He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of Herefordshire cricketers and their antics. Flashback recalls a sports fanatic of long ago and his memories of players' tastebuds, a Boer War hero and a batsman who could forecast his own dismissals.

THEY were invariably the victims of a rout whenever they ventured to the 'big house', yet the young cricketers from a Herefordshire market town in the latter years of the 19th century could easily be coaxed back for yet another bashing.

Just what was it that persuaded the boys from Leominster Cricket Club to visit nearby Hampton Court time and again to suffer cricketing humiliation?

The answer could be found in the hosts' culinary generosity. While the men representing the mansion were merciless on the field of play, they always ensured that the vanquished returned to Leominster fully replete.


Recollections of the cricketing lambs going to the slaughter, lured by the prospect of the post-massacre meal, were made long ago by a sporting character named CJL Abbot.

Abbot was 'made' secretary of Leominster Cricket Club in Victorian times 'because no one else desired the onerous position', and half-a-century later would hold listeners spellbound with his tales about personalities of bygone times.

Abbot related the great interest in cricket taken by Herefordshire's leading families including the Earl of Chesterfield, JH Arkwright and Colonel Decie.

The boy JS Arkwright was particularly enthusiastic and Abbot related: "He induced me to bring teams from Leominster to try conclusions with elevens he gathered together.

"These were contests never to be forgotten.

"Despite the heroic efforts of Bob Barnett, now a clergyman in the North, the Leominster boys were generally whacked, yet they revelled in the drive to Hampton Court to say nothing of the bounteous teas always provided."

The names of prominent Herefordshire cricketers of those times tripped off his tongue, the Stanhopes, FL and CE Evelyn, WT Sale, of Leominster, 'best cover-point in the county', and W Masefield, of Ledbury.

There was Charlie Brown, later to head for South Africa, the Ware brothers, of Ullingswick, JHH Barratt, C Bogle Smith, A Hatton, S Herbert and W Jones.

From 1888 to the outbreak of the First World war there were outstanding sportsmen, including HCB Phillips who, declared Abbot, was an all-rounder of note whose capture during the Boer War saw him sensationally turn the tables on his captors. Can any Hereford Times reader tell us to what escapade Abbot was referring?

In the 1880s Hereford Cathedral School could turn out 'a hot team'.

"They played masters regularly and were fortunate in having four or five above the average including CA Evors, JH Daniel, FM Higgins and F Guest, and these, backed-up by pupils like Metcalfe, the Gurneys, the Brownes, Coventry, Armistead and others, constituted a side very difficult to beat."

Abbot told of a Cathedral School coach and umpire named Dick Shepherd who was mistakenly 'ordained' by a school maid.

She called him the Rev. Shepherd, presumably because of his ecclesiastical walk when attired in frock coat and top hat on Sundays, and because of his occasional visits to remote villages to 'hold forth' on religious matters!

In later years Herefordshire boasted many talents, including MC Parry, described by Abbot as the finest cricketer Lucton ever produced, Paul Foley, of Stoke Edith, HK Foster, 'Barmy' Gilbert and JF Maclean (destined to become Herefordshire's Lord Lieutenant in more modern times).

When asked whom he considered to be the best local bowler he encountered he plumped for Farley who played as professional at Hereford, Bromyard, Ledbury and Leominster.

He was temperamental, brilliant most of the time, but apt to become indifferent and expensive once a batsman had began 'carting' him.

Abbot told an amusing tale about the fabulous Farley.

Hereford were playing Bromyard and, as the team left the Green Dragon Hotel in a four-horse coach, AJ Thomas observed: "I know what is going to happen today. We shall win the toss, I shall be sent in first, Farley will open the bowling and with his first delivery bowl me."

Farley did.

Repeat feat

The following year, in the same fixture, the pessimistic batsman again correctly forecast the first ball flooring of his middle stump by Farley!

Abbot was unequivocal in his choice of best Herefordshire batsman, Jack Sharp, who played for England at cricket and football. "As man and boy," he recalled.