Peter Wynne-Thomas: Special, kind man and great friend of cricket will be deeply missed – Chris Waters
He had a wide and luxuriant snow-white moustache, which seemed to become less handlebar as the years went by, but was still like something from a team photograph in the late 19th-century.
He was always immaculately presented – shirt, tie, braces, jacket – and had an old-fashioned charm and self-effacing manner.
His name was Peter Wynne-Thomas, and he has died at the age of 86, one of the great men of cricket now gone from our midst.
Many of our readers would have known Wynne-Thomas, or, if they did not, would have seen him on Yorkshire’s trips to Trent Bridge where he founded and ran the vast cricket library that boasts some 15,000 books and around 10,000 items of memorabilia, said to be the second-largest collection of its kind.
They will almost certainly recognise the double-barrelled surname, which adorns dozens of the books that grace those shelves, ranging from statistical and historical studies to biographies of long-forgotten greats such as Arthur Shrewsbury, whom W.G. Grace judged to be the second-best batsman in England after himself.
“Give me Arthur,” boomed Grace when asked whom he would most like to have in his team – hence the title of Wynne-Thomas’s book.
A founder member of the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians (ACS), which he served as secretary for over 30 years, Wynne-Thomas’s contribution to cricket was enormous, his output prodigious, his stamina unending.
Born in Manchester (we can forgive him that), he watched his first match at Trent Bridge in 1949 as a 15-year-old when Nottinghamshire played the touring New Zealanders.
Although he received coaching from Joe Hardstaff and Bill Voce, two of Nottinghamshire and England’s finest, he described himself as a “disgustingly keen but useless” bowler; the dry wit was invariably self-deprecating.
An architect by trade, who studied and worked in London before returning to Nottinghamshire, Wynne-Thomas could happily wile away hours immersed in the most obscure research.
Not only did the moustache look like something out of the 19th-century, but you always sensed that the 19th-century was his spiritual home, or perhaps even a little further back in time; he was happiest when delving deep into cricket’s history.
His desk at Trent Bridge was tremendously untidy.
At the centre of it was a battered portable typewriter, the sort that they stopped making about 50 years ago and for which replacement ribbons could not possibly exist.
He took great pleasure when parties of schoolchildren, whom he loved to show around the library despite wry protestations such as “I’ve got another group of the horrors coming tomorrow”, regarded the typewriter with wide-eyed astonishment. “What’s that?” they would ask, as if they had seen a dinosaur bone.
Around the typewriter were scattered random books, Wisdens, newspaper cuttings, drawings, sketches, letters, photographs, pencils, rubbers, rulers, staplers, sellotape – you name it.
It looked like someone had broken into the library during the night and turned the place over, yet he always knew where everything was and could lay his hands on a book or item in seconds. In 2015, the library was renamed The Wynne-Thomas Library and, the following year, in a further magnificent gesture, Nottinghamshire made him club president.
He also gave two decades’ service to the club’s general committee and, in 2019, received the British Empire Medal in the New Year Honours for services to cricket and the community in Nottingham.
Countless journalists and writers found him unfailingly generous with time and assistance.
I got to know him well during four years covering Nottinghamshire for the local paper around the turn of the millennium, and we stayed in touch.
Most winters, I would go down to Nottingham and take him across the road to the Trent Bridge Inn for a meal of his favourite ham, egg and chips, washed down with Guinness – “I’ll just have a half.”
He was a special man, a kind man, one of a kind and a great friend of cricket, who will be deeply missed and affectionately remembered.