Obituaries: Jack Barrett and Bill Craft
Lymington Cricket Club recently mourned the loss of two of its vice presidents – Jack Barrett and Bill Craft. Both were fine batsmen for the club in the 1960s and 70s, and both became great mates, sharing fishing trips to Scotland and many happy afternoons in the bar at the Sports Ground. Below are obituaries for Jack and Bill – the former taken from Brian Hobby’s tribute to Jack, and the latter taken from the Lymington Times article on Bill.
Jack was born on the Isle of Wight in 1926. His family moved to Sussex and then to Preston Candover near Basingstoke where Jack and his brother were schooled. A talented sportsman, Jack had cricket trials for Hampshire and although not making the grade at county level, played for his local Preston Candover side and often guested for Basingstoke who were one of the strongest teams in Hampshire and the Home Counties.
Jack obtained a mechanics’ apprenticeship with the local garage and charabanc company, Nobbs, but the Second World War came along and he joined the Royal Navy as a gunner and saw action on several ships across the world. On D-Day Jack’s ship took part in the bombardment of the Normandy coastline in support of the landings, and later, on the aircraft carrier HMS Formidable, Jack fought desperately to prevent Japanese kamikaze planes from attacking and destroying his ship. Formidable was one of the first ships to enter Japan following the dropping of the atomic bombs. The devastating results of the bomb had a lasting effect on Jack who would recall how even the milk bottles had melted in the incredible heat. Brian Hobby remembers Jack saying that if it was left to the foot soldiers who actually had to fight the battles then very few wars would take place.
According to Jack, the dilapidated state of some of the British ships was sometimes more of a threat than the enemy. Whilst serving on HMS Ramilies, an old First World War Revenge Class battleship, he said that when the 15 inch guns were fired the ship would shake so much that the hull rivets would fly in all directions. Of course, touring round the world taught Jack to party the Navy way, and this held him in good stead for the future.
On leaving the Navy Jack returned to Preston Candover where he met the the young beauty of the village Joy. He quickly swept her off her feet and they were married in 1953. Children followed: Robert, Peter, Gillian and Jacquelin. In 1960 Jack and his family moved to Lymington where he obtained the post of agricultural engineer at Buckland Farm which was owned by industrialist and Wellworthy owner John Howlett. Soon after Jack’s arrival John Howlett invited him to become his chauffer. This opened up yet another avenue in Jack’s life. ‘JH’, as he was known, was a very keen country sportsman and this led to Jack going to pheasant, duck and partridge shoots all over the UK, meeting land owners and industrialists alike. He came into his own and was a gifted shot, so much so that JH often switched Jack from loading the guns to actually shooting them, much to the annoyance of the fellow guns, many of whom were not up to his standard.
John Howlett owned one of the prime salmon fishing beats on the River Dee in Scotland where he would entertain clients and friends for a large portion of the year. Jack became a legend in those parts, simply known as ‘Jack the Gillies’ to the fishermen and local folk who loved Jack for his sheer fun. It was on these fishing trips that he met Malcolm Tocher, an Aberdeen dentist, fisher and international gun. Malcolm was a serious party man with a great capacity for drinking and fun, and he and Jack got on like a house on fire, forming a lasting friendship which prevailed right to the end of Jack’s life. Jack introduced Bill Craft and Brian Hobby to Malcom, and together they had many happy years fishing on some of the best water in Scotland, if not the world. There are many tales about Jack’s visits to Scotland, and such was his popularity that anyone who visits Banchory and mentions his name will be overcome by the local hospitality.
When Jack first arrived in Lymington he played for Lymington Football Club as a very useful fullback, and of course for Lymington Cricket Club where everyone was fortunate to meet he and Joy. He played for the First XI and could be classed as an all-rounder, but was chiefly a batsman – not an easy task at a time when opposition fast bowlers such as Butch White and Bob Cottam were reaching their prime. Jack’s talents were no better illustrated than in one particular match when Lymington were in the midst of a real thrashing. A draw was a prominent result back then, and captain David Irvine sent a message out to Jack to play for a draw and save the match. Jack duly did this for a while, but then decided he could take the opposition bowling attack apart, and this he did, smashing the ball to all corners of the ground for an unlikely victory. He returned to the pavilion to be congratulated by all his teammates except the captain who declared: “In future Barrett, play to orders”.
Jack was persuaded to join Boldre Cricket Club, possibly as a result of a hard drinking session at the Fleur De Lys, and scored 101 not out against his old Lymington teammates. Indeed, in his time with Boldre he averaged 300 against Lymington who were therefore naturally delighted when he rejoined them after a few seasons. Jack became part of the highly successful 1970s Lymington team which swept virtually all before them.
Lymington were regular visitors to the Isle of Wight back then, and a fierce but friendly rivalry developed in particular with Ventnor Cricket Club. Jack loved recounting the tale of when Lymington brought in a certain Robin Smith for the Ventnor fixture. The future England star smashed the ball around (and out of) the Steephill Ground and the Islanders never forgave Lymington. One of the few printable tour stories involved Jack and a predictably heavy night of drinking. The following morning Jack couldn’t be found and his bed had not been slept in. He was eventually found exactly where he’d been last seen the previous night, sound asleep in his seat on the lawn with a pint on the table, burnt-out cigarette in hand and cobwebs forming around him! Jack formed many happy friendships with the Ventnor folk, and such was his popularity that three Ventnor players from that era – John Hilsum, Mark Clutterbuck and Jeff Hose – came over from the Island to attend his funeral and pay their respects.
Sadly, life was not all plain sailing for Jack. Firstly he was badly hit by the death of his brother who was killed in action during the Second World War. Secondly, Jack suffered the pain of losing his house on the death of John Howlett, and thirdly by the tragic death of son Peter in 1983. Peter was an outstanding left-handed batsman who had been coached by Jack at an early age and went on to play for England schoolboys before eventually progressing on to the Hampshire first XI. Jack and the family were so proud of Peter when he was selected to open the batting with the great Barry Richards at the County Ground, and it’s fair to say that a little bit of spark left Jack when Peter died.
Jack was a hugely popular character around Lymington and shared many memorable late nights with John Stanley, John Lawson and co. at Mike Halliwell’s various drinking establishments. These often involved some heavy drinking sessions, although Jack would always maintain that there was nothing wrong with drinking in moderation. One can only surmise that the OED may have to redefine the meaning of the word ‘moderation’! He also became friendly with many of the talented cricketers from around the world who appeared for Lymington during the 1980s, and it is testament to his character that one can travel to New Zealand, Australia or South Africa and the exploits of Jack Barrett will still be talked about.
Jack was a man who lived life to the very full; always full of fun; a great raconteur whose jokes would have his captivated audience in tears of laughter. And if one ever needed their spirits lifting, Jack would be the first person to call up. Jimmy Durante once sang; ‘Make someone happy’. Jack Barrett certainly did that.
Bill was brought up in Northamptonshire and attended Laxton Grammar School in Oundle where he soon displayed a flair for all manner of sports. He turned down the chance to play for Northants, deciding instead to concentrate on studying chemical engineering at Loughborough University, although he did find the time to captain the cricket team. After completing his studies Bill travelled south to take up a chemical engineering post for ISR at Fawley, remaining with that company until his retirement.
Soon after moving into the area Bill joined both Lymington Cricket Club and Lymington Town Football Club, gaining the rare distinction of captaining both clubs at various times. Bill’s finest season for the cricket club was arguably 1973 when he scored almost 1,100 runs in league and friendly cricket. His dedication to sport was perhaps best illustrated on his wedding day when he married partner Anne in the morning before travelling to Poole in the afternoon where he scored around 80 not out! Bill and Anne produced two sons – Charlie and Ben – both of whom became powerful and classy batsmen in their father’s mold, representing Lymington colts section before going on to play for the First XI. Anne soon became an integral part of Lymington Cricket Club too, running various colts sides and then becoming club secretary for a number of years.
In his spare time Bill was a member of Brockenhurst Fly Fishing Club and fished at Three Legged Cross and Bicton. As mentioned in Jack Barrett’s obituary above, Bill also enjoyed his annual jaunts the the River Dee with Jack and Brian Hobby. He was a keen sailor and joined shooting parties at Pylewell Park.
Anne and Bill’s love of the countryside saw them move to Harbridge near Ringwood ten years ago. There they could enjoy walking their three dogs in the nearby open forest. They also enjoyed visits from their grandchildren Lily and Archie who lived in Devon, and they were thrilled to become grandparents again just six weeks ago with the arrival of Ben’s first child Miya.
Up until just a few weeks before his sad passing Bill was a regular spectator at Lymington’s home matches at the Sports Ground. He would park up in his regular spot on the football pitch and discuss the finer intricacies of the game with his great mates Brian Hobby, Laws and of course, dear old Jack who died just a couple of weeks before Bill. Brian summed up Bill perfectly: “He was an outstanding athlete at any sport he wished to play – cricket, squash, tennis, rugby, snooker – but of all the sports I thought football to be his best. He was indeed an outstanding two-footed centre forward. For most of us though Bill was the epitome of the true meaning of a sportsman – competitive, fair and never breaking the rules”.