Blaker Family of Sussex - Reminiscences


Sports and Games.

OF all English games, cricket is, perhaps, the most popular, and in my boyish days it was played with as much or more zest and vigour than at the present time. It was played in a far less scientific manner, and everyone joined in it. The slow underhand bowling was just then being replaced by the faster "round-hand" bowling, in which the hand, in delivering the ball, is not on a higher level than the shoulder; and afterwards, by the fast overhand bowling of the present day. Practice went on every fine evening in summer, and masters and men joined in it. When work was slack the men were occasionally given an afternoon for a match of cricket. Sides were chosen, or the married played against the single, or one parish against another parish : "Work first and pleasure after" was always the motto. Farmers and men in business frequently gave up a day for cricket when their business would permit, and I can recollect that many of them gave up cricket altogether when the matches were prolonged to more than one day. A gentleman who farmed a large area of land near Shoreham told me that, in his younger days, his landlord called on him and remonstrated with him for spending so much time on cricket; his reply was "I will play the match I am engaged to play in next week, and I will not play another," and from that time he gave up cricket. Stool-ball was also a favourite game and was played chiefly by girls.

I was never fond of cricket and, as a school boy, never played if I could avoid it. This was quite contrary to my father's wish. He was very fond of the game and, in summer, generally carried a ball in his pocket with which he used to knock down high thistles, and once killed a snake. I have a very hazy recollection of going with him to a match on the old ground on the Level, to the north of St. Peter's Church, and seeing Alfred Mynn, Felix and, I think, Box. My recollection of Mynn is that he was a very big, good-looking man, while Felix, who, I was told, was a school-master, was rather short and broad-shouldered. I went occasionally to see a match on Henfield Common in the early fifties. Mr. Laurence Smith at that time lived at Terry's Lodge, which was situated about a mile from Henfield Common, and his two sons, Alfred and Harry, played in the Sussex eleven. Alfred was always long-stop, and Harry bowled. Bushby, Mr. Smith's game-keeper, and Jack Penniket, who was the barber at Henfield and used to cut my hair, were also in the Sussex team, and also another very short, crook-backed man, whose name was, I think, Wood, so that the Henfield Club was very strong and good matches were played. William and Edwin Napper frequently played there. When the game was over we generally went back to Mr. Smith's to tea. Later on, Wisden played on that ground; he was a very thin short man, and looked, in his early days, like a somewhat delicate boy. Mr. Richard Lidbetter, who was fond of a little "chaff," said to him one day, as he was preparing to go in and putting on his pads, "What! are you going in? How many runs do you expect to make, a dozen?" Wisden said, "Yes, I hope I shall make that." Mr. Lidbetter replied: "Well, I will give you a shilling for every run you make over two dozen." I believe he made sixty.

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