Hirst & Rhodes
Author: A.A. Thomson
Publisher: The Epworth Press
Rating: 4 stars
By Stuart Wark
20 Apr 2009
Amongst the pantheon of cricket writers, a few names are immediately recognized. Authors such as Neville Cardus, John Arlott and CLR James jump straight to mind. Another writer richly deserving of his place in this company is Arthur Alexander (AA) Thomson. Thomson has an extensive library of works, with over 50 different publications covering such diverse topics as travel, poetry, drama as well as his great love, cricket. Whilst Cardus often wrote with a Lancashire bent, Thomson was a proud Yorkshireman through and through. And as such, it is appropriate for him to have written the seminal work on the White Rose's great all-rounders Hirst and Rhodes.
There is an old joke about who is the greatest all-rounder of all time. If you ask most people, they will usually reply with Gary Sobers. If you ask a Yorkshireman, they will reply with a less definitive answer of "I don't know, but he was born in Kirkheaton and batted right handed and bowled left handed". This is, of course, reference to the fact that both George Hirst and Wilfred Rhodes were born in the same town of Kirkheaton, a small village of less than 5,000 people just outside Huddersfield in West Yorkshire. The book by Thomson, simply called Hirst and Rhodes is a tribute to the performances of these two great allrounders.
Hirst and Rhodes was first published in 1959. Thomson's writing style is far less about statistics and fact, and more about character. Thomson's great strength was an ability to portray the personalities of his subjects, and he used a light touch of humour wonderfully well. His books are filled with anecdotes and stories that help the reader to gain an understanding of both Hirst and Rhodes. This book is very well written, and remains the first choice of any cricket lover interested in either player. However, I must be truthful and admit that this is not my favourite work by Thomson. This is largely a personal issue, but I preferred some of his other works such as Pavilioned in Splendour and Cricketers of My Times. Strangely, I felt that the subject matter of Hirst and Rhodes actually worked slightly against Thomson, as it limited his ability to diversify across the entirety of the game.
That slight criticism aside, this book is highly recommended reading. By rating other works of Thomson more highly is not to be at all dismissive of the quality of this book. It is like arguing that you prefer one artistic masterwork of Renoir more than another; both are still infinitely superior to crayon drawings by a five year old. Thomson's books are all first class pieces of writing, and should be part of every serious cricket lover's collection. Many of his other books are 4.5 stars, but this one just fell marginally short of that mark. Nonetheless, it is still a wonderful book and strongly commended.