Cricket in Welney

History - people

last amended/updated Monday, 06 January 2014
Some random items about people who have contributed to or been connected with Welney's long cricketing history. More to be added in due course

Rev.Herbert Hignett Wilford (1864-1937)

Known to his family and friends as ‘Bertie’, he went to Jesus College at Cambridge University and after having taken his Holy Orders worked for a short time in the London area. He was a very keen sportsman playing cricket for the University and for a well-known club side in the early 1900’s, London Counties, where he played with and became friendly with W.G Grace.

He followed his grandfather as Rector of Welney when Edward Russell Wilford died in 1899 and was then to spend the rest of his life in the village. Being a well-known personality he was on the Ouse Drainage Board and over a period of years was Chaplain to no less than six High Sheriff’s of Cambridgeshire.

Reputedly a brilliant preacher and popular figure, he might well have gone further if he had not been so isolated in a remote fenland parish. He was the last rector to have an active interest in the villages sporting activities, playing for the cricket club in his younger days and later becoming President, Chairman and regularly umpiring. A respected umpire whose services were very often sought after by Wisbech Town C.C.

Also time and energy was devoted in helping both the village Football Club and the Mens Institute, which originally started in the Rectory grounds coach house, until the Parish Hall was built in 1929.


William Gilbert Grace (1848-1915)

He was later to be known as simply ‘WG’ and no cricketer before or since has dominated the world of cricket as he did for nearly 40 years from the middle 1860s. In fact he was said to be the most recognised figure in England along with Prime Minister Gladstone at the time.

Tall, heavily built and from an early age heavily bearded, WG (or ‘The Doctor’ as he was later called) was not only an all round cricketer of great skill whose achievements in an unusually long career broke most of the records of the day but was a man of formidable and striking personality who in his own time became a legend of dictatorial ‘gamesmanship’ blended with ‘gruff’ kindliness.

He played for Gloucestershire, London Counties and England (last appearance against Australia in 1899). After 1904 his first class cricket was played mainly for the MCC and the Gentlemen, for whom he made 74 at the age of 58. His zest for cricket seems to have remained undulled as he made 69 not out for Eltham against Grove Park in July 1914 – his last match, just 10 days before the outbreak of World War 1. The next year he died at the age of 67 and was mourned far outside the world of cricket, for he had been a truly national figure.

It was during his London Counties years (1900-04) that WG and Bertie Wilford became friends and he later accepted invitations to stay at the Vicarage, during his semi-retirement from the first class game. From ‘Reminiscences on the Wilford family’ an amusing occasion was recalled when WG demonstrated his skill at bowling by propelling an egg across the tennis lawn and was able to land it on its tough end without breaking it?

He also played at least one cricket match in the village during the period 1904-14, this was recalled by Ernie Blows (1890-1975), a keen young cricketer himself at the time. The club were then playing on Maywood farm, a short walk from the Rectory. On one of his visits WG autographed a cricket bat for the club, but unfortunately this appears to be lost forever, having passed into the hands of one of the club members –what would it be worth today?


Ernie and John Blows

The Blows brothers, Ernie and John, became the most famous local cricketers, mainly for their achievement on June 16th 1923 of bowling Friday Bridge out for 0 runs in just 28 balls.

Both were in business in the building trade operating from the old Carpenters workshop and adjoining Blacksmith shop – originally as wheelwrights and later Carpentry and Joinery.

John died in January 1949, aged 70 (update Jan 2014: my thanks to John Pepperdine for these details, and correcting the earlier entry), apparently  whilst watching the local football team playing at Highfields Farm. Ernie (1890-1975) lived much longer and died at the now named ‘Blows House’ in Main Street at the junction with New Road. Both were popular especially in sporting circles, John having a football trophy donated in his name in recognition of his services, the John Blows Memorial Trophy. This was played for annually from 1959-84, with all funds raised going to a local charity.

More recently, since 1994, the Blows Brothers cricket trophy has been played for, this being donated by Ray Kent.


Bryan Turner

Probably Welney's best loved headmaster, Bryan Turner was a gifted sportsman and played for the Club from 1957 to 1963. He was an MCC qualified cricket coach, and at various times between 1958 and1966 held a number of positiions including Chairman, President and Captain. For more details of his life and achievements, sporting, academic and social, see his entry in the Welney Website.
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