Winton Basil Dean was the first Secretary of the Sydenhurst Ramblers. At 97 years of age, he is almost certainly the only surviving member of the Club who played in the very first match. This was against Farncombe at Broadwater on 7th July 1946. Below are some of the comments he made in a discussion taped during a visit to his house on Wednesday, October 6th, 2004:
Q: Presumably at the end of 1945/the start of 1946, there was a
decision or some meeting to decide the club would start?
WD: Somebody at Farncombe challenged Mike Gauntlett to get up a team to play against them - possibly because they had a 'blank' fixture. At that time, Farncombe were the strongest team in the district - bar Guildford, possibly. Mike phoned round and spoke to me and asked me to get someone. I knew I could produce Bert Jeffrey, who was my grandmother's gardener and our's here (later to become the Ramblers' umpire in the 1950s). He was a very good player and a bowler. The team gathered actually played the match as F. T. Gauntlett's XI. As it happened, we absolutely wiped up Farncombe, much to the surprise of everybody in the district. We all went to the pub after the game and Mike said "We've got to start a club. We must stick together."
So the Club was more or less founded in the pub (which pub? - not certain, it could have been the 'White Hart' at Farncombe) and Mike appointed me Secretary - just like that! And "Ricky" (Richardson)- who was not playing in this match - Treasurer.
Mike told me to get on arranging fixtures for the rest of the season. So I wrote to all the clubs I knew about. Some of the matches were replicated. If you're founded in July you don't normally a get full fixture list and we ended up playing Merrow four times.
Of the match itself (details of which were copied by Winton into the scorebook at a later date 'owing to confusion in the Farncombe scorebook'), Joe Rough made 55 for Farncombe, but 'Blackie' (G. P. M. Blackmore) and Bert (Jeffery) both bowled very well. Bert had a high action - sort of medium pace that naturally sent the ball away to the slips. Every now and then it came back the other way, but I'm not sure he knew how to do it - but he just did it! 'Blackie' was a right arm fast bowler who subsequently played 2 First-class matches for Kent in 1948.
Q: 'Blackie' fell out with the Club, didn't he?
WD: Yes he did. That was two or three years later. Somebody stole a lot of money out of somebody's wallet in the dressing room. I can't remember whose wallet it was. I know Mike looked into the matter and he questioned everybody and the only conclusion he could reach was that it involved 'Blackie' - who was a bit of a 'rough diamond'. Mike told me to write to 'Blackie' and say that 'I'm afraid we do not want you in the Club'. And I had a rude postcard back and that was the finish of the matter. That was after two or three years; it didn't happen straight away.
Returning to the Farncombe game, Norman Mullins, who was keeping wicket said that Bert Jeffery could have done with 4 slips. This proved successful (as indicated by the score sheet entries which included the catchers' fielding positions - a practice that WD always carried out meticulously) as 2 catches were held at slip, a third by Norman and the 4th by Mike at extra-cover. Now I will never forget that. He was not the fastest of movers, being a very large man. I was fielding at silly mid-off as I always did to Bert. Sid Mercer - who was a very good bat by club standards, hit a ball from him over my head like a bullet and there was Mike fielding a long way off and I thought he'll never catch that. But he was so excited at the whole match, that his stomach bounced along the ground and he held onto the ball. It was an extraordinary catch, especially for a man of his size! Sid Mercer got a duck!
Q: Was George Marples playing in those days?
WD: Yes. He was caught by 'Blackie' at slip off Bert. So was Alan Street for 0. He normally made a lot of runs for Farncombe. I played a lot for Farncombe during the War so I knew the players.
Q: Was that how the opportunity to play Farncombe arose, because of your connection with them?
WD: Well it may have been. I am not certain. When Ramblers batted, I see
that Ivan Roberts batted no. 3. When he went out he had a pipe in his
mouth and he got as far as the wicket before somebody made a remark and
he noticed. It was really very funny!
Q: Did Mike ask you subsequently "What are we going to call ourselves?"
WD: It was Mike who settled that. Whether he settled it immediately I'm not sure. It may have been a little later. But it was his decision.
I can tell you one comic thing that happened at Churt, later into August of that first season. We were fielding. Somebody hit the ball right into the corner of the field and a dog came out from the spectators and picked up the ball where it stopped three or four feet inside the boundary. When the fielder came to retrieve, the dog thought it was a game and ran away challenging him to come and get it. And a chase followed which went on for several minutes with the batsmen continuing to run between the wickets before they stopped and joined in the general laughter. Eventually the ball was retrieved from the dog. I'm not certain how it was entered into the scorebook - boundary 4 probably!
Another memory I recall from that match is that Bert Jeffery who played then bowled somebody with a stupendous break-back - and then apologised to the batsman for doing so!
Q: Let's go on to the second match that first season - against Brook and Sandhills (as entitled in the scorebook).
WD: I see Jack Parker played for the Ramblers (84 including 4 sixes and 9 fours) (he had been selected for the M.C.C. tour to India 1939/40 which was abandoned due to the outbreak of war; played in 334 matches for Surrey 1932-52). This was the first of a number of games in which he turned out for the Club and I remember keeping in a game at Steyning (1951 - his benefit season) when he played.
And - for Brook - J.C.W.MacBryan opened. He played for Somerset in the 1920s (1911-31 - 156 matches; 1 Test for England in 1924; Cambridge Blue); Aubrey Raphael (Captain and later President of Brook in the 1950s) and Stogdon. Now Gerald Stogdon - he was at Harrow with me! He played one or two games for us (1946 - 2 games) but was more inclined to Brook (Gerald Stogdon played for Harrow Ist XI (1933-35) and shared in a stand with J.H.Pawle (130 in 80 minutes) against Eton at Lord's 1934.
Winton Dean was a Classical Scholar at King's College, Cambridge and served in Naval Intelligence during WWII. He was a member of the Music Panel, Arts Council 1957-60 and is regarded as one of the foremost authorities on the composer George Friderich Handel. Below is a review of a book by Nigel Fortune - "Music and Theatre: Essays in Honour of Winton Dean"