TOM BROWN – ONE OF SELKIRK’S TRUE SPORTING GREATS

OBITUARY by John Smail

FEW sportsmen can have left such an enduring legacy in their own community as Selkirk’s Tom Brown, who died on Sunday, April 19, at the age of 90.

An outstanding cricketer and rugby player, Tom made a massive contribution to Selkirk Cricket Club’s fortunes in a 42-year playing career.

An unerringly accurate fast bowler and a fine stroke-player, Brown was 12th man when Scotland took on the Pakistan Eaglets at Philiphaugh in a three-day match in July, 1963. Although taking the field several times as a replacement fielder, he was not awarded the international cap many thought he deserved.

His wife Liz acted as Selkirk’s official scorer over many years, having taken over the role from Wat Henderson. She was succeeded by the couple’s son, Derek.

Making his senior debut as a teenager in 1949, Tom Brown’s best season for Selkirk came in 1959 when he took 101 wickets and scored 1,174 runs. He went on to take over 1,500 wickets for the club, and at the time he stopped playing in 1984 was the 10th highest wicket-taker in the history of Scottish cricket.

Border League Champions 1965

Selkirk’s 1st XI won the Border League title in 1965. Tom, second from left in the front row, captained the side.

His final match at Philiphaugh came at the age of 63 when playing for the 2nd XI against Kelso 2nds in August, 1992. He opened the innings, scored a half-century, and also playing in the home team that day was his son, Derek. Selkirk won the game – the perfect end to a magnificent career.

Tom Brown captained Selkirk 11 times, and was skipper of the South district team for several seasons. His qualities as a captain shone as soon as he led his players out on to the pitch.

“Tom was a great competitor,” said former team-mate Bobby Wilson. “He would never admit defeat until the last ball was bowled, and always led by example. Out in the field he just needed to give you a look, and you always did as you were told!”

Another Selkirk team-mate, Malcolm Ford, added: “Tom was the most respected captain I ever played under. He and Ronnie Simpson epitomised everything that Selkirk Cricket Club stands for, and always played the game in the right spirit.”

Tom's life membership presentation

Tom Brown receives life membership of Selkirk Cricket Club from club chairman Tom Anderson, watched by club secretary Ben Cassidy and Tom’s wife Liz.

As well as being appointed a life member of Selkirk Cricket Club, Tom was also a life member of Ettrick Forest Bowling Club, and was an equally gifted carpet bowler, having been a member of both the Heatherlie and Lindean clubs, winning numerous tournaments over the years.

Tom will be forever remembered as the man whose match-winning drop-goal against Gala in 1953 laid the foundations for Selkirk Rugby Club’s first and only Scottish Championship title.

Recalling that famous game, Brown was typically modest about his contribution. “I remember Davy Walker kicked the ball into the middle of the field. I picked it up, side-stepped my opponent and dropped a goal.

“It was in front of the posts and quite simple really, and I certainly didn’t realise it was going to be as important as it was.”

Selkirk’s 3-0 victory over Gala was followed by a 3-0 win against Jed-Forest, securing the Philiphaugh club a Scottish Championship and Border League double.

One spectator at Philiphaugh that night was Bert Duffy, who went on to captain Selkirk and rise to become president of the Scottish Rugby Union. “I remember Tom’s drop-goal very well, with the huge crowd giving out a mighty roar when it went over.

“Tom was a natural, no matter what the sport, and you couldn’t meet a more modest or unassuming guy. He always took a keen interest in the club, and would stop and have a chat about rugby whenever we met.”

A strong-running, skilful centre, Brown also won selection for a crack South district side bristling with Scottish internationalists, including Robin Chisholm (Melrose), Hawick’s Jack Hegarty and Hughie McLeod, as well as Dod Burrell (Gala) and Selkirk’s own Jock King and Jim Inglis.

Brown’s rugby career was ended prematurely when a back injury sustained in a match against Hawick forced him to hang up his boots while still in his early twenties.

Thomas Preston Brown was born at Longcroft Farm, Lauder, on August 26, 1929, to George Brown and his wife Helen (née Middlemas). A shepherd at Longcroft, George Brown was also a champion sheepdog handler, and in the early 1930s purchased Lindean Moor Farm, near Selkirk, where he continued to breed and train Collies.

Tom attended Lindean Primary School, later moving up to Selkirk Public School, which he left at the age of 14 to work on his father’s farm, as a result of which he was excused National Service.

He took up a sales post with local hauliers R. G. Stark, after which he became South of Scotland sales representative for Hadfields Fertilisers and then Norsk Hydro Fertilisers following a takeover. After taking early retirement he worked as a caretaker, gardener and driver for Lady Askew at Sprouston.

At Kirkhope Parish Church in 1952, Brown married Elizabeth (Liz) Grieve, a farmer’s daughter from Helmburn, Ettrickbridge. The couple were blessed with five children – Derek, Mary, Linda, Carol and Susan.

The family lived In Selkirk’s Ettrick Terrace, with Tom and Liz moving to St Boswells in their later years. Tom was predeceased by Liz in 2008.

A member of Selkirk Merchant Company, Brown was appointed its Standard Bearer for the 1972 Common Riding, with Liz acting as his lady busser.

Merchant Company SB 1972

Selkirk’s 1972 Standard Bearers and their Lady Bussers line up for a photo call, with Liz and Tom Brown on the left.

“Tom was a lovely man,” said Selkirk Rugby Club vice-president Jim Harold, “and everyone at Philiphaugh is extremely saddened by his passing. He was a great ambassador for the club, and was undoubtedly one of its finest players.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by Selkirk Cricket Club chairman Roger Arnold. “The contribution he made to the club, both on and off the field, was incredible. He was an inspiration to everyone, and will be sorely missed.”

Mr Brown is survived by his five children, 10 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. He was father-in-law to Alison, Billy and Barrie.

Although the funeral is private, at 12.30pm on Friday, April 24, his hearse will leave The Toll at Selkirk and travel up Bleachfield Road to Scotts Place, pausing at Ettrick Forest Bowling Club, before going along the High Street and leaving Selkirk via Ettrick Terrace for the private interment in Mertoun Cemetery.  J.D.R.S

Remembering our heroes

One of our members has managed to source an old newspaper article detailing the heroes of Selkirk Cricket Club who fought and died for our country during WW1. Please have a read at the below article in rememberence of heroes not only of Selkirk but the whole of Britain.

killed in war

And here is a list of all the Heroes who made the great sacrifice for our country, including their rank.

killed in war 2

They Played at Selkirk #1 Keith Miller

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A new series celebrating the great cricketers who have played at Philiphaugh. Many splendid players have trotted out from the pavilion to play here but few have been finer than Keith Miller. Nearly 3,000 test runs at an average of almost 37 and 17o test wickets taken at 23 runs apiece is an impressive enough record but figures alone tell barely half the Keith Miller story.

“Nugget” was once called “the Australian in excelsis” by the great English cricket writer Neville Cardus and more than half a century after he last played test cricket he remains perhaps the most glamorous cricketer to have worn the Baggy Green. More than anything else, Miller was a stylish cricketer who played the game with flair and an insouciant attitude that did not always endear him to his superiors, most notably Don Bradman.

On the 1948 Ashes tour, for instance, the Australians spent a day murdering the Essex bowling, racking up 721 runs. Miller derived no pleasure from this turkey shoot and when it was his turn to bat he stepped away to leg and was bowled first ball. He was not the kind of cricketer who played for his average or padded his statistics with easy runs.

Miller was a fighter pilot during the Second World War and would later tell young players that test cricket was easy. Pressure, he said, “is a Messerschmitt up your arse”. In the late 1940s and 1950s he was the most popular Australian in England and a hero to thousands of English schoolboys. For Miller, victory was not the only thing that mattered. Swashbuckling was important too. (He was also rumoured to have enjoyed an affair with Princess Margaret).

In tandem with Ray Lindwall he formed one of Australia’s greatest new-ball attacks and as a classically elegant batsmen he had the power and range of strokes to turn a game on its head in the space of half an afternoon. Bowling off a short and always unmeasured run he could follow a wicked bouncer with a googly or whatever seemed fun or most likely to catch the batsman out. As a batsman he was equally adept hitting thunderous off-drives and delicate late-cuts.

Though a successful captain for New South Wales he was too free-spirited to ever be trusted with the Australian captaincy. Sometimes he took an unusual approach, telling fielders just to “Scatter” when he could not be troubled setting a field. On another occasion he discovered he was taking the field with 12 players. “Well one of you had better bugger off then” he told his players. He would have made a fine skipper in the Border League…

In 1945, Miller was part of the Australian Services XI that toured the British Isles, marking the resumption of first-class cricket after the war. Though the so-called “Victory Tests” do not have official test match status, this was the year Miller first made his mark, hitting a spectacular 185 at Lords. As part of the tour, the Australians visited Philiphaugh where they played a Scottish XI.

Three years later, during the “Invincibles” tour of 1948, Miller returned to Philiphaugh where he planted a tree alongside one that had been planted in 1945 by the wicket-keeper Stan Sismey. He is pictured here, in the centre of the back row, alongside other members of that Australian party and Selkirk committee men of the time. A great Australian and one of the greatest to have trod the Philiphaugh turf.

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They Played at Selkirk #2 Wilfred Rhodes

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The England XI for Rhodes test debut in 1899. Back Row: Barlow (Umpire), Tom Hayward, George Hirst, Billy Gunn, JT Hearne (12th Man), Bill Storer, Bill Brockwell, VA Titchmarsh (Umpire). Middle Row: CB Fry, KS Ranjitsinhji, WG Grace (Captain), Stanley Jackson. Front Row, Wilfred Rhodes, J Tyldesley

Many great cricketers have trod the turf at Philiphaugh but none holds more records, many of which will never be broken, than Wilfred Rhodes.

In his long and storied career, Rhodes played more first-class matches than anyone else (1,110) and took more wickets than any other bowler in the history of cricket. In a career that lasted from 1899 to 1930 4,204 batsmen were defeated by the Yorkshireman’s wily slow left-arm spin. He took his wickets at an average of just 16 and claimed ten scalps in a match 68 times. In addition he scored almost 40,000 dogged first class runs and batted in every position from 1 to 11 in the England line-up. When he played his final test, in 1930, he was 52 years old and he remains the oldest man to have ever played in a test match. He bowled at Grace and he bowled at Bradman and every great batsman in between.

Rhodes was never the biggest spinner of the ball but his command of flight was exemplary and few are reckoned to have ever surpassed his mastery of that part of the spinners’ arsenal. His accuracy was so nagging that the wonderful Australian batsman Victor Trumper was said to have once cried out in exasperation “For God’s sake Wilfred, give me some rest!” Neville Cardus, greatest of all English cricket-writers, considered Rhodes “Yorkshire cricket personified”. No small compliment considering Yorkshire have been England’s most successful county.

And it all began in the Border League.

In 1896 and 1897 Rhodes was engaged by our friends and rivals at Gala as their professional to play in the newly established Border League. He made his debut against Selkirk on May 9th 1896 and helped Gala win the day. According to the Selkirk historian William Anderson, although “The nice, easy left-handed delivery of Rhodes was greatly  admired” he “only got three wickets and there was nothing to suggest his future distinguished career.”

Nevertheless, by the time the return fixture at Mossilee came around, “a draw in favour of Gala was the result and this gave Gala the league championship.”

The following season Rhodes returned for Gala while Selkirk engaged Owen Firth “a hefty Yorkshireman” from Redcar as our pro. Firth “proved such a success that he even finished with a better average than Rhodes. Few counties in Scotland, however, ever had at the one  time two such fine bowlers as Rhodes of Gala and Firth of Selkirk.”

The matches between Selkirk and Gala that season were epic tussles. In the first, “The Souters continued their good work in the local ‘derby’ at  Galashiels, when before a record crowd for the season the Souters beat  Gala 88 to 68 and this completed Selkirk’s eight matches in succession  which Selkirk not only won, but not one of their opponents had reached  a three-figure score.

“Gala batted first, but none of their batting could make anything of  the bowling of Ingles, Firth and Harvey, and the latter shattered the wickets of Rhodes after he had scored eight runs. Three Gala players  were caught but all the others were clean bowled for a score of only 68 runs. Rhodes, however bowled so well that Selkirk had lost seven wickets before the match was won and they were all out for 88 runs. Rhodes had seven wickets for 41 runs.”

The return fixture: “was a vital one with Gala and there was a record crowd  for a Border club match this season. Selkirk were in first but to the dismay of the Souters the side were all out for only 71 runs, and the famous contingent of stonemasons (T Dickson & Co.), who were always Selkirk’s most enthusiastic supporters, were chewing stems of grass in their excitement.

“Rhodes had played ducks and drakes with the Souters, to the great delight of the Gala spectators. True, he only once hit the wickets and  the other eight were either caught or stumped. Seldom has anything finer been seen at Philiphaugh as when Rhodes caught and bowled McBain in a drive that was going like a rocket to the boundary. Rhodes finished with nine wickets for 32 runs.”

“With Gala batting, sensation after sensation followed. The Gala crack, Jim Mercer, having the best season of his career and expected to get his 1000 runs for the season, was out to a grand catch at the wickets by ‘Bob’ Anderson, off Firth, in the first over. Rhodes was clean  bowled by Firth for four, and Ingles, bowling his fastest, set A.M. Grieve’s wickets all over the shop. Except for W Fairgrieve, who got  12 runs, the others simply made a parade to and from the wicket, and almost before the crowd could realise what had happened the Braw Lads were all out for 37 runs. Firth had eight wickets for 13 and Ingles two for 22. This left the League Championship almost certain for Selkirk.”

Those were the days! As Anderson cheerfully records, “Wilfred Rhodes in his two seasons at Galashiels had played five times against Selkirk, but had only once been on the winning side, but this was no fault of his as he had in five innings scored 100 runs, giving him an average of 20.0, while in bowling he secured 30 wickets at an average of 5.43.”

In 1896 Rhodes took 92 wickets for Gala at an average of 7.2. In 1897
his figures were 351-92-538-77-6.98. He remains, I think, the greatest cricketer to have played in the Border League. To this day, a portrait of him hangs in the Gala pavilion. And rightly so.

Two years later Rhodes, still aged just 22, made his England debut against Australia at Trent Bridge as he built a career that would make him one of the game’s immortals. Even so and even after he mastered all-comers one can reflect with some satisfaction that for all his many other successes he came off second-best in his battles against the Souters.

Previously in this series: Keith Miller. Next week: Rhodes’ great contemporary George Hirst.

The Boys of Summer (1982 edition)

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CLASS OF ’82. Members of Selkirk’s title-winning team line up at Philiphaugh. Back row: K. Cassidy, B. Wilson, J. Smail, G. Reid, M. Scott, B. Hunter, M. Lauder, A. Webster (umpire). Front: J. Hunter, L. Muir, R. Brett (captain), T. Anderson (chairman), A. Turnbull (vice-captain), K. Anderson, M. Ford. (Photo: Grant Kinghorn)

THE last time Selkirk Cricket Club’s 1st X1 lifted the Border League trophy was in 1982, and to mark the 30th anniversary of this achievement the club held a special players’ night at Philiphaugh earlier this month.

Around 20 former players and officials attended, including 1982 captain Roly Brett, vice-captain Allen Turnbull and the club chairman in 1982 Tom Anderson.

“It was great to meet up with old team-mates,” said Mr Brett, “and brought back a lot  of happy memories. That season was particularly memorable, as Selkirk also won the Border Knock-out Cup and Border Sixes title. Those were the days!”

During the evening a plea went out to former players to lend their support and experience to the current crop of players, by returning to the club as often as possible and helping the club continue to grow and develop.

The Committee would like to thank John Smail for organising an evening that was much enjoyed by all present.

The picture above is how they look now but this is how the title-winning side looked in their pomp:

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Border League Champions 1982: how many faces do you recognise now?