The “Blew Wallies” is the new nickname for Blewbury& Wallingford Cricket Club, launched along with this website three years into the merger between the two clubs. This “rebrand” is partly a recognition that “Blewbury& Wallingford Cricket Club” is a bit of a mouthful to say (let alone shout on the field), but mainly a reflection of the friendly, vibrant, youth-oriented club we’d like to be. Let’s hope it catches on.
Cricket had been played in Wallingford since at least 1872 when financial issues forced a rethink. Rather than fold, the team decided to merge with what was then called Blewbury& Upton Cricket Club, and play at its charming and well-kept Boham’s Road ground at the foot of the Berkshire Downs. Blewbury got an influx of new players, Wallingford got a new home with a great contemporary pavilion. It was a win-win. The Blew Wallies nevertheless remain the town of Wallingford’s team, retaining and growing connections there, as well as representing the villages of Blewbury and Upton. We also have strong links with the Astons, particularly as they don’t play on Saturdays and we no longer play on Sundays.
Historically, the club’s biggest claim to fame involves “probably the fastest bowler” ever to play the game. Charles Jesse Kortright, an Essex man with 170 first-class appearances to his name, was so described by FS Jackson, and features in John Arlott’s best XI never to appear in Tests for England*. Wisden records that Kortright (1871-1952) used to tell how he bowled a bouncer in a club match at Wallingford (he was working at Field & Hawkins’ general store at the time) that pitched wicket to wicket and rose clean over the boundary. This, he boasted, made him the first – maybe the only – man to bowl a six in byes! Sadly, however, under Law 19 (4b), it would have to be four byes, but what a great story. We think it probably happened at the Bull Croft ground. Kortright was clearly a something of a character: having once castled WG Grace, he sledged, “Surely you’re not going, Doc? There’s still one stump standing.”
That on-field jester Johnny Wardle (1923-85) is another first-class cricketer known to have played at Wallingford. That would have been at the Paddock, one of several postwar grounds we used, including Wallingford Grammar School (as was), and Blackstone, the secondary modern, where a pitch was laid. Our 3rd XI was still turning out at the Paddock when the 1st team moved to Hithercroft in 1988. The future great Sri Lankan batsman Aravinda de Silva once lined up against us for a London side in a midweek tour match. He should have been LBW to Peter Abery for not very much, but their umpire insisted he was the visiting side’s guest and thus allowed him to bat on. De Silva told the wicketkeeper the next ball was going over the pavilion for six, and it did. Abery got his own back by hitting de Silva out of the ground when the youngster bowled.
As was the way of things in the South, league cricket took years to become the norm. So-called “friendlies” were played on Saturdays and Sundays from the earliest days until the 1960s, fixtures being arranged on the basis of playing the most local sides of similar strengths and facilities. After 1945, Wallingford’s only peers in the vicinity were teams that drew upon RAF Benson for players. Local school staffs provided the backbones of our XIs: the likes of Fitzhugh, Powell, Child, Cree, Humphrey, Miles and Dussett being stalwarts.
By the early 1960s, a triumvirate of Peter Moreton, Philip Burton and Fred Green ran the show (the latter manning the bar and mowing the outfield). Albie Brannan, a PE teacher, joined the club in 1962, and was captain from 1963 for the next 15 seasons. Team mates included “Flyer” Haycock, Eric Lindley and Eric Blott. An early link with Blewbury (and perhaps a sign of divine blessing for the eventual merger) came in the form of the vicar, Hugh Pickles. A product of St Edward's School, Oxford, and University College, he was also captain/secretary of the Oxford Diocesan Clergy CC from 1964 to 1989. His obituary in the 1990 Wisden remarks upon his “high-tossed, slow off-breaks”and notes that“he was indulged and loved by his parishioners, who became accustomed to his absence on cricketing matters: he was once given special leave by his Bishop to accompany Worcestershire to the West Indies in Holy Week as the county's honorary chaplain”. Bill Frindall, now scoring timeless Tests eternally, but then a man with Wallingford connections, reputedly once greeted Canon Pickles at Lord’s with the words “You old ram”. We believe it’s an old Testament reference.
Wallingford’s prowess – boosted by players such as Norman Edwards, Barry Axton, Tony Holder, Tony Aldridge, John Brannan, Tony Camping, Mike Carey, the brothers Roy and Ian Saunders, Rob Sessions, and Cholsey boy Chris Saunders – saw us get the better of many of the early Cherwell league sides in our equivalent meetings. Once we had joined the league, though, we were rarely able consistently to field our best XI. The pinnacle of our efforts was a 4th place finish in what was the only division in the late 1980s. Since then we have found our level in Division Three of the Cherwell League, having just missed out on promotion to Division Two in 2015.
A classic village side, with fathers playing alongside sons and several families being the lifeblood, Blewbury& Upton Cricket Club also traced its origins back to the 19th century, but the merger with Wallingford allows it to punch above its weight in league terms. Although the word Upton has been dropped from the name (something had to give), players are still drawn from that village, only a mile from Blewbury.
And so we look to the future, while bringing with us the best of the past. As Albie Brannan, Johnson to this author’s Boswell (or Johnners to his Aggers) says: “The 1pm to 7.30pm timed game will never be surpassed for clubs such as ours. Evening and shorter matches have an attraction to some, but there is nothing like the real thing.”
*Arlott’s team, chosen on 1981, was (in batting order): John Langridge, Maurice Hallam, Emrys Davies, Edgar Oldroyd, Jack Newman, Harry Martyn (w), Peter Sainsbury, WilfWooller (c), Don Shepherd, Charles Kortright and Tom Wass.