New review of Where’s Sailor Jack? : ‘‘…romantic, poignant, and extremely funny, exactly what I want from a family saga.’ – Stephen Carver, Blot the Skrip and Jar It

Archives: cricket

Lancashire Born v Lancashire Adopted

Seeing how Where’s Sailor Jack? follows, in passing, the fortunes of Lancashire cricket from 1950 to date, I thought I’d have a bit of fun picking two teams from the whole period, one born and bred, one from anywhere outside the county. In the latter case, I’ve only picked players who played at least three seasons for us, so sadly no place for Graeme Pollock or Michael Holding for instance. I’ve made one or two startling omissions, such as Mike Atherton, as we have a surfeit of Lancastrian-born opening bats and his major contribution was to England. I’ve tried to find a balance between the fine players of the early fifties, the great one-day era of the late sixties, the years where we drifted, and the championship winning team of 2011.
The home team lines up in batting order as: Cyril Washbrook, Winston Place, Geoff Pullar, Neil Fairbrother, Andrew Flintoff, David Lloyd, Jack Simmons, Geoff Clayton (wk), Roy Tattersall, Brian Statham, James Anderson. The away team is Farokh Engineer (wk), Barry Wood, Jack Ikin, Clive Lloyd, Ashwell Prince, Stuart Law, Wasim Akram, Glenn Chapple, Ken Higgs, Gary Keedy, Muttiah Muralitharan.
Only Geoff Clayton, Glenn Chapple and Gary Keedy are uncapped.I make no apologies for the inclusion of so many of the Gillette Cup winning generation, when the rest of the country used to play each other to see who played Lancashire in the final. I particularly wish I could have found a place too for Harry Pilling. Some fine bowlers have had to be ignored, but with Statham, Anderson and Flintoff, the likes of Shuttleworth and Allott just couldn’t get in, and similarly with Peter Lever from whichever side of the bed in Todmorden he was born on. Warren Hegg was close to the wicketkeeper slot, but Geoff Clayton brings back the late fifties and early sixties. I’d have loved to have found a spot for Peter Marner, but like Frank Hayes, he wasn’t quite consistent enough. And regrettably, nothing for Steven Croft and Karl Brown, Blackpudlian and Boltonian, at the wicket when paradise was regained on that glorious day of redemption, which partly gave me the idea for Bob and Richard in the novel. But thank you all for the memories.

Oh Bon

“Where’s Sailor Jack?” asks the question of where do we go when we die, apart from into ashes or dust. Is there a life after death? My Mum died on October 6th, just three months short of her hundredth. “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas,” wrote St Matthew quoting Jesus. Biblical exposition sees the reference to Jonas, in the whale’s belly for three days, as an allegory for Jesus’ three days in the tomb. Maybe though he was joking about swallowing a far-fetched story whole.

It took thirteen years exactly for my Dad to get in touch, with the repeated cricket miracle of the five clean-bowled wickets. A simplified version in the novel is based on two real events involving my Dad and my youngest son George, who is fifty years younger than me. Just after the war, my Dad clean-bowled five batsmen in five balls to win a match. On the thirteenth anniversary of Dad’s death, playing for Aldenham School Under Fifteens, George clean-bowled four batsmen to do the same. I joked that he hadn’t done as well as his Granddad. The next day, playing for his club team Cockfosters against Winchmore Hill, he bowled their opening bat first ball.

It’s taken my Mum only 36 days. When I was very small, in my cot I would get hold of my bottle by the teat, swing it around, the teat would come off and there would be milk everywhere. I’d then look over the bars of the cot and say, “Oh Bon.” I couldn’t say John yet, but was mimicking my Mum telling me off. Anyway yesterday, I was on my Twitter account (@JohnRUttley if you’re interested) when appearing bang in the middle of my front screen was the word OHBON. Three tweets down from the top, Twitter put on suggested sites and sponsored items. OHBON are a fashion jewellery company in Colorado. I don’t think a targeted ad would have picked me out, so I’m assuming it’s my Mum’s commentary on my life to date! There no doubt will be another explanation why OHBON hit my screen, but this one is too good to miss. Life is full of dualities, or is it dual aspect monisms?

Who says you can’t swallow a whale whole?

Self identity from sporting allegiance

Where’s Sailor Jack? makes great play on the allegiance of Bob Swarbrick and Richard Shackleton to their separate towns’ football teams and to the county cricket team they share. Bob is from Blackpool so on return to the north-west he bought a season ticket for Bloomfield Road. Richard is from Bolton and has to follow his beloved Wanderers from afar. Their joint support for Lancashire is shown in their ecstatic delight when the county palatine finally wins the county championship after a seemingly everlasting wait, a Blackpudlian and Boltonian batting when the winning runs are hit.

Both would fail the notorious Norman Tebbit test for national identity if this was extended to regional loyalty. Neither is going to support Middlesex when living north of the Thames. They would both agree, having followed their football teams through thick and thin, that you can change your wife and you can change your religion but you can’t change your football team. They do not have animosity towards the other’s team, because both sides are Lancastrian. If Blackburn or Burnley, either scouse team, City or even United were playing at Chelsea when they were younger, then they’d go along and cheer for the Lancashire side. Nowadays when watching Sky they will do the same. They have players from the past, sadly some passed away, who are still their heroes. Bob has Matthews and Morty, Richard Nat Lofthouse, the Lion of Vienna, and the charismatic Freddie Hill. I had to miss out from WSJ the childhood story of when Richard got Nat’s autograph, great tale that it was.

Yes, I’m a Wanderer but I hope that readers couldn’t tell which I was from the novel. They were both there as young lads when the Aussies played at Old Trafford in 1953, without knowing of each other’s existence, to late for Bradman but seeing Lindwall and Miller in harness, respecting Washbrook, Ikin, Winston Place etc and revering the great Brian Statham. A bit later, they adopted men like Farokh Engineer and Clive Lloyd as their own, as great Lancastrians, but have never been fully comfortable with South Africans playing for England. “They’re taking the place of a good young English player,” would be their stated concern, probably meaning a Lancastrian prospect. I think that’s why they would welcome big Clive at Old Trafford but not Allan Lamb or KP fully into the test team. Their regional identity is absolute, their national identity more layered.

I don’t begrudge anyone else their regional identity either, not even Yorkies. Compton and Edrich were great players for Middlesex and that summer of 1948 must have been wonderful. Peter May, a lovely man, became a personal friend in his later business career. Genealogy has told me that my Y chromosome comes from Yorkshire. I’m not like Len Hutton, Fiery Fred, Brian Close or Boycott though, nor Don Revie or Norman Hunter. It can only ever be Bolton Wanderers and Lancashire for me.