New County Champions, 1949

Glamorgan's march of progress

JH Morgan

Cyfarchiad i Morgannwg, y Concwerwyr

Cricket Newydd

Probably for the first time Welsh has invaded the pages of Wisden. So is history made. Hail Glamorgan! The New Cricket Champions--which is as good a translation as I can think of to the above tribute in their own native tongue.

Cricket, steeped in tradition, has no parallel to compare with Glamorgan's triumph in taking the championship outside England, cradle of the game, for the first time. It was as spectacular as it was romantic; an achievement beyond the most fantastic dream of a Welsh die-hard. Even a month or so after the championship was safe in Glamorgan's keeping and the banqueting and celebrations were over, J. C. Clay, the Peter Pan of Glamorgan cricket, said: It seems that I am still in fairyland. As one who had been closely associated with the club since its entry into first-class cricket--which the Wisden of the time laconically commented was not justified by results--John Clay could not believe that Glamorgan had won the championship. He rubbed his eyes and kept his fingers crossed.

To appreciate fully the magnitude of Glamorgan's striking success it is necessary to know the Glamorgan of the early'twenties as I did. It was my lucky lot to report Glamorgan cricket during those days of anxious adventure, and I have not missed a single home game since 1922. The team at that time was composed in the main of amateurs, well past their best and unable to play regularly. Indeed, it has been said with every truth that Glamorgan had a stronger side in their Minor Counties era than that which bravely, but not too hopefully, embarked on their first-class career in 1921. Of the recognised batsmen who were prolific scorers in the Minor Counties only Norman Riches and Eddie Bates, former Yorkshire professional, made the grade. Occasionally amateurs like George Cording, Billy Spiller, Jock Tait and Harry Symonds gave the batting a sense of respectability, but consistency was not one of Glamorgan's virtues in their early says. Again, it was rather remarkable that in their first season the brunt of Glamorgan's bowling had to be shared by Jack Nash and Harry Creber, who were 48 and 47 years of age respectively. Yet in that first season Nash took over 90 wickets.

Glamorgan had no delusions. It is officially recorded in the annual report of those days: In its first few seasons Glamorgan were like no other side; some will say it was not a side at all. One suspects that J. C. Clay was the author of this bluntness, but if Glamorgan lacked ability comparable with the English counties they had courage and vision. T. A. L. Whittington, who did so much to raise Glamorgan to first-class status, never despaired, but it was an up-hill struggle for the club. Whittington shared the captaincy with Norman Riches in those pioneer days, and again it is written in the history of Glamorgan: The club owes a big debt to them for captaining the side under such conditions. Because so many amateurs had to be played the side was constantly undergoing alterations, and the placing of the field gave endless worry. Slip fielders, with the exception of Cording, did not exist; there was no regular wicketkeeper, and never less than four aged and infirm had to be hidden somewhere. They were described as Ragtime Days; but Harmony was to come.

The big decision was made that until home products developed in fuller bloom players would have to be imported. It was also a courageous decision because of the financial position of the club. It can now be revealed that Glamorgan entered first-class cricket with an adverse balance of £350 from Minor County days. They lost £97 in 1921, £2,813 in 1922, and £2,951 in 1923. At the end of that year Glamorgan were in debt to the extent of £6,212. They were only kept going on faith and good friends. Nevertheless, new players were drafted into the side, amongst them men like Frank Ryan, Jack Mercer, D. Sullivan and T. E. Abel from Surrey, Jack Bell, and a little later that grand stylist Arnold Dyson, to whom the study of cricket on classical lines was a passion.

More important was the fact that Glamorgan began to produce her own players, and it might be said that the introduction of Cyril Walters, Dai Davies and Emrys Davies marked a new era. It was the first glimmer of better things. But the club was still losing money season after season, and in 1932, when Glamorgan had to dispense with the services of Bates, Bell, Ryan and Joe Hills, a public appeal had to be made for £5,500. Otherwise, the Welsh public was frankly told, Glamorgan would have to declare their innings closed.

It was at this critical stage that Maurice Turbbull joined Glamorgan, not only to take over the captaincy but also as secretary, and it is not too much to say that for the next few years he moulded a new Glamorgan. Even when they were losing Glamorgan always played cricket with a sunny nature and a gay abandon, but under Maurice Turnbull's influence they made all-round progress. An astute captain, a grand forcing bat, brilliant close-to-the-wicket field, and a capable administrator, Maurice Turnbull gave Glamorgan cricket a new meaning, and it was tragic that he did not live to see the ultimate triumph of the club for which he had done so much. Similarly with Arthur Brown and George Cording, men who kept the flag flying during the war years and prepared the way for the boom which blossomed fully in 1946-47-48.

Thus it was left to J. C. Clay to hold the honoured place in Glamorgan's championship year, and what a personal triumph it was for this great disciple who has worshipped at the shrine of Glamorgan cricket since 1921. And how fitting that he should play a decisive part in the critical end of the season matches.

One might well ask: How, with such a chequered past, did Glamorgan come to win the 1948 championship? When the war ended they had only half a side, but again they made a bold decision. There were youngsters like Phil Clift, Gilbert Parkhouse and Alun Watkins who were expected to develop because they were such natural cricketers. Of the pre-war side, Emrys Davies and Willie Jones were available, and, of course, there was always J. C. Clay. By securing Len Muncer, Jim Eaglestone and Norman Hever from Middlesex, the new Glamorgan gradually took shape under the dynamic leadership of Wilfred Wooller, who brought something of the fervour of Welsh Rugby to the cricket fields of the country.

Wilfred Wooller had the priceless gift of getting the best out of the players, but let him speak for himself. In a special interview which he gave me for this tribute to Glamorgan, he told me: Enough has been said concerning the side this year. We are aware we cannot compete, for instance, with Middlesex in batting or Derbyshire in bowling. But in fielding we give first to no side. We have attempted to make each fielder, be he a deep long-on or a short-leg, an integral part of a machine. Each man came off the field with the knowledge that he had fulfilled his part by saving runs in some way or another. The interest was competitive, and no small measure of praise came from the team itself if one or another player did something spectacular. If a man failed in batting or bowling, he still knew his part in the game as important. Furthermore, his enjoyment of the battle itself was increased. Tactically also it has been a paying policy to encourage each member of the side to study tactics. Cricket is a game requiring thought and brains. Any thinking player may see something a captain has missed. It detracts nothing from a captain's discipline to accept sound advice.

I asked Wilfred Wooller about the future. The side is at its best on a turning wicket, he replied. We need a first-class left-arm bowler to carry the brunt of the attack on good and bad wickets. This need is common to many counties, but we must find one if Glamorgan are to repeat their success of 1948.

Glamorgan's march of progress in the post-war years is reflected in the greater support for the game. Knowledge and enthusiasm for county cricket in South Wales has grown since the war like Jack's beanstalk. A wavering 2,000 membership has swollen to nearly 6,000, while the 14,000 capacity of the Cardiff ground has been frequently taxed. The crowded ring of spectators formed an appreciative audience which did much to inspire the side, and it can be said that the increased support for cricket in South Wales contributed to the success of the team. Compared with the big losses in the difficult years, profits in 1948 exceeded £10,000.

The Land of My Fathers sends her sons and daughters to the four corners of the earth, but their hearts are always in Wales. That is why Glamorgan's championship success of 1948 had a world-wide popularity.


Some idea of the value to Glamorgan of J. C. Clay as a slow right-arm bowler throughout their first-class County Championship years is shown by an epitome of his achievements. Altogether he took 1,197 wickets at an average cost of 19.26 runs. In 1922 he dismissed 83 batsmen, and surpassed that performance in 1934 when 100 wickets fell to him at 16.55 each. In three seasons when unable to play regularly his wickets cost under 14 runs apiece, but his greatest achievements came in 1937, with 170 dismissals, averaging 17.38, and in 1946 when, with 120 wickets at 12.72 each, he became the most deadly bowler for any county in the country.

© John Wisden & Co