By A.J.R. Harris
There are two kinds for our
purposes; the interlude between innings when tea is taken and
the intervals between matches (and particularly just after
one!), when stronger beverages are consumed. The talk, however,
cricket-wise, is much the same whether in pavilion or local pub,
save that in the latter it can be more relaxed and less
There are three
pubs at Hethersett, one of which the Queen’s Head was so
closely adjacent to the old cricket ground that as was said
“next to being right beside the pavilion, it couldn’t have
been nearer.” It was there, according to a report (for the
item is now missing) that the first photograph ever taken of
Hethersett cricketers, some time in the 1890s, used to hang.
club’s taste for its locals has always been catholic. The
King’s Head also got its full share of patronage, its old
walls absorbing echoes of cricket-chat, whilst the Greyhound ..
whose rear windows had witnessed that rain-drenched “battle”
with Wymondham long ago … was still a place to resort to for a
It is in the
shelter and atmosphere of such a place that the folklore of
village cricket everywhere is sustained and added to. It was
there that older men would (and as some still do) comb their
memories for stories to prove “well we were not so bad in
those days either!” There are stories too, which amusingly
serve to show that village cricket has always been attended by
its own share of characters… as please heaven it always will!
But time speeds on to take the “oldies” with it, one by one,
leaving only echoes to linger a while before they, likewise
finally fade away.
A few such
echoes have helped enliven the text of this history so far. Here
are one or two more which, though not sensational, reflect
something of the character of men who once played for
echoing into the early years of this century, concerned one of
the Bloomfields. There are two of them A and H, both good bats,
playing for Hethersett in the 1860s. In some match or other
(thought to have been played at Easton) one of the Bloomfields
was so much on his mettle and in such command of his bowling
that, at whichever end he was batting, he perched a half
sovereign (a lot of beer money in those days) between the bails
promising that the bowler who dislodged it could have it. Story
does not relate who pocketed the coin, though presumably
Bloomfield did. But that didn’t matter. What lodged in the
memory was the confident gesture!
Time was not so
long since, when every Norfolk man, no matter who he was, had a
nickname, a tradition harking back, so it is said, to Viking
As on opening
bat a certain young man who had no small reputation for getting
runs in a hurry. When Hethersett went into the field, Pa Read
asked to be held in reserve as a bowler. Meanwhile in the field,
he studied the young man who, true to his reputation, began to
hook and cut the ball to the tune of some runs. Finally, Pa Read
asked to be put on to bowl. The story goes: “Pa put one ball
down on the leg and the feller got two off it. But the next ball
had him. Pa just went down the pitch after the ball and caught
it just two or three yards off the bat. Just like that.” And
this is what Pa dryly offered as explanation of the matter.
“Well I watched him, then I reckoned that his eyes were too
wide apart. He could see very well what was coming on two sides,
but I reckoned he’d have to go cross eyed to see what was
coming slow-like down the middle. So he prodded out his bat and
the spin on the ball did the rest.” Simple if you know how!
season in the first decade of this century, a “special” had
been arranged with a scratch eleven calling itself Forehoe and
Henstead. The venue of the match was at Wicklewood, a parish
which, though not far from Wymondham, Hethersett players had
never hitherto visited to play cricket. It was either Herbert
Moore or Herbert Childs who drove there in a trap accompanied by
Fred Dodman. Uncertain of where precisely the match was to be
played, upon seeing a local man, Herbert pulled up to enquire:
“Where do they play cricket here?”
cricket” snorted the man, glaring up in the hot sunshine.
“Blast that ain’t play, chasing after a ball on a day like
this! No, bor, they don’t play cricket, they work at it, damn
me if they don’t!”
then” said Herbert good-humouredly. “Where is it they work
at cricket then?”
“Why at the
bluddy workhouse of course,” came the reply.
And that was
so. The match was played on a meadow close to the Workhouse of
Forehoe and Henstead Union situated at Wicklewood.
In a similar
vein, was the story of the afternoon when the Hethersett team
arrived on the outskirts of Attleborough in a brake, were
accosted by a native who asked a curious question.
“Are you the
Hethersett lot come here to play cricket against Attleborough?”
the man asked.
man nodded, apparently surveying the brake load of cricketers
with sympathetic scorn.
have you got out of sick bed to come and play here?”
“None of us,
“Then do you
make the best of it. Cause that’s where you’ll wanta be by
the time we’ve finished with you here at Attleborough.”
Cricket to Fred
Dodman was – and it should be obvious by now! – part of the
joy of living. A good bat and excellent fieldsman, he was known
as “a good little un” and one of his ambitions in life was
to score a hundred. The nearest he came to doing so, however,
was when, as previously noted, he scored 86 in a match at Old
Buckenham. Now Fred was a poor hand at hooking a ball, and he
knew it. As his score mounted in that match and as he recalled
Teddy Dann said “For God’s sake don’t try any hook shots
now Fred.” But let Fred finish the story himself: “There I
was wanting 14 runs and set on getting ‘em. Then down came
this ball on the leg, but nice and easy and I let fly at it. And
there just at square stood this fellow with hands as big as
sight screens. And that was it, bor… But d’you know, as I
walked off that feller came across and shook hands with me,
apologising. I thought that right gentlemanly of him. But he’d
no cause to apologise. It was my own fault.”
And as his
final comment upon that incident, Fred would offer this as a
golden rule. “The right time for practice is when you’re
practising not when you’re playing.” Silly stories? Well
yes, perhaps. But then to some people cricket is a “silly
game”. It was Kipling, to whom – since no man can know
everything – cricket was a closed book. Otherwise he might
just conceivably have been moved to pen something vaguely like
you can lose your wicket, without railing,
bowling, see the catch you planned for, missed,
not indulge in anger or bewailing,
threaten umpires with a tight-clenched fist:
you can play and so enjoy the playing,
laugh will bridge the gulf twixt Lost and Won
by those very tokens you’re displaying
lends such grace to cricketing, my son!
similar grace: we apologise to the shade of Rudyard Kipling,
although he once dismissed all cricketers as “flannelled
also gives cause to salute the memory of the Late Mr. F. H.
Bainbridge, who, in addition to playing for Hethersett, also
greatly encouraged village cricket in Norfolk. He presented the
Bainbridge Cup, a trophy which Hethersett itself has won.
Last, but far
from least, now let us raise a toast to the Ladies who, though
they do not feature in this story, have over many long years,
made and served the tea, cut the sandwiches and lent the charm
of their own presence to many a summer’s afternoon of cricket.
Nor is that all; for more than one of those ladies has been
known to keep the score … very accurately too.