Under leaden skies and in a stiff March breeze, three generations of Yorkshire cricket came together yesterday to remember one of its finest practitioners.
Some 388 people filled Rotherham Minster for the funeral of John Hampshire, president and former captain of the county club, who died earlier this month at 76, after a long illness.
Geoff Cope, who played alongside him in an era in which Yorkshire took the county championship seven times in 10 years, was among those paying tributes to a man who, said Canon David Bliss after the service, had been able to number just about everyone among his admirers.
Geoffrey Boycott, another teammate, had recalled after hearing of his old friend’s death, that Hampshire had embodied the qualities of a cricketing professional. “Play, perform, go home, find a beer,” he had said.
Yesterday, though, a different drink was the order of the day, as another former captain, Martyn Moxon, read movingly from a poem.
“So, mother, put the kettle on for me. It’s time, mother, for my long cup of tea.”
Hampshire was not just a county cricketer but also an international, and his playing career was followed by a long spell as a respected umpire.
Yesterday, the former England captain Mike Gatting and fellow referee Barry Dudleston were among the congregation, rubbing shoulders with the present-day Yorkshire team.
Dickie Bird, arguably the most famous umpire of them all, was also there, with former England captain Ray Illingworth, who, like Hampshire, had served as both president and captain of the Yorkshire club.
Colin Graves, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, and, like Hampshire, a native of South Yorkshire, was also among those listening as Hampshire’s son, Ian, paid tribute to his father. Steve Denison, chairman of the county club, read Ralph Emerson’s poem, Success, and the Sheffield umpire and former Yorkshire player Richard Kettleborough paid tribute to Hampshire’s gift for mentoring newcomers to the sport he loved.
Canon Bliss said: “We heard in the eulogies some wonderful examples of John’s life in the different spheres of playing, umpiring and mentoring, and lots of smiles, too, as people remembered his achievements.
“It was a very fitting tribute to a man who was much loved and very highly respected indeed.”
Hampshire will be succeeded as president at Headingley by a man who had been his own choice, Richard Hutton, the former Yorkshire and England batsman and son of Sir Leonard.
The club’s chief executive, Mark Arthur, said: “Some of the letters that we’ve had have been quite amazing. John was extremely popular and gave wonderful service to the game... You ask any young cricketer, and he was always very helpful and supportive.”
Yesterday’s celebration was followed by a service for family and close friends at Rotherham Crematorium.