Enjoying the sunshine in his immaculately-kept garden Dickie Mayes looked for all the world like a man who has spent a lifetime involved in sport.
The former Kent and Sufolk cricketer has just retired as Head Groundsman and Cricket Coach at Woolverstone Hall School and was getting an early taste of retirement at his Chelmondiston home.
An arthritic left knee had brought forward Dick’s retirement by four months. Sipping a refreching lager and overlooking the type of lawn one would expect from someone adept at preparing excellent cricket wickets, he reflected on his career.
“I joined Kent as a spin bowler,” was his first surprising comment, as Dick never in fact bowled a ball in the First Class game.
He took a host of wickets for his school in Canterbury and went straight into the Kent staff in 1939 after leaving school. He played just one Second XI game before the 1939-45 war intervened.
That was against Middlesex Seconds, when Leslie Compton, later to become a wicketkeeper, bowled against him as a paceman.
“Being unable to play for eight years was a big hole in my career,” said Dick, who was 16 when the war began. Called up in 1942, he drove a tank during his war service.
It was between 1945 and '47 when he was demobbed that Dick began to make a name for himself as a batsman.
Based in Cairo, he played a lot of Service cricket and enjoyed one tour of Africa where he scored numerous runs.
“It was a great tour but a bit nerve-wracking as we were transported around in a Dakota that felt as if it had a mind of its own.”
Dick gained his Second XI cap straight away after rejoining Kent and made his First Class debut in 1947. His best seasons were 1951, ‘52 and ‘53, the latter seeing him just fail to reach 1,000 runs.
Dick made four centuries, the first against Hampshire at Southampton, but his Kent career effectively ended when Trevor Bailey broke his finger.
International players like Colin Cowdrey and Godfrey Evans were in the Kent side. “Colin is a lovely man and playing for Kent was a lovely experience. “But I would love to have played one-day cricket. I was quick on my feet and it would have suited my style of play. We had about eight good fielders; nowadays all 11 players are excellent in the field."
After helping his father run a pub in Kent, Dick moved to Suffolk in 1957 as Woolverstone Hall’s first cricket coach. Former Kent wicketkeeper Tony Catt was living in Ipswich and heard about the post. He telephoned Dick and an appointment with the Headmaster was arranged.
Tony Catt was living in Ipswich and heard about the post. He telephoned Dick and an appointment with the Headmaster was arranged.
Apart from his coaching, Dick also looked after 70 acres of grounds at the school. He became professional for Suffolk at the age of 34, scoring 2,786 runs at an average of 30.61.
The most famous player to leave Woolverstone is England and Middlesex batsman Graham Barlow, but he left after his third year. The two boys Dick rates the highest are Brian Workman and David Waight, who had a few games in the Kent Second XI on Dick’s advice.
No replacement has been made for Dick, with a question mark hanging over the future of the school. Peter Sadler is Master in Charge of Cricket and has played a leading part in keeping up the standards.
Dick praises him highly and Peter was heavily involved in the events last weekend when the man who was respected by all he coached was presented with a cheque and photograph in recognition of his services. It was Old Boys’ Weekend and they had come from all over the country to support Dick.
“It was the first time in 31 years that I had not prepared the wicket for the Old Boys’ match,” said Dick with an air of disappointment. “But it was a lovely weekend.”
With no regrets at moving to Suffolk Dick is to spend his retirement in the county. His wife Vi is a housematron at the school.
The former Ramsgate and Canter- bury part-time professional footballer
has a host of stories to relate. Charlie
Grime was a bigmate in the Sevices and played for Warwickshire.
Numerous times he said to Dick that he would give him one run to get off the mark when they met in the County Championship. When they did cross swords, the fast bowler roared in from the start, and Dick - who scored a century - asked him when he got up the other end why he had not given him a half-volley.
“Not on your life,” the old cam-paigner replied. Dick also vividly remembers playing for Kent Seconds at Lakenham against Norfolk when a mad cow wandered onto the pitch and caused havoc to the tents around the pitch.
“The toilet tent was flattened, which surprised a few people,” he smiled. Dick’s bungalow was formerly owned by another First Class cricketer, David Ling, the Ipswich-born all-rounder who was with Middlesex in the Sixties.
Dick and Vi’s two children, Richard and Brian, have both just ended distinguished cricketing careers. The couple are looking forward to spending more time with their four grandchildren, two in Hull and two in South-East Essex.
Regular holidaymakers in Spain for several years, the Mayes intend to visit the sunshine more in retirement, while Dick is learning Spanish. He also wants to do some part-time painting.
“It will take time to adjust to the relaxed life, but I aim to enjoy myself,” said Dick. Few people who have known him have failed to enjoy his company, and they will wish him well.