DICKIE BIRD has been to Buckingham Palace so often that the corgis must think he is one of the family.
But none of his 12 visits have given him more pleasure than when he went there yesterday with the Yorkshire cricket team – not even when he collected his MBE in 1986 or his OBE in 2012.
“This visit tops the lot,” said Dickie, the legendary former umpire and current Yorkshire County Cricket Club president, after Yorkshire were presented with the County Championship trophy and their winners’ medals by Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, before they had an audience with Prime Minister David Cameron at No.10 Downing Street. “It’s one of the happiest and proudest days of my life.”
Dickie has met The Queen 29 times but it is Prince Philip who conducts the traditional post-season ceremony for the Championship winners.
Dickie, 81, has met the Prince many times too, describing the cricket-loving 93-year-old as “a smashing chap who once got Tom Graveney out in a charity game – something I always remind him of”.
Dapper in a black suit with the white rose emblem above the left pocket, Dickie looked at home in the plush surroundings of the Palace, where an entourage of around 50 Yorkshire players, coaches, board members and staff enjoyed a day to remember.
The Duke presented the Championship trophy to Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale and medals to each of the 12 players present, including England stars Joe Root, Tim Bresnan and Jonny Bairstow, in the resplendent setting of The Blue Drawing Room, with its striking Corinthian columns and blue flock wallpaper. The Kent women’s team were also honoured as they received the Lady Taverners/ECB Trophy from the Duke.
Yorkshire took afternoon tea in The Picture Gallery, and Gale spoke on behalf of everyone when he said the players would cherish their royal experience.
“It’s the icing on the cake of our season,” he said.
“As soon as you see the gates outside Buckingham Palace, you feel the magnificent aura of the place, and the Duke was great to talk to.”
It was a proud day, too, for Yorkshire first team coach Jason Gillespie, an Australian paying his first visit to the working headquarters of the British monarchy.
“It was a wonderful experience for everyone,” he said.
“The lads have been fantastic all season, and it’s just reward for all their efforts.”
After their trip to the Palace, Yorkshire moved on to Downing Street, where they spent five minutes with the Prime Minister before making the short trip to the House of Commons for a reception arranged by Nigel Adams, MP for Selby and Ainsty. It capped a magnificent day which, in turn, capped a magnificent year for the Yorkshire team, who won eight of their 16 Championship games to finish 17 points clear of second-placed Warwickshire as Gale and his men crowned themselves kings of English cricket.