As a result of the efforts of six men, from two separate families, between 1895 and 1936 the name Tyldesley was synonymous with Lancashire cricket. It is perhaps surprising that it has not featured on one of the county's scorecards since, as it is not an uncommon name in the area, so doubtless in due course another Tyldesley will rise through the ranks. As and when he does he will need to be at his very best if he is to do justice to the name.
The original homes of the Roe Green Tyldesleys and the Westhoughton Tyldesleys are separated by a distance of about eight miles in centre of the county of the Red Rose. Ironically enough slightly to the south of them both, and broadly equidistant between the two, lies the town of Tyldesley, home these days to around 30,000 people.
The first of the six to make his mark was the most illustrious, John Thomas from Roe Green, known universally by his initials, 'JT'. Throughout the "Golden Age" JT would be, unusually for a professional, mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Grace, Fry and Ranjitsinhji and, despite his figures in his 31 Tests looking relatively underwhelming to 21st century eyes, he was a lock in the England team through the early Edwardian years. Altogether 'JT' scored 1,661 runs for England at 30.75 including four centuries, three of them against Australia. In all First Class cricket there were 37,897 runs at 40.66 and 86 centuries. Like his younger brother he lost four seasons to the Great War.
The age difference between GE (Ernest) and JT was more than 15 years, so their careers overlapped only for a few pre-war seasons and one afterwards. Ernest had the reputation of being a more dour player than his older brother, but his stats are better. In all cricket he scored a few more runs, but at a significantly better average of 45.46. With 102 he is to date the only Lancastrian to record a century of centuries an achievement which, absent a sea change in the way the game is played, will be unique to him in perpetuity. There were only 14 England caps for Ernest, although that was more indicative of the strength of English batting at the time rather than any shortcomings on his part. He has a Test average of exactly 55, so did all that he reasonably could to attract the selectors loyalty.
As for the Westhoughton family they were more successful in the sense that four of them played for the county, but less so in that only one, the youngest, achieved Test recognition. RK ('Dick') was a leg spinner. He was noted neither for great variation nor prodigious spin, but with Australian fast bowler Ted MacDonald was a key bowler in the most successful period in Lancashire's history, and all told took 1,509 wickets at 17.21 in an era when many batting records were established. He played from 1919 through to 1931 when he left the Lancashire staff due to the committee's refusal to give him any sort of long term security. He was only 33 and still at his best and might have added substantially to his haul of wickets had the county been less feudal in their outlook. There were seven Tests for Dick, beginning with four successful ones against South Africa in 1924 that earned him a trip to Australia in 1924/25. The Australian pitches did not suit him though, and he went wicketless for 136 runs in his only Test. He was picked twice more in the 1930 Ashes series when his overall return of 7/234 was, bearing in mind the strength of the opposition, more than respectable. Had he stayed in the county game he might easily have gone to Australia again in 1932/33 with Douglas Jardine in place of either of the leg spinners who did make that trip, Freddie Brown and Tommy Mitchell.
The eldest of the Westhoughton Tyldesleys was WK ('Billy'). He was a left handed batsman, usually at the top of the order, and he played for Lancashire between 1908 and 1914. He was never certain of his place, and never quite got his 1,000 runs for a summer (991 at 34.17 in 1911 was the nearest he got). He would have been 32 when the game resumed in 1919 so might have gone on to establish himself, but he was a victim of the Great War, rising to the rank of Lieutenant in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and dying a hero's death in Kemmel in Belgium in 1918.
Next in line was JD (Jimmy), who was two years younger than Billy almost to the day. In four of the five seasons before war broke out Jimmy played occasionally for the county as an opening bowler, but only 14 times in total and with limited success. After the war however, by which time he was nearing 30, he was a different proposition altogether. He was Lancashire's most successful bowler in that 1919 season and also made his first First Class century leading to speculation that Test caps might one day come his way. The following season was his best with the ball although his batting disappointed. In 1921 he did well with both bat and ball but in 1922 his form fell away markedly. Jimmy Tyldesley died during surgery on 31 January 1923. He was not yet 34.
The last of the Westhoughton brotherhood was Harry. He was three years younger than James and four years older than Dick. He joined the Lancashire staff befor the war but made just a solitary appearance in 1914. Three more in 1921 and 1922 meant that his entire First Class career in England consisted of just four matches. Despite such a limited pedigree former Lancashire skipper Archie MacLaren, then 51 and never a man to shirk a punt, took Harry with him to Australia in 1922/23. It was a team compromising a number of amateurs and two professional bowlers, Harry and Kent's 'Tich' Freeman, not yet the prodigious wicket-taker he became but, unlike Harry already well-established. Like Freeman Harry was a leg spinner, but more of a roller akin to younger brother Dick than an attacking bowler like Freeman. Harry took 15 wickets on the tour, as against Freeman's 69, so he was not a MacLaren hunch that paid off. The tour marked the end of Harry's First Class career as well as MacLaren's and Harry went into the Leagues. Like all the Westhoughton Tyldesleys he did not live to see old age, departing this mortal coil in 1935 at 43. Dick enjoyed the longest innings, but even he did not survive beyond his 47th year.
In the following piece Martin Tebay, who knows as much about Lancashire cricket in the Tyldesley era as anyone, and who regularly produces short run booklets about men and matches from the period, tells us a story about the patriarch of the Westhoughton family, another JD this time known as Jim. The story involves a copy of Ranji's Jubilee Book of Cricket, published in 1897 to coincide with Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. The book is largely an instructional work, but also contains chapters by a variety of writers on Public Schools cricket, the Universities and the First Class counties. The book sold very well and ran to a number of editions and is the most commonly seen today of all 19th century cricket books. When originally published there was, in addition to the standard work, a sumptuous signed limited edition of 350 copies as well as what is referred to here, the Guinea edition, which was effectively an unnumbered and unsigned copy of the limited edition.
A Run That Was Worth a Guinea!
Whilst undertaking research for my limited edition booklet The Hunting County provide Lancashire with a rare sporting game. Leicestershire v Lancashire on 7, 8, 9 May, 1906.
published by Red Rose Books in 2011, I noticed a headline and subsequent comment concerning James Darbyshire Tyldesley, the former Westhoughton CC professional, and father of four future Lancashire CCC professionals, namely Billy, Jimmy, Harry, and Dick.
Throughout the 1906 cricket season "Olympian," (William H Fairhurst), the founder and editor of the Bolton journal The Cricket and Football Field
, offered as a weekly prize to amateur league cricketers within the county of Lancashire a guinea copy of Prince Ranjitsinhji?fs Jubilee Book of Cricket.
The prize for Saturday, 19 May, was to be awarded to the highest individual scorer in the first division of the Bolton and District Cricket League (B&DCL).
Alas, for the third Saturday since the start of the 1906 season, cricket in the B&DCL was "all but washed out"
, the matches between Bradshaw and Egerton, Eagley and Lostock, Farnworth Social Circle and Adlington, and Tonge and Farnworth, all being abandoned without a ball being bowled. The only place where a start was possible was at the Westhoughton CC ground where, the reigning B&DCL champions Halliwell Road Wesleyans CC were the visitors. And even there not much cricket was played as the home side lost a single wicket for a single run "before the downpour set in and the players trooped off the field to play no more"
. The solitary run was scored by the aforementioned Jim Tyldesley.
For the 1906 season Westhoughton had engaged the services of the 27-year-old Yorkshireman Edgar Ewart France as professional and the encounter with Halliwell afforded the home supporters their first opportunity of viewing their new "professor" in action on the ground. On having "first occupancy of the crease"
Tyldesley, who in 1905 had been re-instated as an amateur having previously been engaged as professional at the Westhoughton club, and the "clever wicket-keeper and punishing batsman"
Jack Hardman, opened the Westhoughton innings.
The first over of the match was bowled by the Halliwell professional and former Hampshire CCC left-arm bowler Mark Gravett, and the third delivery was played hard to cover-point by Tyldesley, where J Roscoe "exercised his smartness in returning the ball"
to the Halliwell wicket-keeper Exton Holt who swiftly removed the bails; the unfortunate Hardman was thus run out without facing a single ball! The Westhoughton vice-captain J Battersby joined Tyldesley and safely negotiated the remaining three deliveries of the opening over.
Opening the bowling alongside Gravett was J Davies, the former Halliwell professional who, like Tyldesley, had recently been re-instated as an amateur by the B&DCL. Unfortunately, at this juncture rain began to fall heavily, but not before Tyldesley had turned a delivery to leg for a single. The players were thus obliged to "retire to the tent,"
and the few spectators present were left to find "whatever shelter the Westhoughton ground afforded"
. The rain continued to fall and, with no hope of any further play, the stumps were pulled up shortly after four o?fclock and the match was abandoned.
Because of the inclement weather all round the county, the single scored by "JD" Tyldesley was the only run scored in the entire first division of the B&DCL. And moreover, it was a run that turned out to be worth a guinea because, in the absence of any other contenders, it entitled him to the prize copy of Ranjitsinhji's book offered by the offices of "Olympian"!
For a few days William Fairhurst "wondered whether the claim would be made"
but later in the week it duly arrived at his office, certified by Mr Jas Tonge, secretary of the Westhoughton club. Indeed, instead of making a single post-card suffice, the club "actually wasted a second card and a second stamp"
in their endeavour to claim the prize; "Olympian" wryly observing that they were "evidently determined to make the acquaintance of Prince Ranjitsinhji through his book".
The contrast between the performance of Tyldesley and the previous week's prize winner, the 32-year-old Burnley amateur batsman Harry Cudworth, could not have been greater. Cudworth had begun the 1906 season with scores of 135 against Rawtenstall and 44 against Ramsbottom, and his fine early season form continued when on Saturday, 12 May against Accrington, he scored an unbeaten 178, which at that time was the record individual score in the Lancashire League.
Cudworth was associated with the Burnley club from an early age and he played his entire league cricket career for the club, with the exception of the 1898 season, when he assisted Lowerhouse Cricket Club. He was not then 18 when he first appeared for Burnley in 1891 and by the 1895 season he was a regular member of the "premier team"
and he played a major role in helping Burnley win the Lancashire League championship in 1897, 1901, 1906, 1907, 1908 and 1913. Indeed, his outstanding form with the bat for both Burnley and Lancashire County second eleven during the early part of 1900 was rewarded with an appearance for Lancashire against the touring West Indians at Old Trafford. He performed most creditably, scoring a "faultless century"
on the opening day of a match that was not granted first-class status.
On receipt of his prize volume Cudworth wrote to "Olympian" on 5 June, from his home address in Lyndhurst Road, Burnley, Lancashire, to express his thanks. His letter read: "Gentlemen, I beg to acknowledgement the receipt of the "Jubilee Book of Cricket" so kindly forwarded by you to me through our secretary. I can assure you that I shall treasure the gift, if only to remind me of the performance, and I think every young cricketer ought to have one, if only to study the various hints and instructions to follow, which the author must have spent a great amount of time to study out. Thanking you, gentlemen, for the present of the book. I am, yours respectively, H. Cudworth"
Alas, no further correspondence was forthcoming to the offices of The Cricket and Football Field
by "JD" or the Westhoughton club but in an interview published on 22 July, 1916, by the Bolton Evening News
, as part of their Chats with Veteran Cricketers
series, Jim Tyldesley recalled the incident fondly, saying, with a smile, he had "put up a record that would require some beating"
. Further reminiscing, he said he had played 17 years with Westhoughton and only missed one match - a fine record - and had once, when he was over 50 years of age, made a half-century against a visiting Manchester eleven which had amongst it number the legendary SF Barnes.
"JD" recalled that over the course of his lengthy cricket career he had enjoyed many amusing experiences. He once saw an umpire give a man out for leg-before-wicket, and when the batsman said he played the ball the umpire replied, "Then if tha' played it, th'art not out."
He also gave an amusing instance of bowling a full toss on to a man's legs which were plumb in front of the wicket. He appealed for leg-before-wicket but the umpire gave the man not out, and in explanation said "Look how far it would have broken if it had hit the ground."
In addition he had seen the middle stump knocked back and the bails stick up, and had also seen a bail hit and spin up in the air about six inches and then drop back into its place.
The lengthy interview concluded with a quote from "JD" which is as relevant today as it was nigh on a hundred years ago - "Cricket is a game that keeps old men young and young men strong." Never a truer word was spoken.
K Martin Tebay
Red Rose Cricket Books