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THROWBACK THURSDAY: 1914 Autographs

— 5 February 2015

Much was made, last year, of it being the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War and quite right was it that this was widely marked. During 2011 the advice of the Archives Committee was sought regarding a most valuable sheet of autographs (please see image).

  • The names of the 12 players led us to the conclusion that they must have been obtained during that 1914 season. In descending order, the players are:

    ER Wilson, DCF Burton, GH Hirst, D Denton, W Rhodes, A Drake, MW Booth, T Birtles, R Kilner, BB Wilson, A Dolphin, E Oldroyd.

  • Closer inspection of the names and a trawl through the relevant Yorkshire Year Book led directly to a game against Warwickshire at Edgbaston which was scheduled to be played on August 6, 7 and 8 in that year of 1914. Edgar Oldroyd was not part of the 11 who played in that game and so he must have been 12th man – this explaining his name being last on the list.

    Yorkshire’s skipper in the 1914 season was Sir Archibald White but, obviously, he was missing from this game. Bridlington-born Cecil Burton captained the county for the first time in his career and led Yorkshire to an impressive win by 163 runs, the match concluding at 4.00 on the second day. Burton was appointed captain for the 1919 season and led the side through three campaigns in total, the Championship positions being first, fourth and third. (In 1914 the finishing position had been fourth.)

    In connection with the captaincy it is interesting to note that Burton’s name is not the one at the top of the list. Rockley Wilson, being the only other amateur in the side, would have been a viable alternative and, having made his debut in 1899, was much more experienced than Burton who had previously played only eight games for Yorkshire. Was the book signed before the captain was announced? Did Wilson feel slighted and could see that there was enough space for his own signature above that of Burton?

    The strength of the Yorkshire team in this match was in its all-rounders (in batting order): Major Booth, Roy Kilner, Wilfred Rhodes, George Hirst, Alonzo Drake and R Wilson. The specialist batsmen were Benny Wilson, David Denton and Tom Birtles although the last-named was not a regular in the side and had to bat at number nine such was the strength of the side. Wicket-keeper Arthur Dolphin was last in the order. Only Birtles, Burton and B Wilson did not play Test cricket.

    Half-centuries from Denton and Kilner enabled Yorkshire to reach 243 before Warwickshire were bowled out for 110 with Drake – who would take Yorkshire’s first all-ten three weeks later – taking five wickets. On the second day Booth made 60 but five for 18 from Sydney Santall left Yorkshire with an all-out total of 126. The hosts needed 259 to win but, thanks mainly to five wickets from Booth, they were all out for 96.

    The 1914 season had been the 25th in the history of the County Championship and concluded what later became known as the ‘Golden Age of Cricket’. It had certainly been a golden age for Yorkshire as they had won nine of the 25 titles, Surrey winning seven. With the clouds of war now gathering no one expected the challenge to last for four long years.

    Paul Dyson examines a page from an autograph book of 101 years ago

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