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  • Writer's pictureThe Hambledon Club

Guest Speaker: John Barclay

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

For many years John has been Director of Cricket and Coaching for the Arundel Castle Cricket Foundation, encouraging young people from less advantaged backgrounds to play and enjoy the game. Assistant manager to Ray Illingworth on England’s first post-apartheid tour to South Africa in 1995/96, he took full charge of the team that toured Zimbabwe and New Zealand the following year. In 2010 he succeeded Christopher Martin-Jenkins as President of the MCC. He is currently President of The Cricket Society.


Before Grace, the President, Douglas Miller, ask for a moment’s silence for Neil Jenkinson, a founder-member of the club, who had passed away during the summer. Neil was one of four men who met at the Bat & Ball in 1998 and he became our first Treasurer and a loyal supporter of the Hambledon Club. He was the Archivist and a Committee member at Hampshire County Cricket Club for many years and was the author of a number of notable cricket books.

Our Chaplain, The Reverend David Brown, said Grace.

Apologies for Absence: Alastair Lack, Nick Coletta, Ralph Shipway, Keith & Anthony Mayson, Roy Clark, Bobby & Peter Tomkins, Barrington Lawes, Bernard Frowd OBE, Chrissie Marris, Jo Stansbury, Mike Woof, Roger Gibbons, Frances & Richard Sherratt, Keith Ebdon, Andrew Callender, Kevin & Helen Beaumont, Tony Roberts, Charles Wilkinson, Clive Barnett, David Brant, John Fingleton, Julian Lawton-Smith, Ian Duke, Keith Howell, Richard Wilson, Roy Birch, Alan Head, Rick Ankers, Ralph Simmonds, Robert Brooke, Lesley Lloyd, Hugh Cocke, Stephen Crew, Spencer Codling, Stephen Saunders, Mike Gordon, John Gallimore, Andrew Bruce

The President:

1. Douglas, welcomed all members and their guests, and amidst applause, Douglas presented John Barclay’s book to a member, Peter Jenkins, who was celebrating his 80th birthday.

2. Douglas said Vic Marks has been invited to speak to us next spring, and this will be confirmed nearer the time.

The Steward:

1. Members were reminded to put their place names in the containers provided for the prize draw. All proceeds collected on the day will go to John Barclay’s charity, The Arundel Castle Cricket Foundation, where John has done work for many years. Club custom is to present all speakers with a tie, but as our treasurer was absent, one will be sent to John.

2. Members for outstanding subscriptions to be paid by cash. Future subscriptions should be paid via a standing order. Dick also informed members that next spring the cost of the lunch will be £25 but will not include wine, and members should buy their own drinks at the bar before the luncheon.

Prize draw: Won by Terry Crump. After deduction of expenses (£75), £170 was raised for John’s charity.

The Toasts: The President asked members to be upstanding for the traditional Toasts: The Queen’s Mother; The King; Hambledon Club; Cricket; The immortal memory of Madge; The President: Robin Brodhurst asked members to toast the President

The Speaker: Douglas introduced John, alerting us to the fact that along with Stephen Chalke he had produced a new book, inviting cricketers to identify favourite “teammates” and write a piece about them.

John began by thanking everyone for coming, mentioning the treat of driving through West Sussex on an autumnal day, and asking what better way is there to spend such a lunch-time than at the Bat & Ball, Hambledon?

He described how the idea for this book came from Stephen Chalke “who knows how to put a book together” while John’s role was to contact the authors and persuade them to write about a teammate, whose companionship had enhanced their life and cricket, with good stories, funny comments and no hint of any despond or despair.

“We had wonderful pieces: Christopher Cowdrey wrote a lovely piece about Alan Knott, then on Thursday this week, Mike Atherton, Stephen Chalke and I attended the Henley Literary Festival to talk about the book. Before us came a tiny man – the Archbishop of York – and in his whole year he said he was so excited to meet … Mike Atherton! He made that point quite clearly!”

“Stephen chaired and we had an hour in the theatre.” Stephen asked Mike who he had chosen, and the answer was Angus ‘Gus’ Fraser who happened to be the only man chosen both as a subject and an author. John then read us Angus’s first line as an example of fine writing. Angus chose his Middlesex teammate Keith Brown and began, “It was not a day during which I was expecting to be surprised …”, John adding, “It’s my favourite line in the book!”

The next example was from the county batsman, Mark Wagh, “a funny fellow” and his first line about Mark Ealham, which asked, “What do you do when a man calls you sweetheart, the first time you meet him?” adding, amid laughter, “it makes you read on.”

Then, next up, was that “strange chap, wacky” Simon Hughes and his piece about “two very exciting people, Graham Gooch and John Emburey” (more laughter). The first line is not really about them, as Hughes wrote, “I never really had a close friend among county cricketers”, which we all agreed was “a bit sad!”

In the theatre, Mike Atherton spoke sensibly about Angus Fraser, and Stephen then asked John, “Who is yours?” One option was the “only famous” player with whom he had played, Imran Khan, but he had already written about him and resisted “lifting” an earlier piece. John thought we would not have heard of his subject, John Spencer of Cambridge University and Sussex who “swung it a bit and nipped it off the seam – which doesn’t happen much these days.”

John said, “My career began as a child prodigy” at 16 because Sussex never had any spinners, except Mushtaq Ahmed. But in 1970 Sussex were playing a little-known match against Jamaica, while “I was practising in the nets at Hove.” Mike Griffith was captain and 15 minutes before start of play came across and said, “John you’re playing!” Sussex fielded first. “I bowled nicely” and “then we batted – twice in one day! I cut a ball for four in the first innings and made a few less in the second.” John then went on to mention his teammates Griffith, Greig and the Buss brothers.

The next day, Sussex were playing at Swansea where Glamorgan were then top-of-the table, and because the pitch was likely to turn, John is selected. With Griffith injured, Jim Parks captained. John set-off to travel to Swansea with Ken Suttle and the scorer George Washer in Ken’s blue ancient, slightly rusting Corsair. It was a long journey with no Severn Bridge in those days, and George suffered with a “dicky-bladder” so Ken gave George his own personal milk bottle, and “from time-to-time” George would wind down the window ... ! However, Ken was also a very keen supporter of Brighton and Hove Albion and they happened to be playing in Bristol against Rovers that evening and John reported, “It was Bristol Rovers–1, Brighton & HA–0, and it was a really exciting game, so we eventually arrive at Swansea at 2am, and at the hotel we were sharing rooms, me with Michael Buss, so I had to creep into bed and didn’t sleep all night for fear of waking him up!”

The next damp day they travelled to Swansea and batted quite poorly until it was John’s turn to bat at about 160-7. “I walked down the 137 steps and Malcolm Nash was bowling. The first ball went down the leg-side and I survived – what a joy! Meanwhile wicketkeeper Eiffion Jones and Alan Jones at cover, began talking to each other across me – in Welsh! ... and being sledged in Welsh has this disconcerting effect, so the next ball swung a little, hit my pad, there was a big appeal, and umpire Hugo Yarnold raised his finger – I was out second ball for nought!” Sussex declared, “slightly giving up hope”.

There was much rain but in the end Sussex set Glamorgan 160 to win on this rain-affected pitch against John Snow and Tony Buss. Majid Khan, Peter Walker, Brian Davies and Tony Lewis played well and Glamorgan won the match, but not before a “high swirling catch came my way at mid-on. I felt a slight tweak, tore a muscle and missed the catch” although, amid laughter, John asked, “If you don’t touch the ball, does it count as a dropped catch?”

Sussex were not sufficiently wealthy to take a 12th man all the way to Swansea so the junior player was always allocated those duties, including at close of play, collecting the team’s drinks from the bar. John gathered the list, collected them in the bar and carried them to the dressing room on a big tray, including pints of milk, pints of beer and a whiskey for the scorer, “who doesn’t like to drink too much!”

Now Swansea is really a rugby ground and the dressing rooms are downstairs, “so when I reached the door, I kicked it open but with my slightly dicky leg, and in doing so, I slightly lost my balance. I nearly held on, but in that quiet, melancholy dressing room I watched the whole tray of drinks, land in Tony Greig’s kit case. Very quickly we were able to see his gloves and box floating in the beer, milk and a little bit of whiskey. I looked across at John Spencer and he laughed and laughed and laughed and in a moment, everyone – except Tony Greig – was laughing! It’s what’s called breaking the ice! That was 1970, and it was another two years before I got selected again, but that is why John Spencer was such an immemorable teammate and still is a great friend to this day.” John added that JS went on to teach at Brighton College and there became deputy headmaster.

John gave a typically enthusiastic and energetic performance, keeping all the members entertained, and he concluded that through his two Trusts, all the costs for the book have been covered, so every £15 paid for the book goes directly to the young people who come to the Arundel Foundation and for whom life is a bit of a struggle. Through hearty applause, Douglas said how lucky we have been to have John come to speak to us.

AOB: Douglas informed members he would be standing down as president after an immensely, pleasurable seven years, members will be invited to elect another successor at the following meeting in March.

Douglas thanked the staff for looking after us, and reminded people to pay for their lunch before leaving.

Date of next meeting: TBC

Newsletter 34: 1 October 2016

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