Today’s Throwback Thursday takes us back to 1935 and the day that Somerset legend Harold Gimblett first wrote himself into the history books.
The farmer’s son from Bicknoller went on to become Somerset’s highest ever First-Class run scorer and hit the most First-Class centuries. His total of 49 was finally equalled in 2016 by Marcus Trescothick.
It all began when 20 year old Harold Gimblett, who had made his mark locally for Watchet and the Somerset Stragglers, was given a two week trial at Taunton.
The County hadn’t rated the lad from Bicknoller. He had been scoring heavily in club cricket but it was only at the insistence of Watchet based tailor W.G. Penny, who was on the Somerset CCC Committee, that the youngster was given a trial.
The powers-that-be at the County Ground were not too impressed with what they saw from the youngster from West Somerset but they allowed him to finish off his fortnight stint and paid him his 35 shillings (£1.75) plus bus fare to get home.
On the last day, Harold packed up his gear and was getting ready to depart for home when Somerset found themselves a man short for their three-day game against Essex at Frome after Laurie Hawkins dropped out injured. Harold was called back into the office and told that if he could get himself to Frome on Saturday morning, then he would be playing for Somerset against Essex.
Like may others in those days, Harold didn’t have a car so Somerset arranged for the 20 year old to be picked up at Bridgwater at 9am by ‘keeper Wally Luckes. The trouble was that he had to get to Bridgwater and the only way he could do so was by bus.
Everything seemed to be conspiring against him because he missed the early morning bus along the North Somerset coast to Bridgwater but managed to meet up with Luckes after a kindly truck drive gave him a lift.
Somerset Captain Reggie Ingle won the toss and elected to bat, a decision he may well have regretted when his side found themselves 35 for 3.
By lunch Somerset had moved onto 105 for five and young Gimblett, who was batting at number 8, was waiting to take his chance. He didn’t have long to wait and at 2.20pm, when Bath solicitor Dickie Burrough was out, the youngster made his way out carrying a bat he had borrowed from Arthur Wellard.
His first run came off his third ball when he pushed a googlie from Peter Smith to mid wicket for a single. In his next over the young batsman straight drove the spinner to the boundary. Harold grew in confidence and far from being nervous he seemed to be enjoying himself as he took 15 off one over from Peter Smith. When the England spinner over pitched a delivery the Bicknoller boy dispatched it high over mid-off onto the top of the beer tent which brought a cheer from the locals.
The debutant was outscoring big hitting Arthur Wellard and together the seventh wicket pair added 69 together. The Frome crowd were liking what they saw as Harold raced to his 50 with a six in just 28 minutes off 33 balls. He continued to hit the Essex attack to all parts of the ground and it wasn’t too long before he was bringing up his maiden century with a cover drive. Harold’s century had been scored in just 63 minutes.
Harold was eventually joined by Bill Andrews and together they took the total onto 282 before Harold was out for 123 when he gave a simple return catch to Laurie Eastman.
Somerset went onto score 337 runs in their first innings and went onto win the match by an innings.
That was the start of the legend of Harold Gimblett. It was the stuff of boyhood dreams and an innings that has gone down in the folklore of Somerset County Cricket Club.
It truly was one of the most dramatic entrances into the First Class game.
Harold Gimblett will be forever remembered as a huge part of Somerset County Cricket Club and his contribution has been commemorated by the creation of Gimblett’s Hill on the South West corner of the Ground.