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History With Flynn

Cricket, that most English of games, the smack of leather on willow, cucumber sandwiches in the pavilion, or whatever tickles your fancy.

Also even as I type the Ashes are being contested between England and Australia and so I thought it would be apt to post this rather sombre story of August 1919, from the pages of the Eccles and Patricroft Journal.

It tells of a fateful cricket match played between Monton, St Paul's  and the Swinton  Second Team at the Monton cricket ground.

Swinton Second had just finished their innings and Monton's Captain, Francis Smith strode up to the crease for the opening over.

With only a few balls bowled, Smith had already struck himself over the heart with  the top of his cricket bat handle, attempting "to pull a ball to leg" (whatever that means)

A few balls later however Smith misjudged from the Swinton bowler, James Arthur Hindle and the ball struck him on the heart.

To the horror of players and spectators, Smith staggered a few steps and then collapsed to the floor, and had to be carried to the pavilion.

A Dr Young was summoned to his aid but on arrival he "found life to be extinct"...what a quaint expression for dead.

Obviously the game was abandoned and his body was taken away by ambulance.

Francis Smith was 48 years of age and lived at Mirfield Drive, Monton, he was described in the paper as being "an accomplished player and one of four brothers who all played in local cricket leagues"

He had been captain of the Monton team for three seasons and as a mark of respect the flags on the Monton and Swinton cricket clubs were flown at half mast, whilst both teams sent floral wreaths to his funeral.

An inquest was held at the Blue Bell public house, Monton with Mr P.R. Bennett the Deputy County Coroner presiding over the inquest.

Smith's daughter, Bessie told the inquest that her father  had always enjoyed fairly good health and had left home at 2.30pm on the Saturday to play cricket.

James Arthur Hindle took the stand and told the Coroner that he had bowled the ball that had struck Mr Smith.

He said that the ball was straight and rose a little striking Smith in the stomach, who attempted to pull himself together but collapsed.

The Coroner asked Hindle if that instead of playing the ball, the deceased seemed to appear to double up over the wicket?

Hindle replied, "I did not think the blow from the ball would have killed him because it was not a fast delivery"

Dr Young told the inquest that he thought it was the second blow which proved fatal and he would have appeared to have died from shock following the blow.

Finally the Vice-Captain of the Monton Cricket Club, Sydney W. Painter told the Coroner that the accident happened about 5.30pm, and owing to the weather the deceased mistimed the speed of the ball and did not make his stroke.

After hearing all of the evidence Mr Bennett registered a verdict of "Accidental Death"

The newspaper noted that a special service for "men only" was held at the St Paul's Church, Monton on the Sunday afternoon, to his memory.

A sad and perhaps cautionary tale, and I wonder if there is some kind of memorial or trophy in memory of Francis Smith? it would be nice if there was reminder of his sporting life, does anybody know?



Tony Flynn


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