I have always had a soft spot for Sussex ever since I was at preparatory school Temple Grove in Eastbourne. From time to time – so long as we had not been caught smoking behind the fives courts or putting a stink bomb under the music mistresses’ cushion – we were taken to watch the cricket at the Saffrons. It was there that I saw my first 1st class match – H.D.G. Levenson-Gowers XI v One of the Universities. The names of the players whom I saw then still have a nostalgic ring – J.C.W. MacBryan, R.C. Robertson-Glasgow, C.D. Mciver; A.P.F. Chapman, the Ashton Brothers, The Gilligans, J.L. Bryan and so on. But the bowler who made the most impression on my young mind was the Rev. F.B.R. Brown later a Canon and Headmaster of St Andrew School (which incidentally used to supply super teas when we played them at cricket!). He bowled fast medium and used to cross his legs as he delivered the ball. Why he never tripped up I just don’t know. Anyhow, he used to play for Sussex during the school holidays and was nick-named ‘Tishy’ by the cartoonist Tom Webster, who used to feature him regularly in his Daily Mail cartoon. There was a race horse of that name at the time which also used to cross its legs when racing sometimes, with disastrous results.
A family side
Sussex have always been a family side and no other first class county has had so many fathers and sons, cousins, brothers, or uncles and nephews playing for them – often together in the same team. Names that come to mind are Tate, Relf, Cox, Gilligan, Langridge, Cornford, Parks, Oakes, Griffith, Buss and of course Ranji and Duleep. For years Sussex brought to the cricket grounds of England the aura and tang of the sea. Their fielding was brilliant and their batting had a dashing air about it with some welcome rusticity low down in the order.
Their bowling, on the other hand, except for Maurice Tate, never reached great heights. But the point about Sussex was that they were fun to watch and play against. Player and spectator alike got good value from a game of cricket with Sussex. Alas, today, some of the joy seems to have gone out of their cricket though they still have the Family tradition. It would give the greatest pleasure if Sussex could forget all their troubles and rediscover the fun of playing cricket.
Brian Johnston, 1972, from Sussex County Cricket Club, Hove 1872-1972