2017: Letter from the Chairman
9 June, 2017
Please accept my apologies for the tardiness of this up-date in what is our 60th year. Although most of what follows was announced at the Annual Dinner in March, many of you were unable to attend.
The main thing to report is that, after many years of unsurpassed service to the Club, Karle has stepped down as President. He becomes an Honorary Life Member. Karle is as near to a personification of the Demijohns as is possible, and I would like to record the Club’s deepest gratitude for all that he has done. We are fortunate that he has agreed to stay on the Committee (without portfolio, but with port !) so that the Club continues to feel the benefit of his sagacity.
I am delighted that Ian Davies has accepted the Committee’s invitation to become President. He and Sara have remained very much part of the Club over the past decade.
It gives me particular pleasure to tell you that Polly Harris-Watson is now an Honorary Vice-President of the Demijohns, a distinction held by her late husband Keith. It was super to see you at the dinner, too, Polly.
In other news, Mark Dyson has been replaced by James Heaton as Honorary Treasurer. This leaves the Fixtures berth unoccupied, but I am confident that we can fill it come the autumn. Thanks go to Mark and James for their work in their former roles.
Many of you will have noticed that the web-site is in stasis while we work out what to do following the death of John Landais, who, I should add, has been sorely missed this season. Rest assured that progress is being made; in the meantime, please bear with us.
While I remember, a quick Thank You goes to Nick Lynam for turning up at the College to watch us play. We love having spectators along, and I hope that we are able to break our duck this weekend by securing a win at our oldest fixture (Eclectics at Eastbourne College). I am also pleased to report that the Porto tour was a success, so much so that we hope to return in 3 years’ time.
Lastly, I attach something that I was asked to write for the College magazine to mark our 60th Anniversary. They might end up not publishing it, so here it is.
With best wishes,
2017: LETTER FROM THE CHAIRMAN
Readers of keen memory may recall an interview that Karle Simpson (Jurisprudence, 1955) and I gave ten years ago to TW magazine in which Karle, our then President, outlined the circumstances in which Demijohns was founded; namely, that he and the late Keith Harris-Watson (Agriculture, 1954) had determined in Trinity Term 1957 that that should not be the last season playing together as part of a St. John’s team. Those who, like me, studied Philosophy at St. John’s, may also have been interested to read about Paul Grice’s involvement with the Club, including a not-to-be-bettered after-dinner speech of his being responsible for our strict ‘no-speeches’ rule. Indeed, I was faced with this obstacle as recently as March when trying to inform the Club at our Annual Dinner of Karle’s retirement after a marathon innings as President, and of his successor Ian Davies (Theology, 1980). (When is ‘speech’ not ‘a speech’ ? Possibly a Gricean conundrum in itself, and I can only hope that I managed to keep the right side of wherever the line is.)
But, given my certainty that all St. John’s alumni are of keen memory, I would, rather than ‘re-heat’ the interview of a decade ago, like to focus on what we have been up to in the past ten years. To begin with, I am pleased to say that we are more closely involved with St. John’s than ever before. This is due in large part to the encouragement and active participation of Sir Michael Scholar, former President of the College and Patron of the Club, and Ian Madden, St. John’s groundsman since 2009. It is a matter of record that Sir Michael did a great deal to invigorate the sporting life of St. John’s during his tenure, and his active support for the Demijohns saw him combine this aim with that of developing the College’s links with its alumni. In particular, Sir Michael encouraged us to hire the College ground for “home” fixtures as much as was practicable, and we are grateful to the current President, Professor Snowling, for allowing us to continue to do so. Yet this arrangement would not have allowed the Club to blossom as it has were it not for Ian Madden. In July, when other college groundsmen are taking a well-earned break prior to preparing winter pitches, Ian has gone out of his way to accommodate us, not only through the quality of his groundsmanship but also by making us feel at home. His fiancée Tara’s fabulous catering has also contributed to teams queueing up to play us, and there really is no better place to spend a summer’s day than in this red-brick-lined North Oxford oasis. Both Michael and Ian have been made Honorary Life Members in recognition of what they have done for the Club over the last decade.
Secondly, I am pleased to report that we have, as all clubs must do from time to time, made the shift to a new generation of Demijohns. We now have four Club Captains (not all doing the job at once, I should add)- Oliver Adams (Medicine, 2006), Ross Haines (Statistics DPhil, 2011), Anthony Hibbs (Theoretical Physics DPhil, 2011) and Thomas Parsons (Chemistry, 2001)- all of whom are, as you can see, St. John’s alumni of a more modern vintage. They themselves are the product of a recruitment drive that has seen the Club subsidise the match fees of younger players (students and first-year graduates only pay £5 per game) so that straitened student finances need not be a bar to the serious business of cricket (whilst perhaps also acting as a useful salve for the consciences of the pre-tuition-fees generation?).
Thirdly, the Club now tours regularly once again. This year we are headed to Porto, and in recent years we have done our best to act as informal ambassadors for the College in Lombardy, Gascony and Provence. Although these are relatively modest destinations compared to the Zimbabwe tours of ’93 and ’96, which featured fixtures on the Test ground at Harare, the warmth of the welcome in parts of the globe where new opponents are as rare as a Third at St. John’s never ceases to cheer me. Our Tour Manager being a ‘demi’- a Tab, no less- who works at the Tate (you can find him sitting
on the chair in Room 9 minding the Pre-Raphs- only joking, Sam), the cricket and after-stumps boozing are suitably leavened with bracing doses of local culture.
Lastly, I would urge you to have a quick look at our website. It is the creation of the late John Landais (Chemistry, 1966). John died last year, and so the site is in stasis. However, it will give you an accurate flavour of what the Club is about as well as, I hope, serving as a potent reminder of how surprising and varied are the achievements and skills of St. John’s alumni. As John puts it on the home page, “please do have a nose around the site and get in touch”.
Stuart Bachelor (Philosophy and Theology, 1992)
2015: Letter from the Chairman
29th December, 2014
Writing last year, I had great pleasure in introducing the Club’s new trio of captains, and I hope that I managed to convey my excitement and optimism at this prospect. At that stage, all that needed to happen was for the Club’s playing members to get behind them and for our extensive programme of fixtures to get rolling.
In short, the first thing happened but the second never quite did. The seven fixtures that went ahead were all played in a good spirit and featured some impressive Demijohns performances, both individual and collective. The comprehensive filleting of the Phené Philanderers is one such example: we had unfinished business from the previous year, and, although their first-innings total of 70 might suggest a straightforward Phenian shambles (I should know- I’ve contributed to several), the match report tells a different story. And if, mindful of the aphorism that history is written by the victors, you don’t believe me, I can report that their skipper was candid in expressing his bewilderment at the strength of the Demijohns side. However, the other seven domestic fixtures were cancelled. The first- Farleigh Wallop in April- was pulled owing to rain, which was regrettable but hardly surprising. Further Friars didn’t happen for the same reason. Yet the matches against OK Blockers, Royal Automobile Club, Caterham and Eclectics were all cancelled on account of the opposition not being able to field a side. In three of those cases, it looks extremely unlikely that we’ll ever play them again.
Every cricket club finding itself in difficulty will end up there for different reasons, and it is in the way of things for some teams to fold in the same season during which others take root. Nonetheless, having had my nose in the wind- not just this season but over the past few seasons- I sense substantial change in the air. The main drift appears to be away from friendly timed games towards limited-overs league cricket. It would be a mistake to characterise these formats as in any way in opposition, especially given that many (if not most) who have played one have also played the other. Rather, there seems to be a lack of appetite- among younger players in particular- for innings of indefinite length and the possibility of a significantly weaker side securing a draw. The ‘slow-burning’ nature of the declaration format appears to be especially unpalatable: too much waiting around while nothing much happens. Tangible reward in the form of points, promotion and trophies- or at least the possibility thereof- is also prized over the rarefied benefits of friendly cricket.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Our Webmaster drew my attention to this (data-led) article A crisis that defines the age, which wisely attributes this decline to many factors ranging from absence of free-to-air professional cricket to a culture of immediate gratification to longer working hours to bureaucracy surrounding child protection to feminism. Each of us will have our own explanation for what is happening, but all of us need to deal with it regardless. Our strategy as a club committed to friendly cricket (and this, I think, usually precludes limited overs) is to bend with this wind of change without being blown over by it. This means making a concerted effort to play cricket in a way that neatly demonstrates the peerless benefits of our favoured format. Swimming against the tide necessitates reserves of energy and determination upon which to draw, and, with our being unable to honour one of our 2014 fixtures owing to lack of players, we can not afford for optimism to give way to complacency. So, as usual, my plea is simple: please commit yourselves to as many fixtures as soon possible with one e-mail to theMatch Managers.
Happy New Year!
2014: Letter from the Chairman
16th January, 2014
It gives me great pleasure to report in more detail the new arrangements for captaincy and match management of the Club’s fixtures. After a 10-plus-year stint of skippering the DJs, I am handing over to a young triumvirate comprising Oliver Adams, Ross Haines and Tom Parsons. They will divide all bar one of the fixtures between them, each doubling up as Match Manager and Captain, leaving one of the older vintage to oversee our annual pilgrimage to the South coast to play Eclectics. Olly is already on the Club’s Committee, and Ross and Tom become ex officio members.
This change is effectively a handing over the reins from an amateur to three (relatively speaking) professionals, which can be no bad thing. Whereas I never captained St John’s – or indeed any other team prior to Demijohns – Tom, Olly and Ross all have done, and with aplomb. Aristotle said “We become builders by building” in order to illustrate the point that the moral virtues are learnt through practice rather than through tuition. ‘Practice’ is a euphemism for ‘trial and error’, of course, and this has very much been the pattern of my captaincy since 2001: some of the former and plenty of the latter. It’s fortunate for the Club that the new captains have passed through their apprenticeships prior to skippering Demijohns; my thanks and apologies to those who helped me / tolerated me through mine!
I thought that it would be fitting for club members to find out a little more about the new DJs troika, so here are some brief biographical notes.
Tom Parsons grew up in Cornwall, playing cricket mainly for Tintagel in the Cornish league. He read Chemistry at St John’s from 2001 to 2005 and captained the team in his final season, leading them to the Cuppers semi-finals. A flamboyant (surprising, given that he tends to open) left-handed bat and part-time leg spinner, Tom’s highest score for the Demijohns is 131 against Saxlingham Gents in 2011.
Oliver Adams is from London and went up to St John’s in 2006. Being a medic, he didn’t leave until 2012, and it was in his final season that, after two years as vice-captain, he skippered the College XI. Olly’s highest score for the Demijohns is 114* against OK Blockers in 2010; although a middle-order batsman whose instinct is to attack, Olly is cool as a cucumber in defence. He also bowls leg-spin if called upon, serving up a devilishly varied array of deliveries, but tends to spend most of the innings in the slip cordon waiting to pounce.
Ross Haines comes from Mosgiel, near Dunedin, in New Zealand. He graduated from the University of Otago before arriving at St John’s to study for a DPhil in Statistics. Ross captained the College XI in 2013, steering his side to victory against Trinity in the Cuppers Final. Ross holds three of the Club’s top four batting scores, his highest being 203* against Grannies in 2013. He is also a formidable opening bowler who, in the manner of ‘Snapper’ Sherratt, is often too quick and unpredictable to find the edge of lesser batsmen (as well as, at 6′4″, being too tall regularly to find the woodwork).
Please get behind your new captains. The good news is that you can do this straight away by e-mailing them your availability for the season’s fixtures, which are now on the web-site along with who’s captaining what. Honouring any commitment that you make to play would also help them enormously, as it did me over the past decade. I have every confidence that, with our support, Olly, Ross and Tom’s leadership will enable the Club to flourish.
2013: Letter from the Chairman
26 December, 2012
Last year I mentioned the outstanding work that John Landais had undertaken on the club’s web-site. John continues to improve the already-excellent, and is keen that it feature as much Demijohns history, match data and trivia as possible. To this end, he has asked me to include the following appeal of his:
There are currently many gaps in the results, let alone the match scores and significant performances. The current match report pages have no performance details before 1971, although there are a few to be gleaned from Adrian’s 21 Years.
All the photos in the current galleries are from the last 6 years; what about the almost 50 years before that? Any format will do, and although digital images would be quickest for me, I can scan prints or better still 35mm negatives and slides.
(Update: we now have galleries of photos from the 1993 & 1996 Zimbabwe tours. Thanks for the prints, Karle.)
Articles for the History pages
Does anyone have copies of annual newsletters, tour reports, etc. from 1971 and earlier? Similarly, my set of newsletters may well not be complete – does anyone recognise a notable omission?
John shows himself to be a brave soul in appealing to Demijohns for negatives. Be careful what you wish for, John! In this perhaps I hardly lead by example; I am always being told off at work for being ‘negative’, and Jonathan Snicker frequently takes me to task for making jokes about our bowling. For the record, I think that our bowlers do an excellent service to the club – and, moreover, one to which I am utterly unable to contribute. However, I’ve noticed myself becoming stubbornly resistant to a culture that subscribes to a creed of unadulterated positivity. The High Priest of this cult is, of course, the ‘Motivational Speaker’. In my experience of these fellows, what the faithful get for their temple currency is a condensing of the breadth of human endeavour – if not the human condition in its entirety – into a kind of microwave meal of platitudinous exhortations: “Be the best that you can be… Keep pushing yourself… Get out of your comfort zone… Don’t settle for second best… Believe in yourself… Reach for the stars… Follow your dreams…”
If, like me, your senses are dulled by the monotony of the soundtrack, despite the hook being a big one, it’s been a long, bad summer for you. Post-event Olympians, fed on the same motivational gruel, fall over one another to say exactly the same thing in slightly different words: “an emotional journey… times when I never thought I’d make it… overcame so many obstacles along the way… all this makes it worthwhile… awesome feeling… crowd made such a difference… couldn’t have done it without everyone’s support…” Perhaps this is because what is being celebrated is success: not success at something so much as success in itself. Otherwise, why would the most compelling image of the Olympics be of someone crossing the line first? Yet, although sport, with its unique scope for an intense competitiveness that can be witnessed and enjoyed by spectators as much as by participants, provides the most fertile soil in which this culture can take root, it needn’t be thus.
Indeed, I think that the tradition of friendly cricket maintained by the Demijohns is to some extent inimical to it. For, although we always play to win, the absence of leagues, trophies and medals creates space within which one’s attention can be turned to the cultural, moral, social, historical and aesthetic aspects of the game. This is why there is always so much to say about a Demijohns fixture after stumps – and most of it responsive to rational scrutiny – quite regardless of whether or not we have been ‘successful’. I suspect that most of the characteristic DJs self-deprecating humour is an unconscious attempt to remind ourselves of what really matters about the game.
Invitation to Tour
We are pleased to announce that, in 2013, the Demijohns will tour to Brittany. Taking advantage of the school half-term, the tour will take place from Friday 31st May to Monday 3rd June.
Flights are available from Stansted to Dinan (Ryanair) or Southampton to Rennes (Flybe). You may also wish to use Brittany Ferries or Condor Ferries from Portsmouth or Poole to St Mâlo or Cherbourg.
The party will arrive on the Friday evening; as tradition dictates, the first evening will be spent in a town of our choosing (Rennes or Vannes, tbc). Matches will be played against Central Brittany CC on Saturday 1st, and against Club Cricket de L’Oust on Sunday 2nd.
Please contact Tour Secretary Sam Jones to reserve a place.
This year, tourists will be asked for a small deposit in advance to cover costs of tour shirts etc.
The provisional itinerary is:
Friday 31 May – evening and overnight in Rennes/Vannes
Saturday 1 June – match v Central Brittany CC at Silfiac, overnight in Vannes/Pontivy
Sunday 2 June – match v Club Cricket de L’Oust at Sérent, overnight in Vannes/Pontivy
Monday 3 June – Open day/flight back.
A suitable successor to Provence, Milan and Gascony, with Breton cookery and cider, the 2013 tour already looks promising.
2012: Letter from the Chairman
22nd December, 2011
By the time, deo volente, that I come to write next year’s letter, the Demijohns will have its first lady Patron. Professor Maggie Dowling is due to become President of St John’s College next September, and has graciously agreed to take over from Sir Michael. On relinquishing his Patronage, Michael, and Angela, too, will be made Honorary Life Members. Although Karle will be writing to Sir Michael and Lady Scholar to thank them on behalf of the Club, I would like to do so publicly. Sir Michael has been a keen supporter of Demijohns cricket since becoming our Patron in 2001. He generously sponsored and participated in celebrations of our 50th Anniversary, has attended several other Annual Dinners with Angela, and, perhaps most significantly, his tenure has seen the Demijohns return to the bosom of St John’s Sports Ground for its ‘Home’ fixtures.
Staying with the maternal theme, you may know that Charlotte is expecting our first child in March. A girl, if the sonographer is to be believed, I have failed at the first hurdle to match up to Martin Lane’s trail-blazing for future Demijohns sides. The practical upshot of all this growing up that I’ve been doing is that I shall be handing over management of several fixtures to other Demijohns. As they become accustomed to the business of herding dyspraxic cats, please support them by wheeling out your wireless devices as soon as they ask for availability and being as good as your word once you have agreed to play.
Two fixtures for which I shall be temporarily deserting hearth and home are CC de Noé-Gascogne and Armagnac Bigorre CC. This year’s tour to Gascony is full of promise, building as it does on what’s been excellent and not-so-excellent about previous tours. Sam Jones is doing us proud again in organising it, and places are filling up. Get on-line and book some plane tickets. And, should you need any further incentive, I commend to you Sam’s witty and incisive Tour Report. One outstanding aspect of our visit to Milan was our following in the footsteps of previous Demijohns sides. Good reputations are always a pain to live up to, but the stakes are increased when it’s someone else’s. When I catch myself wishing that our vintage were as accomplished as the DJs sides of yesteryear, two thoughts always follow on apace: one, that pure cricketing ability can not easily be sloughed away from the social-cum-cultural-cum-moral dimension of the game; two, that it’s just as well that the standard has dropped somewhat, otherwise I’d never be in the team!
Of course, one fixture in respect of which we are charged on an annual basis with upholding the Club’s reputation is Eclectics. This year saw the 50th fixture being played, and for a new trophy; the previous one (more of a thimble than a cup) was re-assigned as the Man of the Match award for the fixture, and was promptly won by Greg Barber. Here is as good a place as any formally to mark our gratitude to the Eclectics for their hospitality over the past half-century, which I hereby do.
All that remains for me to do is to offer our deep thanks for the quite exceptional quantity and quality of work that John Landais has undertaken to improve the Club web-site. If you are reading these words, you must have visited the site and will be in a position to agree with me. As well as maintaining the old site, John created the new one – bar some technologically illiterate comments from me – single-handedly and from scratch. It is now a site of the highest calibre of both form and content. I enjoin you to examine the extensive archived material when you have an idle moment. As well as reminding us of where as a club we’ve come from, we intend to rely more on the site to tell us where we’re going. John and I would like members to use demijohns.net as a first resort for obtaining information, thus leaving me at liberty to concentrate on being the domestic god that’s been waiting to break out from within me all these years.
Invitation to Tour
We are pleased to announce that, in 2012, the Demijohns will tour Gascony. Taking advantage of the school half-term and the double bank holiday, the tour will take place from Friday 1st to Tuesday 5th June.
The party will arrive in Toulouse on the Friday evening. Matches will be played against Armagnac-Bigorre CC on Saturday 2nd, and Cricket Club Noé Gascogne on Sunday 3rd.
After the Winter Social, there has been strong interest in this tour, so places are going quickly, please contact Tour Secretary Sam Jones to reserve a place.
The itinerary is:
Friday 1st June – arrive in Toulouse, overnight in Toulouse
Saturday 2nd June – match at Seissan, overnight in Seissan
Sunday 3rd June – match at Noé, overnight in Seissan/Noé (tbc)
Monday 4th June – return to Toulouse, rest day, overnight Toulouse
Tuesday 5th June – flight back.
Staying in small relais and hotels, with good, homely restaurants attached, this promises to be a gastronomic as well as cricketing experience.
2011: Letter from the Chairman
24 December, 2010
With the Holy Family notionally on tour as I write, allow me to begin with a few words about the first Demijohns tour in 15 or so years (please see Sam Jones’ report for further details). It is a measure of the increasing self-confidence of the club that we ventured overseas to play two new teams. Karle’s wise words from the Zimbabwe days – overseas sides are always better than you think – were ringing in my ears, and we had to work hard in the heat to acquit ourselves respectably. I wrote about scrapping in my last letter, and I think that, particularly on the Sunday, we showed admirable resilience against superior opposition. Special mention must, for sure, go to Tim Boyd for batting with skill and lustre, thus sparing our blushes. Beyond that, it was entirely a team effort – and that is largely true about the organisation, too. For what other than a committee could manage to billet four grown men in two double beds? Although this demonstrates that one can take team bonding to unjustifiable extremes, falling out of a taxi and into a Nice bar to be greeted by the sight of several Demijohns blazers made for one of the best moments of my summer. (N.B. Please see Sam Jones’s note below re. club regalia.) If you are considering touring with us to Italy in June, please believe me when I say that, on the strength of this year’s foray, it promises to be exceptionally good fun.
Last year’s letter of mine turned the spotlight on recruitment, and I am pleased to write that 2010 saw the Demijohns ranks swell impressively. Imran Tehal, Paul Forbes, Malcolm Begg and Ollie Adams, all of them St John’s students, played with distinction for the club and have also proved themselves to be excellent company after stumps. They are most welcome.
One more Indian usually means two more Chiefs in this day and age, but at least our new committee members are Honorary – i.e. unpaid. It is fitting that responsibility for the future of the Demijohns should shift towards Sam, Adam, Roger and Mark, who have given no shortage of time and energy to the club since joining. Given that two of them have worked for global banks and a third is an accountant, it shouldn’t be difficult for members to work out why subscriptions are increasing this year for non-student playing members (the fourth went to Cambridge, if that re-assures you: no, I didn’t think that it would). Joking aside, the rate has been stuck at £10 since I can remember (i.e., for at least 15 years) and raising it will allow us to support students and newly graduated players who are currently having to pick up crumbs from under David Willetts’ table. The change of personnel has been necessitated by the departure of Samir to the sub-continent, and I would like to thank him formally for his distinguished service with bat, ball and balance-sheet.
One of the duties that I’ve successfully hived off as I hunker down to married life is Fixtures. You will notice that we are due to play more matches in 2011 than in any season in recent memory, which will require more commitment than ever from the club’s players. Please sign up early and hermetically seal the dates in your diaries. Cricketing at St John’s out of the new pavilion is a joy, and we are immensely grateful to Ian Madden and Tara for their efficiency and flexibility in accommodating us.
Lastly, it is with great sadness that I mark the passing of Bob Rham in May of this year. Several Demijohns were able to attend Bob’s funeral to pay our respects to a great cricketer, a fine fellow and a true gentleman. May he rest in peace.
P.S. Date of 2011 Autumnal Dinner at the Oxford & Cambridge Club is Friday 18th September.
Demijohns Tour to Milan, 2011
After a highly successful tour to Provence in 2010, the club will be touring to Milan in 2011.
This trip will continue a tradition of touring the Lakes, and will take place between Friday 3rd to Monday 6th June, 2011. Matches will be against Milan CC on 4th, and Idle CC on 5th, which is in nearby Lodi.
Checking websites, flights will be in the region of £100 return and all-in, and can be arranged from Gatwick or Heathrow.
Accommodation will be the usual, modest affair, but we are looking to keep costs down and can operate the usual room-share arrangement. Last year, it worked out at around £30 a head each night and the hotel in Nice was very workable.
There is flexibility on the flights. Some club-members will be travelling out on the Thursday, giving time to enjoy the sights of Milan; others due in offices and classrooms on the Monday will be returning on the Sunday evening after the match.
As per last year, wives etc. are more than welcome and, we have discovered, lend decorum to proceedings. Last year, we had our very own DJs Ma’amy Army. Following sterling work with hat ribbons in Provence (qv Tour Report) Mrs Dyson has promised to make bannerettes for us to exchange with the opposition.
We already have the backbone of a touring squad and it’s shaping up to be a very good weekend. If you would be interested in touring, please contact the Tour Secretary, Sam Jones.
We are currently assaying interest in blazers and caps. With sufficient demand, we will place an order for a new bolt of Demijohns cloth.
If interested in a blazer (c. £260.00 all in depending on size) or a cap, (£27.95), please contact Regalia Secretary Sam Jones.
We also have as stock of DJs ties, both town and country. These are available at £17.50. If interested, please contact the Skipper, Stuart Bachelor.
1998: Forty Years of Demijohns Cricket
Forty years on; I hope nobody finds this a harrowing statistic. In 1958 Keith Harris-Watson organised our first game at Dick Hawkins’ delightful private ground at Everdon in Northants, since when we have carried the St John’s cricket colours to various parts of the UK, mainland Europe and Africa. And we ain’t finished yet!
But what is a Demijohn? My dictionary definition – a wine container with a wide waist and narrow neck – is singularly unhelpful. Nor does Chris Barclay’s dictum on the two possible qualifications for membership – the first, to have been at St John’s; the second, not to have been – advance the argument much. Our first President, Paul Grice, that most unphilosophical of cricketing philosophers, discoursed upon the topic in his speech at our first dinner in College, but without reaching a firm conclusion. His speech, incidentally, is the reason for our tradition of having no speeches at our annual dinner – it was simply too good for anyone, even Paul, to attempt to follow in future years.
So why are we? What is Demijohnery? The focal point is the College, where the club was conceived in 1957; though the gestation period to our first activity was some 14 months, and our 40th birthday is therefore 1998, it was the sheer pleasure of being in the 1957 College side, both on and off the field, which led to the conception. We have fostered ongoing College friendships – a useful adjunct, I hope, to the College Society. But why Demi?
Quite simply the 1957 season was memorable not solely because of our efforts, but because we had come across many opponents who had contributed equally to the pleasures of the contests, by their personalities as much as by their cricket. In our first game, if my memory is not faulty, we had 7 St John’s men and 4 Demis, and that still roughly represents our membership make-up.
So we shall continue to value our connections with St John’s; our own and our opponents’ society; our sheer enjoyment of playing cricket to win, because it’s more fun winning, but not to win at all costs; and to ensure that this enjoyment is shared with our opponents and our and their supporters and social members. If I have correctly defined Demijohnery, long may it continue!
1989: Advice to Match Managers
Perish the thought that the Demijohns should actually admit to having RULES but deliberation at a recent committee meeting led to the suggestion that some helpful (?) guidelines might actually be found useful for the hard-pressed managers of our games. Hence the following humble offerings!
1. In Advance
Start raising your team well ahead – six weeks is not too long. Make sure that everyone appreciates the dire consequences of crying off and will, at least, find a substitute if they do. Bear in mind the strength of the opposition when making selection. Don’t forget to include a wicketkeeper – for this purpose, the Committee has ruled that Richard Sutton-Mattocks may be deemed a wicketkeeper.
Send team list (including first names) to all players about one week before the game, confirming time, ground and lunch/tea arrangements. Make sure any new players know how to find the ground or have lifts.
Contact the Opposition about one week before the game to confirm arrangements, including numbers of Demijohn guests for lunch or tea. Make sure you exchange telephone numbers in case of late cancellation for weather or whatever.
Make sure that someone who is playing (preferably yourself) has the club kit and will bring it to the ground. Make sure that the score-book is in the bag and that there is a new ball available. If no balls, check with Ian Davies and, if the worst happens, buy one, deduct the cost from the match fees and send the invoice with the balance of the match fees to the Treasurer. Check the kit against the list which should accompany the kit at all times.
2. On The Day
Be at the ground in good time. Have your batting order prepared in advance (subject to last-minute objections from fast bowlers who are under the impression that they can bat etc. etc.).
Inspect the wicket and make up your mind what to do if the worst happens and you win the toss.
Introduce any new players and make sure that you know their specialities. Make sure you know who will keep wicket – reassure the rest of the team if appropriate.
Agree timings of lunch/tea/finishing/last 20 overs etc. and make sure your team members are aware of them.
Try to find a scorer and give him/her the score book. Appoint umpires if necessary and make sure they are regularly relieved.
Lead your side to a resounding victory.
3. After The Game
Delegate someone (preferably rich) to collect the money for match fees (£2.00) and for lunches and teas as appropriate. (We do not expect guests to pay match fees). Make sure the lunch/tea money actually reaches the Opposition.
Check kit against list on re-packing bag. Ensure that the score-book is fully filled in and that it goes into the bag. Ensure that the kit will find its way to the next game.
In the pub – write the draft match report (with help from any literary members of the side who have no vested interest in distorting the account).
At home, NEXT DAY, rewrite the match report and send it together with match fees (cheque to ‘Demijohns Cricket Club’) to the Treasurer immediately. Please include any comments on state of kit, etc. This way you will feel no sense of embarrassment on meeting the Treasurer at subsequent games, annual dinner, etc!
There will be an annual prize for any Match Manager who is judged to have performed all these functions satisfactorily. (He/she will be allowed to run two games next season!)
1988: The Club – A Perspective
Demijohns thrive, as a headline in certain organs, might suggest a further growth in the wine trade. But we have yet to feature in the pages of the financial press; in this instance, it may be taken merely as an indication that the club is in good health.
This is indeed the third time in the last year that we have attracted press attention. Firstly, The Cricketer commended us for our tours of Italy; justifiably, we hope. We beat Italy by a solid margin on the beautiful Milan CC ground north of Porlezza. How often does one play cricket before a backdrop of snow covered mountains? Then The Tatler selected The Demijohns, a club consisting of former members of St John’s College, Oxford as one of its ten social cricket clubs who also play good cricket. Gratifying, if slightly inaccurate, in that ever since our first game in 1958 we have always enjoyed a leavening of non-St John’s men who have contributed in many ways to the success of the Club over the years. But our raison d’être originally and now was to help, in our field, to perpetuate links between former St John’s men and with the College; and the highlight of our year remains the Annual Dinner every spring.
Perhaps it is infringing sexual equality legislation to write of St John’s men. Certainly it would give an incomplete picture of the Demijohns since we have always been more than merely a cricket club and the ladies (my wife wishes to know what’s wrong with women or wives and girlfriends?) have over the years contributed greatly to our activities and regularly attend all social and cricketing events. We have indeed a Committee member and Demijohn who is undoubtedly feminine as well as being a superb scorer and a non-playing match manager; it will be a natural progression from this to welcoming our first playing lady member. Any volunteers?
Summer term 1957 was superb; a succession of glorious cricketing days; a College side of good cricketers who were splendid team mates; opponents who were as much appreciated for their company as for their cricketing abilities. (Nostalgia is all very well, but definitely not what it used to be.) Such was the nursery in which the Demijohns Club developed. Why should such a thoroughly enjoyable activity as cricketing for St John’s cease merely because third year men’s time was up?
Conceived, near the end of term, in Middleton Hall; brought to birth on the cricket field the following year; nursed through childhood to its present healthy condition where we enjoy nearly 20 games a year, many in and around Oxford, an annual Paris tour plus occasional tours to Italy, Belgium and Switzerland, and an Autumn buffet dinner in London as well as the Annual Dinner.
Our first President was Paul Grice, who was a staunch supporter until his departure for California, and whose death in 1988 was greatly regretted by all Demijohns. As a matter of policy, the Club’s only traditions are to have no traditions (Greats men please comment) and no after-dinner speeches; but an exception to the latter was made in the case of our first Dinner in College in 1963 when Paul gave what all present remember as an example of the genre without equal. We are proud that he should have been associated with us.
Paul was succeeded by Keith Harris-Watson, a worthy President through our twenty-first season and beyond until the lures of golf and the interruptions of frequent business trips persuaded him into retirement. He has now joined our existing and esteemed Honorary Vice-Presidents, Sir Sidney Ridley, Edwin Slade and Tony Henderson. A year ago a fifth Hon V-P arrived in the form of Adrian Hawkes who contributed greatly to the club until he departed to assist in developing cricketing statistics in Australia. We miss him.
We also miss – and must record our sadness at his loss – our first Honorary Life Demijohn, Buckie – Hector Buck. His quiet sense of humour and delightful personality will always be remembered with affection.
We are delighted that Dr Hayes has agreed to become our Patron, the third College President to fill that position.
With thirty-one summers behind us, the club is in its prime; invigorated by more recent vintages (our original members have now entered the crusted port stage), we look forward to another enjoyable year.
When, at Mike Aaronson’s proposal, you elected me Vice-President at last year’s Dinner, I was delighted at the honour. I would have been quite happy to slip quietly out of the picture on relinquishing my post, though there were doubts as to whether you splendid lot would allow that to happen! So Mike’s proposal, and your support for it, was greatly appreciated: a charming gesture to signal the end of my time in office. In such a rôle one is almost expected to pontificate pompously – and I promise to continue to do so, though of course nobody need take any notice – and is permitted to score runs from the pavilion with far more ease than one ever did in the middle, and I look forward to doing so. That, I thought, is that; and was mistaken.
Everyone in the Club, it seems, bar myself, had known that my old friend Bob Rham had been mustering you all below the sky line. When he stood up at the end of dinner, I understood fully the feelings of an infantry commander suddenly confronted with a second wave of tanks from a totally unexpected direction. You might say I was caught with my Panzers down.
He said some charming things, (some of which might even have been true), thanks Bob. And then a presentation. And what a presentation! Never did I think to see such a claret, let alone possess one! It is guarded with reverence to await a suitable occasion. Of the other two magnums, one has disappeared with great enjoyment and the other will do so soon. The batlet, with its message from all of you, sits where I can view it with pride and affection and will remind me always of a marvellous moment. Thank you all.
It is maybe trite to say that it was all worthwhile and a lot of fun – despite problems from time to time. Apologies – it just happens to be true. That feeling came over me very strongly at the Dinner. Almost painfully so. And there are so many people who have played a part.
Paul Grice, our first President; Keith Harris-Watson, who arranqed our first game in 1958; Peter Duffield and John Pollard who contributed greatly to getting us on our feet as a club; Sir Sidney Ridley, who made possible our first dinner in St John’s and looked after us so well for many years; long term supporters like Edwin Slade and Tony Henderson; old stalwarts like Bob Rham, John Orton, Chris Barclay and Graham Barton; not-so-old stalwarts like – here numbers become too great, but I must single out Adrian Hawkes who has contributed more than anyone to the Demijohns over the last few years. Fixtures, club gear, tours, ties, club cricket clothing – all these he has taken on and organised with great efficiency and drive. Every club needs an Adrian, but few are lucky enough to have one. We are that lucky. Many thanks from us all, Adrian.
Finally, one of the great pleasures of these last few years has been the addition to our numbers of a splendid group of least-old stalwarts now as well represented on the Committee as on the field of play.
Two things remain. The first is to thank the College authorities for allowing us for well over twenty years now to dine annually in College. We have always been rather more than just a cricket club and our annual dinner cements the link which all Demijohns, I know, value highly, whether Johns men or not. I cannot remember a single bad Demijohns dinner and am genuinely grateful to the College authorities and all the staff over the years who have contributed to making this our annual highlight; and I am particularly happy that recent misunderstandings have now been resolved. It was a great pleasure to see Mark Freedland and Richard O’Dair at our last dinner confirming the restored good relationship.
My last thank you is a little personal. It is to someone whose contribution to the Demijohns has been largely unseen and unjustifiably unsung, but nonetheless considerable – Sue. Dinner arrangements, place cards, seating plans, typing correspondence, collating and stapling Newsletters, feeding the Committee on the occasion of their annual deliberations (in recognition of which the present and recent past Committee dined her last Spring and very kindly allowed me to go along too – a charming gesture); hours of patient waiting while I “entertained the opposition” after a defeat, or commiserated with them after a victory; in short, putting up with me for an extraordinary number of years during which she was always there to help and comment. Thanks, Sue, from all Demijohns. And from me in particular.
So my thanks – and the Club’s surely – go to all I have mentioned; and indeed to all of you, for a club is no better than its members and the Demijohns Club has been singularly fortunate in its membership. So the barometer is surely high, and fair weather for the Demijohns is the forecast. What a delightful prospect.