HNE ‘Granny’ Alston 1908-1985 by James Coldham
Granny Alston died suddenly in October 1985.He was a legend within the Nomads Cricket Club and others. His memory is always toasted with Sydney Caulfield at formal Nomads events. Fortunately shortly before Granny’s death James D Coldham Editor of the Cricket Society Journal and Cricket Writer interviewed him and compiled this exhaustive story of his cricket prowess which was published in Club Cricketer Magazine February and March editions 1986.
‘Why write about me?’ asks Hallam Newton Egerton Alston modestly, ‘I was never anything special. I just carried on much longer than most’. The truth is that Hallam – alias ‘ Granny’, of which more anon – has been for sixty years an outstanding type of club cricketer, the salt of the game, only just below the highest level, but one without whom no reputable eleven could be considered complete. Physically and mentally having the air of a younger man, he remains remarkably fit with a facility for total, warm-hearted recall of matches, weather and – most importantly – people.
Hallam Alston was born at Cheltenham on 10 June 1908. Cricket was an early passion: the guidance and coaching of Percy Mills, fellow-townsman and Gloucestershire professional, was invaluable. A tall and well built boy – ‘He cannot afford to increase his weight’, wrote H.S. Altham in Wisden 1927 – he was a member of the Cheltenham College Elevens of 1925, 1926 and 1927, having attracted attention in 1924 by taking 5 for 11 in 19 overs for Cheltenham Colts V Clifton Colts and being in while the winning hit was made. In 1925 he captured 5 for 10 in 10 overs for the college V Clifton C.C.; and in 1926 – during which he played against Haileybury in his only match at Lord’s while at the College – he shared most of the bowling with E.M. Wellings and L.B.S. Colbeck, securing 31 wickets, average 23.87, including 12 wickets v Old Cheltonians which made a superb victory possible. Bowling a lively right-arm medium-pace, Hallam could, as Altham said, ‘Keep a really good length and make the ball ‘run’ with his arm’. Away from cricket, he was first string for Cheltenham at Rackets.
Hallam, however, was not a really happy cricketer at Cheltenham. His enthusiasm and skill were being undermined, he felt, by faulty coaching. What galled him particularly was the apparent underrating of his batting. It was the Island of Guernsey that saved him and his enthusiasm. During family holidays in 1925, he was invited to play for visitors to the Island v Guernsey C.C. and, opening the bowling, he took 9 for 31 (7 bowled). Thereupon selected to represent the Island, he finished his holiday with 60 wickets, average 9.71.
In 1926 his top-score at number ten or eleven had been 22, for Guernsey in holiday time he hit 662 runs, average 33.10, highest score 77 not out, besides taking 70 wickets, average 12.10. In all matches that season, he made 800 runs and collected 101 wickets.
He played less in 1927, but 1928 saw him blossoming as an all-rounder for a variety of clubs. He played several qualifying matches for M.C.C. and for Guernsey v Alderney he struck his first hundred – 104 not out on matting over gravel, believed to be the first ever century on Alderney. He hit 628 runs and took 42 wickets for Guernsey and 267 runs and 54 wickets for Gloucester City. In all matches he achieved his first double, with 1271 runs, average 24.44, and 123 wickets, average 19.37. His high skill at rackets – amateur championship singles and doubles – helped his fitness.
The clubs with which Hallam came to be associated read like a roll of battle honours (with the years of debut): Guernsey Island (1925); Gloucester Gypsies (1928); Gloucester City (1928); M.C.C. (1928); Stanmore Park (1929); Old Westminsters (1929); Pinner (1930); Somerset Stragglers (1931); Taunton (1931); Burnham-on-Sea (1932); Men of Mendip (1932); Sou’westers (1933); Somerset (1933); Clevedon (1935); Beverley (1943); East Riding of Yorkshire Services (1943); Brentham (1946); R.A.F. (1946); HQ Eastern Command, Hounslow (1946); Old Eastconians (1948); Nomads (1950); R.N.V.R. (1953); Seaton (1956); Old Cheltonians (1958) – and there were others!
Helped by his height and build, Hallam was a powerful right-handed all-round-the-wicket batsman, with a particularly splendid drive: he could keep fieldsmen almost constantly on their toes. He relished a fast wicket – especially at Mount Wise, Seaton, Sidmouth and Exeter – when the ball came through to the bat; but he was always prepared to get his head down, do battle and stay. Over the years he blended his fast-medium seam up with slowish off-spinners, and had been trained in the essentials of flight and length: he could pinpoint a piece of paper. In the field he was a very safe gully or slip. Frequently opening both batting and bowling – until after the Second World War – he was, otherwise, a present help in an often troubled middle-order. Never ‘a gentleman of leisure’ like some of his colleagues, Hallam could play only during his hard-earned spare-time and holidays. At first a school teacher, he taught at Stanmore Park (1929-1930), Burnham-on-Sea (1930-35) and Clevedon (1935-38). Subsequently a business man he was with Heinz at Bristol (1939) and, after War service, was successively with Kraft Foods and British Oxygen on the sales supervisory side. At present(1985) he is a consultant with Hill Samuel Investments.
In 1929 he dominated in Guernsey. He slammed 120 as a guest for Old Westminsters v the Garrison; and was a host in himself for the Island v Gentlemen of Worcestershire. Opening, he took 5 for 51 and 5 for 53; top-scored with 91 out of 165 and 81 out of 161 for 8 declared (before Reg Perks bowled him and skipper, Major M.F.S. Jewell, had him lbw respectively). On the Island he hit 535 runs, average 38.21, and took 47 wickets, average 12.95.
In 1930 for Pinner he often opened the bowling with J.A. Roncoroni and, sometimes, the batting. Before leaving for Guernsey to play for M.C.C., he made 452 runs, average 30.13, and secured 39 wickets, average 14.12, The Harrow Observer and Gazette commenting: ‘He has left the district and Pinner loses a good cricketer and an attractive personality’. After a rough sea crossing, M.C.C. collapsed against Guernsey at Elizabeth College Ground, but in the second innings Alston hit 149 not out in two and a half hours, adding 89 with H.F. Wilkinson after 5 had fallen for 88. According to the Star, he ’took complete command… not giving a chance of any kind’, reaching his hundred with ‘a typical drive through the covers’. He also took 7 for 45 in the match, M.C.C., winning comfortably. In his next match, for the Island V Sir Julien Cahn’s XI, he clean-bowled opening bat Sir Julien for 0, instead of allowing the great patron to get of the mark with an easy one to leg. Undeterred, Alston caught the other opener, G. Rogerson, off the bowling of R.W.V. Robins; had C. Flood caught by Vic Lewis; and finished with 4 for 142. Requested urgently to represent M.C.C. V Oxfordshire at Oxford – his first match against a county – he left his holiday home to join Nawab of Pataudi, S.H. Martin, W.H.Webster, J.M. Simms and company, but scored only 8 and secured 1 wicket. Returned to Guernsey, he faced Gentlemen of Leicestershire and, in a low-scoring match – fewer than 500 runs were made – he hit 26 quickly when victory was almost in the Island’s grasp, after capturing 8 for 44 in 34 overs in the second innings. In all matches he scored 1099 runs, average 30.52, and took 140 wickets, average 11.50, another double.
1931 saw his debut for Somerset Stragglers, with whom he would be very closely identified until the War. In his first year he made 312 runs in 11 completed innings and took 33 wickets. He reminisces that this year skipper Ned Ross encouraged him during a disappointing spell with the bat, by simply saying that ‘75% of batting is knowing what to do!’ It was on a Stragglers’ tour that the Philosopher furnished Alston with his nickname. They were staying at the Phoenix hotel, Dorchester, where dinner included steak and tea. Alston drank so much of the latter beverage before, during and after the meal that the exasperated Ross delivered the epithet, ‘Granny’ – and it stuck!
In 1932 for the Stragglers he hit 55 and 97 not out v Gentlemen of Shropshire and 152 not out in 300 for 7 declared v Guernsey Island XI. In the next match he took 8 wickets (7 bowled) v Guernsey Island. Earlier he had secured 5 wickets v Clifton at Henbury on a wicket used a day or two before for a polo match. For Men of Mendip v Clark, Son and Morland at Glastonbury (12-1-side), he carried his bat for 52 out of 91 but was mortified when they actually won by one wicket after he had taken 9 for 33 in ‘Alston’s Match’. He made his debut for Burnham-on-Sea (presided over by Ben Travers) and v The Bad Eggs, at fourth wicket down, he retired with 101 in a total of 180. ‘A brilliant century’, said a West-Country paper, ‘his batting was a sheer delight to watch’. Alston slammed five 6’s and eight 4’s, placing many balls in the Rhine, which flanked one side of the ground.
From 1932 until 1938 his record for the Stragglers alone was as follows:
1932: 949 (39.54) AND 63 (21.52)
1933: 1248 (48.00) AND 74 (15.48)
1934: 1080 (43.80) AND 95 (15.35)
1935: 1258 (46.59) AND 53 (21.18)
1936: 1066 (41.00) AND 78 (20.07)
1937: 1257 (46.56) AND 66 (16.21)
1938: 1382 (53.15) AND 49 (24.71)
In all matches from 1932 until 1937 he achieved the double, as in 1928 and 1930, as
1932: 1527 (49.25) AND 130 (14.30)
1933: 1549 (40.78) AND 113 (13.10)
1934: 1282 (40.06) AND 130 (13.21)
1935: 1932 (48.30) AND 101 (17.37)
1936: 1594 (36.22) AND 145 (14.95)
1937: 2057 (44.71) AND 136 (13.69)
The 1930’s were Alston’s golden age although other golden years would follow the War.
This wonderfully nostalgic picture shows Somerset Stragglers(1937) with Granny Alston seated far left: The others are Standing l to r:SH Pearce-Higgins, FM McRae, RCH Crawford, FW Stevinson, W Bruce Hart and RCH Sharp: Seated l to r are HNE Alston, E Ross, Maj ACG Luther, JCP Madden-Gaskell and ER Nesfield.
In 1932 for the Stragglers he hit 55 and 97 not out v Gentlemen of Shropshire and 152 n.o. in 300 for 7 declared v Guernsey Island XI. Earlier, he had secured five wickets v two before for a polo match. For Men of Mendip v Clark, Son and Morland at Glastonbury (12-a-side), he carried his bat for 52 out of 91 but was mortified when they actually won by one wicket after he had taken 9 for 33 in ‘Alveston’s Match’>
Bad Eggs, at fourth wicket down, he retired with 101 in a total of 180. “A brilliant century”, said a West-Country paper, “his batting was a sheer delight to watch”. Alston slammed five 6’s and eight 4’s, playing many balls in the Rhine, which flanked one side of the ground.
In 1933 he first appeared for the Sou’westers, with whom he would be more closely attached after 1945, and took 19 wickets, average 8.42. In three successive matches in five days for the Stragglers, he opened with J.M.Gaskell, top scoring in each innings v Sir A.D.McAlpine’s XI at Marchweil with 106 (out of 282) and 56 out of 164) and v Gentlemen of Staffordshire with 51 (out of 145) and 45 (out of 192) – although both matches were lost heavily – and v Gentlemen of Shropshire when, at first wicket down, he top-scored with 92 not out (out of 219) and 43 not out (out of 105 for one), a drawn contest. His average for these six innings was 98.25. Five days later, he hit 122 v Major Cadbury’s XI, opening with L.C. Watts, the Stragglers amassing 537, the club’s record at that time. 115 n.o. came v South Devon, but, earlier, on 12 July, he had made 105 v Somerset Clergy and was invited to represent Somerset, led by C.C.C. ‘Box’ Case, v Surrey at the Oval on 26, 27, and 28 July.
This match, Alston’s sole appearance in first-class cricket, was memorable for him. Third change bowler, he had Jack Hobbs caught by J.W.Lee when the great man had made 117. He finished with 7-3-6-1, and was invited by the great cricketer to sit next to him at lunch. Batting at number six, Alston was clean bowled by Alf Gover 2 and run out 4. He had enjoyed his brief taste of first-class cricket.
1934 saw him come the closest of anyone to a double in the history of Somerset Stragglers with 1,077 runs and 95 wickets. He hit 104 n.o. and 104 v Major Cadbury’s XI and Guernsey respectively in his usual brisk style. For the Stragglers v Plymouth College Past and Present, however, he played a steadying knock, not appreciated by The Western Evening Herald reporter, who commented that “Alston is, I believe, a professional, so may be excused if he was so careful of his batting average as to decline the risks… He treated the College bowling with profound respect and scored so slowly that the spectators were moved to mild barracking”. Later in his innings, though, Alston rattled both scoreboard and sight-screen with characteristic full-blooded drives.
In September 1935 he played his last match in the Channel Islands. For Guernsey v Jersey at College Field, Jersey, he carried his bat for 57 chancelessly out of 131. Jersey replied with 148, Alston taking 2 wickets. Then he top-scored again with 42, and Jersey needed 158 to win. Opening the attack, he secured two early wickets, was hit for two sixes and finished with 8-54, Guernsey scraping home by seven runs. For Capt. Matterson’s XI v Barrington, he took 6-56, but the match was lost by one wicket. For Clevedon v Claverham, he made 122 n.o. (one six, 21 fours) in 208-5, sharing in an opening century stand with E.J. Hack. On a very hard wicket with an outfield like glass, Alston made glorious shots behind point and through the covers, and duly on-drove a four in the last over, the winning hit. He had an average of 67.28 for Clevedon. For the Stragglers v Old Honitonians – with the former set 235 to win in two and three quarter hours – he opened with J.R Watson. They sent up 111 in 75 minutes, and victory was achieved on a ‘funny’ wicket almost on the stroke of time.
In that year he experienced the supreme achievement of his career, at Mount Wise on 13 and 14 of August for the Stragglers v United Services, entering the record books in so doing. It was the second match of the Devon tour and ‘Granny’ Alston was skipper. The first match was rained off, after W.Stevinson and he had added 123 undefeated for the first wicket v Royal Naval Barracks. As Stevinson was unable to play v United Services, Alston asked Henry U’ren to open with him. He won the toss and batted first on a true and good wicket. The runs came quickly. The partners put on 240 – Alston 128 and U’ren 105 – in the first innings in about two and a half hours, and 209 undefeated – Alston 101 n.o, and U’ren 102 n.o. – in the second innings in less than one and three quarter hours. They provided the only instance known of the two openers each obtaining two separate hundreds in a match. Additionally, they performed the great feat of putting up a double century stand for the first wicket in each innings. The Stragglers reached only 296 in the first innings, to which United Services responded with 194. On a wicket increasingly responsive to spin, United Services, seeking 292 to win at 4 p.m. on the second afternoon, fell for 72. Alston chippping in with 6-18, making his match figures 8-81 (7 bowled ) – and 229 for once out!
Although in 1936, he took 41 wickets, average 7.80, and returned a batting average of 35.18 for Clevedon, and enjoyed a great match for Sou’westers v Seaton in taking all 10 for 61 in the first and 3-52 in the second innings in the winning streak, Granny Alston’s main work was again for the Stragglers. On the Devon tour, he opened and top-scored – with 49, besides taking 5 wickets v Old Honitonians; then hit 112 n.o., out of 220-3 declared, v Sidmouth and took 7 for 70, Sidmouth collapsing; and v Plymouth College Past and Present he collected 101. He also made 96 v Gentlemen for Shropshire, and v Sir A.D. McAlpine’s XI at Marchwiel – one of his favourite grounds – he opened with 65, top-score in 1973.
In 1937 he exceeded 2,000 runs for the first and only time, including 7 centuries. For Clevedon – 34 wickets, average 11.17 – and Sou’westers – 513 runs, average 64.12, and 36 wickets, average 11.40 – he was splendid, but, once more, he was most prolific with the Stragglers. He had 3 centuries for the Sou’westers: 101 v Lynton, out of 120-3 – his first for the Club and in dire circumstances – 112 v Dorset Rangers and 164 v President’s XI; but had four centuries for the Stragglers; 166 at number one, out of 470, v Old Honitonians, the Stragglers winning by an innings; 137 v Plymouth College Past and Present; 127 v Millaton; and 128 v Sir A.D.McAlpine’s XI, top-scoring out of 238, after hitting 67 in the first innings, when he enjoyed a long stand with F.M.McRae.
In 1938 he recorded four centuries again for the Stragglers in his last full year with them. He was the highest-scorer with 130 and 32 v Sir A.D.McAlpine’s XI; contributed 116 v Stoke St. Mary; carried his bat for 143 out of 214 v Old Honitonians, besides taking 5 wickets; and v Major Cadbury’s XI at Beacon Lodge secured 5 wickets, before opening with his career-highest, 188 n.o., out of 333-4 declared before the rain. By the close of the first day he was 86. On the second morning, when skipper Ned Ross declared, lunch was taken 20 minutes early and Granny, who had added 102 in the morning, was unable to reach his coveted second century. This was the last-ever three-figure score for the Stragglers. Around this period too – the mid-thirties – he was runner-up to the squash champion of Somerset.
In 1939 Alston played occasionally for Clevedon. His memories of the 1930s, before the outbreak of the war, are rich, mellow and pleasant. He recalls how economical it was to go touring. The relatively few cars were shared, and one could stay at an RAC recommended inn, like the Globe at Chudleigh, for as little as 6/- (30p) a night bed and breakfast. The hospitality in the Channel Islands was outstanding, particularly over the week-ends. (There were no boats out or back on Sundays and air travel was in its infancy.) Country house cricket was surviving well at Marchwiel Hall (Sir Alfred McAlpine), Highcliffe (Major Egbert Cadbury), Millaton (Lord Carrington) and Barrington Court (Mrs Lyle, who continued the fixtures after Colonel Lyle’s death), and several other estates.
Alston played some cricket from 1940 until 1945, in the Isle of Man and at Taunton in 1941, occasionally for Beverley and in 1943 for East Riding of Yorkshire Services v London Counties at Hull, when the Yorkshire public took a poor view of a non-Yorkshireman playing for their side. For RAF Weeton v Heysham in 1945 he took 9-54, thus demonstrating that his old skill was alive and well. Not that Granny ever served with the RAF. He was called-up for the Royal Engineers and was commissioned in June 1941 in the Somerset Light Infantry. He saw service mainly in the UK and Germany, and a Sou’wester yearbook reported lightly that Captain Alston “appears to have spent most of the war sharing ‘top-secret’ information with Monty and Eisenhower” and that “Granny is easily the Club’s most persuasive ‘line-shooter’.”
In 1946 the demobbed Alston’s bowling, almost invariably slowish off-breaks of immaculate length and flight, seemed better than ever. In his first season with Brentham he took 77 wickets, average 10.28 – but he could hardly make a run for them. Averaging 7.15 with a highest of 17 n.o. Although he needed to see an optician, he managed 93 n..o. for HQ Eastern Command, Hounslow – for whom he played as an unofficial supernumary Lance-Corporal! – in his last innings before glasses were prescribed.
Now used to glasses, he went on a 3-match tour of the British Army of the Rhine with MCC, in company with C.H. Taylor, JCW MacBryan, G.O. Allen, R.T. Stanyforth,I.A.R. Peebles, and other well-known names. In opposition were such as Lieut. G.H.G. Doggart, Tpr. M.F. Tremlett, Capt. G.F. Anson, Lt-Col. A.H. Parnaby and Lt-Col. R.G.W. Melsome. Granny was impressive: v 1st Corps District at Ludenschield he took 4-17; v 30th Corps at Hamburg, he had 3-65 and hit 30 n.o.; and v BAOR, also at Hamburg, he made 26 and 69 n.o., highest each time. Altogether, he averaged 43 with the bat and took his wickets at 17.50 runs each. He finished 1946 with 752 runs, average 19.28, and 132 wickets, average 11.88.
Subsequently, he completed the double in all matches another five times, as follows:
1947: 1720 (36.59) and 190 (13.68)
1948: 1760 (48.88) and 114 (18.61)
1950: 1486 (29.13) and 153 (13.30)
1953: 1433 (37.71) and 158 (13.06)
1955: 1282 (32.87) and 118 (16.22)
The other seasons in the first decade after the war were also very fruitful: 1948, 724 runs and 88 wickets; 1951, 862 and 127; 1952, 890 and 88 – two months in Chicago on business probably cost him a double – 1954, 648 and 91.
In 1946 and 1947 he captained Sou’westers, and, as an invaluable supernumery, assisted HQ Eastern Command, Hounslow until 1951. For the latter alone in 1947 he made 1,176 runs, average 43.55, and took 146 wickets, average 11.78, which included one hat-trick. In fewer matches for them in 1948, he averaged 40.85 with the bat, but in 1949 the more regular supernumery hit 1181 runs, average 62.15, and took 95 wickets, average 18.30. For Brentham he last played in 1949 – the year before he had taken 8-32 in 23 overs one ball v Malden Wanderers – and from 1950 for the next 25 years most of his cricket was for the Nomads, with occasional outings mainly for MCC, Sou’westers and Somerset Stranglers. (In the 1950s and 1960s, also, he played real tennis at Lord’s against Oxford and Cambridge Universities).
Granny’s best year for MCC was 1949 – 509 runs, average 39.15 and 15 wickets, average 18.96. He took 55 off R.Deller, P.Ellis, Fred Titmus, D.O.Baldry and N.N. Devereux of MCC Young Cricketers at Lord’s, adding 153 quickly for the fourth wicket with A.C. Burnett. In 1950, his first year for Nomads, he imprinted himself with 1096 runs, average 31.31, and 115 wickets, average 11.47. He captured 6-29 v Sevenoaks Vine and had all-round success with 128 and 3-12 (in 71 balls) v East Moseley. In 1951 he accounted for 121 wickets, average 12.11, and made 715 runs; and in 1952 finished with 849 runs, average 32.65, including 90 v Chelmsford, and 88 wickets, average 13.94. Another double for Nomads alone was in 1953, 1169 runs, average 36.53, and 134 wickets, average 12.77, including a spell of 7-15 v Hornsey (at a sticky end) and a highest of 79 n.o. A near miss in 1955 consisted of 996 runs, average 34.34, including 97 n.o. v Epsom, and 97 wickets, average 15.14.
After 1956 – when all matches brought him 717 runs, average 34.14, besides 83 wickets, average 15.68 – Granny’s defective eyesight began taking its toll: his batting was rarely as effective again. His bowling, however, continued to wreak destruction for another 20 years. His best remaining years were: 1957 – 83 wickets, average 1407; 1958 – 67 (13.80); 1959 – 84 (19.22); 1960 – 77 wickets (18.22); 1961 – 84 (16.60); 1962 – 71 (18.46); 1963 – 69 (16.26); 1964 – 65 (16.61).
For Nomads in 1956, he took 9-35 (in 26 overs) v HQ Eastern Command, Hounslow; in 1958, 7-10 (in 9 overs and 2 balls) v Exiles; and in 1954, 5-25 (including hat-trick) v Ottershaw School. His feats for Sou’westers included 7-18 (in 17 overs 5 balls) v Sidmouth in 1958; 6-50 v Bridgetown and 5-62 v North Devon all in 1975, when he had been “called out of retirement as no bowlers were available”.
Nomads at HQ Eastern Command.Standing l to r:Umpire, Graham Marks, Hugh James, Michael Penn, Con Davies, Paul Weathers, David Alexander, Umpire & Scorer:Sittingl to r:David Harrison, Roger Norton, Granny Alston, Richard Nicholas
In 1965 Granny had capsulitis in the shoulder and it took a long time for a cure to be effected: a fellow-Nomad Nigel Harris, tended him at St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington. His appearances became fewer; in 1968 and 1969 he did not play at all, considering that it was “not fair to keep young players from having a game when one is getting ancient”. In 1973 he re-appeared for Gloucester Gypsies after a lapse of 45 years, and v Sou’westers Cyril Hollinshead and he were the oldest pair of opening bowlers in the county. In 1975 he turned out for Somerset Stragglers in celebration of their 50th match. In 1972, 1973 and 1975 he took more than 20 wickets each year; and, from 1976 to 1981 and in 1983, as president of Sou’westers, he went on to the West Country tour, playing a game or two each time. Aged 75, his last match was v Bridgetown in 1983.
Hallam Alston thoroughly relished his cricket after leaving Cheltenham. He was a contributor to Somerset Stragglers Cricket Club 1900-1975 and Sou’westers Cricket Club Year Book 1980: 50th Anniversary, in which he remembers others rather than himself. In these booklets, however, many Stragglers and Sou’westers reminisce about him with affection. We read of Granny touring the West Country accompanied by large quantities of Tidman’s bath salts, of wearing a Nomad’s cap of incredible decreptitude and peeling off two sweaters on a hot day and revealing a third known as his ‘M.C.C. bra’. The Sou’westers booklet described him cheerily as “a prolific scorer, though he must curb a tendency to waggle his bottom” and that “he gets many wickets through long hops and pseudo-googlies, and catches brilliantly off his own bowling”, but that “his fielding, like his hair, is patchy”. His lesson on batting to a young colleague is quoted: “One merely has to watch the ball, get to it and hit it – childishly simple really!”
Granny’s snap of the fingers as the ball passes the bat is recalled, together with his long-remembered cries – “How is that, Sir?” “Get back, you fool”, “Sweater!” “Wasn’t within a foot of it” and so on. Granny was president for 11 years, “an (apparently) ageing giant in aged clothes talking of Jack White and Hobbs”. These stories underline his popularity as a good club man. What specially impresses a younger Nomad, Michael Blumberg(then amere 43 years old!), is his total recall. “A comment on a young cricketer,” says Michael, “was likely to draw forth observations on his grandfather”. Such observations are good natured, too. Somerset Straggler’s Year Book 1983 envisaged Granny Alston leading the Straggler Centenary XI on to the Taunton county ground in the year 2000 – and why not? Sadly it was not to be.
In summary he scored 8,045 runs, average 24.37, and took 1,173 wickets, average for Nomads; 8,741 runs, average 42.63, and 531 wickets, average 24.33, for Somerset Stragglers; 3099 runs, average 24.99, and 535 wickets – the record for the club – average 17.52 for Sou’westers; 2,962 runs, average 29.62, and 377 wickets, average 12.36 for Guernsey sides; 1,285 runs, average 38.93 and 106 wickets, average 9.38, for Clevedon; and 1,090 runs, average 29.45 and 53 wickets, average 19.24, for M.C.C.
In all matches everywhere, Hallam “Granny” Alston scored more than 30,000 runs, averaging about 31, including 41 centuries (19 for Somerset Stragglers) and took 3,700 wickets, average 14.95.
Granny Alston played one first class game for Somerset CCC against Surrey at the Oval taking Jack Hobbs’s wicket and being bowled out for 6 by Alf Gover More
Granny takes guard to save the match and ensure a draw. Probably his last innings for Nomads.The decrepit Nomads cap, MCC ‘bra’.
ALSTON PAPERS -01
At the end of this article there read “Thoughtfully his cricketing effects have been left to the care of The Cricket Society”. Indeed James Coldham invited Nomads Hon Sec Michael Blumberg to lunch at his house and explained that he had received Ganny’s extensive cricket effects. He would soon start sorting it all out and collate all the material. When he had completed the task he would contact Michael Blumberg to view the Nomads material >and either copy relevant pieces,and or take possesion of the same.
Very sadly James Coldham himself died shortly after receiving the Alston cricket effects and we believed all the Alston Papers were passed to the Cricket Society Archivist.. Some year later the archive was moved to the property of Keith Booth Surrey CC Archivist and Scorer. When asked if he had come across anything to do with Alston he replied.The whole Archive is in a mess and in boxes in my loft and James Coldham’s meticulous work destroyed. I am working through it all and will catalogue the complete effects over time. It’s a big job!
Keith was asked that when and if he came across the Granny Alston material to get in touch. So far many years later Keith has found nothing relating to HNE Alston. There is no doubt of its receipt by The Cricket Society. It is indeed a great shame that somehow such a rich horde of material has been lost or dumped somewhere! See also notes after David Morton’s article
Subsequently an Alston Cricket item appeared on eBay amd after emails with Keith Booth we received the following email from Jenny Booth
“I have now had time to look at the Cricket Society Minutes and Newsletters for information about the papers of H N E Alston. I am afraid you are mistaken in thinking that the papers were bequeathed to the Cricket Society. I have copied below the entry in the News Bulletin of August/September 1988 about the disposal of these papers.”
“H N E ALSTON PAPERS-02
When the late H N E Alston died in 1986, he left behind a quantity of papers relating to his long and distinguished career in club cricket for Somerset Stranglers and many other sides. Most of the papers were passed on to the Cricket Society, and were in turn taken over by Jim Coldham who was writing a series of articles about Alston’s career and intended to sort through the papers. Unfortunately Jim Coldham himself died before he was able to complete this.
Jim’s widow, Rosemary Coldham, does not want to dispose of the material before checking whether any Society member might wish to have it or make use of it. It consists mainly of scrap books and newspaper cuttings of matches and tours in which Hallam Alston took part, together with a record of his own scores and bowling analyses, with some photographs.
If any member would like to take over or inspect the material, would they please contact Mrs Rosemary Coldham at Anmer, Lytton Road, Woking, Surrey GU22 7BH.”
It looks, therefore as if Mrs Coldham disposed of the papers privately.
Cricket Society Archivist
‘Granny Alston’s memory is toasted at every Annual Dinner held by Nomads CC.