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Benwell Hill Chronicles by Tony Pearson - Chapter 1 - Humble Beginnings

Benwell Hill Chronicles by Tony Pearson - Chapter 1 - Humble Beginnings

11 Feb 2023

During World War Two , Rutherford College House matches were played , during the week , on four sloping pitches in the Benwell Hill outfield . In 1943 it was the first time I had set foot in the ground on Denton Bank . It was only a brisk fifteen minute walk from where I lived, up the bank past the Fox and Hounds.


Before that the only cricket I had played was in the schoolyard of the Victorian building on Bath Lane . The smell of beer from Newcastle Breweries , on Corporation Street , filled our lungs with this slightly intoxicating aroma , especially during the Summer cricket season.


In the yard the stumps were painted on the lavatory wall . There was no need for slips or fine leg . Stuart Robertson was already a junior member of Benwell Hill and dominated lunchtime cricket . The bowler was the boy who fielded or caught the ‘ tenniser ‘ . On a flat pitch Stuart seemed to be in all the time ; no one could bowl him out . Fielding was a rough melee , more like a game of rugby but with maybe twenty five lads scrambling for the right to bowl the next ball - to Stuart . He was a year older and was my first cricket hero . Years later we played a lot together and that was a running joke between us ; my second tutor was Don Bradman.


My school cricket career was without distinction . I never stayed in long enough to find out if Iwe could bat . Only once I had a ‘ six fer ‘ bowling slow offbreaks . But I was keen and read Don Bradman’s book . It was inspirational . It had text but the pictures could be imitated . The Don demonstrated all the strokes - and his grip with the left hand towards the back , similar to a golfer’s grip . With my Len Hutton Gradidge harrow size bat I practised the strokes in front of the wardrobe mirror . I scored tons of runs and never got out . My forward defence was impregnable.


House match pitches , in the outfield , were bowler friendly , so to stay in was difficult . My batting improved slowly but I was dogged . I could survive but attacking strokes were confined to the bedroom . Bad wickets are educational in the sense that defence is the foundation of batting.


I left school at fifteen and played street cricket with the ‘ tenniser ‘ and field cricket with a ‘ corker ‘ . A leather ball was too expensive . Field cricket was very educational - no pads no gloves no box . The corker was a bruising missile . LBW was a rare dismissal unless a shooter hit your shoe.


In 1947 John Lawson Cox , a player at The Hill , who was a near neighbour of mine , saw me playing cricket in the road and must have seen I was keen . He suggested I go to the nets . I should say in 1945 and 1946 I used to go to  the Club with my own score book for first eleven games , and sit in front of the old timber Pavilion next to Alfie the ‘ Tin Man ‘. ‘ Budgie ‘ Thompson said I  once got his autograph - Budgie’s and Alfie’s are other stories.


J L Lennie Mckinnell supervised the batting net . He was dignified and taciturn ; he decided if you could join . It was a test of competence . He said to me , ‘ Young Pearson you should score a few runs ‘ . High praise from the great man ! Which I have never forgotten . He was right , I got a few , but it was ten years later before I got more than a few for the first eleven .



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