May 04, 1902, Paddington, London
August 16, 1986, West Down House, Yapton, Sussex, (aged 84y 104d)
Right hand bat
Right arm medium
Ronnie Aird, MC, died at his home at Yapton on August 16, 1986, aged 84. Until he was over 80 he had been a very fit man, playing golf regularly and constant in his attendance at race meetings, but in the last two or three years his health had failed, his activities had been sadly restricted, and it was clear to his friends that one who had always been so full of life had now ceased to enjoy it.
Good cricketer though he was, Ronny Aird will always be chiefly remembered for his work at Lord's, which covered first to last 60 years. Appointed Assistant Secretary in 1926 when W. Findlay was promoted to Secretary, he continued to serve under Col. Rait Kerr and himself succeeded as Secretary in 1952. He retired in 1962, but was President in 1968-69 and a Trustee from 1971 to 1983, when he became a Life Vice-President, remaining active on the committee almost to the end. I can remember Lord Cornwallis, who as an ex-President and a Trustee was in a position to know, saying of him as far back as 1950, when he was still only Assistant Secretary. No-one realises how much that man has done for Lord's.
It was never Aird's way to seek the limelight. His name seldom appeared in the press. He was not responsible for any startling reforms or innovations. But as one of the papers said after his death, Lord's was never a happier place than during his secretaryship. There was an aura of happiness and it was a joy just to be there, whatever the occasion: all the staff in the pavilion, the tennis-court or elsewhere greeted one as an old friend. This atmosphere was typical of Aird himself and his greatness lay rather in what he was than in what he did. One could not imagine him ever being involved in rows or unpleasantness. He was completely imperturbable. Whatever happened, he remained his own smiling, courteous self. Not that he could not be firm enough when occasion demanded it. This was well shown in his chairmanship, which evoked widespread admiration, of the highly contentious special meeting in 1968 on relations with South Africa.
S. C. Griffith, who was Assistant Secretary under him before succeeding him as Secretary, writes: He was the best man to work for that a man ever had; a wonderful person and a very true friend. He was a kind man and a tremendous lover of his fellow human-beings. I was very proud to work for him.
No less notable on a smaller scale was his work for I Zingari, of which he was an officer for more than 50 years, being successively Secretary and Treasurer. He played an important part in raising the club from the low esteem in which it was held in the 1920s and making it again one to which people are proud to belong and for which they enjoy playing. No-one has better deserved the honour bestowed on him a few years ago when he was appointed a Freeman of the club. In his later days, his wisdom and experience were of the greatest value, too, to the Friends of Arundel Castle Cricket in their formative years.
He got his coluors at Eton in 1919, when he made 60, top score, against Winchester and was also the team's wicket-keeper. In 1920 he was replaced behind the wicket by M. Ll. Hill, who afterwards kept for Somerset, but he made 49 against Winchester and 44 not out at Lord's and was described as perhaps the soundest batsman on the side. In 1921, when he headed the averages, he played a memorable innings of 112 not out, which enabled Eton to win after J. L. Guise had scored 278 for Winchester.
Like many another good strokeplayer, he took some time to acclimatise himself to first-class cricket. Though he had a trial for Hampshire in 1921, he was never in the running for a Blue at Cambridge in 1922 and did little later in the season for his county. In 1923 his average for Cambridge was only 15 and he probably owed his Blue to an innings of 64 against Yorkshire, who had Robinson, Waddington, MacAulay and Rhodes to bowl for them, The next highest score was 30. Playing again regularly for Hampshire after term, he was disappointing. However, next year, being down from Cambridge, he was able for the only time in his life to play a full season's county cricket and scored 1,072 runs with an average of 24.36, including hundreds against Sussex, when he and Mead added 266 for the third wicket, and Somerset. After this his place in the side was secure when he was available, but from 1926 on his first-class cricket was limited to two or three matches on his annual holiday and to an occasional appearance for MCC at Lord's. In 1926 he made 113 against Kent and in 1929 obtained the highest score of his career, 159 against Leicestershire in a total of 272. Altogether for Hampshire between 1921 and 1938 he scored 3,603 runs with an average of 22.24. Later he was for many years the county's President. He continued to play club cricket after the war when his commitments allowed. One's picture of him is the typical graceful Etonian bat with lovely wrists and the racket-player's off side strokes, but in fact he could score all round the wicket and played well of this legs. For many years, too, he was one of the best covers in England.
A natural games player, he was in two Eton rackets pairs which reached the final at Queen's and in 1922 was second string to R. H. Hill at Cambridge: they won the doubles but Aird lost his single. In 1923 he was first string and won both his matches. Later he concentrated on tennis and became especially formidable at Lord's, where he won the Silver Racket six times between 1933 and 1949. In the challenge for the Gold Racket he as defeated twice by Lord Aberdare and four times by W. D. Macpherson, both amateur champions. At Cambridge he was virtually promised a soccer Blue if he would learn to head the ball, but he found that this, especially when the ball was wet, gave him such headaches that he did not think it worth it. In later life he was a National Hunt Steward.
He was a man of wide and varied talents and interests, so varied that few of his friends can have been aware of them all, just as few knew the details of his war record. They knew of course that he had been a major in the Royal Tank Regiment, that he had won the Military Cross in the desert and been wounded. They did not know that he had been in almost a record number of tanks that were totally destroyed or that twice he had been the only survivor; that he had been wounded twice, once severely, and that on both these occasions his one thought had been to get back to active service as soon as possible. Few of his friends can have known the full story, but none will be surprised when he hears it.
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