Jenny writes about her relationship with her GrandFather, the great England bowler …. Harold Larwood.
Some of you will already know that Harold Larwood was England’s great fast bowler, best remembered by cricket fans for his bodyline bowling in the 1932-33 Test series against Australia. This story is about the man who was my Grandfather.I didn’t really know the great cricketer. His cricket career was over before my mother was born. The Harold Larwood I knew was just my “Grandad”, a man who was proud, fiercely loyal with great strength of character and sincere humility. He loved to tell stories and it is the stories he told me, many about his cricketing days that provide some of my most cherished memories of him. Grandad was born in 1904 in Nuncargate, a typical small village in the English Midlands.
Times were hard and there was no money about. His father worked in the local coal mine. At 13 Grandad got his first job, at 14 he became a pony pit-boy, then at 17 he took a job on the night shift at another mine. In 1923, while he was still working at the mine, the Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club asked him to sign on for a year with a view to becoming a professional. The club official asked him how much he was earning in the mine and Grandad replied “Thirty two shillings, sir”. When offered the same amount by the club, he jumped at it and so began his professional career. Unlike today’s cricketers, he didn’t make much money out of cricket. Grandad always said that the greatest honour a man could receive was to represent his country in sport. The money was never an issue, and in recognition of this honour you did not disgrace your country by arguing with or questioning the decisions of the “skipper” or umpire.
He was disgusted by the behaviour of many of today’s great sportspeople. Grandad’s cricket career ended in 1934 and the following extract from his book The Larwood Story, in his own words best explains what happened and gives a great insight into his character.
” The gentlemen of the M. C. C. did not show their hand until early in the 1934 season and I was certainly not prepared for the devious approach that was made. We were playing a match in Nottingham at the private ground owned by Sir Julien Cahn, who had been president of Nottinghamshire in 1931. He was a wealthy man, a patron of the club, a gentleman, a big businessman who rode in a chauffeured Rolls Royce. During the match I was asked to go and see him. He talked for a few minutes and I knew he was buttering me up for something. Finally he said.. “Harold, I’m afraid you’ll have to apologise to the M.C.C.” Harold! Usually I got called plain Larwood. “Apologise sir? What for?” “For your bowling, Harold.” “I have nothing to apologise for sir.” “Oh, but you must Harold. You must apologise to the MCC for your bowling and you must agree to bowl legitimately in future. If you do you will be picked in the Tests against Australia. But unless I have your word, I’m afraid you will not be considered at all.” I couldn’t believe what I had been told and my stomach turned over.
I thought of how I had bowled myself to a standstill in Australia, at the captain’s orders, how I had bowled till my side ached, bowled till my toes bled.. I thought of how my stomach had revolted against food because of the strain of bowling. I thought of how I had bowled until I was weary, only to have Jardine come across and say, ‘Try one more, Harold.’ I thought of the cables the M.C.C. had sent me in Australia. There were three of them all signed by Marylebone. The first, addressed to me at the Hotel Australia, Sydney, during the First Test said.. ‘Well bowled Notts.’ The second, during the Brisbane Test: ‘well bowled, congratulations.’ The third one, during the last test.. ‘Bravo ‘ After a while I said to Sir Julien Cahn ‘I’m an Englishman – I will never apologise.’
After cricket, Grandad grew flowers in a market garden and later had a tobacco and lolly shop. In 1950, he moved his family to Australia and settled in Sydney where he worked in a soft drink factory until he retired. He loved gardening and always had a vegetable garden in the back yard of his Sydney home. Even as his eyesight deteriorated he worked that garden until he died in 1995. Grandad was given a very warm welcome when he moved to Australia and there were a number of reasons for the move. He felt betrayed by England, but more importantly he believed Australia offered better opportunities for his daughters. He loved Australia and never regretted making it his home. While the Australians had given him a terrible time during the test matches, he didn’t harbour any ill feelings towards them. He kept a letter from one Australian fellow that he particularly liked: …..
” You seem to have come in for more than your fair share of barracking. But, believe me, we barrackers don’t wish you any harm but we’re out to do everything possible to help Australia win and that is our method of doing it. We’ll do exactly the same thing tomorrow but there is nothing personal in it. If you look at it in the right light you’ll take it as a compliment that we are picking you out for special treatment. It is generally the most dangerous one we select. I want to see Australia win. So when we try to stampede you tomorrow remember it’s not you we’re up against, it’s your ability. Take no notice because you give us what we want – you give us our money’s worth”.
Although this letter didn’t represent the views of all Australian supporters, it expressed an attitude that Grandad found and admired in many Australians. This was one of the reasons he liked them so much. In September 1994 he was presented with a medal commemorating his becoming a Member of the Order of the British Empire.He was very proud of this award, as he was of all the trophies and awards he’d ever received. Whenever he talked about them his face would light up in a befitting combination of pride and humility. Grandad’s attitudes were very traditional and he never approved of one day cricket. He said it wasn’t “real cricket” and thought the coloured uniforms were ridiculous. He usually referred to it as “pyjama cricket”.
The yelling and hugging didn’t impress him either. Fifty years after bodyline Grandad said “it didn’t seem at all vital any more. Except for one thing. I’m still glad to this day that I never apologised.”
Thanks Jenny for that great piece. The article was taken from February’s ‘Tarong Talk’, Queensland, Australia. The quotes are taken from Harold Larwoods book ‘The Larwood Story’