Alan Mills – The Cricketer and the Tramp

len-hutton I’m going to take you back to just before the war this issue, Saturday 28th August 1938, a day I will never forget. We were still living off Kirkstall Road at the time and I’d just celebrated my tenth birthday. On this particular morning, my Dad had left me strict instructions to go to Walkingtons Garage in Burley Village on Burley Road, where I was to pick up two accumulators which had been left for recharging a few days previous. These accumulators were like large thick jam jars filled with acid which somehow stored electricity. I was given a stern lecture on how to handle these things, we lived about a mile away from the garage, so my instructions were a slow, steady walk home & don’t spill any acid! Typically, I bumped into a few of my pals on the way back, who after a few seconds prodding my elbows and generally trying to unbalance me told me to put the jars down and follow them. “Come on, be quick,” one of them said, “An old tramp has fallen in the pit on the building site.” So off I went, still clutching my jam jars of acid. Now, the building site is what we now know as Burley Wood Estate but then they were in the process of building it. The toilet facilities for the various work men were, lets say a somewhat primitive arrangement, consisting of 2 or 3 upright posts driven into the ground and a narrow plank nailed on top arranged over a three feet deep by eight feet long pit. I don’t know whether he was drunk or sober but this old tramp was wandering round the site during the night and somehow fell into this pit, you can imagine the smell and the mess. The first on the scene in the morning were a gang of brickies who put together a ladder and a rope and somehow managed to pull him out of the stinking pit.

Anyway, I had to get my accumulators home, so with five or six howling kids in tow I went as fast as I dared back home. The reason my Dad wanted the accumulators was so he could listen uninterruppted to Howard Marshall’s commentary of the third day of the final test match from The Oval on the wireless. The star in the making was the young Yorkshireman (from Pudsey) Len Hutton who was playing opening bat for England in only his sixth test appearance. After an early wicket fell, he was joined at the crease by his Yorkshire team mate Maurice Leyland. Together they’d taken the score to 347 for one after the first day. Hutton shared further big parterships and at the end of the second day he was 300 not out. Now if we were to go back a few years to the Aussies last tour here, Don Bradman, the Aussies talismanic batsman and captain had broken the test match record with an unbeaten 334, at Headingly of all places. He was playing but could only stand and watch as Len Hutton edged closer and closer to breaking his prestigious record. Bradman tried everything, he changed his bowlers regularly, he increased his slip fielders but Hutton just seemed to take it all in his stride and early on the Saturday afternoon he hit Aussie bowler Fleetwood Smith for a boundary to overtake the record. He went on to score 364 before he was caught out. An innings of more than 13 hours. Former England captain Bob Wyatt described his performance as the greatest feat of concentration and endurance in the history of the game. As a ten year old, I couldn’t sit still for too long and though I listened to the commentary, I was in and out a bit. Our gang returned to the building site to see what had happened to the old tramp. He was behind the screens of the latrine where he’d been stripped and hosed down. People living close by had contributed some old clothes for him and he was given a hot meal and sent on his way, content. Just a story of an eventful Saturday, many years ago for two Yorkshire men.


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