As regular readers will know, 2011 marks the 35th anniversary of Eddie Barlow's arrival at Derbyshire County Cricket Club. 1976 was the start of a three-year association that galvanised the county and transformed us from also-rans to a team that could play – and beat – the best.
I am especially grateful to Cally, Eddie's widow, who was patience personified in answering my many questions. I am also very grateful to Bob Taylor, who happily contributed shortly after returning from Australia. Bob was the other cricket hero of my formative years and it was a great pleasure to talk to him at length.
Thanks also to Tom Holdcroft at Derbyshire CCC for the photograph of Cally presenting Chesney Hughes with the Eddie Barlow Inspirational Performance Award, sponsored each year by David Griffin, who is also in the photograph. I am happy to acknowledge David as the copyright owner and am grateful for his permission to use the image.
To them and all the others who contributed I say a heartfelt thank you. Re-reading this has taken me back to halcyon days in the club's history. I can still see that bustling figure on the pitch, the master of all he surveyed, a man very much in charge.
We may not see his like again.
Peakfan - Cally, thanks very much for agreeing to answer my questions. Eddie was quite a man...
Cally Barlow - Oh yes, he most certainly was!
P - How did the two of you meet? Was it eyes across a crowded room, at a cricket match or…?
C - I was on the Gloucester Regional Committee of Gloucestershire County Cricket Club and usually went to matches on my own. At the 1991 Cheltenham Festival I was sitting, scoring with my little book, when a shadow appeared in front of me. I looked up and there was Eddie. He asked me the score. I thought it was a bit of a daft question from the coach, but gave him the answer and after a few minutes chat he walked off. The next day I arrived late, through the member's gate and he was standing there, pointing at his watch saying "What's this, the scorer arriving late"?
He offered me a cup of coffee and the rest, as they say, is history. However, there is a rider to the story. Several years later, someone asked Eddie how we had met, and he said "I saw her sitting on a low wall and thought I'd wander over and see if I could see down the front of her dress"!
P- Eddie had been married twice before. This didn’t worry you at all?
C – I know Eddie's first wife Helen very well and we are good friends. If the lady who became his second wife had not happened along I think he would have still been married to Helen, but she did and he was in a not very good place at the time - these things happen. I think he bitterly regretted the breakup with Helen. When I met him we agreed that wherever his cricket took him I would go too,made much easier by the fact that our respective children were grown up.
P - Presumably you were quickly struck with his powerful personality?
C - Well, I had heard all about that powerful personality and that he took no prisoners! But what attracted me to him, way and above anything else, was his wonderful sense of humour. He could always come up with the right turn of phrase and I wish I had kept a book of all the funny things he said.
P – So you were always interested in cricket?
C - My father had played in the RAF and my first husband played cricket, but it wasn't until my son began playing that my interest became a passion and all because of food (my other passion!)
Alasdair came home one day and asked if I could help take the school team to cricket, as the school mini bus has broken down. I agreed, as did several other mothers and off we went to the wilds of Denstone College. It was a good game and then tea was produced. First little sandwiches and then some little round choux pastry buns filled with cream – yummy! I stood beside one of the other mothers and when she tired of the buns I told her to take one anyway, as I would eat hers! I was definitely on the list for the next school runs..
When my son graduated to Dean Close School, I went to watch him play at Malvern College. Across the ground I saw a mother I thought I knew. We spoke and agreed that we knew each other and when I said Alasdair had been at Pownall Hall she said "Oh yes Timmy was there too."
Then the light dawned and she said "I know you. You're the mother who ate nine cream cakes at Denstone!"
I was at this time a member of Gloucestershire County Cricket Club and shortly afterwards Bryan "Bomber" Wells asked me to go on the committee, the first woman they had ever had on there.
P - I've always said that if I could throw a fantasy dinner party, that Eddie would be there alongside John Arlott, Wilfred Rhodes, Jack Hobbs and Neville Cardus. What sort of guest would he have been?
C - A noisy one! But he would have kept them amused with his stories and they would have been riveted by his knowledge of cricket. He would also have listened intently to what they had to say, as he always said you were never too old to learn something new.
P - Eddie was a big name in world cricket circles from around 1960 and county sides were recruiting overseas stars from the mid-1960s. I once read that he’d never been asked to join the county circuit before Derbyshire’s approach?
C - Yes that's right.
P - I still find it extraordinary that one of the top all-rounders in the world has to wait until he’s 36 for a county deal. How did that come about?
Dave Griffin - During the winter of 1975, George Hughes, Derbyshire’s chairman, who was a road haulage businessman from Loughborough, made enquiries about bringing a top world name to the club. Graeme Pollock was mentioned as well as Eddie and Derbyshire had to break the bank to sign him. At the time Garfield Sobers was earning £5,000 per season at Nottinghamshire and Barlow's £10,000 per season (around £85,000 today – P) sent serious shock waves through the cricket world. Hughes paid Barlow's salary, on the proviso that Derbyshire paid his tax. When the tax man came calling in the early 1980s, it became clear that Derbyshire hadn’t made good their promise on the tax!!
To be continued...