The funeral of the former cricketer, rugby player and Telegraph sportswriter David Green, who died in March, will be held on Friday April 8 at 12.20pm, North Devon Crematorium, Old Torrington Road, Barnstaple.
The latest newsletter from the Rugby Union Writers’ Club includes a number of fond personal tributes from those who knew David, either as a player or as a press box colleague.
Greeny came late to journalism having worked for a contract-catering company – “You were a pie salesman” his great friend Martin Searby would claim – while he was still playing cricket for Gloucestershire.
He was a decent rugby player, good enough to play for Sale and Bristol and county rugby for Cheshire though he missed out on a Blue at Oxford where he was a contemporary of Malcolm Phillips and Pete Dawkins.
David Green was a man of opposites: a wildly funny companion with an effortless command both of the shaggy-dog story and the withering one-liner, who, in his more reflective moments, would talk touchingly of the great sadnesses in life; a lover of poetry – he was something close to an authority on Auden and, latterly, Hardy, whose verse was very close to his heart – and an enthusiastic purveyor of Anglo-Saxon insults with a range stretching far beyond anything found in “Beowulf”; and a natural wit who all too rarely gave himself free rein in his newspaper journalism. This reluctance was a sadness to the rest of us.
If cricket occupied a rung above rugby on the ladder of his sporting passions, it was only because the summer game lasted days rather than minutes and was therefore more fun for longer. The truth of the matter was that he gloried in both pursuits. His rugby-playing days with Sale and Bristol could not be compared with his spectacular cricketing exploits for Lancashire and Gloucestershire, but he was far from an insignificant figure amongst the muddied oafs of the 1970s. For a while, he sat on the Bristol selection committee. Given his general view of committee types, he may subsequently have considered this a crime rather than a misdemeanour.
He was at his most entertaining in the cricket press box, where his inferiors could be held captive for hours at a time. Many of them, he cut down to size in the space of a single short sentence. If some whippersnapper of a hack – and I write from personal experience – had the temerity to ask him for his thoughts on the pitch at the start of a day’s play, he would invariably respond thus: “I’m not here to do your work”. In the next breath, he would ask if you were available for a beer or three at lunch.
I treasure the fact that I once had the better of him. Filing live for the Bristol Evening Post at the close of a morning session during a Gloucestershire match at the County Ground, I noticed that David and his regular partner in provocation, Martin Searby, had disappeared to the bar, leaving behind them a king-sized Melton Mowbray pie, complete with condiments and cutlery. In Bunteresque fashion, I could not resist cutting a slice for myself. Followed by a second. When they returned, I was bang to rights – my mouth covered in pastry crumbs and smudged with English mustard. Both men had tempers powerful enough to register on the Richter Scale and Searby appeared on the point of self-combustion, yet David so admired the cheek of it he spent the afternoon crying with laughter while asking me if I would like a little more.
And he never forgot the episode. For the rest of his life, he addressed me as “Pie Thief”.
It was a freezing evening at Kingsholm back in the dark ages of rugby when players worked for a living and played for love of the game. Can’t remember the opposition, but I was working for the local paper, Greeny was there for the Daily Telegraph, and the Cherry and Whites were fielding a lanky streak of a player in the second row or the back row, again time has fogged the memory, but I clearly remember the line Greeny came up with to describe the skinny chap: “There’s more fat on a butcher’s pencil”.
David Green was a witty man, a funny man and an astute observer of people and of life; he was also possessed of a great imagination and a facility with words and the English language that at times defied belief, and all these attributes, allied to his immense intellect meant that entertainment was guaranteed when Greeny was in a press box. The pity of it was that he did not write as he thought and spoke. If he had he would surely have been regarded as one of the finest writers of his day.
He had a near-photographic memory, although this ability sprang from his love of English literature and poetry in particular. The shame of it is that this love was shared so rarely and only in private moments. Would that he had shaken off his fetters and allowed himself full rein in his writings, the world would have been a far richer place. And even without those embellishments to his professional output, with his death, the world is a poorer place.
I knew David as a friend, then I knew him as a journalist. “Keep the waffle to a minimum, ‘Bunter’”– that was his sage advice I struggled to take. Possibly driving him to Old Trafford from Bristol where his old teams Gloucestershire and Lancashire were meeting was the funniest journey and the worst hangover of my life …. Being with Greeny was like Auden and Ale. We miss you David.
- Click here for David Hopps’ appreciation of David Green’s life
- Read the Telegraph‘s obituary for David Green here
- The SJA is the largest member organisation of sports media professionals in the world. Join us: Click here for more details
UPCOMING SJA EVENTS
- Mon Apr 11: SJA Spring Golf Day, Burhill GC
- Wed Apr 20: SJA annual meeting, Fleet Street
- Wed May 11: VIP York Race Day, sponsored by Ladbrokes
- Tue Jun 7: Death of a Gentleman screening, Croydon