Monkey’s Country House Cricket GroundMartin Chandler |
Author: Tebay, Martin
Publisher: Red Rose Books
Rating: 3 stars
Albert ‘Monkey’ Hornby captained Lancashire for two decades in Victorian times. He was an attacking batsman whose style contrasted markedly with that of his long time opening partner, Dick Barlow, with whose name he will always be linked by virtue of Francis Thompson’s famous poem, At Lord’s.
Hornby was an amateur with plenty of money behind him, but still a good enough batsman to earn three England caps, although his tally of just 21 runs in six innings strongly suggests that in truth he was just short of the requisite standard. Nonetheless there can’t have been much in it as once, in 1881, Hornby was top of the national averages. He was perhaps a better Rugby Union player, a sport at which he won nine caps, rather surprisingly to modern readers given his lack of height, as a full back.
Four years ago Hornby’s biography appeared in the ACS Lives in Cricket series, and another book about him, this time concerned mainly with his life outside cricket, is expected in the not too distant future, so information about him is much easier to come by than for many of his more illustrious peers.
Martin Tebay’s modest booklet has two distinct sections. The first is a pen portrait of Hornby, and the main event is an account of a match that was played back in 1882. Hornby had just bought a new house near Nantwich in Cheshire. Set in around 20 acres the property came complete with its own cricket ground and, for the grand opening, Hornby pitted his own side against a team of 14 locals from Church Minshull Cricket Club, a side with whom he had a long association.
Monkey’s men were not all First Class cricketers, but a number were and by club standards it was a strong side and one which easily overcame the locals. The longer part of the booklet, eight pages as opposed to the four taken up by the biographical essay, is a reconstruction of the match and the day something which, as surely as night follows today, could never be repeated in the twenty first century. It is an interesting vignette and a worthwhile addition to its author’s oeuvre. As with all Red Rose Books this is a limited edition. There are 25 copies and the cost, including postage, is £9.95