The Daffodil BloomsMartin Chandler |
Author: Hignell, Andrew and Halford, Brian
Rating: 3.5 stars
Everyone loves an underdog, but before the effect of the advent of special registrations for overseas players bedded in in the 1970s the County Championship was a much less egalitarian place than it was to become. In the years following the Championship being properly constituted in 1890 only Warwickshire, in 1911, and Derbyshire in 1936 had won the title from outside the ranks of the so-called ‘Big Six’; Yorkshire, Lancashire, Surrey, Middlesex, Nottinghamshire and Kent.
Back in 1948 there were seventeen First Class counties. The last to join had been Glamorgan in 1921, then as now the only Welsh county in the Championship and accordingly, in the eyes of many, therefore a national team. It had been a struggle though. In more than half their campaigns Glamorgan had finished in the bottom three of the Championship with just four top ten finishes, and a best of sixth in the first post war summer. They had finished ninth in 1947.
The Welshmen going on to win the title in 1948 must have been rather like Leicester City’s Premier League title in 2015/16, and that is what appealed to me as soon as I became aware that The Daffodil Blooms was being published. The one reservation I did have was that an account of that single season, seven decades ago now, might amount to little more than a tedious recounting of contemporary press reports.
At that point I should have read the sub-title, which would have told me what I now know, that being that the book looks at the early history of cricket in the county before, only in the last twenty pages or so, concerning itself with that unexpected triumph in 1948. Both authors are experienced writers, and in the case of Hignell, the club archivist. There cannot be much about the county’s cricket that these two do not know. A number of Hignell’s previous books have touched on the subjects he covers here.
Even inside the ‘Big Six’ the growth and development of the English county clubs was far from straightforward, and financial burdens were a problem for all. There is however no county with a history quite like that of Glamorgan. As noted Hignell has told the story before in varying degrees of detail and the collaboration with Halford, a Warwickshire man who has written at length about that county’s unexpected triumph in 1911, is a serendipitous one.
The starring roles in The Daffodil Blooms belong to Tom Whittington in the earliest days, followed by Maurice Turnbull and Johnny Clay. Turnbull lost his life to a sniper’s bullet in France a couple of months after the Normandy landings, but Clay was still playing after the War. At the age of 50 he appeared in half a dozen Championship fixtures in 1948 and, by heading the bowling averages with 27 wickets at 13.85, he made a very real on field contribution to a deserved success. Taking over from Clay as the county’s figurehead by this time was one of the game’s greatest characters, Wilf Wooller, who led the 1948 side.
There is one story concerning Wooller which, if it is referred to in Hignell’s biography of him, I had forgotten about, but which sums up the man and his motivations as well as any. In 1948 all sport, and cricket was no different, was getting plenty of people through the turnstiles and the county’s success meant that there were sell outs. This meant that the paying spectators had to be squeezed in and one way of doing that was to bring the boundaries in to allow the youngsters to sit behind the rope. Visiting captains were happy to agree, as was Wooller if Glamorgan were batting, but if the opposition were batting it was said his view was that the children should be back at school!
The story that The Daffodil Blooms tells is an excellent one, and it is all the better coming from a corner of the game’s history that is unlikely to be familiar to too many. It benefits greatly from the knowledge gained by its writers over the years and whilst the whole of that triumphant Glamorgan team have now departed this mortal coil the book loses nothing by virtue of that, Hignell having met and spoken to almost all of them over the many years he has been involved with the county.