The day my father played alongside cricket legends at Darlington

And so it suggests that although Thirsk-born Jack was 32 when war broke out in 1932, Yorkshire Cricket Club had finally recognized his obvious talents with bats and balls and stormed to his home in Darlington, to offer him a lucrative contract.

Could this really be true?

The Northern Echo: Jack Acres at the RA wicket at Brinkburn Road, Darlington

Jack Acres at the Brinkburn Road wicket


After completing his education at Darlington Technical College, Jack apprenticed as a carpenter at Blackett’s the Builders in Bondgate. After graduating he joined the North of England School Furnishing Co. (NESCO) on Eastmount Road which specialized in furnishing laboratories, libraries, churches and especially schools.

“When World War II broke out, all the young men in the drawing office were called up except for Papa and the chief draftsman,” says Wendy. “They spent the war designing easily portable furniture for use in worship.

“After about two years he was promoted to chief draftsman.

“He was definitely busy. In addition to working long hours, he taught at the Tech three nights a week, was at work at the fire station, in our church, on our street and grew most of our vegetables in his allotment garden in Newton Lane.

“However, he still found time to play cricket for Darlington Railway Athletic on Saturday afternoon and we lived less than 100 yards off the ground.”

Memories 625 told the story of ‘RA’ three weeks ago as it opened its 110th cricket season at its Brinkburn Road ground. Scrapbooks compiled by RA supporter Harold Harrow in the first half of the 20th century tell of how the RA played some fundraising friendlies in 1940 against teams of soldiers stationed at Catterick Garrison.

But these were no ordinary soldiers. From the scrapbook the first game was played at Catterick and the RA fought first, scoring 122 points overall. Yorkshire left-arm slow bowler Hedley Verity, who had played for England in 40 Tests, took four wickets for 24 runs.

The Northern Echo: Herbert Sutcliffe

Then came Catterick’s prelude: Herbert Sutcliffe (above)from Yorkshire and England, and Len Hutton, one of the greatest batsmen of all time who was later knighted for his services to cricket, also from Yorkshire and England.

The Northern Echo:

Cricket legend Len Hutton meets the Queen in 1952

“It was amusing to see that world-famous players like Sutcliffe and Hutton were just as keen on making up their minds as the average schoolboy,” said The Northern Echo. “That was the case in Catterick on Saturday when a eleven from that borough met Darlington RA. Although Sutcliffe lost his wicket early, Hutton managed a brilliant Century after knocking down a skier in the middle of the field when he was just 20.

“The RA performed well but lost an interesting game.”

A replay against the RA 1st XI at Brinkburn Road was scheduled for 2 May 1940 and although the scrapbook does not include the scorecard it does include an echo photograph of Captain Len Hutton arriving on the ground (under).

The Northern Echo: Sgt Len Hutton arrives at RA Grounds 2nd May 1940 before scoring his brilliant Century for the Catterick XI

“Dad had not yet been selected for the RA 1st XI that day and was preparing to be a spectator when the doorbell rang. It was the RA club secretary who said, “Jack, the visitors are missing a man. Can you dress up your whites and play for them?”

“So dad did just that, he played for ‘Yorkshire’, although not in the usual sense.

“Mom and I went to watch. I was given strict instructions on how to behave – I was about three years old at the time. An unknown quantity, Papa spent most of the game on the outfield and didn’t get a chance to bat.

“And the telegram? Well, the guys at the School Furnishing Co office sent it out as a joke. What it reveals is the name of the “handling office” which was Darlington.”

Nonetheless, it’s a tale worth telling with Sir Leonard Hutton, whose 364 points against Australia in 1938 remains England’s highest individual Test score, sharing a pitch and dressing room to be telegraphed home.

The Northern Echo:

THE RA scrapbook also includes a segment from the Echo telling that Hedley Verity (above) was captain of a garrison self playing at Feethams in front of 2,000 spectators against a “reinforced Darlington side” – a donation raised £12 for the Red Cross and sale of scorecards raised £9 “which will bring comfort to Searchlight units “.

Sutcliffe disappointed again with the bat and ran out for 10, but Verity – despite being classified primarily as a bowler as he took 1,956 wickets for Yorkshire and England with a 14.9 average – had the highest score of 53. He also received two of the five Darlington wickets that fell when the game was declared a draw.

Born in Leeds, Verity was 34 when war broke out. He joined the Green Howards and was stationed at Richmond Depot training new recruits. He was promoted to captain and sent to India and Persia, where his health deteriorated sharply. He refused to be sent home and joined the Allied invasion of Sicily.

On July 19, 1943, he led his men in an attack on enemy positions near Catania, but was hit in the chest by shrapnel. Badly wounded, he had to be left behind while his men heard his last command: “Carry on!”

He was captured and endured two surgeries before succumbing to his injuries on July 31.


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