This appreciation formed part of a one-man show
performed by Edward de Souza later broadcast by Harold Pinter
Arthur Wellard 1902-1980 (Somerset,
England and Gaieties)
Arthur Wellard, at tea
In July 1974 Gaieties C.C. was engaged
in an excruciatingly tense contest with Banstead. We had bowled
Banstead out for 175 and had not regarded the task ahead as particularly
daunting. However, we had made a terrible mess of it and when
our ninth wicket fell still needed five runs to win. That we were
so close was entirely due to our opening batsman, Robert East,
who at that point was ninety-six not out. The light was appalling.
Our last man was Arthur Wellard, then aged seventy-two. He wasn't
at all happy about the reigning state of affairs. He had castigated
us throughout the innings for our wretched performance and now
objected strongly to the fact that he was compelled to bat. I
can't see the bloody wicket from here, how do you expect me to
see the bloody ball? As a rider, his rheumatism was killing him.
(He had bowled eighteen overs for twenty-nine runs in the Banstead
innings). He lumbered out to the wicket, cursing.
Banstead were never a sentimental crowd. The sight of an old man
taking guard in no way softened their intent. Their quickie had
two balls left to complete the over. He bowled them, they were
pretty quick, and Arthur let both go by outside the off-stump,
his bat raised high. Whether he let them go, or whether he didn't
see them, was a question o( some debate, but something told us
that he had seen them, clearly, and allowed them to pass
East drove the first ball of the next over straight for four,
bringing up his hundred and leaving us with one run to win. The
next five balls he struck to the deep-set field. There were clear
singles for the asking in these shots but Arthur in each case
declined the invitation, with an uplifted hand. He was past the
age, his hand asserted, when running singles was anything else
but a mug's game.
So Arthur prepared to face what we knew had to be the last over,
with one run to win. The Gaieties side, to a man, stood, smoked,
walked in circles outside the pavilion, peering out at the pitch
through the gloom. It appeared to be night, but we could discern
Arthur standing erect, waiting for the ball. The quickie raced
in and bowled. We saw Arthur's left leg go down the wicket, the
bat sweep, and were suddenly aware that the ball had gone miles
in the long-on area, over the boundary for four. We had won.
The Team in 1975. Arthur
Wellard seated bottom right
In the bar he pronounced himself well pleased.
No trouble, he said. He tried to get me with a yorker. Where's
the boy who made the ton? He did well. Tell him he can buy me
Arthur played his last game for Gaieties in 1975. By this time
his arm was low and discernibly crooked and his bowling was accompanied
by a remarkable range of grunts. He was also, naturally, slow,
but his variation of length still asked questions of the batsman
and he could still move one away, late. But he could now be hit
and he could no longer see the ball quickly enough to catch it.
He retired from the field at the age of seventy-three and became
our umpire. He bad been playing cricket for some fifty years.
What was Hammond like, Arthur, in his prime? Hammond? I used to
bowl against Hammond at Taunton. Jack White set two rings on the
off-side, an inner ring and ~an outer ring. Old Wally banged them
through both rings. Off the back foot. Nobody could stop him.
Never anyone to touch old WaIly on the offside, off the back foot.
What was he like on the front foot, Arthur? He was bloody useful
on the front foot, too.
What about Larwood, Arthur? How fast was he? Larwood? He was a
bit quick, Larwood. Quickest thing I ever saw. First time I faced
him was at Trent Bridge, that was my first season with Somerset.
Who's this Larwood? I said, supposed to be a bit pacey, is he?
I didn't reckon the stories. He's a bit quick, they said. A bit
quick? I said. We'll see about that. I'd faced a few quickies
in Kent. Well, I went out there and I got four balls from Larwood
and I didn't see any of them. The first I knew about them was
Ben Lilley throwing them back. The fifth ball knocked my hob over
and I didn't see that one either. I'll tell you, he was a bit
quick, Harold Larwood.
Wisden supports this: May 1929. Trent Bridge. Notts v. Somer-set.
A. W. Wellard b. Larwood 0. What Arthur didn't mention was that
in the Notts innings we read: H. Larwood b. Wellard 0.
Did I ever tell you the story about Harry Smith of Leicester?
Arthur went on. He had a stutter. One day they went out into the
field against Notts. Harry likes the look of the wicket, he thinks
it'll suit him. I'll tell you what, S-s-skip, he says to his skipper,
I think I'll b-b-bounce one or two. Wait a minute, says the skip,
you know who they've got on the other side? They've got Larwood
and Voce. I'll just b-b-bounce one or two, says Harry. So he bounces
one or two and Notts don't like it much. Anyway, Leicestershire
go in before the end of the day and Larwood and Voce knock them
over like tin soldiers and suddenly old Harry finds he's at the
wicket. Larwood and Voce go for him. Harry's never seen so many
balls around his ears. He thinks they're going to kill him. Suddenly
he gets a touch and Sam Staples dives at first slip and it looks
as though he's caught it. Harry takes off his gloves and walks.
Wait a minute, Harry, says Sam, it was a bump ball, I didn't catch
it. Yes, you f-f -f-fucking-well did, says Harry, and he's back
in the pavilion before you can say Jack Robinson.
Arthur would roar at that one but he never missed what was going
on in the middle. Even side-on to the pitch and not apparently
paying any attention he could see what the ball was doing. She
popped, he would say, he wasn't forward enough. It's no good half-arsing
about, it's no good playing half-cock on a wicket like this, it's
not the bloody Oval. What he wants to do, he wants to get his
front foot right forward, see what I mean, get to the pitch of
it. Then he stands a chance. The batsman was caught at slip. It
was inevitable, said Arthur. Inevitable. He was half-arsing about.
Once, on a beautiful wicket at Eastbourne I suddenly played a
cover drive for four, probably the best shot I ever played in
my life. A few overs later I was clean bowled. Arthur was waiting
for me in front of the pavilion. What do you think you're doing?
He asked. What do you mean? I said. What do you think you're doing,
playing back to a pitched-up ball? Was it pitched-up? I said.
I thought it was short of a length. Short of a length! he exploded.
You must be going blind. You made it into a Yorker! Oh, I said.
Well, anyway, Arthur, what did you think of that cover drive?
Never mind the cover drive, Arthur said. Just stop all that playing
back to full-length balls. You had a fifty there for the asking.
Sorry, Arthur, I said.
Harold Pinter playing
Arthur was a stern critic of my batting and with
good reason. My skills were limited. There were only two things
I could do well. I possessed quite a gritty defence and I could
hit straight for six - sometimes, oddly enough, off the back foot.
But I didn't do either of these things very often. I had little
concentration, patience or, the most important thing of all, true
relaxation. And my judgement was distinctly less than impeccable.
Listen, son, Arthur would say, you've got a good pair of forearms
but just because you give one ball the charge and get away with
it doesn't mean you can go out and give the next ball the charge,
does it? Be sensible. What do you think the bowler's doing? He's
thinking, son, thinking, he's thinking how to get you out. And
if he sees you're going to give him the charge every ball he's
got you for breakfast. You're supposed to be an intelligent man.
Use your intelligence. Sorry, Arthur, I said.
Occasionally I would perform respectably, under Arthur's scrutiny.
Once, when we were in terrible trouble, forty for five or something,
against Hook and Southborough, I managed to get my head down and
stayed at the wicket for an hour and a quarter, for some twenty-five
runs; thus, with ~my partner, warding off disaster, On my return
to the pavilion Arthur looked at me steadily and said: I was proud
of you. I don't suppose any words said to me have given me greater
As it well known, Arthur (until Sobers beat it) held the record
for hitting the most sixes in an over; five - off Armstrong of
Derbyshire in 1936. He did the same thing in 1938, off Coolly.
During his professional career he scored over twelve thousand
runs, of which three thousand were in sixes. (He also took over
sixteen hundred wickets) He agreed that he was seeing the ball
well against Armstrong and Coolly but the six he remembered above
all was one he hit off Amar Singh at Bombay on Lord Tennyson's
Indian tour of 1938.
He wasn't a bad bowler, Amar Singh. He moved it about a bit. He
dug it in. You had to watch yourself. Anyway, he suddenly let
one go, it was well up and swinging. I could see it all the way
and I hit it. Well, they've got these stands in Bombay, one on
top of the other, and I saw this ball, she was still climbing
when she hit the top of the top stand. I was aiming for that river
they've got over there. The Ganges. If it hadn't been for that
bloody top stand I'd have had it in the Ganges. That wasn't a
bad blow, that one.
To do with the same tour, Arthur told us the story about Joe Hardstaff
and the Maharajah, the night before the game at Madras. This Maharajah
was a big drinker, you see, so he invited a few of us over for
a drinking competition one night. Well, I was there and old George
Pope and one or two others, but we couldn't take the pace, so
we dropped out, round about midnight. Well, this Maharajah, he
had everything on the table: whisky, brandy, gin, the lot, and
it was left to him and Joe, and Joe had to go with him, glass
for glass. Well, Joe went with him, Joe could take a few in those
days, and they went at it until five o'clock in the morning and
the Maharajah is still standing and Joe suddenly goes out like
a light. Amazing man, that Maharajah, can't remember his name.
Anyway, we take Joe home, get him into his bed, he's still not
uttering, he's as good as dead, and, my word of honour, we think,
Christ, old Joe's gone too far this time. Next day he goes out
to bat before lunch, he stays there all day and he makes two hundred.
Sweated it all out, you see.
Wisden confirms the innings, at least: Lord Tennyson's Team v.
Madras. January 1938. J. Hardstaff c. Gopalan b. Parthasarathi.
213. (Hardstaff never appeared in trouble, according to Wisden,
and, batting five hours, he hit twenty-four fours.)
As an umpire, Arthur was strictly impartial, by the highest standards,
but didn't see the giving of advice to his side as straying from
the moral obligations his role imposed. The batsman would grope
forward, snick a single through the slips, run, and find Arthur
staring at him at the bowler's end. Where's your feet? Arthur
would say out of the side of his mouth. You've got feet, haven't
you? Use them. You're playing cricket, son, not poker. To our
off-break bowler he would mutter: Go round the wicket and bring
up another short leg, put him round the corner, give it some air,
make the most of it, she's turning, son, she's turning. Or, to
me, the captain of the day: What are you doing with a silly mid-off
on a wicket like this? Put him out to extra cover. Let the lad
have a go. See what I mean? Pretend you're frightened of him.
He'll fall for it.
Once, when I was the silly mid-off in question, having declined
his advice, I dived and made a catch. As the batsman was retreating,
Arthur called me over. Good catch, he said. Except it wasn't a
catch. It was a bump ball. Bump ball? I said. It was a clean catch.
Cunning bugger, said Arthur. That was a bump ball. The trouble
was the man walked. If he'd have stayed where he was and you'd
have appealed I'd have given him not out. Anyway, he's out, I
said. He's out all right, said Arthur. But I didn't give him out.
He umpired for Gaieties for four years He never gave a Gaieties
batsman not out when he thought him to be out. Nor did he ever
give opposition batsmen out when he considered them to be not
out. No chance, he would retort to our lbw appeals, not in the
same parish, you must be joking.
Arthur Wellard: A cricketing
Compton and Edrich? On a hiding to nothing, son.
Never known anything like it. What year was it, after the war,
at Lords, we got rid of Robertson, we got rid of Brown, and then
those two buggers came together and they must have made something
like a thousand. I'd been bowling all bloody day and the skipper
comes up to me and he says, Go on, Arthur, have one more go. One
more go? I said. I haven't got any legs left. One more go, says
the skip, go on, Arthur, just one more go. Well, I had one more
go and then I dropped dead.
Wisden reports: May. 1948. Lords. Middlesex: Robertson c. Hazell
b. Buse 21. Brown c. Mitchell-Innes b. Buse 31. Edrich not out
168. Compton not out 252. Middlesex declared at 478 for 2 fifty
minutes before the close of play on the first day. Wellard's analysis;
Overs 39. Maidens 4. Runs 158. Wickets 0.
He moved to Eastboume with his wife in 1977. Once, finding myself
in the area, I rang him and arranged to meet him for a drink.
I walked into the pub. It was empty, apart from a lone big man,
erect at the bar. He was precisely dressed, as always: tweed jacket,
shirt and tie, grey flannels, shoes well polished. He passed a
glass to me: the glass, like the ball, tiny in his hands. No,
he didn't bother much about club cricket in the Eastboume area.
Anyway, his legs were bad. All the old stagers were dropping like
flies. Harold Gimblett had topped himself. He was always a nervous
kind of man, highly strung. Remember his first knock for Somerset?
Made a hundred in just over the hour. He did it with my bat. I
lent it to him, you see. He was only a lad.
Yes, he watched a bit of the game on television. Viv Richards
was world class. Mind you, Bradman would take a lot of beating,
when you came down to it. But Hobbs was probably the best of the
Arthur played for England against Australia in 1938. He took 2
for 96 and 1 for 30, scored 4 and 38 (including a six into the
Grandstand). He gave me his English cap and the stump he knocked
over when he bowled Badcock.