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Yorkshire in Print

The current Yorkshire County Cricket Club was formed in 1863 and, as befits the most successful county in the history of the Championship, has had many more words written about it than any other. As far as the history of the club is concerned I will therefore only be mentioning a selection of the books available.

The club itself has produced three substantial volumes devoted to its and a predecessor club’s history. These cover the years 1833-1903, 1903-1923 and 1924-1949 and were written by Reverend RS Holmes, AW Pullin (‘Old Ebor’) and Jim Kilburn respectively. I know not why further volumes in the series were not issued, although no doubt the proliferation of other titles from a variety of publishers is a large part of the reason.

For those interested in the wider context of the cubs history there have been three recent books by Jeremy Lonsdale, A Game Taken Seriously, A Game Sustained and A Game Divided which add much more to those early books. On a purely cricketing theme there is EL Roberts celebration of the county’s then 22 Championships, published in 1947.

For more recent histories there were two published in 1989. One is the Yorkshire volume in the Helm series, written by Anthony Woodhouse, the competition described itself as The Official History of Yorkshire CCC, and was written by Derek Hodgson. That book was reprised in 2009, again written by Hodgson but this time sponsored by Carnegie. Three years later David Warner and David Hopps published The Sweetest Rose, a celebration of the club’s 150th anniversary.

A more targeted book of history is Stuart Rayner’s 2018 published The War of the White Roses, dealing with the club’s internal political upheavals between 1968 and 1986. On a more upbeat tone Andrew Collomosse’s 2010 published Magnificent Seven examines the county’s seven title wins in the 1960s. As I say there are others, but perhaps now is the time to move on to the players.

George Freeman first appeared for Yorkshire in 1865. A fine round arm fast bowler his brief First Class career was all but over by the time Test cricket began and that we know as much about him as we do is thanks largely to one of Irving Rosenwater’s meticulously researched monographs, George Freeman: Poetry in Motion, that was produced in 1995.

The career of Freeman’s contemporary Tom Emmett began a year later. Emmett, like Freeman was primarily a fast round arm bowler, in his case a left armer. Emmett’s career lasted long enough for him to play in seven Tests. His biography was a long time in coming, Jeremy Lonsdale’s Tom Emmett: The Spirit of Yorkshire Cricket appearing in the ACS Lives in Cricket series in 2018.

A decade after Emmett’s career began Edmund Carter made the first of his fourteen First Class appearances for Yorkshire. Later to be ordained Carter made his greater contribution as an administrator but it was still a slight surprise to see him become another of the ACS Lives in Cricket in 2018. Reverend ES Carter: A Yorkshire Cricketing Cleric was written by Anthony Bradbury.

The most significant contribution that Carter made to Yorkshire cricket was to introduce Lord Hawke to the county. Captain for more than a quarter of a century and thereafter a powerful figure in Yorkshire and England cricket for the rest of his days Hawke has, perhaps, not been subject to as much attention as he should have been from biographers. There is nonetheless one biography, Lord Hawke by James P Coldham that was published in 1990 to go with Hawke’s autobiography, Recollections and Reminiscences, that had been published in 1924.

George ‘Shoey’ Harrison was an opening bowler who played for Yorkshire between 1883 and 1892.Harrison has a good record, although he was never capped by England, but he is the subject of a privately published biography that was written by JW Northing, From Last to Lord’s, that appeared in 1935.

Slow left arm bowlers Bobby Peel and Ted Peate were contemporaries, and are two of the men featured in Alan Hill’s 1983 published A Chain of Spin Wizards, a book that also deals with their illustrious successors in the Yorkshire side. Peel is also the subject of a couple of other publications from Gerry Wolstenholme and Irving Rosenwater. Wolstenholme’s Mine Host at the Mitre concentrates the events of 1905 when Peel took a pub in Blackpool and spent the summer playing for the town’s club. Rosenwater’s An Unjust Slur on Bobby Peel discredits the, prior to that, oft quoted theory that Peel had been sacked by Yorkshire in 1897 for urinating on the field.

The Yorkshire wicketkeeper between 1888 and 1909 was David Hunter. In his retirement year a slim book, The Reminiscences of David Hunter was published, and the best part of a century later Red Rose Books republished the book with a new introduction by Gerry Wolstenholme.

Politics as well as cricket played a major part in the life of Sir Stanley Jackson, England’s Ashes winning captain of 1905 who topped both batting and bowling averages for the series. He was the subject of a biography by Percy Cross Standing as long ago as 1907. The Hon FS Jackson by its nature dealt primarily with his cricket. A later biography, FS Jackson, by James P Coldham from 1989 told his entire life story.

Two of the most famous of all Yorkshire cricketers are George Hirst and Wilfred Rhodes. Their names have always been linked and Hirst and Rhodes are the subject of a double biography by AA Thomson in 1959. A rather slimmer volume bearing the two names had appeared in 1937 from WH Humphrey. Individually Sidney Rogerson produced a biography of Rhodes in 1960 and a definitive biography from Patrick Ferriday Wilfred Rhodes: The Triumphal Arch was one of the highlights of 2021. As for Hirst he was the subject of a monograph from Patrick Neal in 2006, and the same year Hirst’s famous summer of the ‘double double’ was dealt with by Stephen Chalke in A Summer of Plenty.

There weren’t to many amateurs, captains apart, who were good enough to play for Yorkshire, but one who was all rounder Rockley Wilson, who toured Australia in 1920/21. A biography of Wilson by Martin Howe appeared in the ACS Lives in Cricket series. Rocky Wilson: Remarkable Cricketer, Singular Man was published in 2008. A brief collection of Wilson’s own writings, The Best of Rockley, was put together by Patrick MacLure in 1998.

Not content with two all-rounders of the quality of Hirst and Rhodes the Yorkshire side in the years before the Great War had three more, Major Booth, Alonzo Drake and Roy Kilner. The first pair were fine players and Booth was capped by England but, sadly, the Great War brought down the curtain on the careers of both. Booth lost his life on the Western Front in 1916, and ill health claimed Drake in 1919. Their lives were chronicled by Mick Pope in 1995 in Tragic White Roses.

Pope also, in 1980, wrote a biography of Kilner, The Laughing Cricketer of Wombwell. Kilner lived rather longer than Booth and Drake, resumed his career after the war and became an England player but, in the winter of 1927/28, whilst in India coaching, he contracted enteric fever and died in April 1928, 100,000 people attending his funeral procession being testament to his immense popularity. Kilner, with brother Norman and uncle Irving Washington also features in Cricketers of Wombwell, a small book published in 1965 by the town’s cricket society.

Another Yorkshire cricketing couplet is Holmes and Sutcliffe, the famous opening partnership of the inter war years. Percy Holmes made his bow in 1913, and Herbert Sutcliffe in 1919. As with Hirst and Rhodes AA Thomson produced a double biography, Holmes and Sutcliffe: The Run Stealers, in 1970 and, in 2007, Stephen Chalke wrote a small book dealing with the pairs record opening partnership, Five Five Five. That is it as far as Holmes is concerned but Sutcliffe produced an autobiography, For England and Yorkshire, in 1935. Later, in 1991, Alan Hill wrote Herbert Sutcliffe: Cricket Maestro and in 2003 a Rosenwater monograph examined in detail the possibility in the late 1920s, never realised, of Sutcliffe becoming Yorkshire captain.

Maurice Leyland took his place in the Yorkshire side in 1920 and was a mainstay of the county and England batting for many years. A biography from Mike Popplewell appeared in the ACS Lives in Cricket series in 2017, for once the title simply being its subject’s name. A contemporary of Leyland was opening bowler and useful lower order batsman George Macaulay and in 2021 the Lives in Cricket gave us an excellent biography George Macaulay: The Road to Sullom Voe.

Of the many Yorkshire cricketers who have led England the least known is undoubtedly wicketkeeper Rony Stanyforth. A career soldier who eventually rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel Stanyforth led England in four Tests in South Africa in 1927/28 and his only three games for Yorkshire came the following summer. In 2012 Martin Howe privately published an interesting monograph, Ronald Thomas Stanyforth.

Fast bowler Bill Bowes was a fine cricketer and an intelligent man who, after retiring from the game, became an accomplished journalist/writer. Bowes wrote an excellent autobiography, Express Deliveries in 1949. Yorkshire’s other leading bowler of the 1930s was the remarkable Hedley Verity, the highest profile cricketing casualty of World War Two. Verity is the subject of perhaps the best of Alan Hill’s cricketing biographies, Hedley Verity: A Portrait of a Cricketer, a book which originally appeared in 1986, with a new edition in 2000. A more modest biography by Sam Davis, Hedley Verity: Prince with a Piece of Leather, had been published in 1952. More recently 10 for 10 by Chris Waters, whilst not being quite an autobiography, contains much background material as well as an account of Verity’s most remarkable analysis

The man who led Yorkshire between 1933 and 1947, and who was heavily involved in the running of the club after that, was Brian Sellers. His biography was another in the ACS Lives in Cricket series, Mark Rowe’s Brian Sellers: Yorkshire Tyrant, published in 2017.

Next up is the man who almost merits a bibliography on his own, Sir Leonard Hutton, who made his Yorkshire debut in 1934. Over the years Hutton was to produce three autobiographies. The first was Cricket is my Life in 1949 and that was followed by Just my Story, published in 1956, the year after he retired from the game. A much better read is his collaboration with Alex Bannister, Fifty Years in Cricket, that appeared in 1984.

There have also been a number of biographies of Hutton. For the first he featured in another of AA Thomson’s double biographies, the 1963 published Hutton and Washbrook. Next, in 1980, was David Lemmon’s Len Hutton: A Pictorial Biography, which was followed in 1988 by Gerald Howat’s Len Hutton: The Biography. In 1992, following Hutton’s passing two years previously, Donald Trelford’s Len Hutton Remembered completes the set.

Hutton was, of course, England’s first professional captain. One of his predecessors in that role was Norman Yardley, who was also Hutton’s skipper at Yorkshire after Sellers until he, like Hutton, retired at the end of the 1955 summer. Yardley published an autobiography in 1950, Cricket Campaigns. He has also been the subject of a 2015 biography in the ACS Lives in Cricket series by Martin Howe, Norman Yardley: Yorkshire’s Gentleman Cricketer.

At the end of the 1939 season a 19 year old batsman, Willie Watson, made an undistinguished start to his cricket career. After the war Watson represented England at both cricket and soccer and in 1956 his autobiography, Double International, was published. He later moved to Leicestershire and in time emigrated to South Africa. A biography by Frank Garrick, Willie Watson, was published in 2013, nine years after Watson’s passing.

In 1945 Alec Coxon, a right arm medium fast bowler and useful lower order batsman, first played for Yorkshire. He remained with the county for five summers, and in that time was selected once for England, against Don Bradman’s 1948 Australians. In 2012 Robert Owen’s Two Huddersfield Cricketers featured an account of Coxon’s life.

The following year one of the great characters of Yorkshire cricket began his career, Johnny Wardle. His autobiography Happy Go Johnny, written by AA Thomson, appeared in 1957, the year before he was sacked by the county for criticising his captain, Ronnie Burnett. A biography by Alan Hill, Johnny Wardle: Cricket Conjuror, was published in 1998.

Geoffrey Keighley led a fascinating life, and deserves to be remembered for more than just being a useful amateur batsman who played for Yorkshire despite having been born in France. There is an excellent if little known biography of Keighley, A Remarkable Life, privately published in Australia, where he had settled many years before, by author John Carter in 2005.

The season of 1949 saw two teenagers make their Yorkshire debuts, Brian Close and Fred Trueman, and indeed Close won an England cap and remains the youngest of all England cricketers. From Close there were to be two autobiographies, Close to Cricket in 1968 and I Don’t Bruise Easily in 1978. In time there was a biography from Alan Hill, Brian Close: Cricket’s Lionheart in 2002 and as recently as 2020 a cache of Close’s correspondence was used to construct a fascinating new book, David Warner’s Just A Few Lines …

As for Trueman he gave his name to as many as four autobiographies. the first two appeared during his career, Fast Fury in 1961 and The Freddie Trueman Story in 1965. Ball Of Fire followed in 1976 and his final attempt at the genre, and certainly the best, As It Was, appeared in 2004. As for biographies Fred: Portrait of a Fast Bowler appeared from the pen of John Arlott in 1973, Fred Then And Now in 1991 from Don Mosey and, lastly, Chris Waters’ Fred Trueman: The Authorised Biography in 2011.

The cricket career of medium paced off spinner Bob Appleyard was a short one, just eight years from start to finish, but over that time he rook more than 700 wickets at around 15 runs apiece, figures which demonstrated he was a very special bowler indeed. He was also a special man, and his biography No Coward Soul, written by Stephen Chalke and Derek Hodgson and published in 2003 with a second edition in 2008, is one the very best cricketing biographies.

Another off spinner who began his Yorkshire career in the early 1950s was Ray Illingworth, a man who went on to lead Leicestershire and England with distinction before, at the age of 50, finally taking the reins at Yorkshire for two summers. Illingworth’s first autobiography was Spinner’s Wicket in 1969. That was followed by Yorkshire and Back in 1980, The Tempestuous Years 1979-1983 in 1986 and, finally, One Man Committee in 1996. Only one man has so far attempted a biography, Mike Stevenson, whose Illy appeared in 1978.

Ken Taylor played for Yorkshire for 16 summers, the first being 1953. He was a good enough batsman to be capped three times by England, and in the winter months he enjoyed an equally long career in professional soccer. In later life Taylor coached and used his artistic skills to earn a living and he was the subject of a book by Stephen Chalke, Drawn to Sport, published in 2006.

In 1957 Don Wilson was earmarked for the role of the next great Yorkshire left arm spinner. He never quite managed that, but over the best part of twenty years was an important member of the usually successful Yorkshire side and whilst he never threatened to take Derek Underwood’s place in the England side he did win six caps. Later a respected coach Wilson’s autobiography, Mad Jack, was published in 1992.

In 1961 the Yorkshire career of John Hampshire began, and a year later that of Sir Geoffrey Boycott. Long time teammates the pair eventually fell out and Hampshire left the county in acrimonious circumstances in 1981. His autobiography, appropriately titled Family Argument, appeared two years later.

Whilst Hampshire won just half a dozen England caps Boycott set many records over his career, and he has been the subject of many books. Two autobiographies are The Autobiography, published in 1987, and The Corridor of Certainty which followed in 2014. A number of other books bear Boycott’s name including a couple of tour accounts and all have autobiographical elements.

There are a number of books about Boycott by others, but I will mention just two, neither of which were to prove popular with the man himself. Those are Don Mosey’s 1985 Boycott, and a later book from Leo McKinstrey, Boycs, published in 2000.

A teammate of Hampshire and Boycott, and also briefly an England player was off spinner Geoff Cope. His was not an easy life, either within cricket or outside the game, and a typically excellent biography from Stephen Chalke appeared in 2017, In Sun and in Shadow.

One of the sadder stories of Yorkshire cricketers is that of David Bairstow, who tragically took his own life in 1998. There is no autobiography as such, although in the nature of such books Barstow’s A Yorkshire Diary for 1984 contains autobiographical elements. Taking things out of order however there is, unsurprisingly, much about Bairstow in the autobiography of son Jonny, A Clear Blue Sky, published in 2017.

Another case of a tragic Yorkshire cricketer is that of Neil Lloyd. Lloyd never played a first team game but played an under 19 Test and for the second eleven and was widely tipped for high achievemnt at the time of his death in 1982, when he has only 17. Tony Woodhouse produced an appreciation of Lloyd that appeared the following year.

Since 1980 the only Yorkshire players who have been the subject of biographical books are, Jonny Bairstow apart, Richard Blakey, Darren Gough, Matthew Hoggard and Michael Vaughan. Joe Root has given his name to an account of the 2015 Ashes series, but not yet an autobiography. Blakey’s book bears the slightly uncomfortable title of Taking It From Behind, and appeared in 1999. Gough’s Dazzler: The Autobiography was published in 2001, Vaughan’s Time To Declare in 2009 (there are a couple of diaries as well) and Hoggard’s Hoggy: Welcome To My World in 2010.

In addition to the books listed in the preceding paragraph there are many collections of biographical essays about Yorkshire cricketers, including one that dates back to 1898, Old Ebor’s Talks With Old Yorkshire Cricketers. More recently John Callaghan’s Yorkshire Cricket Greats was published in 1990. Another such title is Fire and Ashes, Duncan Hamilton’s 2009 book that looked at the 18 Yorkshireman then living who had played for England. Another themed selection is Mick Pope’s Headingley Ghosts, a 2013 published collection of those Yorkshire players whose lives were touched by tragedy.

There is, naturally, a Who’s Who of Yorkshire Cricket, written by Paul Dyson in 2018. I have not seen that one but do have a copy Yorkshire Cricketers 1839-1939, written by Peter Thomas and published in 1973, which is certainly an excellent book of its type. There is in addition the obligatory Tempus 100 Greats book, published in 2001 and for which we again have Mick Pope to thank.

On Championship summers there have been a couple of recent books. David Bond’s 2002 published Just Champion! celebrated the White Rose’s first title for 33 years, and just over a decade later Joe Sayers’ Rose Tinted Summer did the same for the 150th summer in 2012, albeit another title eluded Yorkshire that year. Lastly on that sort of theme is a book that is otherwise difficult to categorise. Part history, part biography and part season’s diary is Thomas Blow’s 2020 Honorary Tyke, a look at the year when a young Sachin Tendulkar added to his CV the fact that he had been Yorkshire’s first overseas player.

Amidst all that can I identify two books on Yorkshire cricket that I would like to see written? In actual fact this is one of the easier tasks I have set myself. The two are an autobiography from Richard Hutton, and the story of the all-rounder who Neville Cardus invented, Emmott Robinson.

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