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News > Memories > Memories of the Maes-y-Llan and more from an ex-Captain of cricket

Memories of the Maes-y-Llan and more from an ex-Captain of cricket

In 1957, to my surprise and delight, I was appointed Captain of the 1st XI by Headmaster R Williamson.
1 Jul 2024
Written by David Pickup
Memories

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1950's OOs

Headmaster Ralph Williamson had himself been an all round sportsman and keen cricketer when a Master at Hereford Cathedral School alongside DGW Felton who, having played minor counties cricket, became his second in command when they arrived together at Oswestry School in 1920.

Surprised, because I had not been forewarned by the 'Old Man' of my imminent promotion to Captain, I was informed by a junior member of School House who had seen Mr Williamson pin the notice of my appointment to the School noticeboard.

Delighted, because there was no better feeling than being asked to lead your teammates out onto the field of battle, particularly when that opposition was arch-enemy, Oswestry Boys' High School. It was never quite the deadly historic needle match which took place in the vicinity, circa year 641, between Kings Oswald and Penda which culminated in Oswald's defeat, death and dismemberment, but at times several of my very competitive team members came close to losing their heads in the heat of the moment and had to be restrained. I dare not mention football!

It was Victoria Evans who, when rummaging in the storage area under the gable end overlooking the playground, in what we always knew as the 'Dungeons', came across a section of an honours board as pictured in the lead photograph, and very thoughtfully sent me a photograph of it in the knowledge that it would be of interest to me.


Morning preparations for Speech Day circa 1958.

In the above photograph taken on the morning of Speech Day celebrations in the late 1950s the 'Dungeon' doors can be seen at playground level at the base of the gable end.

I have many recollections of the boys who featured in those 1st XI teams and the county-wide battles we fought together against other schools, and every time I come across an old woollen cricket sweater at home, dating back to my cricketing years, its smell triggers memories of the start of cricket season at Oswestry School. 


The cricket pavilion which housed the cradle.

Memories such as slip-catching practice on the cricket cradle in front of the pavilion, high ball catching on the boundaries of the square, throwing at the cricket stumps, and most of all the aching shoulder after twelve months absence from hurling a hard leather cricket ball at full speed down the length of the pitch at, hopefully, ill-prepared batsmen.

Quad cricket with a tennis ball, fun though it was, hardly prepared you for such a dangerous onslaught on the body. This was the Real McCoy!

In those days the only physical protection available to a batsman against bowling, and fast bowling in particular, were gloves, leg guards, and a box. Headguards and other body protection would come much later, and I remember poor John Woodburn, who was a member of my 1957/58 team, became the victim of a particularly nasty bouncer which caught him directly between the eyes. He was literally a sight for sore eyes, and for several weeks he was unable to see properly through two badly swollen eyes. This experience did not seem to phase John, and in no time at all he was back at the crease, ready for more action. A northerner, who lived not far from Bernard and myself in Lancashire, John was a tough cookie, and likeable to boot.


DGW Felton, second from left.

We did not have nets in which to practice, and Duncan 'Fattie' Felton did little in the way of coaching despite his obvious credentials. I do recall his dislike of the use of feet to field the cricket ball, and his main batting advice was "Do not go fishing at balls outside the off stump!". He could offer nothing to our bowlers as he was essentially a specialist batsman. A larger than life character, Duncan could be intimidating at times, but his bark was much worse than his bite and I liked him.

He was very supportive of me as Captain, particularly when I was going through a lean period with the bat, and his way of putting me at ease was to tease me mercilessly about collecting ducks, in front of my teammates on the coach to and from away matches. In private he would rib me about the motion sickness I experienced as the old charabancs we used on away matches whined and groaned their way up hill and down dale in the Shropshire countryside. None of my teammates was aware of this affliction as I wished to conceal this from them, and Duncan did not let me down by telling them. Fortunately, within a short time of disembarking I was as right as rain and it was business as usual for me.


Typical charabanc from the 1950s.

Strangely, DGW was rarely to be seen bat in hand, and Headmaster Williamson was conspicuous by his absence on the Maes-y-Llan to see how his cricketers were progressing. On the odd occasion he strayed onto the hallowed field of battle, the only weapon in his hand was a battered shooting stick of dubious vintage.


Headmaster R Williamson.

Money in general was in short supply during the 50s, and Mr Williamson was a man with deep pockets and short arms. Consequently we were invariably lacking decent kit, both in quantity and quality, so some of the keener boys bought their own gloves, bats, batting pads, and even boxes. 

This was particularly apparent in my first year as Captain and I recall that during inter-school matches, unless you were an opening batsman, you had to wait anxiously until the fall of a wicket if you were next man in before you could pad up and go into bat using the pads of the dismissed batsman as he came into the pavilion. 

As Captain it could be a little embarrassing on occasions when I came under a bit of good natured ribbing from my counterpart, but the upside when playing at home was the splendour of the afternoon teas provided by Mrs Williamson in the truly magnificent setting under the trees surrounding the Headmaster's front lawn.


Tea on the lawn between innings.

All visiting teams, without exception, were genuinely impressed by this incomparable hospitality, which was unique in my experience on the inter-schools' cricket circuit, and we were all very proud of the deserved reputation built up by Mrs Williamson and her team of helpers.

During most of the 1950s, I recall that the cricket square's boundaries were barbed wire fencing, and whilst I do not remember any consequential injuries, I was often quizzed about this unusual demarcation by visiting teams. The answer I always gave was that this deterred wandering cattle from registering disapproval of this invasion of their territory by distributing unwanted parcels of unpleasantness everywhere on the field of play.


David at the crease with cattle in the background (fence barely visible).

When, circa 1962 the new Headmaster, Dick Sale, introduced rugby to Oswestry School, I am told by Stuart Holt, an ex-Captain of rugby, that they always had to clear cattle from their cow-pat bespattered playing fields before the game could commence. But that story is for another day...


Headmaster R Sale.

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