneer, and one of the Guildfordian cricket fraternity. There was one more – and that is, the phrase Test Match. It had to be coined for the first time somewhere and it was coined in Guildford by Wills Hammersley, from Ash. He moved to Melbourne with his family, became a journalist, and played for Victoria, and when the 1861 English pioneer tour was about to start, in the Australasian he wrote that he felt of the programme, only four of the matches played were worthy of the description ‘test’ matches, meaning that they would be a true test. Eventually they gave it a capital ‘T’, and then it became common currency. David added, “Now, all of that came from Guildford!” but declined to rest his case because of his audience’s reluctance to accept this – a comment eliciting the cheers of that audience - but he has found reliving the tales, very enjoyable. So he added that when the diarist, John Evelyn, had also referred to cricket in 1625, he wondered whether the meadow opposite (Broadhalfpenny) was even functioning then. David quoted from the Hants Cricket Chronicle which recorded that prodigious quantities of alcohol were consumed in the Bat & Ball: July 1792, 2nd of month, 3 bottles of port 6s, 3 bottles of sherry 3s; 9th 5 port, 5 sherry; 16th 38 bottles port, 9 sherry, as so on, adding, “This was a dangerous place”. David then spoke of John Arlott, who was not only a very good friend, but essentially a substitute father. Since the mid-1960s John had helped David tremendously in his career except when it came to the consumption of wine, in which he failed. Nonetheless, John had a huge impact on David’s life in every other way and he spoke of how John was full of stories, and all of them were true. David said he was a most wonderful man suggesting his voice can still be heard, to which all members agreed. David told us of his first playing experience at Hambledon which was in 1967 when he had the opportunity to play for Public School Wanderers against Hambledon, who were then captained by Ron Turner. Ron presented everyone with a lovely tie, the thinnest tie ever, which he was wearing today as a dare! David suggested that if you are a cricket history “geek”, when you come to Hambledon for the first time, you want to do well on the field because there is something spiritual about the ground. During this match, he fielded at slip, where he spent most his life; the first ball got nicked and he fell over but caught the ball on the way down. With laughter from the floor, David described this as a “blinder” and is still high on this some 45 years later! It meant so much to him, explaining that as the effect of the ground – a feeling he encounters not only in Guildford but all around the world. He told us initially that he did not get to bat that day, which seemed very frustrating but then confessed that “like every nerd” he kept a ledger of every match he ever played, and in truth he got caught at gully without scoring. Having got nought at Broadhalfpenny, left him wondering whether he could ever put it right, but he didn’t get back for years. In 1982, David scripted and researched the programme Golden Greats of Cricket: Batsman from the 19th Century to Modern Times, collecting film from every source he could find, including private collections. This was to be a record of the greatest batsmanship since WG Grace and researching film has been a very big part of David’s life “and still the odd discovery comes up”. He said that no matter how clear a description is in a text of what someone is doing, film has a vividness and truth with which the written text struggles to compete. David recounted the making of the programme at the Bat and Ball when HMS Mercury had to give permission to film on site. The programme was directed by David Puttnam, who was at the peak of his career at the time but the project did not get off to a good start. Puttnam went to South America simultaneously on another production and while away, sent David a card asking why he had not mentioned in the script that Victor Trumper was killed in the World War One! He added “some of you realise what a blunder that was but we ignored him and got on with it” - with John Arlott as the presenter. The day of the filming at Broadhalfpenny was viciously cold and everyone rallied to swathe John in warm clothing as he stood on the field in a freezing breeze. He was gasping and struggling (this was the last real professional job he did as his lungs were giving way) but the technicians worked extremely hard to clean the soundtrack. David recounted how John had strayed from the script and began by asking, “How could cricket start in a country with weather like this?” The comment was left in, as it said it all. Regardless of the weather, David said everyone enjoyed themselves in the Bat & Ball where John was in charge of the wine orders! The most beautiful setting was arranged and John was talking about the 1920s-1930s. The room was arranged with the most exquisite setting using copper lamps and jugs and with the most perfect man to deliver. John being the “alpha pro” had memorised over 200 words, speaking about the English teams in the 1930s that went to Australia. When he finished, the whole crew applauded spontaneously for a great performance. Sadly David became the worm when he pointed out to the producer that John had mistakenly mentioned ‘Gubby’ Allen, when it was Percy Chapman. David said they had to get it right, so John had another swig of wine and repeated, perfectly, the whole script again. David recounted that when he walked into the other room earlier that day, where the recording took place, he shuddered as he felt John was still around us. David then spoke of further problems when it was time to do the soundtrack. The producer had recruited a pre-war newsreel commentator called Bob Danvers-Walker, now about 80, and still in pretty good voice. Bob sat in a booth while the film was being projected and did a voice-over from a script that, unfortunately, had been incorrectly adapted from the original. Again, David had to intercede, and to the members’ amusement said he would probably write a book about “how to be popular”. Although he had “crunchy” memories of the project, he mostly remembered poor John shivering out on the Down. However, the job got done. To finish the programme they shot at the Oval, initially about Jessop’s 75-minute hundred, and John sat down and did this beautifully. Then he was called upon to walk across the Oval talking about Len Hutton’s 364, and as he reached the base of the scoreboard, up went the camera to show the actual figures of that day which was 700-4 alongside Hutton’s 364. But every time they tried this, John got halfway across the outfield and an aeroplane went across, so they had to shoot it again. They were worried about John because he was in very poor health, however, he was a trooper and he continued to do it until the aeroplanes stopped. There was another shot in the Oval Long Room when he struggled when talking about his hero, Jack Hobbs, but with the wizardry of technology, they cut out John’s gasps, coughing and hesitation and made it as smooth as could be. Unfortunately, as it was endorsed by a tobacco company it cannot be shown publicly or sold in shops any more. Nonetheless, David said that one day he would like to up-date it “but there won’t be any John to help me”. John came into the story again because the Times had a bi-centenary in 1985, and part of the celebrations was a bi-centennial match played on Broadhalfpenny Down between the Times XI and the publishers Collins, for whom David played, assisted by among others, Bob Willis. The weather was foul and between periods of play they had been enjoying each other’s company at the bar. David was one captain and the other Mike Brearley and David won the toss with the bat, but Willis was reluctant to take the field as it was too damp. However, when Brearley - who had been taking a somewhat serious approach to the day - came into bat, David arranged not just a body-line field but had everyone on the leg-side, thinking it was a day for subtle hilarity. Brearley scowled, probably realising it was an illegal field setting, but since our umpire was John Woodcock, a very lenient man, this was ignored. Then, Willis ran in and tried to knock Brearley’s head off. It was a long hop and he patted it into a completely vacant off-side field and ran two precious runs, and that was the end of the joke! Eventually, rain stopped play, and the game was a bit of a wash-out, but with one exception: When it came to John presiding over lunch, he stood up and recited paragraph after paragraph from Nyren which was wonderful stuff and David regrets that it was never recorded. He said it wasn’t about B&H or great batsmen, or about Brearley or Willis; some of us were just transported. David commented it was a good job Harry Altham wasn’t around at the time! In David’s summing up, he thanked all those who have kept the memory of Hambledon alive, and was delighted to see how the organisation has developed into what it is today. For a man who “scribbles” he said he is sensitive to those who have written about it and mentioned John Nyren, Arthur Haygarth, Ashley Cooper, E.V. Lucas, John Arlott, FS Ashley Cooper, Ronald Knight, John Goldsmith, John Goulstone, plus those present today: Roger Packham, Ashley Mote, Neil Jenkinson and others - adding apologies for those omitted. He spoke of returning to his own cradle of cricket, Guildford, after being refreshed from the “Holy Land”, revered also around the world as such. With one proposal to make, he said Guildford is twinned with some obscure village in Belgium, and asked that if anyone has the power to engineer the twinning of Guildford with Hambledon, please see him afterward! David again thanked us for our hospitality adding that he felt that John Arlott had come down with him today. Thanks: DM a thanked David for speaking for us today, and thanked the Bat & Ball staff for a very good luncheon, and for looking after our members. Any Other Business: None Date of next meeting: 5 October 2013



Newsletter 29: 6 April 2013

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