What a Reception

For the first in what I hope will be a regular feature for Somerset North "First Game" I am delighted to share the memories of Lynn Kerslake, wife of former club captain and president Roy of their wedding day, Saturday 1 June 1968

Somerset 170 and 253-3 (Kitchen 97, Virgin 67) beat Gloucestershire 310 (Procter 94, Rumsey 4-38) and 112-7 dec  (Burgess 3-33, Chappell 4-37) by 7 wickets

Somerset: Virgin, Kitchen, Clarkson, Chappell, Alley, Robinson, Burgess, Kerslake (c), Brooks (wk), Langford, Rumsey

There will be many of you who will look at the result and not be surprised that for the first game in this new series I have chosen a Somerset win over Gloucestershire. Especially when the opponents contained the source of so much of my boyhood misery, Mike Procter. But I assure you that is purely coincidental. This memory of a first game was far too good to be swayed by such personal bias.

It does seem appropriate though that this is the week of the 53rd wedding anniversary of Lynn and Roy Kerslake and to look back at their more than unusual wedding day.

Most of you will know Roy Kerslake, if you are not old enough to remember him in his playing days then as a cornerstone of the upper echelons of the county club for many many years. But how many of you know the story of his wedding day, the day coincidentally that was his wife Lynn’s first time at the County Ground.

The couple met in Canada when Roy was touring there with MCC. Their first date nearly didn’t take place however. Having arranged to take his wife to be out, Lynn was advised by Roy’s teammates early that evening that he wouldn’t be able to make it because he was the “nightwatchman” in the game they were currently playing in. Lynn who knew nothing about cricket thought this meant that Roy was having to keep an eye on the pitch overnight, but she wasn’t to be denied her date, insisting that she would get a takeaway for the two of them.

Fast forward to early Summer, 1968. In Lynn’s own words, “We got married on the morning of June 1st at Taunton Register Office, which was in Upper High Street next to Vivary Park in those days. It was the Whitsun Bank Holiday and a lovely day. Greg Chappell and Dickie Brooks, the wicket keeper, were our witnesses.”

There was to be no reception or wedding breakfast for the newly-weds however. Shortly after the ceremony Roy was in the middle at the County Ground with Arthur Milton, the captain of Gloucestershire. Milton was famously one of the last dual internationals who played both soccer and cricket for England. 

Fittingly the groom won the toss and decided to have a bowl first. Unfortunately it didn’t go well, a century from his opposite number and 94 from that man Procter took Gloucestershire to 244-2 before Peter Robinson and Brian Langford respectively removed the Gloucestershire pair.  Fred Rumsey and Graham Burgess then wrapped the innings up before the close for 310. 

Roy’s recollection of the game, which remains very clear, is that his decision to bowl first, despite a gloriously warm first day was the right one but backfired because of Bill Alley. The legendary Australian advised his captain during the early part of the Gloucestershire innings that he wouldn’t be able to bowl again as he was suffering from lumbago. When I asked if this was the sort of injury that was brought on by high-class batsmen on a good batting wicket on a hot day Somerset’s former skipper tactfully declined to comment although he laughs now at Alley who, he remembers, at other times when conditions were more in the bowlers’ favour, “was almost impossible to get the ball off once he was bowling”.

Having left Roy Palmer out of the XI, Kerslake had to manage with only Fred Rumsey of his recognised first choice seam bowlers leaving all-rounders Chappell and Burgess to carry the workload. Kerslake probably won’t look back on his own bowling that day with much fondness, five overs none for 42.

At tea it was announced over the public address in the ground that the captain had got married that day. Lynn, who was sitting in front of the Old Pavilion recalls an old boy yelling very loudly, ‘well at least someone must love him!’ Not an auspicious introduction to the Taunton faithful for the new bride!

The couple spent their wedding night at the Crown and Sceptre where, perhaps coincidentally, the opposition were also staying!

This was the last season before the Sunday League so the game continued over the Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday when Somerset completed a memorable victory. Having been bowled out for 170 in their first innings (Kerslake second top scorer with 29 as Somerset rallied from 107-8) Milton set them a target of 253 which they chased down in the 56th over.

So the new bride brought her husband’s side a winning start and Lynn, as she says, “fell in love with Somerset cricket there and then.” She has lost count of how many matches she has been lucky enough to see in the succeeding 53 years but she will never forget that first day at the County Ground.