Inside Edge column

Somerset County Gazette: Inside Edge column Inside Edge column

EXACTLY 60 years ago local boy John Harris became the youngest ever cricketer to play for Somerset in a first class match when he appeared in the three day County Championship game against Glamorgan at Swansea.

John Henry Harris was born in Taunton on February 13, 1936. His grandfather was Harry “Fernie” Ferdinando who for many years was the groundsman at the County Ground so cricket was very much in his blood.

John attended Priory Primary School before moving onto Priory Boys Secondary School.

Soon after starting at senior school his family moved to Grove Park in south east London where he played cricket for Kent Schoolboys as well as London Schools.

"I went to Kent for a trial but they told me to go back in two years time, which I was disappointed about and of course National Service was still about in those days, so I got in touch with my grandfather,” said John. “He had a word with Stuart Rogers and he spoke the new coach Harry Parks who arranged a trial for me."

"They were going to put me up in The Castle Hotel- I didn't know what a hotel was like because Id never been inside one, so in the end I stayed with my grandfather.”

John spent his first season playing Second XI cricket and also carrying out 12th man duties for the senior side however early in the 1952 season his big chance came.

"I was very lucky to get into the side because up until then I was running around doing the 12th man duties,” he said. “However the day before the game Stuart Rogers the captain called me over and told me that I was playing instead of Jim Redman.

"I felt really pleased to have been called up to play for the first time, but I didn't really have time to think about it because it was quite late in the day. Then it was a matter of getting changed and going out to field."

"The game started on a Saturday and I can remember we played in front of a packed house at Swansea, where the ground is right by the sea front.We travelled there by train on Friday after cricket had finished so didn't arrive until quite late on at night."

Recalling that special day John said: "I can remember that it was a long way from the changing rooms at Swansea onto the pitch down a very steep flight of steps and being it was a full house Roy Smith and Johnny Lawrence talked to me all the way out onto the field to take my mind of what was happening.

They were magnificent to help me in the way that they did."

In the game that was drawn John Harris opened the bowling with Bertie Buse and also batted with him at number 10, scoring 18.

What was it like being a junior pro in those days?

"Things were very different then, in fact I wasn't even allowed to go into the first team dressing room, which was of course in the Old Pavilion in those days, where the floor had lots of splinters!"

"The only time I went in after I knocked and was told to enter, was to clean the brass taps in the dressing rooms! It was a different world then, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself."

John Harris stayed on the staff at the County Ground until the end of 1959, and pduring those eight seasons played in 15 first class matches for Somerset scoring 154 runs and taking 19 wickets at an average of 32.05.

After his departure from the county John went onto play Minor County Cricket for both Suffolk and Devon and in 1983 he joined the First Class Umpires list where he remained until he retired at the end of the 2001 season.

John is now the chairman of the Somerset Former Players Association.

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