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News > Pangbournian Stories > The Staggs Cricket Club Tour of Cambridge 1959

The Staggs Cricket Club Tour of Cambridge 1959

The Staggs Cricket Club team 1959 .
The Staggs Cricket Club team 1959 .

Nearly 64 years after the event, Peter Wheeler (56-59) got in touch with the OP Society from his home in Tasmania with a black and white photo and a request for information about the context of the image and news of the Pangbournians it highlights.

The photo shows erstwhile cadets at the NCP in 1959 who had joined the end of term Staggs Cricket Club that toured Cambridge in August and stayed in a local guest house.. The tour took place after the end of the summer term and four or five matches were played in and around the city. Six of this XI were part of the College 1st XI that summer. Those pictured are, back row, left to right Graeme Fry, David Hardy, Peter Wheeler, Joe Sievier, Robin Lavery and Jeremy Saunders.  Front row,  left to right are, James Allenby, John Hall, John Cornish, Robin Knight and Richard Blomfield

Unsupervised Staggs CC tours of Cambridge had begun in the late 1950s and continued into the early 1960s and were always great fun. Even after all this time, Peter’s inquiry produced some vivid off-field memories in particular of a small one room pub with table skittles that the group found, and “making idiots of ourselves at punting on the Cam!  Opponents on the cricket field varied from the rather serious (Cambridgeshire County Colts) to the always jovial (Corpus Christi CC) and the necessary (Cambridge City Police). One of the highlights each year was playing a match on Parker’s Piece, the 25-acre green sward in the centre of Cambridge where the great Jack Hobbs learned the game. No records of the 1959 tour survive, but the Summer 1961 Log carries a full account of the tour that year giving a flavour of the matches and the off-field activities.

Time passes and at least two members of that 1959 side are no longer with us. John Hall (57-60) who died of cancer in 2000, and Graeme Fry (56-60) who died of a heart attack in March 2023. Two of the others are on the “Lost” OP list , David M. Hardy (55-59) last heard of in 1963 living in Chislehurst, Kent; and Richard T. Blomfield (56-60) who joined the MN and the West African-trading Palm Line from the NCP just seven years before this company went out of business.

Peter Wheeler (NZSC), John Hall (Alfred Holt) and John Cornish (Shaw Savill & Albion) all went into the Merchant Navy and ended up living in Australia. Peter remained with NZSC (New Zealand Shipping Company) for ten years to the end of the 1960s. The advent of containerisation, however, limited his opportunities at sea so he found a job ashore in Australia. At the time Master Mariners like him were needed in the new container terminals to plan operations. Initially he based in Melbourne. Later he moved to Launceston, Tasmania where he has been resident since 1983.

John Hall’s obituary appeared in the 2001 OP Magazine. It states that he “died from cancer in April, 2000, aged 56.” Following the NCP, he had gone into the MN with Alfred Holt and risen to become a Master Mariner and ship’s Captain. On coming ashore, he married and settled in Australia, becoming Chief Advisor on marine safety issues to the government. After a divorce, he returned to the UK. In June, 1999 John married for a second time to the sister of Peter Griffiths (57-60). Peter has written: “Six months after marrying my sister and settling in the beautiful Hope valley in Derbyshire, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He went into hospital in Sheffield for radiation treatment and subsequently into a hospice. Both his daughters from Australia arrived soon after his death. One of them gave a moving tribute at Johnny’s funeral, talking about his compassion, commitment, humour and can do attitude.”

As for John Cornish, after a working life at sea mostly based in Australia, in 2017 he happened to be in the UK on family business and took the opportunity to attend the OP Weekend in October and take part in the OP March Past that year, looking very fit. Even in his 70s he could still climb a rope ladder. At that point he was still hard at work as a pilot at the Port of Townsville on the North Queensland coast. Later he and his wife moved nearer to Brisbane to be closer to children and grandchildren. He says that he remembers little about the Staggs’ tour except punting on the Cam!

Joe Sievier (57-61) joined the Army and had a long career in the military. “I was commissioned into the Royal Engineers in 1963 and resigned in 1987 to join the Costain Group. Worked there for 13 years and settled in the Cotswolds, near to Stratford upon Avon. I eventually retired from the construction industry in 2008. In 2011 I had a cardiac arrest, while attending a public meeting in our village hall. As luck would have it, the Air Ambulance was in the area ...my lucky day. I had a quadruple heart by-pass in Birmingham and have a defibrillator fitted. During 2023 I will be 80 (like many of that Staggs side) but still looking a youthful 21 (own hair and teeth) albeit the orking parts are ageing and need occasional MOT!”

Robin Lavery (55-59) organised the 1959 tour in conjunction with a Mrs Robinson, his landlady on the tour. After the NCP, he embarked on a student-apprenticeship with Richard Thomas & Baldwins (subsequently British Steel). “That lasted five years and ended with a degree in Electrical Engineering,” he writes. “I remained in the steel industry for a further eight years and transferred into a private company manufacturing electrical welding equipment where I was employed in a sales capacity. “This lasted five years before I joined another engineering company in Exeter, again sales- related but rising to a directorship. The main benefit of this move was that it brought me to Devon where I have remained very happily for 46 years. I had two more career moves, firstly to be General Manager of a printed-circuit manufacturing company, and then a complete change to become Practice Manager of a solicitor’s practice. That saw me through the last 17 years of employment before I moved into full-time retirement via self-employed consultancy work. “Cricket remained very much part of my life. Wherever I lived, South Wales, Buckinghamshire or Devon I played every summer weekend. In Devon it was for Thorverton CC in the leading Devon league. I had to stop eventually when my hips gave out in my 50s,although I managed to umpire for a few more years before replacement hips came along. I retain an interest with a local village club where I am a vice-president.”

Also living in Devon is James Allenby (57-62) who qualified as a doctor and, in his words, “spent my shirking years 1981-2008 in General Practice in Tavistock where the family grew up and where we have grown old.” James (known as Bunny at the NCP) also played a lot of good club cricket and had trials for both Berkshire and Devon. But his medical studies got in the way and that was his cricket high spot. As a member of MCC, he remains engaged with the game and sometimes may be spotted at Lord’s.

Jeremy Sanders (56-60) went to Dartmouth (where he captained the cricket XI in 1963) and rose to become a Rear Admiral in the Royal Navy, playing an important role in the 1982 Falklands campaign in the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes as Staff Officer Operations to the commander of the RN Battle Group. He went on to be Director of Naval Warfare in 1990 and Commander British Forces Gibraltar in April 1992. Today, he too lives in Devon. One of his retirement roles has been as Chairman of the Trustees of the Falkland Islands Memorial Chapel at Pangbourne. Jeremy recalls travelling to Cambridge in 1959 with David Hardy. “He lived in Kent and wehad agreed to meet under the clock at Waterloo station en route to Liverpool Street but, being a country bumpkin, I waited under the clock at the underground station rather than the main line station, both were called Waterloo then.” Jeremy also remembers Graeme Fry (56-60): “Graeme and I were good chums at school, both Hesperus, so it’s very sad to hear of his death. After leaving the NCP, and along with Chris Johns and Adrian Robinson, we went in Chris's old Riley to Rome to attend the 1960 Olympic Games; my father had got us tickets. We saw Herb Elliot win 1500 metres and Cassius Clay win the heavyweight gold medal plus a lot more. We camped in Rome and Graeme was joined by two cousins. Then I went into the Navy and we lost touch.“Graeme turned up at a Falklands chapel a few years ago and we got in touch again. I met him for lunch at a pub north west of Taunton later that year, not far from where he lived. He had had a tough time, both professionally and relationship-wise. Part of the Fry chocolate family, he had wanted to join the RN but couldn't get the necessary Maths qualification. As I recall he had two sons, one a Royal Marine Colour Sergeant and the other a gourmet chef.”Graeme also attended the West Country OP centenary reunion lunch in Brixham in 2017.

Robin Knight (56-61) became an international journalist. For 28 years he roamed the world as a foreign correspondent for an American news magazine. He then joined BP as the company’s editorial writer and was also a Contributing Editor at Time magazine. In 2003 he retired from BP and set up his own corporate writing business. Latterly he has been authoring books, eight of them! He is a former President and Chairman of the OP Society and, for 15 years 1994-2008, also was a governor of the College. In 2017 his illustrated centenary history of Pangbourne College Spirit in Changing Times was published by Profile Books. He is a Life Member of MCC and joined the club in 1963.

 

 

 

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