Saturday, April 02, 2016

Tom Plumb: From wicket-keeper to the workhouse

I had lunch at the Queen's Head in Billesdon today a pleasant Marston's pub. The village trail leaflet tells an interesting story about it:
In the late 19th century, the landlord of the Queen’s Head was Tom Plumb, the famous All-England wicket-keeper of the 1860s, described by W.G. Grace as ‘about the best wicket-keeper of his time.’ 
He coached two Billesdon players who went on to play for Leicestershire: spin bowler William Finney and fast bowler Arthur Woodcock. Woodcock achieved a national reputation as the fastest bowler in England, and his Wisden obituary opined: ‘how much Leicestershire’s promotion to the first-class [in 1894] was due to his bowling is a matter of history.’
Grace wrote about him at some length:
Thomas Plumb was born at Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, 26th July, 1833. His height was 5 ft. 10 in.; weight, 12 St. As a wicket-keeper he was not considered quite up to Lockyer or Pooley's form, although I cannot account for it; possibly it was owing to his connection with Buckinghamshire, whose position as a county was not first-class. 
I am inclined to believe if he had had greater opportunities for displaying his powers, or if he had been connected with a crack county, he would have taken quite as high a position as either of the famous pair I have just mentioned. Anyhow, I am convinced that he was a great deal better than he was thought, and about the best wicket keeper of his time against fast bowling. 
His style was quick and neat, without the slightest show; and while as keen as anyone, he never kept knocking off the bails uselessly as I have seen others do.
And you can find Tom Plumb's career record on Cricket Archive.

But there is a sad story about him which did not make my trail leaflet. You will find it in his obituary in the 1905 Wisden:
The death took place on March 29th of the once-famous wicket-keeper Tom Plumb. For some years he had been in very poor circumstances, and he passed away in the workhouse at Northampton.
Lord Bonkers adds:
People moaned about Kerry Packer and Tony Greig, but the improvement they secured in the lot of cricketers means that it is many years since I have heard of a wicket-keeper (even one from an 'unfashionable' county) entering the workhouse. 
I did once see Bruce French selling matches in Worksop marketplace though.

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