COPSON, WILLIAM HENRY, who died on September 14, aged 62, was a professional fast bowler for Derbyshire from 1932 to 1949. But for the General Strike of 1926, he might never have been known in the world of cricket. He showed no interest in the game when a boy and, following the normal procedure in his part of the country, duly became a coal-miner. Then came the strike and, at the age of 17, he was persuaded by fellow miners to help to fill in the period of absence from work by joining in cricket on the local recreation ground. Such success did he achieve with remarkable pace and accuracy of length that the next season he was given a place in the Morton Colliery team. From there he progressed to Clay Cross, the Derbyshire League club, and in a match with Staveley he took all ten wickets for five runs. Not unnaturally, this attracted attention and following a trial for the county in 1931, he gained a place in the Derbyshire side for 17 matches in 1932.
The start of his career was sensational, for with his first ball in his first first-class match, against Surrey at The Oval, he dismissed no less a batsman than A. Sandham. Next season, he established a regular place in the county team and he took 90 wickets at a cost of 21.34 runs each, including seven for 62 in an innings against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham. From then on, with his late swerve and pace off the pitch, he made steady progress, despite injuries and back trouble which limited his appearances in 1935. He recovered so well that, in 1936, when Derbyshire won the county championship, he took in all matches 160 wickets at a cost of 13.34 runs apiece, thirteen times dismissing five or more batsmen in an innings. Included among his performances were analyses of five wickets for 33 and seven for 19 against Surrey at Derbyshire and five for 38 and seven for 16 against Worcestershire at Worcester.
In the following season, he performed the outstanding feat of taking four wickets in four balls against Warwickshire at Derby, his full figures for the innings being 8.2 overs, 2 maidens, 11 runs, 8 wickets. Seven of his successes fell to him in the course of 23 balls. In 1938 and 1939 he took over 100 wickets and, despite spells of ill health, he continued in first-class cricket till retiring in 1949. Three times he performed the hat-trick, against Worcestershire and Warwickshire in 1937 and Oxford University in 1939, and altogether he took 1,094 wickets at an average cost of 18.96.
He went to Australia with G. O. Allen's M.C.C. team in 1936-37, and although he did not play in any of the Tests, he headed the bowling averages with 27 wickets for 19.81 runs apiece. In a two-day game at Canberra, he disposed of seven Southern Districts of New South Wales batsmen for 16 runs. His three Test appearances were all in England. In two games against the West Indies in 1939 he earned analyses of five wickets for 85 and four for 67 at Lord's and two for 31 and one for two at Old Trafford. In 1947, he played in the last Test with South Africa, his three wickets in the match costing 112 runs. From 1958 to 1967 he was on the first-class umpires list.