Legends: Bill Andrews (1930-47)

The following article is an extract from SOMERSET CRICKETERS 1919-1939 by STEPHEN HILL & BARRY PHILLIPS (Published by Halsgrove 2017)

Few cricketers could have given more to the county Bill Andrews served for five decades. He was a gangly, gregarious individual who on first acquaintance would invite you to ‘shake the hand that bowled Bradman’. The recipient of the crushing handshake would then be informed that Bradman had been on 202 at the time. The greeting provided the title for his autobiography, published with author David Foot’s patient assistance.

Bill was born on 14 April 1908 in Swindon where his father, William Snr, was a publican. The family moved to Weston-super-Mare when Bill was twelve. Here, he was introduced to cricket by a teacher, former Somerset player Harry Saunders. Bill’s association with Somerset began in 1922 when he sold scorecards and worked the scoreboard at the Weston Festival. He was playing in the Weston-super-Mare CC First XI by the age of sixteen.

His fine copperplate handwriting stood him in good stead for his first taste of employment in a solicitor’s office but the job made him restive. He left to join East Coker CC as their professional, persuading them to take his brother as his replacement, when Somerset came calling in 1930.  Jack, a wicket-keeper, later played for Hampshire. Bill joined his great friend Arthur Wellard, in what would become a hugely successful opening bowling partnership. Arthur had lodged with the Andrews family while he qualified for Somerset by residence and Bill would later recount that: ‘I only had one real complaint with Arthur all the time I knew him. He always had the choice of ends and would bowl with the wind behind him. And even if there was half a gale, he’d look at me and say there was nothing between the two ends.’   He had three disappointing seasons with Somerset before experiencing the first of his four well-documented sackings. Two successful seasons for Forfarshire were to follow before he returned to the fold in 1935.

He was an important member of the team during the five seasons leading up to the Second World War and twice completed the double of 100 wickets and 1000 runs. His crowning achievement was in 1937 against Surrey at the Oval when he took 8 for 12 including a hat-trick and a dropped catch off his bowling that went for six.

He had been married in 1933 to Joan Ambler and a son, Michael, was born in 1937. The war interrupted his first-class career but he spent time in the Army playing cricket for Blackpool, the British Empire X1 and Glamorgan. His marriage to Joan was over by the time he resumed playing for Somerset in 1946. His performances tailed off and by the end of the 1947season he was out of favour and out of contract. He had played 226 matches, taken 750 wickets at a respectable average of 23.38 and averaged 15.59 with the bat.

In 1947 he was married again, this time to Ennyd Williams and they had a son, Mark, and a daughter, Sara. He remained in Weston-super-Mare, running a small sports equipment business, coaching at local schools, writing a newspaper column and plying his trade as a professional player and coach with Stourbridge, in the Birmingham League. A clash with Arthur Wellard’s Kidderminster side took place during the last of his three seasons there and brought the best out of both of them. His bowling figures of 7 for 57 were trumped by Arthur’s 10 for 33.

Bill continued to badger the Somerset authorities, offering his services as player and coach or recommending promising youngsters.  Throughout the 1950s and 1960s he wrote a weekly article for the Green Un – the sports newspaper issued by the Bristol Evening Post – maintaining a high profile and occasionally using the column to challenge the authorities. He was elected by public vote onto the Somerset Committee, giving him a platform for further lobbying, and his persistence was rewarded with his appointment as coach in 1955. His third spell with Somerset was shortlived. His reinstatement in 1958 was even briefer, lasting only months before George Lambert was preferred in 1959.

Bill is in the back row, second right, flanked by Wellard and Buse

He remained on the committee, as opinionated and vociferous as ever. His last paid employment with Somerset commenced in 1965, when he was made Second X1 Coach, but he soon wormed his way onto the Management and Selection Committees. This all came to an end in 1969 when Brian Langford convinced the committee that senior players had lost confidence in Bill’s coaching. Bill had often been the architect of his own downfall. Never inclined to diplomacy, his impetuous outbursts made enemies of those in power.

His outgoing personality masked a lack of self-confidence not helped by a tendency to stutter that dogged him throughout his life. He also resented many of the amateurs their money and influence. He held many grievances, such as blaming Wally Hammond for the fact that he never received a Test call-up. Above all else he battled all his life with clinical depression.  He had good cause to worry, given that it ran in the family. His father had spent time in an asylum and his first son, Michael, had died from drowning, following a spell in hospital suffering from the affliction.  Bill retreated into himself during his final years, declining the many invitations to attend functions. He would also refuse to meet visitors to his house in Worlebury where he died on 9 January 1989, aged eighty. One newspaper headline read: End of Somerset Legend. An unabashed self-publicist, Bill could not have put it better himself.