A Night at Jack’s Place

Published: 2022
Pages: 20
Author: Manning, Greg
Publisher: Cricketers In Print
Rating: 5 stars

I have to confess to having a few grumbles about this one, which is unusual for something that gets five stars, but being (or so I like to think) a fair man I will tell you about the reason for the five stars first.

The subject of the booklet is an Australian all-rounder, Jack Walsh. I dare say there will be many reading this review to whom that name is unfamiliar, something that is understandable given that Walsh’s career was contained within the seasons either side of World War Two, and he never wore the Baggy Green.

But don’t let the lack of Test caps create a misleading impression. Walsh, a decent lower order batsman as well, was a top class left arm wrist spinner who, had he not chosen to ply his trade before the war with Sir Julien Cahn and afterwards with Leicestershire, would surely have played for Australia.

His playing career over Walsh moved into coaching at the University of Newcastle, whilst living in Wallsend – slightly confusingly there is a similarly named establishment in the North East of England, and both Newcastles have a suburb named Wallsend, but I am confident this was the one in New South Wales.

And it is whilst a student at the University that Greg Manning, later a lecturer in Townsville, met Jack Walsh and got to know him well. From there, in 1977, Manning decided to write Walsh’s life story and spent an evening watching the Ashes on television with him while recording the evening’s conversation.

Which is where my first two complaints originate. The first is that Manning, as he freely admits, had too much going on in his life at the time to finish the job, and three years later Walsh had departed this mortal coil, so he never did get a second bite at that particular cherry.

To be fair to Manning he did however have the foresight to transcribe the one interview he had before the cassette on which it was recorded disappeared, however it is disappointing that being in possession of such a wonderful document we then had to wait more than forty years for it to see the light of day. But then better late than never I suppose.

Such was the success that Walsh enjoyed any half decent writer could have written a readable monograph on him. What no one else could have done however is write it largely in Walsh’s own words. The content of the transcript is fascinating, dealing as it does with Walsh’s pre war career. Anyone with an interest in Cahn, and the old amateur/professional divide (Walsh played as an amateur whilst in Cahn’s employ and after the war as a professional during his county tenure) will find the anecdotes revealing albeit their quality is such that there they will harbour a tinge of regret that all the tales of Walsh’s post war career are lost.

But what we do have is excellent, and certainly vies with Bill Francis’ effort on Dick Motz as the best of what has so far proved to have been a most impressive series of monographs a comment which, neatly, brings me on to my other grumble albeit one with which, this time, I take aim at the publisher.

I feel sure that when I was first told about the Cricketers in Print series, I was assured that the intention was the monographs would appear monthly, on which basis we should have had a dozen by now. In fact there are just six, to which the response might well be that as with every publication that appears from his imprints Ronald Cardwell esteems quality over quantity. Such a riposte would be a perfectly reasonable one, although he did share with me a while ago a list of the impressive cohort of writers he has lined up for future monographs, so I hope that maybe the problems have been technical, and will eagerly await the series’ next appearance.

As with all of the monographs in the series there are only fifty of these for sale so, all the previous issues having sold out, early ordering from Roger Page is strongly advised.

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