SOMERSET cricket is mourning the sad loss of Dennis Silk, who passed away on June 19 in Langport at the age of 87, writes Richard Walsh.

Dennis Silk, a schoolmaster by profession, was one of the most successful amateurs to play for Somerset.

Between 1956 and 1960, the stylish right-handed batsman played in 33 First Class games for the county, scoring 1,543 runs at an average of 33.54, which included a best of 106 not out against Glamorgan.

Dennis was born in Eureka, California, where his father worked as a priest and doctor on a Native American reservation but when he was five, his mother died and he went to live with his grandmother in Primrose Hill.

He was educated at Christ’s Hospital, near Horsham, from where he gained a place at Cambridge University to read history.

He was a talented all-round sportsman and, between 1953 and 1955, Dennis won Blues for cricket each year as well as winning his rugby Blue and a half Blue for rugby fives.

On graduating from Cambridge, Dennis began a teaching career at Marlborough College.

It was during the school holidays when he was living with an aunt at Kingston St Mary that he came to the attention of Bill Gresswell, who was then president of SCCC. He immediately invited him to play for Somerset.

It was to be the start of four highly enjoyable seasons of First Class cricket for the County playing alongside the likes of Bill Alley and Maurice Tremlett who took the young schoolmaster under their wing.

He opened the batting and, as the team’s ‘August expendable’, would often find himself fielding in the firing line at short leg!

In his first season -1956 - he was second in the Somerset batting averages with 325 at 36.11; in 1957, he topped the list with an average of 40.46 from his nine matches.

The following year, Dennis was fourth in the Somerset averages and ,after not being available in 1959, he returned in 1960 for his swansong season in which he played in eight games and scored 401 runs to finish third in the county list behind Peter Wight and Graham Atkinson with an average of 36.45.

In 1963, Dennis strengthened his links with Somerset when he married Diana (nee Milton) at Pitminster Church, with whom he had four children.

His highly successful teaching career took him from Marlborough to Radley College where he was Warden from 1968-1991.

He did, however, still find time during the holidays to captain MCC tours to New Zealand and Canada.

In addition to his work at Radley, Dennis also became very involved with the management side of cricket and served for two years as President of the MCC and chaired the TCCB from 1994 until 1996, as well as being involved with a number of other committees.

Dennis wrote two books on the game he loved - Cricket (Hart Davis, 1964) and Attacking Cricket (Pelham, 1965).

In 1995, Dennis was made a CBE in the 1995 New Year's Honours List for services to cricket and education, in addition to which he succeeded George Mann as Governor of I Zingari, a position he held until 2015.

When Dennis retired from Radley, he and Diana moved back to Somerset from where he regularly visited the County Ground and kept a keen eye on the progress of his former county as well as attending the Former Players’ Annual Dinner.

Dennis reached out and touched so many people during the course of his life and will be very sadly missed by all who were fortunate enough to have known him.

Former Somerset President Roy Kerslake, who captained the county in 1968, has fond memories of Dennis, who was responsible for him meeting his wife Lynn during the MCC tour to Canada.

Mr Kerslake said: “Dennis was the perfect gentleman in all he did, both on and off the field.

"He had a great gift as a speaker and you never tired of listening to him.

“Dennis was one of those people who had the respect of everyone whatever he did, he just had that gift of a personality.

"You couldn’t meet a nicer person, you really couldn’t.”

Dennis Silk is survived by his wife, Diana, four children and 11 grandchildren.