book_reviews_banner_image-81x81 A BIBLIOPHILE'S BLOG

Glamorgan in Print

Following Glamorgan’s admission to the County Championship in 1921 the first history of the club to appear was a largely statistical one, published by the Cricket Book Club in 1947 and written by Roy Webber and Kevin Arnott. Since then the current club Archivist has been responsible for a number of books on the history of the club, starting with the Glamorgan volume in the Christopher Helm series, a book that appeared in 1988.

In addition to that general history in 2018, with Brian Radford, Hignell wrote The Daffodil Blooms, a book that went into much more detail on the subject of the club’s early years up to and including their first County Championship in 1948. Another historical book by Hignell is the 2009 published Australians in Wales, highlighting the tourists matches in Wales, including two famous defeat sustained by the Australians in the 1960s.

Although Glamorgan did not compete at First Class level before 1921 the debut of the earliest of their cricketers  to have had his biography written dates back a full thirty years from them. Hugh Ingledew was a solicitor who is the subject of a short biography from David Battersby, The Sporting Solicitor.

At the time of writing I have not yet seen the book*, but will mention Fly at a Higher Game, a book about to be published by the ACS and authored by Andrew Hignell which is at least in part a biography of another Welsh solicitor, Tom Whittington, who played a significant role in the county being awarded its First Class status and also, into his forties, captained the side in 1922 and 1923.

Although Glamorgan did not have a great deal of success before World War Two brought down the curtain on county cricket in 1939 as many as five of their players who began their careers before then have been the subject of biographies, albeit two of them made their reputations once peace resumed.

The Glamorgan career of pace bowler Jack Mercer lasted from 1922 until 1939 and his biography, again from the pen of Hignell, appeared in the ACS Lives in Cricket series in 2015 its full title, Jack Mercer: A Bowler of Magical Spells, being a nod to the fast bowler’s considerable ability as a magician.

Dai Davies is, as names go, about as Welsh as you can get and Davies plied his trade as an all-rounder from his debut in 1923 until the end of that last pre war season. His appetite for the game still not sated Davies then embarked on a second career as a First Class umpire between 1946 and 1961 during which time he stood in 22 Test matches. Dai Davies: 78 Not Out by Alan Edwards was published in 1974.

Maurice Turnbull, who lost his life in France in 1944 was, with JC Clay, one of the two driving forces behind Glamorgan staying in business in the 1930s. Capped nine time by England Hignell is another for whom Hignell is his biographer. Turnbull: A Welsh Sporting Hero appeared in 2001.

If Turnbull and Clay kept Glamorgan going in the 1930s that job was taken up with a passion by the famously irascible Wilf Wooller after the war, although he debuted as long ago as 1938. An all-rounder in every sense of the word (bustling fast bowler, useful batsman and fine close catcher) Wooller also showed his versatility by representing Wales at Rugby Union and Cardiff City at soccer. His biography appeared in 1995, Hignell again being the author of The Skipper.

Another all-rounder and fifteen times an England player was Allan Watkins who made his debut in 1939 and after the war played on until 1961. Allan Watkins: A True All-Rounder was written by Douglas Miller and appeared in the ACS Lives in Cricket series in 2007.

Between 1947 and 1956 Jim Pleass played for Glamorgan. It is a little surprising to report that a special batsman with a career average of less than twenty is the subject of a biography but Hignell’s Lucky Jim Pleass is an excellent book, and certainly one of those that demonstrates that a cricketer does not have to have had a brilliant career in order to have a life worth reading about.

Off spinner Don Shepherd debuted for Glamorgan in 1950 and, over the next 22 years, earned the in some ways undesirable reputation as being the best bowler never to be capped by England. Born to Bowl was published in 2004 and two elements prepare the reader for a fine read, the first being that it was written by Miller, and the second that it was published by Fairfield Books.

Also setting off on his Glamorgan career in 1950 was Bernard Hedges who, seventeen years later retired with the best part of 18,000 runs under his belt. His biography, Bernard Hedges; The Player From Ponty, appeared in 2019 and, unusually, was written by his son, Stephen. It is an excellent book.

Tony Lewis was an old fashioned amateur, a Cambridge Blue and a stylish batsman. He was a good enough player to be selected for England nine times including as captain in India in 1972/73. Later he was a broadcaster, write and noted raconteur. There were two autobiographies from Lewis, Playing Days in 1985 and Taking Fresh Guard in 2003.

A year after Lewis started he was joined in the Glamorgan side by another man who would, in the future, be a BBC cricket anchor, Peter Walker. Born in Bristol but spending his formative years in South Africa Walker was a prehensile close fielder who was also a good enough batsman and bowler to earn three Test caps. He was also a decent writer and his 2006 autobiography It’s Just Not Cricket bears the Fairfield Books quality mark.

Over a period of a quarter of a century from 1957 Alan Jones scored more than 36,000 runs, all but a couple of thousand of them for Glamorgan. He famously won an England cap against the Rest of the World in 1970, had it taken away again when the match was downgraded before, eventually, being properly recognised again. A model of consistency his autobiography, Hooked on Opening, was published in 1984.

In 1966 Malcolm Nash first appeared for Glamorgan and, over the next fifteen years or so was a model of consistency with the ball and, on a famous occasion at Swansea in 1968, the bowler on the wrong end of Garry Sobers assault that brought him six sixes in a Nash over. It wasn’t until 2018 that Nash’s autobiography appeared, Not Only, But Also: My Life in Cricket – it was worth waiting for.

Alan Wilkins was a right arm seamer who played for Glamorgan between 1976 and 1983 with, during that time, a couple of seasons the other side of the Avon with Gloucestershire. After cricket Wilkins has been hugely successful as a broadcaster, particularly on the sub continent, and Easier Said Than Done: A Life in Sport, published in 2018, is a fine read.

The next four Glamorgan players to be the subject of books all began their careers in the 1980s. Hugh Morris’s book, To Lord’s With A Title, published in 1998 isn’t really an autobiography but I include it here as like all ‘diary’ type books there are autobiographical elements. The main business of the book however is an account of Glamorgan’s 1997 season when they lifted the Championship title for the third and, so far, last time.

Morris formed a reliable opening partnership with Steve James, and both had a chance, that neither took, at the top of the England order. After cricket James became a respected writer and an  acclaimed autobiography, Third Man to Fatty’s Leg, appeared in 2004.

Another Glamorgan batsman of the era who had a chance with England that he failed to grasp was Matthew Maynard. An autobiography from Maynard, On The Attack: A Batsman’s Story, was published in 2001. The remaining member of the 80s four did not play for England. Tony Cottey’s autobiography, There’s Only 2 Toney Cottey’s appeared in 2008. Cottey was a rarity for the modern era in that in addition to his skills with the bat he was also a professional footballer and often confused with the West Ham and England striker whose name differed from his by just a single letter.

The last, to date, Glamorgan player to write a book began his tortuous cricketing journey in 1998. Simon Jones’ career hit the heights of a starring role in the historic 2005 Ashes triumph, but injury problems were never far away and although he kept on trying for another seven years but was never fully fit. His 2015 autobiography The Test: My Life, and the Inside Story of the Greatest Ashes Series is amongst the very best of the genre.

I can now mention five books of collected pen portraits of Glamorgan cricketers. One is by Dean Hayes, Famous Cricketers of Glamorgan, published in 1996. After that it is back to Hignell again for the volume in the Tempus 100 Greats series, published four years later. Hignell has now embarked on a much more ambitious project, to produce a pen portrait of all who have represented Glamorgan. So far the first two volumes have appeared covering 1889-1920, and 1921-1948. Finally, in the manner he did with Derbyshire, Idris Barrett privately published a booklet on Glamorgan’s England players in 1975.

There are also other books that Hignell has put together for Tempus. In 1997 and 1999 he edited two selections of photographs, and a collection of reports on the county’s fifty greatest matches in 2001, followed by a book about the grounds on which the county have played in 2002. If you go to our book review section and search for Battersby you will find a number of monographs, in addition to The Sporting Solicitor, that touch and concern aspects of Glamorgan cricket.

And my two selections? The industry and diligence of Andrew Hignell make this a tricky one but, in the final analysis, for me there are two Glamorgan cricketers who are in desperate need of a biography. The first is the already mentioned JC Clay, and the second Jeff Jones, Simon’s father and another pace bowler (this time a left armer) whose highly promising career, like Simon’s, was ruined by injury. 

*I have now, I wrote this in December

Leave a comment

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

More articles by Martin Chandler