VETERAN cricket umpire Dickie Bird said he was “humbled” to have had the chance to meet Prince Charles in his home town of Barnsley yesterday.
During what was his first visit to the South Yorkshire town, the Prince of Wales told Mr Bird that he was hoping for an upturn in the England cricket team’s fortunes.
Mr Bird said the royal visitor discussed the sport, particularly the current series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, which began with a crushing defeat for England.
The 78-year-old umpire said: “He said to me ‘I’d like to see England do a lot better in this Test series’. I said ‘I would as well’.”
Charles met Mr Bird at the statue which was erected in 2009 in Church Lane, in the middle of Barnsley town centre, to honour the former Test umpire.
The 6ft bronze figure, created by sculptor Graham Ibberson, features the umpire’s classic pose – giving a batsman out with a finger in the air.
Mr Bird laughed as he recalled the Prince asking him whether the sculptor had got the finger the right way round.
He said: “The heir to the throne in my own town is just marvellous. It’s a really special occasion for Barnsley. Barnsley deserves it because there are nice people in Barnsley.
“I never left the town. I was born and bred in the town and they are wonderful, wonderful people.
“It’s been a great pleasure for me to meet the Prince again.”
He said he asked Charles how the Queen was and also asked after the Duke of Edinburgh, following his Christmas visit to hospital.
Mr Bird said: “He told me he’s much better.”
Born Harold Dennis Bird in April 1933, “Dickie” Bird was brought up in Barnsley and played for Yorkshire before umpiring his first county game in 1970.
He took charge of his first Test Match in 1973 and stood in his last international test match at Lords in 1996, but came out of retirement in 2007 to umpire the Cricket Tri-Nations series. Throughout his career, he umpired in four World Cups, three World Cup Finals, and 159 international matches in total.
He was was made MBE in 1986 and OBE in this year’s New Year Honours list for services to cricket and charity.
Before meeting Mr Bird, Charles toured the Barnsley Chronicle newspaper, which was launched in the town in 1858.
The Prince was shown round the newsroom and print works and was presented with a special commemorative supplement featuring a photo of him going into the building half an hour before.
Charles also visited the Barnsley campus of Huddersfield University where he met young people involved in the Prince’s Trust and donors to the charity.
The Prince chatted with recently-graduated student artists about their work.
He told his audience: “I’m so grateful to have had this rather brief opportunity to visit Barnsley today.”
He confirmed it was his first visit to the town and said: “For which I can only apologise.”
Charles added: “It’s been an enormous pleasure.”
He said he was particularly pleased to hear the stories of those involved in the Prince’s Trust.
The Prince left to complete his day in Yorkshire with a visit to Wentworth Castle Gardens.
The gardens and Stainborough Park extend over 600 acres and include historic gardens, woodland, a deer park and a collection of 26 listed buildings and monuments.
Wentworth Castle Heritage Trust has also recently succeeded in bringing together the funds needed to rescue a fragile Victorian glasshouse at the site and work is due to begin in the next few months.