A history of the Champions, 1970

Glamorgan — a peep into the past

John Hinds Morgan

A noted cricket journalist of nearly fifty years standing, John Hinds Morgan has reported the doings of Glamorgan since their entry into first-class cricket in 1921. As Alderman J. H. Morgan he was Lord Mayor of Cardiff in 1957-58 and during his year in office Glamorgan presented him with a county player's tie and made him the first honorary playing member of the club. In the 1949 Wisden, Jack Morgan told of Glamorgan's March of Progress. Now he dwells mainly on the personalities who have led the club in their more recent climb to the top of the county championship.

Ever since their eccentric entry into the ranks of first-class cricket in 1921, Glamorgan have been enriched by quite a few outstanding personalities of whom four leaders have dominated the club at varying stages of their progress to two county championship titles. They are N. V. H. Riches, J. C. Clay, M. J. Turnbull and W. Wooller -- the architects of a club which was started to represent a county and grew to serve a nation.

All four were not only accomplished cricketers and captains in their own right, but were able administrators who were to have a vital influence on the race to the top. It is surely indicative of their loyalty and steadfastness that three of the four faithfuls watched the new Glamorgan sweep to their second Championship success on that glorious September day in 1969. The fourth, Maurice Turnbull, had fought his last innings on the battlefields of Normandy twenty-five years earlier.

Further, the surviving three, whose combined spell of service to Glamorgan must span something like 150 years, still hold official positions in the club. John Clay is President; Norman Riches, Trustee; Wilf Wooller continues his perennial path as general secretary.

Norman Riches, now in his 85th year, captained Glamorgan in their first season of first-class cricket, but what a bizarre baptism. In the words of J. C. Clay himself: "The team consisted of four elderly professionals and seven slap-happy amateurs, quite a few of whom were non-benders as well." Only Norman Riches made the grade and John Clay, who was also in that 1921 side, adds, "My recollection of those good old days is of Norman Riches battling it out while we rabbits came and went."

John Clay did not remain a rabbit for long. He developed into one of the finest off-break bowlers Glamorgan ever had -- the club's records are studded with his achievements. During a playing career which extended from 1921 to 1948, Clay took 1,293 wickets at a cost of 19,145 runs. Once, he took seventeen wickets in a match, against Worcestershire at Swansea in 1937, and it remains a Glamorgan record. And to show that he could bat a bit, Clay figured in a ninth-wicket unbroken partnership of 203 in ninety-five minutes against Worcestershire at Swansea in 1929, also a record. Clay made 101 not out and J. J. Hills 107 not out. Glamorgan cricket and J. C. Clay cannot be separated. During a span of nearly fifty years he has been captain, honorary secretary and now the club's active president.

No doubt, during his playing days, Clay owed much to the influence and inspiration of Maurice Turnbull, the third of my Glamorgan gladiators. On being appointed captain in 1930 and secretary in 1932, Turnbull, by example and sheer hard work, shaped a new Glamorgan. Not only was he a brilliant cricketer and an astute captain, he was also a most efficient administrator. His knowledge of the game was unique. I am convinced that had he survived the 1939-45 war-- he was killed by a sniper's bullet when serving with the Welsh Guards in Normandy -- Maurice Turnbull would have captained England.

Indeed, Glamorgan were developing into a very fine side when the second world war broke out and they were fortunate that many of the pre-war players were available when first-class cricket was resumed in 1946. Amongst them were fine cricketers like Haydn Davies, Allan Watkins, Willie Jones, George Lavis, Arnold Dyson, Emrys Davies, E. C. Jones, Cyril Smart, Phil Clift (still active as the number one coach) and, of course, the great J. C. Clay. He led the side in the first post-war season, 1946, and two years later came out of semi-retirement to play a decisive part in Glamorgan's Championship triumph of 1948.

It was at this stage that the dynamic personality of Wilfred Wooller began to bring influence to bear on Glamorgan cricket and this is a fitting moment to pay tribute to the immense amount of work on and off the field by Wooller during the twenty-one years separating the two Championship successes.

Of Glamorgan and Wilf Wooller it might be truly said:

He was monarch of all he surveyed,

His right there was none to dispute.

Let the facts speak for themselves. Even in pre-war days when he was better known as a Cambridge Rugby Blue and Welsh International, Wilf Wooller played a few games for Glamorgan under Maurice Turnbull, but it was in 1946 that he began his long reign as Commander-in-Chief. He was captain for fourteen successive years -- 1947 to 1960 -- and during the whole of this period acted as general secretary with Les Spence as honorary secretary, a position which he still holds.

As captain and player Wooller brought some of the virility and fighting qualities of Welsh Rugby to the cricket grounds of South Wales. He was always a bonny fighter, forthright and ever devoted to the cause of cricket in general and Glamorgan in particular. When Wooller first took over the captaincy Glamorgan were eager to take advantage of the immediate post-war boom in sport and with the side playing entertaining cricket the crowds flocked to Cardiff Arms Park and St. Helens, Swansea in greater numbers than before.

The revenue in 1930 totalled £30,000 compared with £6,000 in the early days and in 1968, with the Championship fight building up to a thrilling climax, gate receipts reached a record figure. It was more reminiscent of the big crowds which used to pack in for the annual game against the touring side at August Bank Holiday time. For instance, 62,212 paid £5,632 for the West Indies match at Swansea in 1950.

These games against touring sides provided some of the most thrilling cricket in Glamorgan's search for honours between the two Championships. There was that amazing win over the South Africans in 1951 and two victories against the Australians, in 1964 and 1968.

One of the most memorable matches in Glamorgan's history was that win by 64 runs against the South Africans. On these occasions St. Helens has an atmosphere all its own as on that sunny August Bank Holiday afternoon. The sides had tied on the first innings with scores of 111, and Glamorgan were dismissed a second time for 147 (Wooller was top scorer with 46). The South Africans needed only 148 to win with all the time in the world at their disposal. It seemed as if it was all over at the tea interval on the second day when the South Africans had obtained 54 of the runs without loss. Then, suddenly things began to happen with close-to-the-wicket catches being held miraculously. As the wickets tumbled the tourists sensed certain victory being turned into dramatic defeat. They lost their composure and the fact that some of the batsmen had not troubled to change into flannels and had to scamper hurriedly to the dressing-rooms did not help to soothe their nerves.

In one dramatic spell Jim McConnon captured five wickets for six runs including the hat-trick. In forty-five minutes after tea the South Africans lost all their ten-wickets for the addition of 29 runs. Glamorgan had won a great victory. And, of course, the emotional Welsh crowd of 25,000 celebrated as only Welshmen can celebrate -- in Hymns of Praise. The CWNANFA GANU had come to cricket.

If this was one of Glamorgan's greatest moments I still consider their most sensational match was the last game of the season in 1927. Nottinghamshire had only to avoid defeat to win the County Championship while poor Glamorgan had not won a single game throughout the season. It looked a foregone conclusion. So much so that at Nottingham they had already opened a public commemoration fund and it had been arranged for a band to meet the Nottinghamshire team on their triumphal return.

Actually Nottinghamshire were defeated by an innings and 81 runs. It provided one of the most staggering results in the long history of cricket. There was a moral in it. With the knowledge that they had only to avoid defeat to carry off the Championship, Nottinghamshire, on winning the toss, batted with deliberate caution. Fluent stroke players like George Gunn batted as if time did not matter. Instead of playing their natural game, Nottinghamshire concentrated on a draw. With nothing to lose Glamorgan had other ideas. The went boldly for runs. To complete Nottinghamshire's desperation, rain fell after the second day's play and Frank Ryan and Jack Mercer had a ready-made spinner's wicket to skittle Nottinghamshire out for 61 on the third morning.

In their early days Glamorgan, although lacking consistency, always had players capable of achieving the spectacular, even if not often, and this trait has persisted through the years. No doubt, the later generation of Glamorgan cricketers were more professional and this was reflected in the greater success of the team which began with the Wooller era.

When the County Championship was resumed after the war Arnold Dyson and Emrys Davies, the best opening pair Glamorgan ever had, were approaching the twilight of their great alliance. Similarly, that exciting number six, Cyril Smart, and George Lavis, Austin Matthews (a late acquisition from Northamptonshire), Peter Judge and E. C. Jones were nearing the end of their playing careers which six years of war had shortened. Of the other pre-war players there was still a lot of good cricket left in Haydn Davies, who held the wicket-keeping record of 82 victims in a season until it was surpassed by David Evans with 89. I am convinced that this remains only a target for the next in line, Eifion Jones, who last season was one of the most improved wicket-keepers in the country and of whom a lot more will be heard.

Then there was Allan Watkins, a consistent and sturdy all-rounder, who shared in many records until he retired in 1961. And what a brilliant close-to-the-wicket fielder. During his career Watkins scored 17,419 runs, took 774 wickets and held 390 catches. Twice he completed the double.

Another of the old guard who continued to thrill the crowds with his flashing bat was the effervescent Willie Jones. He was a shy youngster when he joined Glamorgan and he developed after the war into an audacious left-hander who was never happy unless he was cutting any sort of delivery for four.

These players formed the nucleus of Glamorgan's post-war team and they were strengthened by the inclusion of Gilbert Parkhouse, a stylish batsman in the Cyril Walters and Arnold Dyson mould. Parkhouse created many records during his sixteen years with the county and finished with an aggregate of 22,619 runs. Only Emrys Davies has scored more. Parkhouse holds the record for most runs in a season -- 2,071 in 1959 -- and also the most centuries.

Season after season Parkhouse dominated Glamorgan's batting, just as in later years Alan Jones became the county's most dependable number one. What an opening pair they would have made together! At this stage it was one of Glamorgan's ambitions to be represented by an all-Welsh team, but while the young natives were in the nursery class they recruited quite a few outsiders, notably Len Muncer, Norman Hever and Jim Eaglestone, of Middlesex, all of whom played a part in Glamorgan's 1948 Championship season. Without a doubt Muncer, now head coach at Lord's, was the most important acquisition. He rendered splendid service as an all-rounder from 1947 to 1954.

Another off-break bowler and punishing batsman who made his name as a cricketer with Glamorgan was Jim McConnon. In his first full season in 1951 he took 136 wickets at an average of 16.17. Yet he became an off-break bowler only by accident. He had been getting a lot of runs for Newport in South Wales club cricket and impressed George Lavis, who was then the county coach, as a batsman. But when he joined Glamorgan, Wooller's astute cricket brain sensed that he could be converted into an off-spinner and under his captain's advice and encouragement McConnon the batsman became McConnon the bowler.

Then it became the turn of the natives again, but when David Shepherd, as a young 22-year-old, joined Glamorgan as a medium-pace bowler of promise few thought that he would develop into one of the most consistent and accurate off-break bowlers in the country. Glamorgan's record book is studded with his achievements and it was fitting that last season in Glamorgan's Championship success he should join the select band of bowlers to take 2,000 wickets in a career spanning twenty-one years. His full record and unequalled contribution to Glamorgan cricket is given more generous treatment as one of the Five Cricketers of the Year, where Majid Jahangir also deservedly appears. As one who has followed Shepherd's progress throughout a distinguished career I yield to no one in my admiration for one of cricket's most devoted and loyal disciples.

Associated with Shepherd in many a triumph was Jim Pressdee; Glamorgan certainly lost a valuable link in their team pattern when he emigrated to South Africa a few years ago. He was the type of battling cricketer any captain would like to have on his side in a crisis. About this period Bernard Hedges was another prominent player and one of the few batsmen to top 2,000 runs in a season. Peter Walker, too, often turned in some fine all-round performances and will always be remembered when Glamorgan cricket is talked about for his fly-paper catching. Now Roger Davis is benefiting by his example.

In the'fifties Jim Pleass -- now a Committee man -- Alan Rees and little Don Ward often batted in a way that pleased the crowd without, however, showing the required consistency; so gradually a new Glamorgan began to be fashioned under the captaincy of O. S. Wheatley who in 1961 took over from Wooller. He was a most popular leader besides being an effective medium-pace bowler with many outstanding individual performances already to his credit for Cambridge University and Warwickshire.

Ossie Wheatley was also a thinking captain and few could read a game better. Under his leadership players like Alan Jones, Jeff Jones (his breakdown was a tragedy for Glamorgan and the game) and Eifion Jones (a Test wicket-keeper in the making) improved considerably.

Now another generation of Glamorgan cricketers has emerged under Tony Lewis who by example and intelligent approach to all aspects of the game led Glamorgan to their 1969 Championship triumph. Lewis, a brilliant stroke-playing batsman on his day, should lead the new Glamorgan for many years to come and with such talented performers as Majid Jahangir, the Joneses, the Davises, Nash and Cordle still having much to offer Glamorgan's future prospects seem to be as bright as ever.

The Club must be always looking ahead, but as long as there are wise campaigners like John Clay and Wilf Wooller in command the future of Glamorgan cricket would appear to be absolutely assured.

Throughout the years Glamorgan have been fortunate to be served by a representative committee democratically elected on an area basis. The present chairman is Judge Rowe Harding, a former Welsh Rugby International, who took over from Colonel J. M. Bevan when the latter retired after many years service. So with their new headquarters at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff, likely to develop into an all-embracing Welsh Sports centre, Glamorgan cricket could play an even greater part in the next decade.

© John Wisden & Co