The death yesterday at 76 of John Hampshire sent Geoffrey Boycott’s mind racing back to a lost world of cricket in the old West Riding, of scoring runs with Dickie Bird and Michael Parkinson, and cadging petrol from passing drivers on the way home.
“Jack” Hampshire had served as president at Headingley for the past year, but it is with an earlier, golden, age of cricket in Yorkshire that his name is synonymous.
Alongside Boycott, Brian Close and Ray Illingworth, he was part of a team that took the county championship seven times in ten years. Eventually, he took charge of the side.
Last night, the man he ousted as captain in 1979 was in reflective mood.
Boycott had met Hampshire, he said, as 14 year-olds, their ages just a few months apart.
“I grew up with him. He was a young kid at Barnsley when I played with Parkinson and Dickie Bird,” Boycott told The Yorkshire Post from his second home in South Africa.
“John was getting rave notices for his performances at Rotherham Town. He made the Yorkshire first team before I did and I always thought he’d have a wonderful career.”
Money was tight in the Sixties, Boycott said, and with no cash coming in from TV rights, Yorkshire could only run to six cars to get the players to and from games. “You had to double up with someone, and John and I travelled together a lot. One time I ran out of petrol and we had to go out with a can, searching for fuel. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I did it a second time, pitch dark and no-one in sight, in the middle of Cambridgeshire.”
Hampshire, whose death followed a long battle with cancer, was defined by his dependability, Boycott said.
“He was easy company, no airs and graces. Play, perform, go home, find a beer.”
It was a workaday side to a cricketer’s life the public didn’t see. Most liked to imagine that the Yorkshire side consisted of ill-matched and uncompromising curmudgeons, riven with rivalry and resentment. Sometimes, they were.
In 1978, Hampshire led a go-slow on the pitch at Northampton, after Boycott had taken six hours to amass 113 runs. It cost his side a bonus point and Boycott the captaincy. Amid some acrimony, Hampshire replaced him but only for two seasons, before upping sticks to Derbyshire.
“It’s every boy’s dream to be captain, but I’m not sure it was right for him,” Boycott said. “But he became a very good umpire. Cricket was in his blood and that was his way of staying connected to the game he loved.
“I’m so pleased that he was president before he died. There had been Illy, Closey and me, and he fully deserved it.”
Yorkshire’s chief executive, Mark Arthur, concurred, calling Hampshire “humble, modest and unassuming”.
He said: “He came as a young apprentice, worked his way up and played internationally.
“He was an outstanding ambassador for the club, and he had a great relationship with the current crop of players - you don’t always find that.”
The former Yorkshire and England skipper, Michael Vaughan, called Hampshire’s death a “sad, sad day for Yorkshire cricket”, adding on Instagram: “John Hampshire gave me so much advice down at Abbeydale Park in Sheffield... always with a nice dry sense of humour.”