Decade of dwindling appeal    by Rob Batiste    Guernsey Evening Press 18th July 2020

In the third instalment of Rob Batiste’s story of local cricket he looks back at 1910-19, when things started to go awry for the sport on the island – not least because of the First World War.

CRICKET on the island was now half-a-century old and with the College Field about as Picturesque a ground as any on the UK public school circuit and Fort Field providing another quality venue, the domestic game should have been in good shape. But this was the decade it all went wrong for the game, not least due to the horrific impact of the First World War, which claimed the lives of many a fine cricketer.

It would, of course, survive, but a decade that began so promisingly for the sport would soon lose players and appeal. Initially, the picture was bright, particularly for the main club sides – Grange and Athletics. This was how the Press saw the upcoming season in mid May 1911: ‘The Grange and Athletic teams will be composed of the same players as last year. Mr E. R. Morres is captaining the range and will be assisted by Messrs Cadman, H. F. Morres, E. B. Waite, Charlton-Jones, Major Merriman and others. ‘It is rumoured, too, that Mr Phil Morres, who was so popular here two or three years ago and has since been residing in Australia, will be available. We hope the rumour is true, for those who remember him will recollect the merry cricket he played. He was a useful bowler, too. Great things are expected of Mr Howell, a member of the Athletics, who holds a reputation as a good all-round man.’ T. Stinton, a former College master, was also back on the scene after several years in India and was immediately in the runs: ‘It is evident he is a player of merit: wrote the Press, Who also liked that they saw in fellow returnee H. Bullock, who was ‘intent on using all his power to rekindle the dying embers’.

Many of these men featured in the big Grange CC v Athletic CC matches which were a feature of these early 20th century summers, the second of which in 1911 (see scoreboard) featured a star guest in Evan Baillie Noel, the ‘1908 Olympics rackets gold medallist. Like the Morres brothers, this star of both British rackets and tennis had learned the game at Winchester College and that link may be the reason Noel would bring his XI over to the island every summer, bar the war years, for a week of cricket.

Among Noel’s sides would be Minor Counties cricketers, the odd retired county star and the occasional political celebrity, such as the Hon. E. S. Montagu, who was in the 1919 touring side. Montagu was the radical Liberal politician who served as Secretary of State for India between 1917 and 1922. The same year he was in Guernsey, Montagu led the Indian delegation at the Paris Peace Conference.

But even before the Great War, numbers playing cricket regularly in Guernsey were not what they had been. This appeared in a pre-war Press season preview. ‘The prospects of the game for this season at any rate are not promising. In fact, for some years the sport seems to have dwindled considerably. What a pity it is we cannot go back to the time when Cambridge Park was the rendezvous of practically all the important matches and then the military band played selections on the lower walk. But today Cambridge Park serves no purpose, except to give employment to an official, whose duty it is to order off anyone who ventures to kick a football or attempts to lay a decent cricket pitch. ‘Young players are wanted to liven up interest in the game, but while there are so few grounds to play on these will not be forthcoming. It is by no means pleasing to think what will happen when some of the older players retire.’

The Press may have meant men such as old Arthur Maunder, who was now into his 60s and had been playing since the early days of St John’s CC, who would ruck up to the Park and put up with the erratic bounces. ‘It is interesting to note that A. Maunder still dons the flannels and was as active as ever in the field’, wrote a correspondent in describing a 1916 game between Elizabeth College and E. B. Waite’s XI.

Old ‘E. B.’ was no spring chicken himself, but he could still show the boys under his direction at the college how to do it. That summer he smashed 93 off the 1st XI with 17 fours and one six.

But the lack of visiting opposition in wartime was damaging to the game and a certain creativity was required when compiling the fixture list in the midst of a war killing thousands. The officers and garrison men in Castle Comet would help out and were sufficiently able to comfortably beat the College, who had not recovered from losing the Blad brothers who had taken apart the Victoria College attacks in the two summers before war took a grip. The war over, J. V. Blad, the man who had taken 338 runs off the Victorians across the two 1914 games, returned to his old ground and hit an undefeated 121 for the College Past XI against Present XI. And when E. B. Noel’s XI took on and dominated the island side before rain brought a halt to proceedings in September 1919, he old Middlesex batsman R. H. Hill had smashed 116 off the home attack. Hill also took 61 off the Cl XI attack, but kept his famed ‘high lob’ bowling under wraps. Team-mate Col. Ward did, however, demonstrate his underhand lobs, ‘relics of the old school’ wrote the Press.

Blad brothers rewrite the College record books        by Rob Batiste          GEP    Jul 2020

Hugh Morres, the new cricket coach, laid the foundations and school cricket nut Mr Waite supported him. But sometimes it quires special individual playing talent to produce the results. In the two summers leading up to the to the First World War, Elizabeth College cricket was blessed and, for that, they had to thank another set of brothers who were even more influential than the talented Mockler boys a few years earlier. They were the Blads.

Elizabeth College 1st XI in 1913

E B ‘Bruggy’ Waite    J V Blad    P E N Howard    L E Hamber    H de Saldanha

L W Hart    G H Forty    W Ozanne    T G Grant    F D McCrea

T S Dobree    C E Blad

Victoria College cricketers of the era may have wished they had never seen the pair – John Valdemar and Carl Edward – who underpinned a revival in the sport which the school probably saw difficult to see when Morres took over in 1911 and laid out his store of playing those who wanted to play. The Blads certainly wanted to and they wanted to bat too. For long periods, as it happens. Morres gave the Blads a glimpse of what batting was about when, in his first year in charge of the team, he battered the bowling of C F Howell’s XI for 156 while opening for the School and Masters side.

A year later Carl, the younger of the two by almost exactly a year, scored 50 on his debut against Victoria, while John carried his bat for 32, the siblings batting at 5 and 6. In 1913 and still in the middle order, Carl scored 44 at 5 in one game, John 47 in the return. But in 1914, promoted to open by new coach Waite, they went to town. At the Kings’s Road ground John scored an undefeated 129 and Carl 104 in a winning total. Three weeks later and after spending the night anchored off Corbiere in think fog, Carl went for a duck while big brother avenged his wicket and some. John Blad scored an undefeated 209, still the only double-century in the fixture. He ended the season with an average of 84.

It would be wrong to say the Blads were the only two exciting talents of the decade; Edward Le Patourel topped both the batting and bowling averaged in 1910 and post-war new captain Angus Marshall displayed great technique and an excellent defence which came in handy nine years later when he played for Queensland six times in the Sheffield Shield. A full Australian cap at football, in later life Marshall gave most credit for his sporting prowess to his former Games master, Mr Waite.