Interview: Paul Dyson
The author of Who’s Who of The Yorkshire County Cricket Club, which profiles all 675 men to take to the stumps for Yorkshire, explains how he produced a monumental tome of the county’s cricketing history
How did you come up with the idea for the book?
There have been three Who’s Who’s of Yorkshire County Cricket Club. One was published in 1973, but that only went up to 1939, then the second one was published in 1992 – 26 years ago. One or two of my friends and colleagues on the archives committee at Headlingley and other people who also write about cricket hinted that it was about time there was an update. I set to, and it took two and a half years. I spent a couple of months doing the appendix first. It’s 20 pages of career records for all the 675 players who have ever played for Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
What happened next?
From January 2016 until July 2017 I wrote the main section of the book, which is the profiles of the 675 players. I wrote eight profiles a week throughout that 18 month period. They range from 75 words for those who played 20 games or fewer right up to 400 words for the most significant players. Then I spent a couple of months getting 250 photographs together for the most significant players. I always wanted it to be launched at the AGM of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, which is usually late-March. The warehouse got its copies on the Tuesday, I got my copies on the Friday and the AGM was on the Saturday – so it just made it.
You must’ve been a bit nervous in the run-up to that.
Yes, yes. Once I knew the copies were going to be in the warehouse then I was relieved.
What was the biggest challenge?
The biggest problem was using the sources, which didn’t agree with each other. I had to go through newspapers and death notices. We found that in 80 cases out of the 675 the sources didn’t agree. You might think a lot of these would apply to the 19th century, but there were some which applied to the 21st century. In 27 out of the 80 cases, we couldn’t verify using probate records or parish records, and so had to buy 27 copies of birth and death certificates. Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s yearbook had about 60 mistakes in it, and it no longer has that.
Did you get a break?
We were moving house at one point, so for the four weeks before we moved I did 12 profiles a week so that I could have a fortnight off after. But otherwise it was consistent.
Were any particularly easy to do? People you’d been raring to write about?
None of them were easy, because even if you’re writing 400 words, because they’ve had a distinguished career, you have to think about what to leave out and what to put in. Even the players who had fewer matches, you have to pick out what’s important.
When writing these profiles, did you come across anything unusual about players?
Absolutely. There are those who only played one game, then you’ve got Wilfred Rhodes who played 883 games, which is a record for Yorkshire. The interesting thing about him is that he helped the amateur captains a lot. He helped the amateur captains because some of them made their debuts when appointed captain. There’s this apocryphal story that one of the Yorkshire team saw the captain putting on his pads to come out to bat and said to him I wouldn’t do that if I were you, sir: Wilfred’s just declared. It was as if Wilfred was in charge of the team, rather than the official captain.