On Football - Chris Snuggs My Lost Cricket Ball - Chris Snuggs Dickie Mayes - Chris Snuggs Activities in the Gym - Chris Snuggs
Sailing v Cricket - Chris Snuggs Eric Coates: Fast Bowler - Mike O'Leary Table-tennis and Harvey Angel - Chris Snuggs Glorious Sailing at WHS - Phil Melville
The Disappointment - Chris Snuggs The Annual Cross-Country - Mike O'Leary The Old Tennis Courts - Chris Snuggs  

On Football - Chris Snuggs ('58 to '64)

Let’s be clear: I’m writing about the Greavesie stuff played mainly with the feet and a ball. There are purists who insist on this being called “soccer”, but of course, the word “purist” has always had the slight whiff of the weirdly obsessive about it. This is actually a very interesting subject for me, who was always interested in words - long before WHS days in fact, even though Derek Thornbery in particular nurtured and refined that interest. After all, words are what mainly differentiate us from other animals, some of which share over 90% of our genes.

Returning to our sheep, I see it as entirely logical that the WHS game be known as rugby and the Greavsie one as football. The fact that Americans call their weird handling game “football” can be ignored. Don’t get me wrong; I love America and probably a majority of Americans, but they are not going to dictate the agenda here. Funnily enough, I have often wondered what they should call their game. It is not - as we have seen - football, but neither is it rugby. Do we know where it was invented? For example, if it were first played at Kalamazoo, we could call it by that name - just as rugby was invented at Rugby School - which is of course fortunate for our game. Imagine if it had been first played at Doncaster! Then it would have been called “donk”. Even worse, it could have first appeared in Snodbury, Didling, Blubberhouses or - God forbid - Droop. Incidentally, it is amusing (you don’t have to agree) to think that if it had been at WHS that, for example, William Blair-Hickman had first picked up a ball and run with it during a game of football then the game would have been called “Woolverstone”, and no doubt at some stage “Woolvo”.

Anyway, that was just to clarify our terminology. The point is this. I assume (I am not a great fan of assumptions, but like idiot politicians, they are hard to avoid) that the absolute vast majority of boys going to WHS had never played rugby but HAD played football. ERGO, rugby was completely new for them but they were used to playing football - and presumably for the most part liking it. And yet, during the standard seven-year incarceration at WHS, football would be off the menu except as an slightly illicit and guilty occupation on Orwell Side well out of Taffy’s sight.

WERE boys disappointed not to be able to play football? I THINK that I knew before I went to WHS that rugby was played there, but I am not sure that I knew that there would be no football at all. That was not a problem for me, but I assume it might have been a big disappointment for some boys.

As for football, I do remember that some of my peers wanted to play it somehow or other, and of course Sunday on Orwell Side was just about the only opportunity. I remember quite clearly talking amongst ourselves and asking “Is it allowed? What if Taffy finds out?” Well, we never knew whether Taffy found out or even cared. In schoolboy legal terms, what we did on Sundays was to a large extent up to us; even at that tender age I remember feeling that even if Taffy objected to ANY manifestation of football on WHS soil he would not legally have a leg to stand on in trying to ban it.

In truth, I have NEVER known what he thought of boys playing the dreaded football on WHS soil. I assume he MUST have known it went on, but I do know that to me at least he never referred to it or took any steps to discourage it. I remember we junior house boys playing impromptu games of football on Orwell Side, but now I think about it I don’t remember seeing any older boys doing likewise. Maybe this was a newbie thing and after a couple of years boys were so into rugby that they no longer bothered with any form of football - on Orwell Side or elsewhere.

As for Orwell Side, I certainly don’t remember playing football there much after my second year, but we did play something called “the kicking game”. This was a non-contact game where we kicked the ball to each other rugby-like up and down the pitch (and touchline) - it was more like practising our rugby kicking skills than a game as such.

So there you have it; football was squeezed out of existence at WHS, where rugby was king. A good number of WHS boys were VERY good at rugby; would they also have made a career in football had they not gone to WHS? Maybe, but it was as it was, and I do not remember any great and lasting regret that we had no official football at WHS. There COULD have been a compromise: playing rugby in the autumn term and football in the spring. Would that have been better? I guess not.

PS I recently used the word “rugger” in connection with the hallowed game and got really told off by “a purist”, who insisted that “rugger” was a bastardardized version of the word and should be banned. I had never thought about this before. I have the impression that we used the word “rugger” at school. Does anyone remember? Did Taffy ever use the word?

PPS Orwell Side - weren't we lucky to be able to wander about and do things there? What a beautiful place to spend a lazy summer afternoon.

Jon Kemp (73 to 80): Football was played every Sunday morning in the front Garden at Corners. The pitch included the drive and a few trees.

Frederick Townson (52 to 58): In the '50s kicking a round ball often resulted in a detention.

Chris Snuggs (58 to 65): WOW!

Graham Forster (59 to 67): Taffy caught a group of us playing football on Orwell side and confiscated the bal

Roger Friend (58 to 63): I remember walking on the grass being a hanging offence! So was walking on the 6th form path ....

Chris Snuggs: Well, he was out of order, I am sorry to say. Not least because there was no actual RULE that you couldn't play football on Sundays on Orwell Side, was there? Nobody in their right mind would have gone up to Church Field to play football, but OS was a different thing! And Sunday was our day off!! Did you get your ball back?

Graham Forster: I don't know: it wasn't my ball. Taffy hated anyone playing with the round ball.

Chris Snuggs: I kind of knew he hated it, but not that he ever took any action to stop it, yet I was there when you were. Your group must have just been unlucky on the day.

Graham Forster: Maybe Wales had just lost in the 5 Nations????

Chris Snuggs: A pretty rare occurrence in those days ...

Richard Stokes (72 to 79): We had goalposts on Orwell side. We once had a charity match vs Ipswich School. I think Paul Whitmarsh played for Greys Athletic. The score v Ipswich was 0-0.

Chris Snuggs: Goalposts on OS? Unthinkable up to 1965 and probably longer!

Sailing & Cricket - Chris Snuggs ('58 to '64)

If you liked cricket then you did cricket. I cannot remember how and when exactly this choice was made, but once made, that was it for the duration; I do not remember any of my peers ever changing from cricket to sailing or vice versa.

I had played cricket at primary school, mostly on a tarmacked playground surface with stumps on springs .... Once we played a match against another school in Ruskin Park not far from Camberwell. We got 11 runs and WON!!

Well, I wasn't bad at cricket so I did cricket, but to be honest I had (and was probably not alone in this) a high regard for the sailors. I mean, it was a WHS tradition carried over from the LNS and we were by the river and you could tell without actually participating that sailing was done jolly well and managed of course by Stretch, for whom I had a lot of admiration; apart from anything else he was my French teacher for six years and had also reputedly been a tank commander in the war.

We knew our school was a bit special and sailing was an activity of quality that contributed to its uniqueness and reputation. After leaving WHS I regretted not having had a chance to sail at all. Surely SOME way could have been found at some time for cricketers to experience sailing. The ONLY time I went out on the river at WHS was with Clive Winter, who took me out to crew on a lovely June day in around 1962. Clive is such a gentleman, then and now.

So, there you have it: no more making fun of sailors as people who couldn't play cricket - even though of course most of them probably couldn't!!

The Disappointment  - Chris Snuggs ('58 to '64)

Batting in cricket is a bit like bullfighting:

- You are the total focus of all those watching.
- You can be a hero or look like an idiot.
- You are in a situation where either death or the end of your cricket career can come in an instant.
- There is no going back; permanent failure can come in an instant. It is very Ernest Hemingway stuff.

I was a fairly mediocre cricketer, it must be said - at least, I will say it before anyone else does. I did, however, play for the WHS team at all levels, mainly as a batsman. I was even captain of the U14s one year. But I was in general disappointed with my statistics. I think I only got one 50 in 6 years, against Holbrook. Mostly it was between 5 and 20, the latter on a good day. Not sure where the problem was: probably lack of concentration allied to excessive impatience - or perhaps a self-fulfilling prophecy; I always had a tendency to expect to fail.

Well, towards the end of the summer in 1964 I opened for the 1st XI against the Old Boys. Now this was a great honour: playing against guys one looked up to, some of whom had only just left, some of whom where seriously good cricketers. And of course we played on the main field, a magnificent venue with most of the school gathered round the boundary.

I don't remember much about the details of the game. Shamefully, I don't recall any of my teammates, though I think that the wonderful Khalid Rashid was captain that day. I do remember that the school batted first. I also remember facing their opening fast bowler, who was Doug Gardner.

Now Doug was a remarkable sportsman: immensely strong, a huge powerhouse in the 1st XV pack, a formidable athlete in the 110m hurdles and discus - and a very fast and accurate bowler. I was a great admirer of his sporting talent, but for various non-sporting reasons I was not otherwise his biggest fan.

In the pavilion I girded my loins and gritted my teeth; this was going to be no pic-nic: the whole school watching, a Wes Hall imitation bowler out to get me, and the start of the innings depending on me. I had determined in advance three things:

1) I was going to avoid any slogging theatricals and try to wear the bowling down (HA, HA - I never saw Doug Gardner "worn down".)

2) I was going to play straight and almost certainly block anything on my stumps or pads. Bill Lawrie would be my role model for that day.

3) My strategy would be - all being well - to accumulate runs slowly in ones and twos.

So off we went, and for a while my strategy worked. Doug came hurtling in with a red missile in line with the stumps and on a length - and as planned I mostly played forward. This went on for several overs, and again as planned my score crept up slowly with a couple of nudges per over into an empty space - plus the usual occasional snick through the slips. I especially remember one shot in particular a square on-drive for four. The look of surprise on the bowler's face has also stuck with me all these years! He probably didn't realize that I was more surprised than he was.

Well, by over 5 or so I had accumulated 11 runs: not exactly Brian Lara stuff but what one might call a solid start. And then he bowled one that reared up a bit which I played back to. THAT was against my cunning plan: I should have played forward as usual and smothered it. But I missed it, there was a loud appeal from behind - and Dickie Mayes gave me out.

The thing is, I swear to this day that I did not touch it. I heard no noise and felt no vibration. I was convinced I had not touched it. But up went the finger, so that was that: no third umpires or reviews in those days, and of course we all had immense respect for Dickie.

And so I trudged off. One expects to be out (in my case fairly quickly), but to be out like that after such a promising start was a big disappointment. Still, it was not a total failure, just not as good as I had hoped for. I try (mostly in vain) not to regard this as a metaphor for my life itself.

The Cricket Ball - Chris Snuggs ('58 to '64)

My mother once bought me a new cricket ball
To take with me to Woolverstone Hall.
It cost her a guinea; it was all she had got.
We hadn't much money, so it meant such a lot.

We went to a shop near Waterloo Station,
I was only ten, but with great expectation.
I kept my ball in a box by my bed.
It smelled of leather, all shiny and red.

When I got on the coach to Woolverstone Hall
I took with me my prized cricket ball.
I showed it around with pleasure and pride,
And we organized a game down on Orwell Side.

I was useless at cricket but for once I connected,
My shot, however, was badly directed.
The ball plopped over the long balustrade,
And for forty long years, there it has stayed.

Try as we might it remained unfound,
Somewhere hidden between nettles and ground.
That beautiful ball; its use was so short,
Lying there so long, yet still in my thoughts.

I feel sad for that ball, so long still and cold,
And now, like me, grown so wrinkly and old,
And nobody knows how I loved that ball,
Which my mother bought me for Woolverstone Hall.

The shop is long gone, and now the school, too.
There remain but my memories, so vivid and true.
For my mother who loved me bought me that ball,
To take with me to Woolverstone Hall

© Chris Snuggs 2005
WHS - Berners & Halls Houses: '58 to '63

Eric Coates - Fast Bowler! - Michael John O'Leary ('57 to '61)

One gamesday in the Summer of 1959 or 60, we were playing cricket on Berners and Eric was bowling. As he trundled back to his mark on his very long run up, the facing batsman decided he needed to make an adjustment and put up his hand to stop play. The umpire at the bowler’s end raised his arm to signal that Eric should wait.

Eric never used to wear his glasses while playing cricket and didn’t see the signal, so when he got back to his mark, he turned and immediately started his increasingly thunderous run in!

Well, everyone panicked! The batsman ran one way, the wicketkeeper another, and the slips scattered leaving 3 lonely stumps waiting for destruction. Eric released one of his screamers and the ball missed the stumps by a whisker and galloped off to the boundary. We all fell about laughing! What a memory.

Annual Cross-Countries - Michael John O'Leary ('57 to '61)

When I was in the 1st form in 1957/58, the annual cross-country was compulsory for all. To get out of it you had to have a note from matron or sick bay or something!

There were actually two cross-countries, a junior one for forms 1 to 3 and a senior for forms 4 to 6. The junior route was shorter than the senior. It cut back towards Woolverstone about half way along the run from the marina to Pin Mill.

The day of the junior cross-country, I went down to the locker room and found that some tosser had nicked my plimsoles. In those days there were no such things as trainers or runners or whatever! So, I had to run in my rugby boots!!

Running down the hard towards the marina was very painful on my feet because of the cement road, until I had the idea of moving to the grass verge.

I don't know how long the course was, but I completed it and came 68th, I seem to remember! The next year I came 15th, and in the 3rd form I came 6th. I nearly came 5th but at the last moment just before the finish line on Berners, some guy I didn’t hear came from behind and overtook me.

Dickie Mayes - Chris Snuggs ('58 to '64)

I never liked the Pink Floyd song "Another brick in the wall"; it seemed to me to gratuitously and idiotically slag off teachers. "We don't need no education." How stupid can you get? And in any case no teacher entered the profession to get rich - most out of a sense of vocation to help young people learn about and thrive in the world.

A wall was for me not something negative, but a structure to hold up a building, to make a defence against enemies - something strong, honest and durable. And a wall is made up of many bricks, each individual one contributing to its strength. I could see WHS as a wall - its strength made up of many bricks, the latter being the site, the facilities, the teachers, the staff, the commitment, the music, the drama, the sport.

One of the bricks in my WHS wall was Dickie Mayes. It is true that he like so many other people and things I kind of took for granted at the time, but what luck we had to have a professional cricketer to coach us. Apart from his huge professional expertise and experience, he was a kind, patient and gentle man. I never remember him being angry, impatient, over-critical - or indeed anything but obviously determined to do his best with us. Essentially, the most noble thing a parent or teacher can do is to give a child the opportunity to develop to the full whatever potential he has in whatever field he is interested in. WHS excelled in that in all areas: academic learning, music, drama and sport - and not least in cricket. At WHS, if you were interested in something and prepared to work at it then you could pretty well be sure to reach your full potential in it - and nobody can ask more from a school or its teachers - leaving aside any controversy about what political, religious or moral values a school curriculum or teachers might seek to instill; that is a contentious matter today, but was not as I recall in WHS days.

What do I remember of Dickie? He took us for many a session in the nets, and if he was fanatical about anything it was in bowling length, length, length and in batting keeping a straight bat - unless cutting or hooking of course. He would demonstrate both skills, and in bowling with his off-breaks, which he tried his best to get us to copy - in most cases with limited success. But we could all bowl something or other even if not all well enough to make the team. I wasn't bad at off-breaks, but I preferred the leg-break. Why? Because it was more spectacular and more likely to bamboozle the batsman. BUT, there was a caveat - a big one; it had to be on a length!

I don't know if you have ever tried leg-breaks. Getting a huge spin on the ball was a piece of cake, but doing that on a length is another matter entirely. I sometimes bowled a few overs of off-breaks in matches, but no captain (even myself when I had a go as Captain), was ever desperate enough to ask me to bowl leg-breaks. I did have one magnificent moment, however - just one that I will never forget. We were in the nets and I was bowling to Robert Coates, he being a pretty decent bat. On this particular occasion I sent him down a leg-break for once on a perfect length. He played right forward with knees bent, but didn't quite get to the pitch of the ball, which sped insanely far and zipped past to knock over his off stump. It sounds stupid (and no doubt is), but I have never forgotten that moment - which was a success never repeated. But in life if you have wildly succeeded in something even just once then that is often enough to give lasting pleasure.

Getting back to Dickie, when not coaching he was of course preparing perfect pitches and grounds for us to play on, something else one took for granted. When I left WHS I somehow had a feeling that I would ever again in my life enjoy classroom learning so much, never again play in an orchestra, never act in a play or ever play in a rugby or cricket team in such an environment. And of course I knew for sure that I would never play cricket again on such a magnificent pitch as the one in front of school. That was also one where Woolverstone Park would play on a Sunday and we would wander round the boundary and find a place to sit and watch - including Dickie put his skills into practice. As with most of my teachers, I never thanked him when I left school, but we did meet up decades later on a barge-cruise reunion when I partially made up for it. I believe that he enjoyed a long retirement and passed away a few years ago, but he was like so many others an unforgettable part of my schooldays.

Chris Snuggs - Berners/Halls 58-65: "This is as far as I recall a summary of what Dickie Mayes taught us, though perhaps more by example than in these exact words. Anything wrong or missing?

  • Keep your eye on the ball.
  • Until well set, don’t play at balls you can leave.
  • Prepare to move your feet - FAST.
  • If it’s on the wicket, play defensively, keeping your bat vertical.
  • if it’s on or near a length get to the pitch and smother it.
  • Don’t flash outside the off stump.
  • To score, wait for the bad ball and slog it for four, along the ground if possible. This is schoolboy cricket, so there’s usually at least one bad ball an over.
  • If bad balls are scarce or you’re running out of time, get to the pitch of the ball and hit it hard - and STRAIGHT if it’s on the wicket

It was a privilege to have had a coach of Dickie's professional and human qualities; once again something which at the time I took rather for granted, but have come to appreciate far more in later years. Apart from anything else, I really enjoyed net sessions with him: I remember him placing a handkerchief on a lengh and bowling at boys, each time hitting the handkerchief, or very close! Are the nets still there?"

David Lewis - Halls 55-60: "I think they are gone. Dickie came in my second year. In the first year we had Taffy for cricket, Absolutely crap.. I was lucky when Dick came as in the first year I was wicket keeper. Seeing me bowl in the nets I never kept wicket again and I was so grateful looking back on over 30 years of playing cricket."

Eric Coates - Corners 57-64: "I certainly don’t recall him teaching anyone to try to spoon the ball over the wicket keeper with the back of the bat.The last time I sat with Dickie chatting while watching a game, Botham and Richards were in their prime. He had lost much interest in interest in the professional game as there was far to much slogging. I dread to think what he’d make of the game now."

Chris Snuggs: “The problem with that is this: IF you can achieve good results by slogging the ball, then there is no natural law of the universe (or indeed cricket) that says you shouldn't do it. Presumably the contemporary sloggers achieve better results overall than playing the traditional Bill Lawry way. Perhaps batsmen (sorry, batters) have improved at actually eyeing and hitting the ball?

The other thing is that Dickie (and indeed we) were playing well before the short-forms of the game became so predominant. I don't think Bill Lawry would have got into the Aussie 20-20 team!

As for reverse sweeps and spooning the ball over the keeper's head, they were unimaginable in our day. If you had tried that Dickie would have had a fit!"

Daniel Dave O'Byrne - Johnstons 67-72: "I was very keen for cricket without much talent. I wasn't bad in the nets. When I got onto a real pitch I couldn't judge the bounce of the ball and would invariably get bowled, particularly by yorkers. A failing of the cricket training for me was that we never trained to bat on grass. Now, fielding I could do until the cows came home and I could watch them doing that."