When Granny fell in love             by Rob Batiste        GEP    25th July 2020

In the fourth instalment of our series, Rob Batiste revisits the 1920s when the Commercial League the forerunner to the Guernsey Cricket League – was established as well as the GICC

IT COULD be said that a true cricketer’s life is a long one. Chris Rawlinson, Arthur Maunder and Edward Morres fall into that category of ‘true’ players because these stars of the 19 ‘Noughties’ were still going throughout the ’20s and still playing when the decade ended. Old Arthur’s eyes had long given out by the tail end of the 1920s but he kept a keen interest of the sport he had played since the St John’s days of the 1870s when evening league cricket was getting off the ground – at Beau Sejour of all places. As the clock ticked into the 1920s Maunder’s involvement was raising teams and batting down the order for the A. N. Maunder XI. He was 66 by then and when he finally ran out of time at life’s crease a Press scribe writing under the name of ‘Square Leg’ recalled his gritty left-hand batting and fine keeping against Jersey many times, as well as representing a Cl XI against the London and Channel Islanders’ Society at The Oval. ‘Arthur “played the game” all his life’ closed Square Leg on a man of an era when few gave more to the summer game.

Perhaps one who did, though, was old colleague Rawlinson, who had initially attended St John’s School before nearby Amherst came along.

The old Athletic Club stalwart loved his sport – was very handy at it too – and, administratively, gave football as much attention as his summer favourite, eventually serving as GFA president for a dozen years which covered the immediate post-war period.

He died in office in April 1958 and his Press obituary spoke of a cricketer who ‘could be relied upon to make a big score’. Of course, that’s not true of anyone who played the game, but perhaps we should not scoff at the further suggestion that he was ‘one of the finest cricketers the island has produced’.

No doubt, he would have approved of cricket at a more working-man level which was taking hold by the end of the decade, by which time evening cricket had been adopted under the title of the Commercial League which, two decades later, he led under the title of the Guernsey Cricket League. The founding meeting of the Commercial League was held in 1927 on 6 July at the Guernsey Press Office in Smith Street.

The first president was Mr R.E. Spencer, a bank employee and a member of the original Banks team. He was to continue in that office until he left Guernsey towards the end of 1935 and the league owed and still owes a great deal to this man who steered the league through those difficult beginnings.

The first secretary was Mr H. A. Brouard, who worked tirelessly for many years in this thankless job. It was agreed at that meeting that clubs would be drawn from (i) individual business houses, (ii) trades or professions approved by the committee and (iii) combinations of business houses, trades and professions.
An example of a combination of professions was the formation of the Pilgrims Cricket Club consisting of schoolmasters, lawyers, doctors and clergymen.
They had difficulty at times in raising a team and were given permission to include the odd Intermediate schoolboy if necessary. This was a shadow of things to come as eventually the Pilgrims became a team of largely Old Intermedians.

Alec Rose recalled the early days: ‘I well remember the first pitch we played on at Beau Sejour. ‘It was terribly bumpy and had four to five inches of grass. Very early on a request was made to mow and roll it. We were practically told that if you did not like it you could cancel future matches and the Parks Committee would charitably refund your money.’ Eventually we were supplied with coconut matting, but matting very quickly takes the impression of the soil beneath and so we continued. ‘A fast bowler such as Gerald Robin of the Banks team would produce a series of nose busters and snake charmers. ‘New teams cropped up and in its second season ‘the confident play’ of Pilgrims had secured them the title by a comfortable margin from the Civil Service, Banks and Le Riche’s completed the four-team Division A line-up, while in ‘B’, Invicta came out on had secured them the title by a comfortable margin from the Civil Service.

Banks and Le Riche’s completed the four-team Division A line-up, while in ‘B’, Invicta came out on top of their eight-match schedule by a distance from the Press.
The Butchers, all out for two in one game, were third and Bucktrouts fourth. Rose was a key man for Pilgrims and in a 1929 game against Elizabeth College, who should crop up with a half-century to make the result a shade more respectable? None other than veteran C. J. H. Rawlinson. The College also played the Commercial League XI that summer and thanks to the determined batting of R. G. ‘Dick’ Fletcher, founder of a certain sports shop, and Rawlinson down the order, the League XI held on for a draw. In 1929, Fletcher also had the distinction of taming the notorious Beau Sejour track and scoring one of the very first Evening League centuries on it.

Playing for Le Riche’s, he ‘gave a very fine display of hard-hitting’ to score 108 off the Press bowling. By now, the Guernsey Island Cricket Club had been established and Rawlinson would serve that club as both treasurer and vice-president. In the 1920s he was a regular in the side often referred to simply as ‘Island CC’, but one time he did not get a game was in the memorable 1927 two-day win over the MCC.

It was a victory borne from a handful of superb performances by the island, not least the exhilarating 127 from the old master Edward Morres, who brushed aside a cut eye after being hit by an incoming throw. Now 55, the one-time Berkshire player, who lived over the boundary wall in King’s Road, underpinned a formidable first innings 323 total. Morres received strong support from C. K. Harcombe (66) who then took 4 for 17 as MCC were restricted to 211 and a significant first knock deficit.

Cheltenham recruit H. N. E. Alston had chipped in with four wickets and got three more in the tourist’s second innings when they were bowled out for 149, leaving the island chasing just 37. Edward Mockler, that Elizabethan tearaway of 20 years earlier, showed he had not lost his incisiveness with a five-wicket haul and he added an undefeated 15 as the home side lost five wickets in a run chase just before the close. But the island couldn’t have done it without the presence of one Hallam Newton Egerton Alston, or ‘Granny’ to his cricket mates, here and across the UK.

It is said that island cricket saved the big man’s enthusiasm for the game.

During family holidays in 1925, he was invited to play for a touring side against GlCC and, opening the bowling, he took 9 for 31, seven bowled. Rushed into GlCC colours, before his 1925 holiday was over, he had 60 wickets at 9.71.

Helped by his height and build, ‘Granny’ was a powerful right-handed all-round-the-wicket batsman, with a particularly splendid drive. In 1929 he dominated in Guernsey slamming 120 as a guest for Old Westminsters v the Garrison; and was a host in himself for the island against Gentlemen of Worcestershire. Opening, he took 5 for 51 and5 for 53; top-scored with 91 out of 165 and 81 out of 161 for 8 declared. In 1930, after a rough sea crossing, MCC collapsed against GlCC at the Elizabeth College Ground, but in the second innings Alston hit 149 not out in two-and-a-half hours. According to the Star, he ‘took complete command … not giving a chance of any kind’. He also took 7 for45 in the match, MCC winning comfortably this time.

Alston’s presence and Morres’ lasting abilities were particularly welcome for the reason that the sport as a whole locally was suffering, losing out to tennis in terms of summer popularity.’ The subtle charms of familiarity and lawn tennis have drawn upon the playing resources of cricket,’ commented the Press.’ In the old days Cambridge Park was nightly thronged by young cricketers. On Thursday last they migrated as far as L’ Ancresse for their fixtures … today the dozens of tennis courts are temptingly near. The average youth has “no time” for cricket. “Tennis

is faster, takes up less time,” he argues and how can he be answered? ‘Guernsey also had a crying need for another ground, chirped the Press correspondent ‘Looker-On’. Cambridge Park’s authorities were seemingly unwilling to deliver a pitch which they happily had done half-a-century earlier when the Elizabethans had a pitch roped in on the Cotils end of the sward and the boys would arrive to pull a heavy roller over it.

Now, though, the College’s heavy rolling was being done by one man, the legendary College Field groundsman Mr Allen. As the ’20s decade fully rolled out, the Press noted the man’s superb crafts in looking over the ground while also noting that Mr Veale’s work up on the Fort Field pitch had also given the game a worthy ground.

TEAM OF THE DECADE

  1. EC Mockler
  2. ER Morres
  3. WL Cooper
  4. HN Alston
  5. RG Fletcher
  6. HV Stone
  7. CJ Rawlinson
  8. VA Lewis
  9. CK Harcombe
  10. AVW Young
  11. LL Stone

A side crammed with all-rounders supplemented by a couple of ‘ College pros in Cooper and Young, but previously few actual Guernseymen.

Mockler and Les Stone, who became sheep farmer in Australia would open the bowling, Alston ‘ would bowl his seamers, Howard Stone and now veteran Morres their spin.

Rout of Victoria in 1920 a false dawn to decade       by Rob Batiste   GEP  25 July 2020

STAR men of the 1910s ‘Jack’ and Carl Blad had long walked from the gates and into military life and, for Elizabeth College, the 1920s were far from vintage years.

It was admitted as much at the start of the 1924 season when the Press cricket correspondent, clearly forgetting how Elizabeth had routed Victoria by an innings in the first inter-collegiate game of the new decade, lamented: ‘College cricket during recent years has not attained a high level’. And, furthermore, old Mr E. B. Waite had a ‘difficult and far from enviable task in team building’.

Not that the sport within the school and the ground itself was not flourishing.

‘It is doubtful whether at any time in the history of the field there has been such keenness shown that which makes possible the sight of no fewer than three games in progress at one and the same time.’

As for the ground itself …’Any old boys who have remained away from the island for several years would hardly recognise it. The old path in front of the pavilion has been put down to grass and when the protective barrier has been removed and the screens pushed back there will be a ground which does credit to the College and the island.’

But back to that 1920 rout when slow left-armer Cohu had one of his steadier days and took eight wickets in the match.

Victoria were shot out for 78 and70, while the home side, led by the future England hockey great A. D. ‘Arthur’ Ogilvy, another Blad brother in Vernon, and with Stan White a reliable opening bat, won comfortably with their first knock score of 157.

By 1926 the College had a new professional coach in place to hopefully solve a ‘scarcity of real cricketing talent’ wrote the Press. It proved to be very much a work in progress and it wasn’t until 1928 that they finally got around to beating the Victorians again. In front of a big crowd and the Lt-Governor at the College Field, Elizabeth won under their new and inspirational captain, H. V. ‘Howard’ Stone who, in typical fashion, crashed a quick 48 as the batting came good.

The Press reported that Stone received a standing ovation as he marched to the wicket at the College Field and another when he very nearly hit his first ball right out of the ground. The annual Elizabethan magazine review and sporting characterisation had this to say about their new young captain in 1928. ‘Excellent bat. However, seems to play fast bowling better than slow. Bowls leg breaks quite well when the wicket suits him. Keen and capable captain. ‘A year later, his last, and after an exciting draw in the home game where he scored 46, it was back to normality on the cricket fields,
leading this main editorial in the Elizabethans to suggest it was now an ‘inferiority complex’. Stone was in a class of his own and ended his final year top of the averages with 730 at 42.9.

On the bowling front Lionel Sarre and Les Stone, not directly related to the captain, offered some hope for the future, the former being quite fast and the latter accurate and dependable. Consistently better times were around the corner.