Book Review: E W Dawson the Cricketer: Trustworthy Ally at the Front Line

(by Peter Kettle, limited edition of 120 copies of which 100 are for sale, pp192 + appendices, available from the author at 9 Cremorne Street, Balwyn, Victoria 3103, Australia, e-mail pkettle@bigpond.net.au)

Many of the amateurs who led county sides in the mid-twentieth century would seem to have been somewhat challenged when it came to playing ability – and sometimes leadership qualities as well. But the Eton and Cambridge-educated captain of Leicestershire from 1928 – 1933, Eddy Dawson, was good enough to play for England in five Tests (against South Africa and New Zealand, all overseas). Although he had a fairly high profile at the time, he has since faded into obscurity, hence this new biography from Australia-based Peter Kettle (whose wife is a descendant of Dawson).
I should say at the outset that although this is quite a substantial volume, consisting of over two hundred A4-size pages, my initial reaction on reading it was that there was insufficient material available for a full biography, and some of the book seems rather like padding, notably a lengthy digression on the Rudolf Hess affair. A throw-away line at the end of the account of the South African tour, dealing with a short-lived engagement, betrays the fact that there is little material available on Dawson as a person. The private printing has also allowed the intrusion of a fair number of grammatical and factual errors.

However, there is much to commend this volume. The author is strong on Dawson’s batting technique and how it seems to have developed over his career. There are some interesting appendices, notably an analysis of the bowlers to whom Dawson fell most often. It is also lavishly illustrated and although one or two of the photos have not reproduced well, they have been carefully chosen to complement – and illuminate – the text. I particularly enjoyed the photos of all the first-class grounds in Leicestershire on which Dawson played (different from, and sometimes better than, those in the ACS booklet on Leicestershire grounds). The smiles on the faces of the Leicestershire sides suggest that Dawson ran a happy ship. The author has also achieved remarkable success in unearthing pictures of Dawson in action for Eton, Cambridge University and England.

This volume has filled a gap and despite the reservations expressed above, is to be welcomed.

Richard Lawrence – Verdict: 6
Summer 2010

 

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