The Best of Rockley

Published: 1979
Pages: 24
Author: Maclure, Patrick
Publisher: Private
Rating: 2.5 stars


When this booklet first appeared Rockley Wilson was a forgotten figure. A fine young amateur cricketer he might have become a top all-rounder, but as a Yorkshireman he struggled to win a place in an immensely powerful county eleven in the early years of the 20th century, and he concentrated on his teaching career. Wilson went over a decade without playing a First Class match in England, before returning on the eve of the Great War.

When peace returned Wilson was available again, and despite being 42 he was invited to tour Australia and, for the final Test first ever 5-0 Ashes reverse, became the oldest man to make an England debut since the very first Test match of them all. It is a record he still holds, and almost certainly always will.

Wilson only ever played that one Test, but 3-36 and 5 and 5 with the bat were no disgrace and his overall First Class statistics are very good. He averages less than 18 with ball and a creditable 22 with the bat. The reason Maclure penned this booklet was not however to dwell at great length on Wilson’s cricketing deeds. Instead he concentrates on bringing together a series of quotes and stories to illustrate Wilson’s hugely entertaining eccentricities.

Times change though and Wilson is no longer such an anonymous figure. Anyone, and there are many of us, who started to take an interest in the ‘Bodyline’ series after its 50th anniversary spawned a new wave of books and interviews, heard of Wilson then. He taught at Winchester, Douglas Jardine’s alma mater, and made an oft-quoted and prescient comment when hearing his former pupil had been appointed MCC captain; I think we will win the Ashes, but we may lose a Dominion.

And then in 2008 Martin Howe’s volume on Wilson in the ACS Lives in Cricket series appeared, so there is now a biography available telling the whole story of this interesting man. So the The Best of Rockley is probably not as desirable as it once was. But that is probably just as well as the booklet is rarely seen, but when it does the cost is not prohibitive, so if you see a copy, and enjoy the prospect of acquiring a flavour of the personality of a man from a bygone age, it would be a worthwhile purchase.


Leave a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they have been approved

More articles by Martin Chandler