“Mr Essex”: the all-round one-man-band

Former SJA chairman IAN COLE offers his personal tribute to Trevor Bailey

Trevor Bailey was my schoolboy hero. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he was, quite simply, Mr Essex.

In the days when Essex were a travelling circus –packing up their tents in Ilford on a Tuesday evening and setting them up again in Clacton by 11.30 next morning – Bailey was the ringmaster.

You could find him in the secretary’s caravan, surrounded by telephones, a typewriter, piles of paper and a duplicating machine. If he wasn’t in the caravan at the time you called to discuss your county membership, chances were he was batting or bowling.

For that was Bailey-shire at the time. He would toss the coin, lead the team out, open the bowling, field at slip – and his wicket was the one most cherished by the opposition. In 1959 he scored 2,000 runs for Essex and took 100 wickets – they played every day except Sunday. He did the double (1,000 runs and 100 wickets) eight times.

Barnacle they called him. On account of his ability to stick to the crease for quite a long time. Later, when he became a member of the Test Match Special commentary team, it was changed by Brian Johnston to Boil. I suspect he preferred Barnacle.

He was a product of Dulwich College and Cambridge University and sounded like a bit of a “toff” whenever he spoke. He was a throwback to the days when the “gentlemen” (the amateurs) entered the field by a different gate to the “players” (the professionals). Bailey was an amateur – paid for being secretary of the club, but not for playing. He was Bailey, TE on the scorecard, whereas the pros had their initials printed in front of their surnames.

Essex were a cavalier outfit, floundering somewhere near the bottom of the County Championship year after year. They were weakened whenever Bailey was called up by England, for whom he played 61 Tests.

The working class lads in the Essex team, like Brian Taylor, Michael Bear and Roy Ralph, proudly wore their Essex sweaters with the county crest in the centre of their chests. Not Bailey, he would wear the MCC touring sweater, with its plum and custard bands, to denote that he had seen battle abroad with England.

After retiring he became sports editor of the Financial Times, a one-man-band operation, I believe – just as it had been with Essex. And then it was on to TMS where his observations were usually an upper-class version of Fred Trueman’s  “I just don’t know what’s going on out there.”

I caught up with Trevor a few years ago at the launch of a book of cartoons by a mutual friend and Westcliff resident, Roy Ullyett. Trevor was complaining about the noise of modern cricket, how crowds would chant and clap as the home side’s fast bowler was racing in.

“I’d just stand back from the crease and wait until the din had died down,” he said. “They wouldn’t let you,” I said. “Just watch me,” he insisted.

I wonder what he thought of Twenty20. If they ever persuaded him to take the field I can picture him playing back all 20 overs to the bowler.

In later years he was perhaps not as involved in Essex cricket as he should have been. But the older members of the county’s membership will feel that a light has gone out of our lives in tragic circumstances.

Read the last interview with Trevor Bailey by clicking here

For other tributes, click here