I owe them so much - Richard Jordain

Richard Jordain

Richard Jordain - Credit: Roger Mann

As I look back over a full, and busy, life, I realise the importance of having a hobby, or an all-consuming interest.

For some, pottering in the garden provides the relaxation they need, while others love tinkering with motor-bikes.

For me, my joy has been provided by playing, coaching, and studying cricket!

Although I was born to a father who loved sport, he had never played cricket. 

Nevertheless, it was my father who sent me to Montpelier School, in Paignton, and into the hands of its cricket-mad sports master, Mr Jordain.

Barcombe Hall, Paignton - the home of Montpelier School.

Barcombe Hall, Paignton - the home of Montpelier School. - Credit: Roger Mann

Although the school closed many years ago, there is still an active old boys' group on social media, which still shares amusing memories of him.

If Richard Jordain had featured in a television comedy about private schools, he would have been played by John Cleese.

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He was tall, bespectacled, long-striding, and seemed to always wear a navy blue blazer, with an open necked white shirt.

His smile puckered just one cheek, while the other half of his face remained unmoved. He spoke with a slight lisp, and the poshest accent you had ever heard. No wonder we youngsters giggled behind his back!

In the years before I attended the school, Mr Jordain had married the owner’s daughter, and now both were teaching there.

It would be easy to say that he had not been much of a sportsman himself, and had very few coaching qualifications, but that would be to ignore the fact that the school boasted wonderful rugby and cricket teams. 

While I was at the school, the captain of the rugby team was Richard Sharp, who went on to captain England, and the captain of cricket was Roy Kerslake, who became the captain of Somerset!

No school in England could have bettered that!

As I got to know Mr Jordain, the more I sensed just how much he loved cricket.

He would spend hours on the mower, preparing the ground for our cricket matches. He would insist on pearly white pads, and would send us back to the pavilion if they were not up to standard. He would umpire matches from both ends of the pitch, and coach us as he did so.

Montpelier School 1st X1 in 1954

Montpelier School 1st X1 in 1954 - Credit: Roger Mann

I can hear him now: “Pway back to the short ball, Mann”. It was always basic but sound advice.

As I got older, the advice got more insistent, but never more complex.

We were taught to lift the bat back straight, and when to play back or forward.

He used to tell us that cricket was a special game, and that, as bowlers, we should never appeal unless we thought the batsman was out.

As batsmen, we should always accept the umpire’s decision.

If you hesitated when he gave you out, he would pull a whistle from his pocket and give it a loud blast to signify his disapproval. We almost ran back to the pavilion! 

The print of P.F. Warner which inspired an 11 year old.

The print of P.F. Warner which inspired an 11 year old. - Credit: Roger Mann

Then, one day, walking to school, I had an experience which was to influence the rest of my life.

I walked past a junk shop, and, there, right in front of the window, was a print of a cricketer of long ago.

He wore a brightly coloured cap, and was hitting a ball way into the distance. Something about him impressed me deeply, and I strained to read his name, it was 'P.F. Warner'.

During our playtime breaks, my friends and I would play cricket with a tennis ball. They would be 'Edrich' or 'Compton', but, from that day forward, I would always pretend to be 'Warner'.

I asked Mr Jordain about him, and he told me that, 50 years earlier he had been the captain of England!

I wanted to know more, and, one day, I would do!

For my 12th birthday, my mother bought me the print, and I still have it today!

Richard Jordain taught me to respect cricket.

He used to say that it was, first and foremost, a game played by gentlemen against gentlemen, and that, in good time, he hoped that I would develop the skills needed to become both!

Do I have any regrets? Just one! That I never thanked him for all he gave me!