Monday, 31 October 2011
Chris Waters on his Fred Trueman Biography Part 1
Fred Trueman is a genuine legend and a cricketing hero to many, not just within the White Rose County. The man tasked with the job of writing ‘FRED TRUEMAN – THE AUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY’ is Yorkshire Post Cricket Correspondent, Chris Waters, who speaks to the YCCC website in a four part interview...
In the first of this four part interview Chris talks to James Buttler about writing his first book, Trueman’s humble beginnings and how his perception of the great man has altered after carrying out dozens of interviews with Trueman’s family, friends and colleagues.
Fred Trueman is a massive figure in Yorkshire cricket history and around the sporting world – a huge subject to take on as your first book project?
Yes I suppose it is James. It was a pretty big challenge. There were a lot of elements to it and a lot of things to research. He was a fantastic cricketer for Yorkshire and England and a fantastic character. When I was offered the chance to write it by my London based publisher, who wanted someone up in Yorkshire to look into Fred’s life because a lot of his friends and family are up here, it was an honour to take it on. I did it with the cooperation of his family who have been fantastic throughout and hopefully it adds to peoples’ understanding of the character of the man.
Was there any trepidation in taking on this project?
I think the most challenging aspect was to find something different to write about on Fred’s career. We’re from a generation that associate Fred with his commentary on Test Match Special where he was a brusque, opinionated summariser. Our fathers’ generation would have seen him bowl and will associate him primarily with playing cricket. His cricketing career has been heavily documented, although I have been able to find certain aspects that haven’t been covered, but I was mainly interested in doing the whole sweep of his life so I could shed a bit more light on his character and what made him tick.
One of the most interesting aspects for me was the very humble beginnings he came from in Maltby...
It was a very poor background. The 1930s was the time of the Great Depression and he was born literally on the edge of the Maltby Main Colliery right by the pit yard. If you can imagine just twelve houses in the middle of nowhere next to the pit yard – it was a very bleak beginning for him. I was fascinated by that as he’d always painted it in a kind of romantic countryside way.
If you go down there it’s really quite moving – he came from that and I could understand the sorts of challenges he would face when he got into the England team in the days of amateurs and professionals. Players like Fred were almost serfs to the MCC and it was a quantum leap for him to make.
A lot of the people I spoke to said that the game educated him. Cricket was his education and there was inevitably a period of adjustment. He was a very rebellious sort of character when he appeared on the scene and over the years he settled down to become the greatest fast bowler that Yorkshire and England have ever produced.
I like the way you write about his father. He’s the stereotypical Yorkshireman who doesn’t like to show his emotions, but hugely proud of his son and Fred very loving of his father...
He was very proud of his father and the feeling was mutual. It was very interesting to me as not a lot had been written about his father and I was able to discover that he had actually served at Passchendaele which was a dreadful place, famous for its mud, soldiers sinking into the mud and he would have witnessed all of that. He was actually shot in the shoulder and it probably saved his life as he was invalided out of the army and went back to Maltby Main Pit.
It was a very tough life for him – fighting down in Passchendaele and spending the rest of his life down a black hole in the mine. He must have been incredibly proud that Fred did so well. Dick Trueman was at The Oval when Fred got his 300th Test wicket and you can just imagine what that would have meant to a guy that had seen the things that he’d seen in his life.
And Fred presented his father with his County Cap when he was awarded it be Yorkshire...
That’s right. When he was presented with his Cap he went straight home and found his father sat in his armchair when he was supposed to be at the pit. His father had heard the news on the radio and taken the night off to be there when Fred got back. It was a really emotional moment because, as we know, the Yorkshire Cap meant absolutely everything and to a humble mining family it was a huge honour.
A very tight community and a very loving family – the other person that meant a lot to Fred was his brother Arthur...
Really Arthur was Fred’s hero. Arthur was his eldest brother and a very fine cricketer in his own right, albeit as an opening batsman. The people I talked to down in Maltby said that in the early days if anyone was going to be the professional cricketer it would have been Arthur. Fred had a natural gift but also an incredible determination, whereas Arthur didn’t have the same drive to go and make a living out of the game. He was happier with his mates having a few drinks.
The image that I had of Fred Trueman has changed since reading the book. I had him as big, gregarious, confident, sometimes rude, the George Best of cricket with a pint glass welded to his hand. You write about ‘the curse of the Truemans’, you write about the fact that he wasn’t really a beer drinker – he was a different character to the one often portrayed...
There was a great mythology built up around him where just about every cricket story somehow found its way back to Fred. Of course that happened because he was so outspoken, so colourful, so gregarious on the field, so it was easy for everything to stick to him. Some things were good and others were bad. The drinking tag and the womanising – most of it can’t be substantiated at all, particularly the drinking aspect of it. In certain cases Fred talked a good game, but actually when you delve into it he wasn’t like that and wasn’t the hell-raiser that people thought he was.
He comes across as a much warmer human being than I had imagined and the dog story towards the end of the book illustrates his insecurities...
That was a story that his widow, Veronica, told me. They always kept sheep dogs and they usually had two at a time so when one died they’d go and get another one. They used to get these dogs from a rescue kennels near Thirsk and in the car on the way to the kennels Fred said to Veronica, “I’m worried, I wonder if this dog is going to like me.” She was taken aback and said, “It’s a dog. Dogs like people, even you Fred!”
It showed there was this insecurity there as well and I think that’s quite an endearing part of his character really. It’s easy to associate him with this I don’t know what’s going off out there modern cricket is rubbish and all that. When you delve beneath the surface there’s a very tender chap in there as well, and a very generous man. People told me anecdotes about his generosity and his warmth and kindness and I certainly came to like him a lot during the course of writing about him.
Part Two of the Chris Waters interview to follow tomorrow...
Fred Trueman: The Authorised Biography [Hardcover] by Chris Waters is published by Aurum Press Ltd and is in book shops of all standards now.
Courtesy of Aurum Press Ltd we have three copies of Fred Trueman: The Authorised Biography to give away. To win a copy all you need to do is correctly answer the question below and send your answer to email@example.com
QUESTION: What was Fred Trueman's middle name?
The deadline for entries is midday on Friday 4 November...