Peter Wynne-Thomas 1934–2021

Peter Wynne-Thomas
Peter Wynne-Thomas in 2013, after being named Statistician of the Year for the second time

Peter Wynne-Thomas was the finest cricket statistician and historian of recent times. The genial occupant of the Library at Trent Bridge and former Honorary Secretary of the ACS stands alongside Arthur Haygarth and FS Ashley-Cooper, not to mention Messrs Wisden and Lillywhite, as one of the leading chroniclers of the summer game.

An exemplar of patience, diligence and understanding, Peter was a founder member of the ACS in 1973 and became a cornerstone of the organisation; after a brief spell as Treasurer, he was the Association’s helpful and friendly Secretary from 1974 until retiring in 2006. In many people’s eyes he was the ACS, and a visit to Trent Bridge was not complete without calling into the Library to speak with Peter.

He was also a prolific author, writing around 50 books. Among his best works were The History of Cricket: From the Weald to the World, published by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office in 1997, a definitive history of the game, and Cricket’s Historians, published in 2011, in which Peter wrote with typical warmth and wisdom about his fellow historians and record-keepers.

He was named ACS Statistician of the Year twice – in 1993, along with Philip Bailey and Philip Thorn, for their epic Who’s Who of Cricketers, and in 2012 for Cricket’s Historians.

A Nottinghamshire man through and through – his first book, in 1971, was Nottinghamshire Cricketers 1821–1914 – Peter was appointed the club’s President in 2016. He was awarded the British Empire Medal in the 2019 New Year’s Honours List, for services to cricket and the community of Nottinghamshire.

On hearing the sad news of Peter’s passing, David Kendix, the President of the ACS said:

‘Peter’s contribution to cricket scholarship in general and the ACS in particular was immeasurable. Visiting him in the Trent Bridge library was a pilgrimage; watching him entrance parties of visiting schoolchildren with stories of cricketing history was to see a master craftsman at work. He possessed authority without ego, and his work set standards in quality and rigour to which we can all aspire. He was also a friend for 30 years and I will miss him greatly.’

Many members have been in touch to express their admiration for Peter’s work and their gratitude for his kindness and help in their own research. Some of their tributes are included below.

Duncan Anderson:
The ladies at my office shed a tear when I told them the sad news about Peter’s passing. None of them had ever met him. Contact had been limited to no more than pleasantries as they put a call through to me, but pleasantries are one thing that Peter excelled in, with his easy charm and old-fashioned manners, and they thought the world of him.
I first met Peter in 1991. A visit to Trent Bridge came to include a call to see him in the Library, which was then located behind the Long Room, or to the shop on Radcliffe Road. Our mutual interest in the history of Nottinghamshire cricket soon made us firm friends: we were in touch on something or other as often as once or twice a week, or if we had some sort of a project on, it could be once or twice in a day! That’s how his enthusiasm could sweep one along.
Peter’s knowledge of Nottinghamshire cricket, was needless to say, quite unparalleled. That said, he was never content to let matters rest, and we always had a little bit of research going on. Many a time we’d call each other with what he called ‘a scoop’ and we’d have a lovely half-hour chewing the cud and looking at where the new information was taking us.
It was fascinating to watch Peter in action as a researcher. He claimed that Roland Bowen taught him the art of research and he certainly did it well. It is perhaps fitting that during the recent lockdown Peter was involved in a book on Bowen.
I remember, when I was helping Peter with a little research for his book on Arthur Carr, I found what I thought was the most wonderful piece of revealing information on Carr, which came with what I thought was cast-iron provenance. That wasn’t Peter’s view though. He needed to understand the information and wouldn’t go near it until he could.
More recently I bought a 78 record of Harold Larwood discussing leg-theory. The problem was that I had no idea how I could play it. I shouldn’t have worried. Peter had the full set-up for 78 rpm, including a horn gramophone.
I will miss Peter dearly. Even within a week of his passing I have things that I need to discuss with him and it’s so sad that I can’t.
It’s said that no one is irreplaceable and I’m sure that’s true. The exception to the rule is Peter Wynne-Thomas. He is a man whose place in life can never, ever be replaced.

Malcolm Lorimer:
If ever there was someone who typified the cricket historian it was Peter. He was a colossus and could easily hold sway with previous historians of the game like Ashley-Cooper and Rowland Bowen – but not always agree with them!
In the time of the computer he preferred his old battered typewriter, and shared his love of the game not just with fellow historians but with thousands of schoolchildren.
He was pivotal in the ACS and yet never dictated what should happen. His foresight in buying the shop at Trent Bridge meant the ACS had a legacy which it will continue to enjoy long into the future.
For his friendliness, humour and readiness to share his knowledge with whoever asked, we are all thankful. He will be missed.

Robin Isherwood:
It is with much personal sadness I read of Peter’s death. He did all the maps for the South African Provincial Cricketers booklets (re-drawn from my own initial amateurish efforts) and we exchanged many letters. He couldn’t have been more helpful and didn’t want any acknowledgement.
A few years ago, during a Notts vs Lancs match, I spent over an hour with Peter in the Trent Bridge library. Alongside the manual typewriter on his desk were numerous local newspapers and Notts scorebooks. He told me he was in the process of checking who won the toss in Notts first-class matches, had found well over 100 differences with Wisden, and was only up to the 1950s. Heaven knows how many hours he had already spent on such a massive project at that time.
Peter was a wonderful person to have known and will be greatly missed but never forgotten.

Ric Finlay:
I visited Trent Bridge in April 2010, where I met Peter Wynne-Thomas in his wonderful library. He was a cultured, erudite man: I found him fascinating and very eager to converse with me about our passion. I was in nirvana, and two hours just flew by. A huge loss for our profession.

David Jeater:
Just a small anecdote about Peter, if I may.
While I was (enjoying) editing his book on William Clarke for our Lives in Cricket series, I noticed our local library had a full-scale history of the prep school Peter had attended here in West Sussex and mentioned this to him. Within days he had obtained a copy – online, incidentally – and had read it. He then asked me a series of questions about the school and what had happened to its site. I simply found it remarkable that he had filleted the key pieces of information from it and had identified the significant gaps in the tale. All this while he was progressing the Clarke book itself during the cricket season, undertaking his various duties at Trent Bridge, and writing another unrelated cricket book.

Derek Barnard:
Peter Wynne-Thomas was one the finest cricket statisticians and historians of the period immediately following the Second World War. A trained architect, his greatest achievement was the development of the Trent Bridge Library – now called the Wynne-Thomas Library – where he built an enormous collection of books, letters, photographs and many items of cricket memorabilia.
In June 2017, when Peter was president of Nottinghamshire CCC, they hosted Kent in a first-class day/night game, in which lunch was taken at 4 pm. Peter gave an eloquent address as he welcomed the Kent members. I said that I had read a number of his books and asked if I could visit the library. He gave of his time freely: we met at 10 am each day and he allowed me to ferret around for about four hours on the last three days of the match.
On the fourth day I asked if he had still in his possession the card index to The Cricketer. He said he did, and a week later posted me all the magazine’s references to Colin Cowdrey.
Here was a man who had given his life to Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club and to cricket history. He will be well remembered.

Robby Wilton:
Thank you for the enlightenment and pleasure you brought to so many cricket lovers for so many years.

Mark Asquith:
I knew Pete from mid-1977. I spoke to him last when I was back in the UK two years ago. He still hadn’t read all the works of Dickens we spoke about ten years before. Like me, he struggled with Barnaby Rudge.
He introduced me to John Arlott and Bomber Wells among others.
He was worth going a long way to talk to.
Not many of us left from the days when the guides were very much up in the air and the AGM was at Edgbaston.
Good on you Pete.

Vijitha Senaratne:
It was very sad to hear the demise of Mr Peter Wynne-Thomas the leading cricket statistician and former Secretary of the ACS. Going through the lists of ACS publications I found some of his works, namely Cricket Grounds of Nottinghamshire, Cricket’s Historians, William Clarke: The Old General, F.S.Ashley-Cooper: A Biographical Sketch & Bibliography and Harold Larwood, George Parr and Ivo Bligh in the Famous Cricketers series. I would like to read Ivo Bligh because he led the first ever visiting team to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) in 1882. I admire your invaluable service to the cricketing world Mr Wynne-Thomas. Rest in Peace.