The death of Everton de Courcy Weeks at the age of 95 on the 1st July 2020 brings closer the end of a chapter in the early cricket watching life of the writer. Weekes, along with Sonny Ramadhin, still alive and now into his nineties, was one of just two survivors from the first game of first-class cricket that I watched as a very young schoolboy.
26 February 1925 – 1 July 2020
They were both members of the West Indies touring party that visited England in the summer of 1950 where English cricket was first introduced to “those two little pals of mine, Ramadhin and Valentine”
By the time that they came to play Gloucestershire on 19th August they had already won the Test series against England by three matches to one and their visit to Cheltenham was keenly anticipated by the locals for the final game in that year’s Festival.
The weather throughout the Festival had not been good. The first game against Middlesex had ended in a draw after most of the first day’s play had been lost to rain with both sides only completing their first innings. A draw was also the result of the second game against Worcestershire where less than five hours play was possible on the first two days. Three declarations on the final day made for some interesting cricket with Gloucestershire set to score 207 runs in 140 minutes but by the close they had reached 111 for the loss of five wickets. The Wisden report of the game records that for Worcestershire “the fast bowlers made the ball lift head high and that several batsmen were struck on the body”
And so to Saturday 19th August 1950.
For a six-year old schoolboy being taken to watch his first day of “proper” cricket in the middle of summer it should have been a day of excitement starting with the journey looking out of the front window on the top deck of the Number 46 bus from Stroud (it wasn’t until many years later that I realised that the route was numbered for the main road from Stroud to Cheltenham, the A46), the walk to the College Ground, watching the players practicing before the start of the game.
Weatherwise, however, the day turned out to be no better than those of the previous week with heavy rain delaying the start until 2.45p.m. and when it was time to leave the ground to catch the bus back to Stroud in the early evening, Gloucestershire had been bowled out for 69 with Ramadhin having taken eight wickets for fifteen runs in six and a bit overs. The West Indians had reached 115 for two wickets with Walcott and Weekes the not out batsmen.
That, then, was my introduction to first-class cricket in general and Gloucestershire cricket in particular,
The game continued on the Monday, the West Indians totalling 271 with Weekes scoring 57 and Walcott reaching 126 before being bowled by a seventeen year old John Mortimore, making his debut for the County. It was the first of the 1696 first-class wickets that he would take for Gloucestershire in a career that would last until 1975. Gloucestershire fared slightly better in their second innings, but with Ramadhin taking five wickets for 36 runs and Valentine four for thirty-one they were bowled out for 97, leaving the West Indians victors by an innings and 105 runs. Looking back at the Gloucestershire eleven for that game it is interesting to note that five were or would go on to represent England in Test Cricket.
Now, some seventy years later and although I doubt that I will watch any cricket live during what remains of the summer of 2020, the enjoyment of the game is still there just as strong as it was in that six year old schoolboy on the 46 bus.