Brian Close is a true sporting icon: schoolboy cricket and football prodigy, youngest ever England selection, played for England in 22 Tests over four successive decades, best win ratio of any England captain ever, unfairly sacked by Yorkshire (about which the protests of Yorkshire supporters are heard even now), loved a flutter on the horses, hair-raising driver and, through it all, the most likeable and popular of men.
It was not until after Brian Close’s death in September 2015 that either David Warner or Ron Deaton – or anyone else for that matter – had even the remotest idea that the subject matter for this book ever existed.
Only when the scores of letters which Brian wrote in the early stages of his career to lifelong friend, John Anderson, surfaced did it become apparent that they were of major historical significance in highlighting in great detail the day-to-day events of one of cricket’s best known personalities.
To many, they will also be of geographical interest as the letters and their envelopes show exactly which hotels he stayed in while playing first-class cricket in this country and in Australia and Pakistan.
The details contained in them are a graphic reminder of just how gifted a sportsman Brian was, not only on a cricket field but when participating in a multitude of other sports including soccer (on the books of Leeds United, Arsenal and Bradford City), golf, boxing, swimming and shooting to name but a few.
It is over 70 years since the first letters to John Anderson were penned and it is extraordinary that they and all of the rest have survived the passage of time. A remarkable set of circumstances led to them being seen by Warner and Deaton and their astonishment upon sifting through them was all the greater because there had never even been the slightest suggestion that letter writing formed any part of Brian’s make-up.
The letters, the autograph books which he filled on John’s behalf, and the other memorabilia contained within these pages are part of a much wider collection which is now in the hands of the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation. The material selected for this book will surprise and enthral readers..
About the author
Cricket journalist David Warner has extensively covered Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s fortunes for around 45 years and is the author of the best selling The Sweetest Rose 150 years of Yorkshire County Cricket Club 1863-2013. Former president of The Cricket Writers’ Club and a Vice-President of Yorkshire CCC, Warner edited the Club’s widely acclaimed Yearbook from 2009-2019.
David Warner, a Yorkshire vice-president and well-known cricket journalist who has reported extensively on the White Rose county for 45 years, says that the idea of writing a book about Brian Close’s previously unseen letters, began to take shape soon after the former Yorkshire and England captain’s death in September, 2015.
“Ever since their marriage, Brian and his wife, Vivien, had lived in my home town of Baildon, and when I paid a call upon Vivien shortly after Brian had passed away she mentioned that she had been sifting through Brian’s wardrobe and had gathered together a bin-liner full of his neckwear, ties, dickie bows and a few cravat and was thinking of disposing of them, “ says David.
“Subsequent visits resulted in Vivien unearthing at various times a treasure trove of memorabilia, including scores of letters which Brian had written to his best friend and former Aireborough Grammar schoolmate, John Anderson. The correspondence started just before Brian began his Yorkshire career and continued right through the time he became England’s youngest ever Test player at 18 years and 149 days until the end of the controversial MCC tour of Pakistan in 1955-56 when Pakistan umpire Idris Begh had a bucket of water poured over him by some of the England players.
“John was one of many family members and friends that Brian spent hours of his precious time writing to during this hectic period in his life when he was also on the books of Leeds United, Arsenal and Bradford City at various stages, in addition to doing his National Service in the Army.
“These were not short notes but in-depth letters filling several pages of writing paper, often on the stationery of whichever hotel he was staying at or whichever club ground he was playing on either at home or abroad.
“With growing excitement I realised that this stash of perfectly preserved letters represented a side of Brian’s character which very few people indeed knew anything at all about.
“All cricket followers know of Brian’s unique leadership qualities, his great unflinching courage on the field of play, his ability to be involved in storms of controversy, his natural talent at every sport he turned his hand (or feet) to and his legendary car driving exploits which tended to leave passengers quivering wrecks.
“But a loyal letter writer, often into the early hours of the morning, detailing his sporting career and his adventures in the Army? This, surely, is not something that most people would associate with Brian Close.
Ron Deaton, who has painstakingly edited this book, and myself have spent countless hours copying letters and photographs which are now a part of the Brian Close Collection of Memorabilia under the ownership of the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation.
“During this time we have come to learn so much more about one of Yorkshire’s greatest and bravest cricketers and I am sure readers of this book will do the same.”