A short account of the South Wales Hunts 1926-1966
By LEW ‘Tip’ Williams
The origins of SWHCC
The South Wales Hunts Cricket Club had its origin at the Royal Hotel Cardiff on a certain Tuesday during the winter of 1925/26. It was the custom for John Clay, Peter Clay, Charlie Jenour and Tip Williams to meet there once a week for lunch, and on one of these occasions it was decided to form a cricket club of the members and supporters of the local Hunts. A circular letter was drafted and sent out by the self-appointed joint secretaries Peter Clay and Tip Williams, and, as the response was quite encouraging, a meeting was called in the bar of the Chepstow Racecouse.
A committee was appointed and the Club colours chosen from the facings of the Hunt evening dress coats of the Llangibby (green), Glamorgan (primrose), Tredegar (black), and Monmouthshire (claret). The first President of the Club was Viscount Tredegar (Courtenay).
In July of 1926 the Hunts played their first match, against the Heythrop Hunt at Bourton-on-the-Water. The scores were:
|M.Kenyon||ct CL Clay||b LEW Williams||26|
|E.Hartley||ct Dale||b.LEW Williams||12|
|F.Hartley||lbw||b. GRS Byass||49|
|C.D.Barrow||ct LEW Williams||b R Byass||33|
|A.B.Whitaker||ct Brain||b. GRS Byass||8|
|B.Mews||st. Brain||b. GRS Byass||32|
|J.Medlicott||ct Brain||b.GRS Byass||0|
|Total (for 9 wickets declared)||227|
South Wales Hunts
|R.A. Byass||ct Hartley||b Mews||7|
|R.Durand||ct Hartley||b. Whitaker||38|
Heythrop Hunt won by 26 runs.
Myles was a tremendous character. He had captained Lancashire from 1919 to 1922, and while he was not an outstanding cricketer he was in the very top class as a raconteur. The Hunts were captained by C.C. (Bill) Williams, who fielded at point (never elsewhere) and who handled his side with severity. He would frequently call out: “smarten up there in the slips,” or “wake up there at mid-on”. He did not believe much in changing the bowling, in fact when it was once suggested to him that it might be a good idea to make a change, he replied that there was no need for it since he would guarantee to get any side out under three hundred.
The match at Bourton was of course a one-day affair and it is interesting to note that CL Clay (the father of the present President of the Club, JC Clay) was playing for the Hunts. The Byass brothers Geoffrey and Rupert, also played: the former a steady performer with bat and ball, the latter uncertain but capable of anything. There was never a dull moment, on or off the field, when Rupert was playing.
The following year (1927), the Hunts played the Heythrop Hunt again at Bourton – on this occasion winning easily – and subsequently at Chepstow, Monmouth and at Fosseway House, Stow-on-the-Wold, where Myles Kenyon had made a magnificent ground on the top of a plateau. The wicket and the light were so good that one year both the Hunts opening batsmen (Tom Jones and Tip Williams) made a hundred and we declared at about 300 for 3 wickets. In reply the Heythrop scored about 270 for 4.
It was in 1928 that we played our first home match at Tredegar Park, against the Free Foresters who were captained by Audley Miller, a unique character. There will never be anyone like him. He had learned his cricket with the Graces at Thornbury and Alveston, so there was nothing he did not know about the game and he never told the same story twice.
The hospitality provided by Lord Tredegar (Courtenay) at Tredegar Park was absolutely superb – one remembers a four- or five-course lunch with at least three different wines – and since we were a little afraid that Nigel Haig might bowl us out, two of the Hunts side were detailed to ‘look after him’ at lunch, which they did without stinting Nigel or themselves. But notwithstanding that strategy, Nigel proved almost unplayable on what Audley Miller described as a “good plantain wicket”. This was not surprising as only two years previously he had bowled out the Australians at Lords.
The umpires at Tredegar Park were usually Lord Tredegar’s butler and Jim Cross the Beaufort tailor from Badminton. Whilst their integrity was not in question, they were by no means infallible, and one remembers Audley Miller being given “run out” when as he explained afterwards he was “well past the sawdust”. One recollects Group Captain Sugden, Patrick Clay and Geoffrey Byass bowling well at Tredegar Park, and Peter Clay and Evan David making runs.
In 1929 the Hunts played the Beaufort Hunt at Tredegar Park, the present Duke scoring 25 and “young EM” (Grace) 7. Incidentally young EM appeared as a spectator at the match at Stinchcombe in 1964 between the Hunts and the Berkeley Hunt, looking almost as young as he did in 1929, when he must have been nearly 50.
Matches against regiments
It was about 1929/30 that our matches originated against the three regiments whose depots were situated in Wales, namely the Welch Regiment at Maindy Barracks Cardiff, the South Wales Borderers at Brecon and the Royal Welsh Fusiliers at Wrexham. These matches were always hard fought, which is as it should be, and tremendous fun.
Against the Welch Regiment the Hunts enjoyed many fierce struggles. One particularly remembers the batting of Maurice Phillips and the bowling of Bandmaster Davidson, which was allegro vivace for two or three overs but thereafter became andante moderato. He used to bowl from the Barracks end and on one occasion he bowled batsmen Nos 1 and 3 with the first two balls of the match. Batsman No 4 just managed to reach the wicket in time (in a state of incomplete attire) to face the third ball of the innings and to save a hat trick. Did he do so? Yes, thanks to the Regimental wicket keeper missing a not too difficult catch.
Amongst those who sometimes made runs at Maindy Barracks were Mike Brain, Cyril Dixon (142* in 1938), Tim Protheroe-Beynon, Maurice Phillips, Barney McCall, Trevil Morgan, Colonel Dickinson (113 in 1934), Geoffrey Byass, Yanto Price and Cyril Coleman. One cannot write about cricket at Maindy Barracks without mentioning Akerman (the groundsman). Ever since the Hunts have played there no other groundsman has been on view, and he was still functioning in 1964, though maybe looking a little older and his wickets playing a shade slower, but nevertheless full of runs for any batsman who is not in too much of a hurry.
South Wales Borderers
The Hunts match against the South Wales Borderers at Brecon always used to be a very gay affair, set in lovely surroundings with the regimental band performing at long-on, invariably opening with a selection from HMS Pinafore.
Several names come to mind of those who made runs or took wickets at Brecon, such as Tom Jones, John Knight, Cyril Dixon, Bobbie Arbuthnot, Owen Wales, David Rhys, John Duncan, Geoff Byass, Tony Sugden, Jackie Stocker, Ted and Marcus Linton, Joe Pryce-Jenkin, Peter Clay, Spencer Miles and Yanto Price. The Hunts used to stay at the Castle of Brecon Hotel until one year when an incident occurred involving one of our players*, and after that the team transferred to the Wellington, but one recollects that a lot of time during non-playing hours was spent in the Officers Mess.
*The incident was apparently when Dick Norbury came down to breakfast in the hotel dining room wearing nothing but his batting gloves on his feet, and the hotel banned the Hunts from staying there again!
Royal Welsh Fusiliers
After stumps were drawn on the second day at Brecon, the Hunts team used to set forth on the long journey for the match at Wrexham to be played on the following two days against the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, sometimes calling on the way for refreshment at Newtown Hall, the home of Bobbie Arbuthnot’s parents. One remembers one of such visits when his father had gone to bed, but at the sound of the piano down he came in his dressing gown to play the drums. It was usually rather late before the Hunts arrived at their destination at the Wynnstay Arms Wrexham or the Hand Hotel at Llangollen.
Probably the Royal Welsh Fusiliers were the strongest of the three regimental sides, including amongst others Edward Cadogan, Rodney David (139 in 1935), Hughie Stockwell, Garnons-Williams, Ken Nicholl, Hubert and David Prichard, Ned Parker-Jervis, Gerald Clegg-Hill, Jack Wills and John Garnett, and not forgetting Trevor Griffiths who when requested by his captain, who was bowling, to stand closer at short leg to the batsman, replied: “I won’t”.
The Hunts always reckoned that they would have to produce their top form to win at Wrexham, especially when Edward Cazalet was playing. He was a beautiful fast bowler and invariably got two or three quick wickets before the shine was off the ball. He used to do the same in county cricket, when playing for Hampshire.
One of our players had the unique experience at Wrexham of taking two consecutive first balls. It happened like this. He went in No 11 in the first innings and was bowled first ball by Edward Cadogan. The Hunts had to follow on, and as there was only time for about one over before lunch the captain invited batsmen Nos 10 and 11, who had not disrobed, to open the second innings. Batsman No 11 faced Edward Cadogan who had him caught at the wicket by Hughie Stockwell off the first ball of the over. After that the players came in for lunch.
On another occasion at Wrexham, one of our opening bowlers had failed to turn up when play began on the first day. We imagined that every kind of disaster had befallen him. However when we went into the Mess for lunch, there was the missing player drinking brandy with the Colonel of the Regiment. He subsequently explained that it would not have been polite to allow the Colonel to drink by himself.
It was at Wrexham on a lively sort of wicket that Pat Brain gave one of his most brilliant exhibitions of wicket-keeping, standing back to Marcus Linton, who was really fast, and up to Joe Pryce-Jenkin and Spencer Miles, both of whom were distinctly quick. Pat took some astonishing catches off his toes and his eyebrows. When he was good, he was very, very good.
Incidentally the Hunts have always been blessed with plenty of competent wicket-keepers, such as Pat Brain, Mike Brain, Ken Gould, Streak Corbett, David Gibson-Watt, Henry Lewis, John Downing and Christopher Brain, but first prize in the writer’s opinion must go to Pat. Those of the Hunts who sometimes performed well at Wrexham were the Linton brothers, Bobbie Arbuthnot, Joe Pryce-Jenkin (7 for 17 and 6 for 17 in 1938), Tip Williams (101 in 1938), Cyril Dixon and Suggy.
Aubrey Morgan’s XI
Between the years 1928-1934 the Hunts used to play Aubrey Morgan’s XI at Cowbridge, whose team after the first two years merged with and played as the Cambridge Crusaders, but Aubrey and Trevil continued to conduct the proceedings and entertain the cricketers at Brynderwen. They were undoubtedly the best side we ever met and invariably had the better of us, although on one occasion John Clay gave them a fright. Many distinguished players were in their team at one time or another, such as Freddy Brown, Brian Valentine, Spencer Block, Tommy Longfield, George Kemp-Welch, John and Roger Human, E.F.Longrigg, W.H.Webster, all of whom played for their respective counties and some of them for England. David Prichard took 7 wickets against them in 1933.
In those days we used to walk (not motor) down to the town to the Duke of Wellington for lunch, where Mr. and Mrs Pratt always had a welcome for us. When they gave up the Duke after the war, cricket at Cowbridge never seemed quite the same, at any rate to those players who remembered the pre-war Hunts matches which invariably ended up at the Duke. Incidentally it was on the first night of the 1931 match against the Crusaders that the Hunts held their first dance, in the Cinema Pavilion at Cowbridge. The next one was held at Wentloog Castle in 1956 and was equally successful.
When the Crusaders fixture lapsed, its place was taken by the Phoenix Club from Dublin, captained by David Pigot, and who were more or less Gentlemen of Ireland standard. They had about the best medium pace bowler the Hunts have ever encountered, namely Jimmy Boucher, and when the wicket was doing anything (which it usually was at Cowbridge) he was well-nigh unplayable. On the rare occasions when he wasn’t going through us like a dose of salts he was apt to blame the “breeze”, apparently imagining that he couldn’t bowl as well as usual when the breeze was blowing from a certain direction, but the fact remained that he was too good for us whichever way the wind blew.
The Phoenix Club were playing at Cowbridge in late August 1939, just a few days before war broke out, and members of the Hunts side were being called up for the Forces during the match. We ended up with about 6 men. The Hunts team was as follows: J.C.Clay, W.E.Protheroe-Beynon, Brian Davis, R.Welchman, W.S.Miles, H.de B.Prichard, G.Rhys-Williams, P.Stable, H.A.P.Clay, J.A.Macdonald and L.E.W.Williams. If it hadn’t been for the war, the Hunts would probably have undertaken a tour in Ireland in 1940. Negotiations had been opened with the Phoenix Club for a two-day match at Phoenix Park, which surely is one of the most lovely grounds in the world, and incidentally only a stone’s throw from the racecourse. But alas, it was not to be.
Other matches which originated in the early 1930s were against the Gloucester Gypsies at Chepstow (Maurice Phillips 158 in 1933) and at Westonbirt where they held a cricket week on a ground that was only played on for one week in the season. We won the first time we played there when John Clay was playing for us, and lost the second time when he wasn’t, but the wicket was so bad that few of our players were able to do themselves justice on it, and the fixture was abandoned. It was rather a pity as it was very pleasant staying at the Hare and Hounds just opposite the ground.
Men O’Mendip and Somerset Stragglers
We also played the Men O’Mendip at Flax Bourton and at Weston-super-Mare, where Maurice Phillips made 139* hitting 26 in one over. Maurice was in splendid form in the 1930s, and he never used to give his wicket away after making a hundred unless instructed by his captain to do so. Other matches were against the Somerset Stragglers on the county ground at Taunton, where we lost, and at St. Fagans, where we won.
One of our best and most enjoyable fixtures is against the Downside Wanderers which started in 1930 as a one day affair. It happened like this. The Wanderers had arranged a fixture against the Men O’Mendip for one of the days of their cricket week, but a few days before the match was due to be played Tip Williams received a telephone call from the secretary of the Men O’Mendip saying that he was unable to raise a side against the Wanderers and suggesting that the Hunts should take a team to play them instead. Naturally we agreed to do so, and even managed to produce a reasonable side and came away with an honourable draw. Some of the Wanderers remained under the impression that they were playing against the Men O’Mendip as stated on their fixture card, until more or less the same Hunts side turned up again the following year, this time official opponents.
From that beginning the match against the Downside Wanderers became an annual event, and in 1949 it grew into a two-day affair owing to the Sherborne Pilgrims dropping out of the Wanderers cricket week. One man’s meat is another man’s poison and the Hunts will always be grateful to both the Men O’Mendip and the Sherborne Pilgrims for having made possible our fixture against the Wanderers at Downside. Those who have done well at Downside for the Hunts include Trevil Morgan (112 and 6 wickets in 1951), Brian Davis (111 in 1952), Bobbie Arbuthnot (101 in 1935), Mike Brain (108 in 1949), Tony Murray-Johnson (159 in 1956) and Mervyn Bourdillon (138 in 1956 and 104 in 1957).Bowlers who have done well at Downside were John Clay, Arthur Best, Marcus Linton, Bobbie Arbuthnot, Trevil Morgan. Leaving out the war years the match against the Downside Wanderers has been going on for over 30 years during which time the Hunts have had only two match managers: namely Tip Williams and George Francis, who seems to bat better every year.
Mention must be made of the matches before the war against the Newport Thursdays who were captained by Bird Partridge. Those members of the Hunts who played at Newport will never forget the bickering that used to go on in the field between the Bird and his brothers-in-law Gordon and Maurice Phillips. All three were great characters. On one occasion when the Hunts Captain asked the Bird at what time stumps would be drawn, he replied that “they always drew at 6 o’clock at Newport unless there was anything in it, in which case play would continue till a quarter to nine”. Thus it was a matter of some complexity for the Captain of the side batting first to time his declaration so as to give the other side a reasonable, but not too much, chance of getting the runs.
One of the Hunts’ oldest fixtures has been against the Carmarthen Wanderers, whose fairy god-father over the years has been Jack Protheroe-Beynon. So far as is known he and Hilda have never missed a match against us. We have played the Carmarthen Wanderers at Cowbridge, at Llandovery, at Stradey Park Llanelly and at the Maindy Barracks. At one of the pre-war games at Cowbridge the Hunts had the assistance of D.R.Jardine but he didn’t make any runs, greatly to the disappointment of both sides.
Mention of Jack Protheroe-Beynon must not be allowed to pass without recording the gratitude of the Hunts to him for his highly efficient umpiring over a long period. Seldom has one heard a batsman complain about Jack’s decisions, although on one occasion when Jack had given one of the Carmarthen Wanderers out lbw, the batsman on his way back to the Pavilion when asked by a fielder whether he was out, replied: “No, but if Jack said so it must have been b****y near”.
For three or four years after the war the Hunts used to hold a Pembrokeshire tour, playing against Cresselly on the Friday and a two day match against the Royal Artillery at Manorbier on the Saturday and Sunday, but it proved too difficult to field a representative side and the tour had to be abandoned.
The fixture against the Herefordshire Gentlemen has been going on for some years and has proved very popular. It was originally played at Stoke Edith but for the last few seasons it has been played at Brockhampton, the home of Peter Clay.
One of our most enjoyable fixtures is that against Builth Wells C.C. This started after the war and is unique in that it is a one and a half day match (2 innings of course), but in the absence of rain it seldom results in a draw. For one reason or another batting is never easy at Builth – maybe it has something to do with the strong air at the Metropole – and although the side boundaries are short, a player who makes 50 or more can be well satisfied with himself. One remembers the following doing well at one time or another at Builth with bat or ball : Brian Davis, John Clay (9 for 75 in 1949), Arthur Best (65*in 1949 including four 6’s), Spencer Miles, Charles Evan-Thomas, Cyril Price, Mike Brain, Harold Caccia, David Gibson-Watt, Mervyn Bourdillon, Ivor Pugh, Michael Dalglish and Maurice Phillips.
One of the most exciting matches in which the Hunts have been concerned was against Abergavenny in 1949. We were entertained to an excellent lunch by Mrs. Reynolds at Penpergwm, and then proceeded to lose 9 wickets for 51. However batsmen Nos 10 (John Clay) and 11 (L.E.W.Williams) added 71 runs for the last wicket, and eventually thanks to John Clay who bowled unchanged we won by one run. The excitement among the large Sunday evening crowd was intense.
Another activity of the Hunts before the war was to engage a private saloon on the special train from Cardiff to Liverpool (or rather Birkenhead) for the Grand National. We usually had about 30 starters at Cardiff and picked up several more at Newport and Abergavenny. Mr.Pratt used to accompany us and see to our needs. The train left Cardiff at about 7.45 a.m. and the bar opened when we got to Pontypool Road
The South Wales Hunts dance is another of the Club’s off the field activities. So far seven dances have been held, starting at Cowbridge in 1931, and continuing at Wentloog Castle in 1956, at Pwllywrach in 1958, at Llanfair Court in 1960, at Coedarhydyglyn in 1962, at the Grange St.Brides-super-Ely in 1964 and at The Old Rectory Porthkerry in 1966.
The purpose of these reminiscences is so that the younger members and supporters of the South Wales Hunts C.C. may know that from a modest beginning with one match in 1926, the Club has flourished and gone from strength to strength and now has a fixture list as attractive as any club in the country.
If the emphasis of these short notes is on the earlier matches, that is because old men remember best the things that happened in their youth rather than the events of yesterday. It will be for someone else to write the next instalment.
Typed by Lawrie Williams in May 2016 from the 1966 manuscript of Tip Williams