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Maurice Tompkin: More Than Just Runs

Written by Richard Holdridge

In his first-class career from 1938 to 1956, Maurice Tompkin scored nearly 20,000 runs, mostly for Leicestershire, at an average of about 32; he never played Test cricket. Another run-of-the-mill county pro, you might say. Well no, not quite. His cricket was more than just runs.

Commentators and annuals regularly referred to his commitment; they liked his ‘wholehearted play’, his ‘bold, clean hitting’, and his ‘energetic’ fielding. Wisden thought him ‘one of the best and most popular cricketers ever to play for Leicestershire.’ His style and enthusiasm brightened the austere 1940s and responded to the 1950s demand for ‘brighter cricket’. His friendly manner made him a favourite with end-of-season Festival organisers.

He died, aged 37, in 1956 of pancreatic cancer, just three weeks after the season’s end. The shock was such that schoolboys, businessmen and factory social clubs contributed the present-day equivalent of £120,000 to his memorial fund. They recognised that their local hero’s earnings from cricket and from brief outings in top-division football would not have yet provided fully for the future of his family.

Richard Holdridge recounts the story of an old-style ‘local sportsman’ who had scarcely moved away, either geographically or financially, from his village roots.

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