Local link to cricket legend’s biography

Issue 783

PRE-WAR Yorkshire and England cricket legend Maurice Leyland has only a tenuous connection to North Kirklees – but a chance conversation between Liversedge woman Jayne Barber and Gomersal-based Press correspondent Mike Popplewell has paved the way for his biography to be published by the Association of Cricket Statisticians.

Jayne, of Knowler Hill, is a family friend of Mike’s and one day asked him if he had heard of Maurice Leyland.

“Of course,” he said. “Why?”

“He was my granny’s cousin,” she replied. “I’d like to know more about him for my family tree.”

Mike told Jayne he would find a biography for her but, when he made enquiries, he found that no-one had ever written one.

So, he set about the task himself.

“It was actually finished nearly 20 years ago but I couldn’t find anyone to publish it,” Mike explained.

“So, when I found out that the ACS were thinking of producing a biography as part of their ‘Cricket Lives’ series I offered my research for them to use.

“But they just said ‘Send in your manuscript. If you’ve already written it there is no point in us doing it.’”

The eventual outcome was an acceptance of the manuscript for publication at the end of this year.

Leyland played 41 Test matches for England between 1928 and 1938. In first-class cricket, he represented Yorkshire between 1920 and 1946, scoring over 1,000 runs in 17 consecutive seasons.

A left-handed middle-order batsman and occasional left-arm spinner, he was a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1929.

Leyland spent much of his life in Harrogate and died on New Year’s Day in 1967 after a long fight against Parkinson’s Disease.

But he was caught in the above photograph, in the late 1950s, when he was a special guest at a charity evening held at Birstall Congregational Church where his cousin, Rev Maurice Kaye, was the minister.

Earlier visits to Dewsbury had been much less enjoyable as the old Dewsbury and Savile Ground, which hosted Yorkshire County Cricket fixtures annually until 1933, was rarely a happy hunting ground for Maurice personally, even though Yorkshire did not lose one of their post-WW1 games there.

“I had hoped for it to coincide with the centenary of Maurice’s birth in 1900,” Mike reflected, “but it is now due in the 50th anniversary of his death! Maurice was quite a character and was fondly remembered by everyone – except his opponents. I’m just glad the effort wasn’t wasted.”

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