Haygarth at HarrowMartin Chandler |
Author: Heavens, Roger
Publisher: Heavens, Roger
Rating: 3 stars
It was June of 2005, so thirteen years ago now. There were no videolink facilities back then, so I had to physically go and see my incarcerated client. A trip to the local remand prison was normally irritating enough, but that was full to overflowing then, so I had to go to HMP Woodhill, near Milton Keynes. It was a two hour drive on a good day, followed by the best part of an hour being searched and re-searched in order to get into a Category A prison. All that was for, given that chucking out time for legal visitors was four o’clock, a couple of hours with the client at best followed by, in the rush hour, probably three hours drive on the way back. On this occasion however I was not, for once, dreading five hours at the wheel in high summer, and was actually rather looking forward to the trip.
A month or two before the trip I had spent a pleasant week finally getting round to sorting out my cricket library, which had been in hibernation for the best part of fifteen years, secreted in my loft to hide it from the sticky fingers and damaging crayons of small children. I had bought the odd book over the intervening period, but not very many and had largely lost interest in the pursuit of cricket literature, and certainly anything of a rare and collectable nature.
In truth it only took about half a minute of unpacking and filling the brand new bookcases that had been purchased for the occasion for the desire to collect to be rekindled, and my mind soon turned to what I was going to buy next. Back when I started out I had always known that a set of fifteen volumes of Scores and Biographies (known simply as S&B to the cognoscenti) was one of the cornerstones of anything with pretensions to being a decent cricket library, but they were too rare and costly in those days for me to have serious ambitions to own copies.
Some things had not changed whilst I had been away. England not winning the Ashes was one constant, although that was to prove to be a habit that was broken a few weeks later. One thing that had happened however was that Roger Heavens had, whilst my children were growing up, started publishing facsimiles of S&B. Not only had he finished what he had begun, so all fifteen had been done, but he had also produced, using Haygarth’s research, a sixteenth volume as well*.
Thanks to the wonders of the internet I was able to make contact with Roger who, it turned out, lived close enough to Milton Keynes for me to kid myself that it was on the way home from Woodhill, so the deal was done. I would be buying all sixteen books at once, and that tedious journey suddenly became an adventure to look forward to.
That afternoon was the only time, to date, that I have actually met Roger. I remember that he had a very classy garden building that amounted to a library, and his enthusiasm for Haygarth was plain to see, despite having already devoted so many years of his life to studying the man and his legacy. It is a passion that shows no sign of falling off if Haygarth at Harrow is anything to go by, and it would seem therefore that AHS (Arthur Haygarth Syndrome) is incurable.
Haygarth was born in 1825 and lived to the age of 77. He devoted himself to chronicling the game and, unlike many who do so, he was also a good enough player to feature in well over one hundred matches now regarded as First Class. His performances were modest, but he was an ultra defensive batsman, and if statistics had been kept for the time he spent occupying the crease he would have been up there with the best of his era.
As the title suggests Haygarth at Harrow deals primarily with Haygarth’s time at the famous old school. He was there between 1839 and 1843 and, thanks to the school’s own archive as well as that of the man himself, Roger has been able to reconstruct the details of 73 matches that Haygarth was part of whilst at the school, for a variety of teams.
The format is, naturally, essentially that of S&B. A scorecard is presented followed by short biographies of the participants. The biographies must have been challenging, and some are inevitably fairly basic, but then none of the individuals concerned have any degree of enduring fame, and Roger has certainly done a lot more than just look around the basic genealogy websites that are, in the 21st century, such a boon to those researching the ancients.
The casual cricket book buyer is clearly unlikely to be much interested in Haygarth at Harrow, and indeed there will not be too many enthusiasts who are motivated to read the scorecards of those 73 matches. If they do they will be struck by scores which are very low, many two innings matches not producing a single three figure team total and on one notable occasion a side who were bowled out for just ten ultimately had enough runs in the bank to snatch victory. As always when considering matches that took place in this era the reader is left, above all else, with a slight frustration at not being able to actually see the pitches the games were played on.
At the end of the day however even if the matches themselves are not of any great significance the biographies of the participants are interesting, as are the parts of the book that look at what Harrow School was like in the 1840s and at Haygarth’s early life. There is also a perceptive and enjoyable foreword from David Frith and the whole package, produced in a good quality hardback edition of 100 numbered and signed copies, is a thoroughly worthwhile addition to any collection.
*The last to appear, in 2017, was Volume 21 and there is plenty more material for Roger to immerse himself in for many years to come.