Rollo John Oliver Meyer
March 15, 1905, Clophill, Bedfordshire
March 09, 1991, Kingsdown, Bristol, (aged 85y 359d)
Right hand Bat
Right arm Slow medium
Haileybury College; Cambridge University
MEYER, ROLLO JOHN OLIVER (JACK), OBE, who died in hospital at Bristol on March 9, 1991, just six days before his 86th birthday, was the founder of Millfield School and for many years its headmaster. Most people who knew little or nothing about the way he ran it were aware that it produced a succession of high-class games-players, including cricketers. It was Meyer's all-round ability at games, and his firm belief in their character-forming importance, which prompted him to make the necessary arrangements to support the promising youngster during his time at Millfield. He went to Haileybury himself and won his colours at 16, emerging as a somewhat mercurial forcing batsman and a bowler who delivered just about everything under the sun at slow-medium to medium pace. He became a compulsive experimenter, ceaselessly plotting and planning; subtle variations of pace, spin and swerve based on correct line and length were his main weapons. His flair for the big occasion, already evident in 1921, enabled him to put the shackles on Cheltenham in the following year, when he took four of their top five wickets for 39 in 26 overs. As captain in 1923 he got through an immense amount of bowling, sending down 333.3 overs for 59 wickets at 16.17, and still found the energy to make 360 runs.
H. S. Altham, writing on public schools cricket in the 1924 edition of Wisden, remarked that: "Meyer got through more work with the ball than any other school bowler . . . but in spite of this he very rarely lost his length, and even at the end of term at Lord's there was a lissomness and nip about his bowling which suggested a certain class. He was, as a captain should be, at his best in the school games . . . having a real field day against Uppingham - eight for 75 in the first innings and five for 39 in the second."
A tall, wiry, tense, restless figure, he went up to Cambridge in 1923 and did not disappoint his supporters the following season, taking nine wickets in the Freshmen's trial. Adapting easily to the demands of the first-class game, he produced consistently good figures in match after match, and he was rewarded with selection for a Gentlemen v Players match at Blackpool at the end of the season. In the Players' first innings his full analysis was 21.1-5-38-8. He won his Blue in all three years, and in May 1926 he attracted special notice when he took six for 65 in 45.5 overs for Cambridge against the Australians at Fenner's, his victims including Collins, Macartney, Ponsford and Andrews. When the Australians went in a second time, needing 59 to win in twenty minutes, Meyer took two for 5 in three overs and the match was drawn. Yet just when he was looking like a possible Test player, he was lost to English cricket for ten years, going to India to try his hand at cotton broking. Not that he neglected his cricket: in 1926-27 he played in four matches against A. E. R. Gilligan's MCC team, and a year later he secured the best bowling figures of his career, with nine for 160 (sixteen for 188 in the match) for the Europeans against the Muslims at Bombay.
In 1936 Meyer, throwing in his lot with Somerset on his return from India, proved to be a vastly improved batsman. Indeed, statistics show that he was twice as good. He announced himself with 202 not out at Taunton when Somerset were forced to follow on after Lancashire had made 423, hitting one six and 26 fours, mainly through beautifully timed drives. This commanding innings hoisted him to thirteenth place in the general averages, and in 1937 he made 543 Championship runs for an average of 38.78, without the help of a single not out. Twelve years after his first triumph against the Australians, he excelled himself in 1938 this time at Lord's, with five for 66 in 26.2 overs for the Gentlemen of England in the Australians' first innings of 397. Fingleton, Brown and Bradman were among his victims. After war service with the RAFVR he played in ten matches in 1946, his excellent form with the bat including two free innings of 52 and 94 against Essex at Taunton, where he drove a ball from Peter Smith over the pavilion into the churchyard, and in 1947 he was entrusted with the captaincy of Somerset. Perhaps results did not come up to expectations, but the professionals, if bemused by the eccentricity of his stratagems, appreciated his concern for their well-being. He had to put up with the discomforts of lumbago for much of the season, but even so he managed a typical flourish in August, with innings of 88 and 65 against Glamorgan at Weston-super-Mare. Meyer, whose cricket was at times not without a touch of genius, played in 127 first-class matches, including 65 for Somerset to 1949, and made 4,621 runs for an average of 23.69, with two hundreds. His bowling earned him 408 wickets at 25.31, and he held 85 catches.
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
Batting & Fielding