The year of 1971 saw the deaths of six Yorkshire cricketers, including an all-time great as well as a successful captain. Paul Dyson looks back at the sextet’s varied careers.
It is interesting to note that of the six Yorkshire cricketers who passed away in 1971 only two died in Yorkshire. Tommy Birtles passed away in Attenborough, Nottinghamshire very soon into the new year – January 13th to be precise – at the age of 84. He had originated in Higham, Barnsley, where he was born in 1886, and played for Yorkshire both before and after the 1914-18 conflict. In 1913 he came top of Yorkshire 2nd XI’s batting averages, ahead of Percy Holmes and Edgar Oldroyd and was regarded as someone with real promise.
Unfortunately, he suffered from the intervention of the war more than most in that, having played in 30 matches in the two seasons beforehand, he played in only seven afterwards. In a total of 37 matches from 1913 to 1924 he scored 876 runs but his average was less than 20; he made only one score of over 50 and this was 104 against Lancashire at Sheffield in 1914 – a season in which he played in 18 matches. He played for Barnsley for 20 years and later had a position as coach at Gresham’s School, Norfolk. Also a very good soccer-player, he played on the right wing for Barnsley, Swansea and Portsmouth.
The last day of April witnessed the demise of Claude Burton near Pevensey in Sussex; he was aged 80 and was born in Bridlington in 1891. At Malvern School he was in the 1st XI for three years and then went up to Oxford. Although he did not gain a Blue, he played in eight first-class matches over the three seasons and took 21 wickets with his right arm slow and medium-paced bowling. With his subtle variety of pace he could be deceptive; he made his debut for Yorkshire in 1914 as an amateur but played in only two matches, taking six wickets and did not re-appear after the War – this may have been due to him having been wounded in 1916. He played for several teams of amateurs which met irregularly but only for the Harlequins in first-class cricket. A good athlete, he specialised in sprint events and the long jump.
September 3rd was the date when Yorkshire lost one of its greatest batsmen. Previously profiled in this series, Percy Holmes passed away in Marsh, Huddersfield, at the age of 84, having been born not too far away in Oakes, also in the Huddersfield area. He formed half of the legendary opening partnership with Herbert Sutcliffe and scored five of the county’s highest 11 innings.
Also previously profiled is David Burton. He died in Chertsey, Surrey exactly three weeks after Holmes had passed away. Like his brother Claude (see above), he had been born in Bridlington but was three years older and was 87 when he passed away. He captained Yorkshire in the first three seasons after the War, it winning the County Championship in his first season in charge.