|Dick Crabtree in top form during Hoggshire FM's 1970s heyday.|
The Moth Meadow FM cricket commentator has seen a lot of changes since he commented on his first Hoggshire League match in 1946. "Most people wouldn't believe the things that went on back then but we didn't think anything of it at the time because money was tight and attitudes were different," Crabtree, 84, recalls.
"If you had a family member who was on their last legs you'd take them along to the nearest match, remove any identification and leave them to die. That way the Council would have to pay the burial costs and you'd have enough spare money to splash out and buy a fish or a tiepin."
|Newly arrived immigrants enjoying a day at the cricket in 1947.|
But it wasn't all about getting ahead. Weary from post war austerity people were in the mood to have a bit of fun - even if it was a little dangerous by modern day standards.
"No one believed in safety and behaviour at cricket grounds was frequently reckless, especially when animals were involved," says Crabtree. "Unsuspecting spectators would often find themselves receiving unwanted attention from a great ape or a wild rhinoceros, and umpires were forever being forced to officiate with ducks or other small animals glued to their head. I was always working so I didn't get much of a chance to join in although I once locked a tea lady in a box full of bees during a rare day off.
"What you have to remember is that we had just survived a war so people wouldn't think anything of being bitten by a crocodile or a bear. You just got on with things and did your best to come out on top next time."
Put him in front of a microphone and Crabtree will call it as he sees it. Yet when freed from the demands of the day job he prefers to keep his opinions to himself. Little wonder then that the authorities took notice when he broke rank last week and called for the Hoggshire League to dismiss controversial Dutch PA announcer Dirk Quack.
"Imported PA Announcers are like supermarket brand bleach," Crabtree claims. "Handy if you need to blind someone in self defence cheaply; completely useless if you have to conceal a crime scene. Quack deserves credit for trying but he just isn't up to scratch."
As heartfelt as they surely are, Crabtree's misgivings are at odds with reports from other parts of the country that foreign PA Announcers are outperforming their English speaking counterparts.
It also raises the possibility that Quack's behaviour is less a consequence of cultural shortcomings and more a matter of an out of control employee. Such a view is held by unemployed cricket comic Dickie Funn:
"It strikes me as more than a little bit suspicious that the linguistic mistakes of Dirk Quack invariably embarrass successful people, especially those he harbours a grudge against.
"He was mightily miffed just last week when umpires Roy Trams and Rex Mules mistook his wife for the Nettles Green fast bowler Harry Jack. Predictably enough he erred when announcing their participation in the match later that morning:
"'Welcome to the Nettle Patch. Today's umpires are boy transsexuals'."
Another umpire who has been on the receiving end of Quack's mispronunciations is Larry Tugg:
|Dated PA systems figure heavily in Dickie Funn's comedy routine.|
"I was hoping to sell a few copies of my latest book Larry Tugg: Thrilled By Life during the luncheon interval and asked Quack for a plug over the PA.
"He obliged but his announcement did little to improve book sales:
"'Please listen while I tell you something unbelievable. Larry Tugg killed my wife for £10'."
The announcer may have his critics but he also has friends in high places. League Chairman Sir Christopher Hogg dismisses those who have complained as being overly sensitive and out of touch with the demands of modern sport. He maintains that Quack has a good command of English, so good in fact that he is able to distort the language for comic effect.
"Modern cricket has entered the world of show-business," said Hogg. "Dirk Quack is an entertainer and whilst he may not appeal to the likes of Crabtree, he is hugely popular with the paying public who enjoy a bit of fun, especially when it is poked at the establishment."
This it would seem includes having a laugh at his boss's expense.
"Earlier this month I came across him selling grain and vegetables at the close of play," Hogg revealed. "I ordered a sack of rice for my wife and asked him to remind me to settle the bill the following day. All of which he did in characteristic fashion via the PA during the tea interval:
|Nettles Green fast bowler Harry Jack.|
"'Sir Christopher Hogg. Please remember to pay if you want me to sacrifice your wife tonight'."
"No harm was done and the crowd enjoyed it as much as I did."
Hogg may have a genuine appreciation for the unconventional but even he concedes there are times when moderation is in order.
"Quack is a raw talent who needs to learn to control his genius as he has a tendency to take things too far", admits Hogg.
"Then again I should have known better than to ask him to give my wife a free grape."