Some reflections of a Taverner By Keith Tipples, aka XXP
1962 was a year to remember: Mo and I were married; I received a PhD in Applied Biochemistry from the University of Birmingham; I played in goal for the last time for the University soccer team; I played cricket for the last time for the University and for Reading cricket club; and I arranged to take up a post-doctoral Fellowship for one year at the Canadian Grain Commission’s Grain Research Laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada! At 26 years old that was a lot of stuff for one year, not to mention that we were penniless and that Mo was 6 month’s pregnant by the time we left Southampton on the Queen Mary on December 29. A friend had told me he’d heard that there might be cricket played in Winnipeg, so I packed my whites just in case.
After settling in (I got a $500 advance on my stipend so we could buy winter coats!) and having our first child, I found a cricket contact (Bill Weighton). I was invited to play for the President’s XI in the season’s first game scheduled for Victoria Day. Unfortunately, that game was snowed off – welcome to a Winnipeg Summer!
Cricket was played on Saturday afternoons by a league of only 6 teams: East Kildonan (Bert Cumber, Horace Hackett, John Lovelace, Leon and Terry Cox…), Winnipeg (Bert Smith, Arthur Kennedy, Carl Thorpe, Harry Davies…), Royal Society of St George (St George’s – Ron Turnbull, Dick Dawson, Tommy Rowe, Adrian and Merv Savage…), Bristol, and Assiniboine. In contrast to today’s scheduling challenges, 6 teams
playing on three pitches was perfect for a Saturday afternoon! All league games were played on a time basis, usually a 2 pm start and a 6-30 finish, with a break for tea in the middle. One team batted until they were all out or they declared. Thus, a game might be won, lost, tied or drawn. The playing surface was grass, the height of the ball after bouncing was unpredictable, and the batting helmet had not been invented, so batsmen had to keep alert! Often 60 or 70 turned out to be a winning score!
I was persuaded to join St George’s and enjoyed three years of weekend cricket with them. By then we had three young children and Mo was lumbered with taking them up to the park and keeping them happy every Saturday, so we decided we would rather go camping on Summer weekends. Dick Dawson encouraged me to join Taverners who played at the park on Wednesday evenings. And so, I began an unbroken 51 year association with this unique club, as player (until 1992), captain (1983-1986), president (2001-2013) and latterly umpire.
Taverners cricket club was formed around 1959-60 by a group of doctors who were often on call on a weekend but could be available on Wednesday evenings, which were suitable for limited 20 over games. The original organizing committee consisted of Terry Jolly, president; Peter Porritt, captain; John Garwood, secretary; and Gwilym Evans, treasurer.
John Garwood was not around for long, but I have many lasting memories of the other three.
Peter Porritt was probably even more interested in field hockey than he was in cricket, and was chief organizer of the hockey tournament for the 1967 Pan American Games. Since this was held at Assiniboine park,
we lost our cricket venue for two years (1966 and 1967) as the ground was dug up and re-laid, and a new cricket and hockey pavilion was built. (For these two years we played on fields at Headingly and Kildonan Park). Peter commandeered several fellow Taverners to help run the hockey tournament (I was responsible for opening and closing ceremonies at the park and managed to end up with more medals than we needed!). Peter Porritt was president of MCA for a while and conscripted me to be secretary – complete with an ancient and beaten-up Underwood typewriter!
Terry Jolly was one of life’s good guys. He was brought up in Northern Ireland and got his medical qualifications at Queen’s University in Belfast. Before arriving in Winnipeg Terry spent 4 ½ years in the colonial service in Fiji and another period in Gander, Newfoundland. These experiences formed the basis for his wealth of hilarious stories that he delivered in an accent that was Irish with a dab of newfie! Terry was my family doctor for a few years. A medical appointment with him was a delight – he’d start by telling me a couple of jokes, then we’d talk cricket for a while before he pronounced me fit enough to walk out of his office. Terry and I opened the batting together for a couple of seasons and it was always an achievement to avoid being run out by him!
Gwilym Evans was at the heart of Taverners cricket for many years, as wicket-keeper, tight-fisted treasurer, president, and as host to post-game sessions in the basement of the “Buckingham Arms”. Gwil was instrumental in organizing and managing our first tour to England. He kept a close rein on our finances, and woe betide any of us who did not account for every bottle of beer and empty when we hosted. We were not allowed to provide more expensive brands of beer – the difference from his allowed price came out of our own pocket, as did the chips!
When we drank at Gwil’s, Megan would, at some late stage, apparently (most of us had already left) be heard to call out: “Go home Page”!
During my time as a Taverner it has been my delight to get to know many other unforgettable characters, descriptions of whom and their exploits must be the subject of another memoir.
The great thing about Taverners is that regardless of colour, profession, age, wealth and belief we can all be equal. I well remember when Barry Valentine (the right reverend Anglican bishop of Rupertsland, who got his blue for Cambridge University) moved to BC, we held a little party for him at which he told us how we’d never know how important it was to him to have been associated with such an irreverent bunch! We could insult him at will and did not try to lick his boots! Over the years I have seen that Taverner spirit blossom. As always, the main requirement of a potential new member is a thick skin that can make him impervious to insults!
Although Taverners C.C. is ostensibly a cricket club, we are much more than that. It’s interesting that, until recently, the club had two golf trophies but none for cricketing prowess.
But then, there’s the mysterious James A. Rose trophy. This is awarded annually for assiduous achievement by a Taverner. As the definition of assiduous is persevering and hard working, a cynic might ask how any Taverner could possibly measure up to such a daunting adjective. I might argue that most of our members would demonstrate a great deal of perseverance while batting if only the opposition wouldn’t keep getting them out. OK, I admit that hardworking is a bit of a stretch, but the trick is that we interpret achievement in a much broader sense than simply the scoring of runs or the taking of wickets. In short, the trophy is awarded to the member who is thought to have best demonstrated Taverner Spirit.
The trophy originated as follows: James Rose was a friend of Gwilym Evans. He lived in England all his life and visited Winnipeg just once, in 1979. Being a cricket enthusiast, he was delighted when Gwil arranged for him to turn out for a Wednesday evening Taverners’ game. He brought a brand-new County cricket ball to the game, but we felt that it was too good to be used on the matting wicket and reserved it for “future use”. We later decided to turn it into an award, to be presented annually, for “assiduous achievement” by a Taverner.
However, how could we turn a cricket ball into a trophy? During debate on this question, Mike Fuller not only purported to have an answer, but generously volunteered to get the job done as he had at his disposal the formidable metalworking resources of his work colleagues. Imagine his chagrin at the reaction of his fellow Taverners when he unveiled his work of art at a subsequent meeting. Teutonic monstrosity was just one of several unflattering descriptions muttered by the gathered onlookers who, though grudgingly allowing that it was a masterpiece of engineering, scored it very low for artistic impression. Even less flattering were some of the epithets that Michael aimed back at his detractors. But, at least, Taverners now had a brand-new trophy that looked as though it could last for eons. Who better to be its first (1983) recipient than M.J.Fuller himself since, we argued, he was likely the only person who would be happy to display it publicly. Fortunately, a new and more pleasing trophy was made by Brian Carty.
1980 – Taverners on TV. Fame at last!
There used to be a “Community TV” channel that broadcast local activities. They decided that they should televise a cricket match at Assiniboine park. The only problem was that they didn’t work on weekends, so a Taverners game was their only option. The big day
arrived and a large truck materialized complete with all the necessary cables, cameras and other paraphernalia. Meanwhile, long-time MCA historian Bill Weighton took the event very seriously. He prepared a series of charts and diagrams that he was to use in a pre-game lecture on the game of cricket for the edification of an imaginary audience of non-cricketing Winnipeggers! Talk about material for a Monty Python skit! Bill was the commentator and Herb Spencer was the “colour commentator”.
Every single ball of the Taverners vs St Georges game was duly filmed and subsequently shown on some obscure TV channel complete with Bill’s preamble and many gems from the two commentators. Ali Pirani had the wherewithal to make a videotape recording of the broadcast which he brought and played at a couple of Taverners gatherings. We all watched breathlessly to see if Harry Davies would catch the ball this time! In truth, watching 2 ½ hours of us playing cricket would be as boring as hell if it hadn’t been fodder for the inevitable insults and scorn! My only vague memory of the game was of batting for some time before being hit on the head and then bravely (shut up Pickering!) soldiering on! I think we actually won the game, but, then, who cares?
1983-86 – Captaincy.
Taverners first secretary, John Garwood, famously produced AGM minutes in verse. When I gave my first Captain’s report at the March 1984 AGM, I decided to resurrect the practice. For what it’s worth here is an extract from that report:
“…Last year the usual mixed bag, of course.
Moral victories, wins, an occasional loss.
It’s amazing how, after our quota of beer,
Results become hazy, statistics unclear.
But now it’s the winter, and I’ll take a break,
Browse through the scorebook – see what sense I can make.
Results show the team played twelve and won six
And three of the losses were true moral vics!
Our batting was boosted by the big guns
Gene Lloyd, John Williams, Clive Pickering scored runs.
Clive averaged fifty-nine each time at bat,
A two-nine-six total – eighteen sixes – how’s that!
Harold Lloyd’s “brother” wasn’t once out
His exciting century made us all cheer and shout.
John Willy, all rounder, the whole game he covers,
Three fifties, great fielding and economical overs.
Mike Fuller ‘gainst Lions turned out a winner
Four for fifteen with his cack-handed spinners.
Mike’s thirteen wickets for bowlers was most
But Barry Mills’ average of eight was the lowest.
True to the Taverner spirit, the best
Was produced by the fastest bat in the west.
Our own Harry Davies gave fielders a treat,
To be run out five times was a brilliant feat…”
1985 – the Masters Games.
The first Masters Games was held in Toronto August 7-25 1985. It comprised competitions in 22 different sports, including cricket, with the age definition depending on each sport. For cricket, the age limit was 40 or older. After much beer-fueled debate Taverners decided to enter even though we barely had enough players (Ali Pirani, Mike Fuller, Ossie Belle, Dick Dawson, Herb Spencer, Barry Mills, John Lovelace and me – average age closer to 50 than 40!). We were lucky to pick up three wonderful additions in Leroy Grey, David Brooks and the famous West Indian fast bowler Tom Dewdney). We may have been a little out of our depth, but we had a great time.
There were 14 teams in the cricket category, including three – Bermuda, Trinidad and Tobago and Melbourne- from overseas. The souvenir program for the cricket tournament listed profiles for each of the teams. Ours was as follows:
“TAVERNERS CRICKET CLUB (WINNIPEG, CANADA)
The Taverners C.C. was founded in 1960 for the purpose of playing Wednesday evening ‘friendly’ fixtures against clubs who play in the weekend league competition in Winnipeg. The Who’s Who biography of one of the club’s less notorious members – Bishop Barry Valentine – lists Taverners among his clubs and generously describes us as being for “aged and bibulous cricketers”. Members play, secure in the knowledge that any medical problems will be promptly attended to by a plethora of specialists – although demands on the club gynecologist have been understandably light. The mean chronological age of the team for the Masters Games is 48, rising to 68 by the end of the game, dropping miraculously to 28 during post-game activities and increasing alarmingly to 128 the morning after. The Games contingent includes
players who have represented such diverse teams as Canada, Uganda, Dynamos (Trinidad), Cambridge University, Rising Sun (Antigua), Berkshire C.C.C. and British Paints (New Zealand).
Although we didn’t win any games, we did manage a couple of moral victories. We thoroughly enjoyed some great social activities and came home with many lasting memories.
1990 – Taverners first tour to England – Chilham, Kent.
After talking about a tour to England for several years we finally got off our butts and organized one.
We stayed in a delightful old (haunted!) pub in the village of Chilham, Kent, which is about 5 miles west of Canterbury. Fairly close by is a small area called Old Wives Lees in which there is a cricket ground, home of the Owls – our first opponent. We made friends with several of their players (local lads, several of whom were artisans) and persuaded a couple of them to play for us in subsequent fixtures.
For details of the tour see the excellent book put together by John Page (which includes caricatures of us Taverners drawn by landlord Glyn). Also, see the wonderful poetic prose by Cliff Ashwell – thirteen stanzas, starting:
“’tis off to Jolly England” said I
“to play cricket down in Kent”
The wife fixed me with a steely glare
And said “piss off”
So I went.
I can provide copies of this unforgettable literary record.
Clive Pickering was club captain at the time, but refused to do the job overseas and insisted I be the tour captain.
On our first evening at the Woolsack I was worried we might all get thrown out for loud and unruly behavior. However, we survived and had a great time. My main claim to fame as captain involved losing the coin toss for all seven games!
Some of my many fond memories of the tour:
*Cliff Ashwell relating outlandish sheep stories to a spellbound group of “the local lads”.
*Putting the Earl of Greystoke’s grandson on to bowl, going up to him after his first two balls were wides and asking if he was OK, to be told “my shirt is too tight” (it was buttoned at the wrists). My suggestion that he roll up the sleeves remedied matters.
*I was injured so didn’t play and acted as scorer in the 20-over game against Leeds and Broomfield. This entailed sitting in a large “county style” scorebox complete with controls to change numbers. Their scorer was an obnoxious 16-year-old boy who maintained charts with colored pens for every stroke and prattled on about how good their team was and what great batsmen they had that were cracking our bowling around for 197 runs. After tea, I resumed my duties. Fortunately, Clive Pickering and brother Neil put on 130 in the first 13 overs and Taverners went on to record a famous victory, scoring 200 for three to seal the win with an over to spare. Needless to say, that shut up my fellow statistician! The report backhome was headlined “Tipples scores 400 runs”!
Extract from Taverners Fall 1992 newsletter: “Special mention must go to Keith Tipples, who despite ski knees, tennis elbows and poor night vision and regular threats of retirement, fielded like a pro during our last game. If, like the rest of us as the sun goes down, he relies more on memory than vision, that game proves he is not suffering from Alzheimers disease.” Thanks Chris – I think!
October 24 2016