Eric Waldron

Eric Waldron

ERIC WALDRON was, for so long, the doyen of Guernsey cricket. Not that this remarkable-yet- modest man would ever lay claim to such a title himself. However, few, if any, have ever been as passionate about the sport locally than E. W. Waldron, who passed away last week, aged 81, and the tireless work he did in building Salemites Cricket Club out of the Salem Methodist Youth Club from the early 1970s to become a staple of the island cricketing landscape has remained the template to follow ever since – although that is far easier said than done. In a piece he wrote on the club just a couple of years ago, Guernsey Press sports editor Rob Batiste summed it up in these words: ‘There is a remarkable resilience about Salemites and that they endure owes much to be taught the fundamentals of sporting values, dependability and respect for the game and competition by their founder who brought some notable non- cricketers into the sport and made fine players out of them’.
That Salemites have now lost their founder in the same year as they said goodbye to their greatest ever player, Ralph Anthony, makes this a particularly poignant time. ‘Eric’s kindness and warmth was the foundation of our club,’ said Salemites stalwart Steve Le Ray this week. ‘Eric took teenagers who would not normally be cricketers but coached, trained, encouraged and supported them. Some of these same cricketers are still playing for Salemites 30 years later. These – are people who would have been lost to cricket, and probably their children as well. ‘Eric was an inspiration to us as a club, a man who importantly never judged or turned a player away, was always cheerful, generous and never expected any reward. ‘He also had incredibly strong views on how the game should be played and this reflected his personality which was no matter how anybody else behaved or played the game, we would always play the way correctly and in accordance with the rules and spirit of the game. ‘A true legend of Guernsey sport but also someone who was humble and would never ever hesitate to have a word with anyone. ‘A lovely, caring, generous man who was an inspiration to us all.’ Le Ray’s long-time Salemites teammate, Martin Robert, also had the pleasure of being in Waldron’s company for many years and he commented that a couple of things spring to mind when remembering the man. ‘Firstly, the term “gentleman” is often loosely used in the sporting world in my opinion but, for me, I have never come across anyone that fits this title so perfectly in any of the many sports I have played. ‘Eric was truly honourable on and off the pitch, and equally a true gent to opponents and Salemites alike. Eric always had time for people – even though you wouldn’t think that was the case by the hurried way in which he often moved! ‘Unfortunately, I do not have many playing memories to call upon as I rarely shared the same cricket field as Eric, but I do know that on the few occasions we did, he was as enthusiastic in his advancing years as a youngster looking to make his mark.

‘Secondly, there would be no better person to convey the perfect tribute to Eric than Ralph Anthony. It’s hard to believe that in the space of five months we have lost the two people who built and moulded Salemites Cricket Club. ‘They were the rock on which the club was formed and how it played, and I’m sure that their legacy will forever remain in those players lucky enough to have shared both of their company.’ Waldron’s dedication to local cricket was, of course, not confined to just Salemites. He was involved in administration on a much larger scale for the Guernsey Cricket Association for many years and held the top job of GCA president from 1984 up to and including the association’s Diamond Jubilee year in 1987. ‘Eric played a huge role in the administration of Guernsey cricket when the local evening game was at its peak – seven divisions and 55 teams at one stage. He was president of the old GCA for several years and ran a very efficient ship,’ said Dave Piesing. ‘However, arguably his bigger influence on the local game was in relation to what he achieved with Salemites. He worked tirelessly to find raw young talent from the local secondary schools – those which played no or very little cricket – and, in tandem with Ralph Anthony’s excellent coaching skills, turned them into very useful cricketers and very competitive teams who always played the game the right way. Eric and Ralph together were a formidable unit whose combined influence was massive. ‘Eric even erected an indoor net in one of the warehouses at Braggs where he worked. His passion for the game was transmitted to many. He also had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the game, being an avid collector and reader of the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanac. ‘When turning up against one of Eric’s Salemites’ teams in the lower divisions, there was always a negotiation over the number of overs to be played – there was no maximum, other than the limits of the fading light. Many teams expecting to play 21-22 overs would be met by a suggestion from Eric in midsummer that “we should be able to get 30 overs in tonight”, and invariably the outcomes of the negotiations were far closer to Eric’s suggestion. He saw no reason to ever play any fewer overs than was possible, and it was always hard to find a counter-argument.’

Waldron’s love of cricket was perhaps never demonstrated more than when, in 1979, his run of 21 consecutive Church-to-Church Walk finishes came to an end because the race clashed with a cricket final in England the same day. But by then he had already made an indelible mark on the highlight of the local race- walking calendar.’Sarnia Walking Club can rightly call Eric Waldron as one of the Church-to-Church legends with his two wins and 21 years streak of finishes,’ said Rob Elliott, of the SWC, who had known Eric since 1970. ‘His name will continue to be remembered in the two miles Eric Waldron race walk held each year.’ His two Church-to-Church wins came in 1958, when he clocked 3hrs 23min. 15sec., and 1960 in 3-15-15, which was to remain his best time. In a feature published by the Guernsey Press in 1999, Eric revealed that the challenge of the 19.4-mile event was not purely physical. ‘In the early days, I’d never have found my way round without a friend on a bike. The upper parishes were like Swahili to me,’ said the man who was never actually a SWC member, but rather a keen athlete of the GIAAC, and whose only other walk appearances were in inter- firms events over three miles representing Salem Methodist Youth Club. Despite winning the race twice, it was one specific moment of Eric’s Church-to-Church career that has gone down in Guernsey sporting folklore.

Eric in the Church-to-Church walk

It is only right to let the man’s own words describe the scene. ‘I was going through Torteval down a narrow lane towards St Peter’s Church. My way was completely blocked by a Mini. I didn’t want to slow down so I walked straight over – I tried to be as careful as possible.’

Eric also produced a Guernsey Athletic Stats book in 1964 and was a regular contributor to Athletics Weekly.