Tony Henderson’s introduction to the Demijohns came over 30 years ago when we first played the Eclectics. On the first meeting we enjoyed excellent cricket and socialising both during and after the game and for that Tony, who was then the Captain and driving force of the Eclectics, was mainly responsible. Over the years our annual pilgrimage to Eastbourne has consistently repeated this recipe for cricket as she should be; again it is Tony whom we have to thank for that. Though he had to hang up his boots some 20 years ago, he remained an enthusiastic supporter and his benign influence continued to ensure a good day for all Eclectics’ opponents. As part of our celebrations of the 21st anniversary of the game, the Demijohns invited Tony to become an Honorary Vice President. He was genuinely delighted to accept and his charming wife, Anne, writes that he was both touched and honoured by the invitation. Even in latter years, when enfeebled by several strokes, he made a point of attending our annual fixture.
It is therefore with genuine regret that the Club must record Tony’s death in August. His last four months were hard so his passing was for him a release. But Anne writes that his sense of humour was with him to the end. This I can well believe; after leaving the Radcliffe after his first stroke nearly 20 years ago he commented that he could not recommend death’s door as a social centre!
In all ways Tony was the kind of personality who stays with all who knew him. He wore his erudition lightly – he hated being called an intellectual – but could (and would!) argue pertinently (and, if he felt like it, thoroughly contentiously!) on a wide range of subjects. He was a marvellous teacher and an excellent all-round schoolmaster in the classroom, on the playing fields and in the theatre. To all he did he brought a zest for life and particularly for its amusing side. Sadly we shall hear his infectious laugh no more. We shall miss our Hon V-P, but we shall remember him with great affection.
Those who knew him will have been saddened to learn of the death of Colin Oxlade who played several times for the Demijohns in the Sixties.
At school (Merchant Taylors) he stood out among a very good bunch of classical scholars for the elegance of his iambic pentameters and elegiacs. This availed him little on the cricket field at school; but during National Service in Germany he discovered the secret of flight, as a slow left-arm bowler with a high, easy action and with it the ability to lure good batsmen, some of County standard or thereabouts, to get themselves out. This was in representative matches for the British Army of the Rhine, or most of it. Mit der Fledermaus, as he used to say, his achievements were less marked; was it the military custom of determining batting order by rank which led to his lifelong assumption of the number eleven role?
For the St. John’s College team, he was a very effective bowler and became Honorary Secretary in 1958. He was an inveterate smoker and would surreptitiously take a quick drag on his cigarette between the departure of one batsman and the arrival of the next. Many of his games with the Demijohns were at Eastbourne. On its college ground, where the mis-hit can land on the school roof, his analysis (like that of at least two of his contemporaries) could suffer; on the Memorial ground on a hot day with Prentis and others well set, he was as likely to get good wickets as anybody.
But he is not to be remembered by statistical achievement. He worked for many years as a Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths; he himself never married. He was a good bridge and chess player. He followed traditional jazz enthusiastically and played the tea-chest bass in the College’s notorious skiffle group. He read Law, although he never lost his taste for the Classics; and once, invited by Edwin Slade at a tutorial to define a libel, replied after some thought that it was what you stuck on a bottle in order thereafter to identify its contents. But it was cricket which, as it often does, afforded Colin his best opportunities for self-expression; whether taking wickets or not, or merely sitting in the sun waiting to go in.
Many Demijohns – indeed, all who knew him – will have been saddened to learn of the death shortly before Christmas 1988 of Edwin Slade, one of our Vice-Presidents. Though his own sporting achievements were on the tennis courts, (he captained Oxfordshire for several years), Edwin had a great affection for and interest in cricket and was a consistent supporter of the Demijohns from our earliest days. He very seldom missed any of our matches against the College, and would, with his dry humour, congratulate or commiserate with both sides as appropriate after the game. He was also a regular attender at dinners in the SCR, for which he acted as our sponsor on a number of occasions. Here again his presence always contributed to the pleasure of the occasion.
Of recent years he was seldom in Oxford at the time of the dinners, so it is now some years since he was able to join us. We regretted his absence; it is a still greater cause for regret now that absence will be permanent. We shall miss his help, advice and encouragement; above all we shall miss him.
Sir Sidney Ridley
I have been asked, as both a fellow Vice President of the Demijohns and a friend of the late Sir Sidney Ridley, to add my warm tribute to him on behalf of the Demijohns. I have had mixed feelings about doing this because, on the one hand, I cannot match the depth and detail of The Times’ tribute to Sir Sidney and, on the other, there is the difficulty of putting into print a combination of the liking and respect I had for him.
Sir Sidney was a very interesting and agreeable man whose strength and enterprise was somewhat hidden behind his affable and humorous manner. His enterprise was demonstrated by his exploits in India, Pakistan and West Africa and his strength by the firmness of his dealings with rioters and various rebel leaders in Pakistan and elsewhere.
There was a strong vein of practical commonsense in his make-up which, allied to his long financial and administrative experience, made him an ideal Domestic Bursar for St John’s after he had finished his overseas career.
Sir Sidney became involved with the Demijohns from the time of the Club’s formation and did many things for us via his position as St John’s Bursar, such as arranging for the annual events and dinners to be held in the College which helped to make the Club a unique and special gathering. He was a frequent supporter at Demijohns’ matches and, with Lady Ridley, always brought a special touch of class as well as unfailing good humour to those occasions.
His own main sports were riding, shooting and golf. I played a lot of golf with him and always felt that if his competitiveness on the golf course could have been applied as a Demijohns cricketer he would have been an important team member on the field as well.
Sir Sidney’s death is a great loss to the Club and I hope that the fact that so many friends mourn his departure may be of some comfort to his family. It was a privilege to have known him.
Paul Grice died on 28th August 1988 at the age of 75 and the Demijohns lost their first President. He had, of course, retired to California in 1967 which neatly avoided what, for us, might have been the saddening experience of seeing him grow old. To the Demijohns, at least, Paul remained eternally youthful.
One remembers with real affection the almost cherubic smile with which he would complete yet another carefully crafted single in the direction of third man, silvery strands of hair streaming behind him. Paul had perfected the nudge past gulley long before the professional one-day game made it respectable and none of its present day practitioners come within a pitch-length of achieving his mastery of it.
For one so young in spirit, he had acquired a remarkably protuberant waist line which may, perhaps, account for the fact that his famous stroke was played with a not-quite-straight bat – nonetheless, I cannot remember him ever failing to make contact. His eye was unfailingly good which probably also explains the other fact that one remembers about Paul – his permanent fielding position at first slip (the ideal post from which to observe lesser mortals’ attempts to guide the ball third man-wards?). Not, I must hasten to say, that he stood there in purely monumental guise – he took many an exciting catch. Indeed, no-one who saw it will ever forget the sight of Paul, flat on his back on an Oxford field, completely winded but with the ball safely cupped, in his elevated navel! It happened only the once!
Before becoming an honoured Demijohn, he first achieved cricketing fame as a founder member of the Barnacles, that inimitable body of well-mannered but viciously competitive academics. They were said to rejoice in the motto Victory is sweet – but no substitute for personal success, though I doubt that Paul ever quite approved, for he took too great a pleasure in other people’s success ever to endorse the sentiment seriously. He was, above all, a truly nice man and a friend to all who knew him, whether as tutor in philosophy or in the even greater subtleties of cricket.
Paul Grice may have been, as his Independent obituary put it, a philosopher’s philosopher but those of us who know him on the cricket field will certainly prefer to remember him as a cricketer’s cricketer.