Sunday, 13 January 2019

Book Review - The Walkers of Southgate and Middlesex

OK, first things first, let me show my hand here. I'm biased. If the Walker family hasn't left part of their vast estate I wouldn't have played cricket for the last thirty five years at such a beautiful ground. I also know the author, he's a top bloke and someone who sleeps, breathes and eats cricket. So this isn't going to be a neutral review of a great book but it is one I'd recommend to all Middlesex cricket fans out there, to see how their club was formed. It is one that is packed with information and local knowledge and Jouning deserves great credit for his research.

The Walker Cricket Ground at Southgate still remains a popular venue as an outground in county cricket. Despite the fact that Middlesex haven't returned there for a number of years, many of the county's followers look upon it fondly. I'm sure Mike Gatting and Justin Langer do after their 366 opening partnership versus Essex there in 1996. With the imposing Christ Church overlooking the long on boundary, it is a photographer's dream. Jouning encapsulates this spirit brilliantly in this look at the founders, not only of the ground but of Middlesex County Cricket Club.

John Walker was the eldest brother. Part of the dynasty of the Taylor's and Walker's who founded the famous London brewery, the intertwined families through marriage and business owned much of the land that now makes up this part of suburban North London. John Walker was a cricket obsessive, as were his six brothers - so much so that all remained bachelors. Perhaps the ladies of N14 didn't like their men playing cricket for hours on end in Victorian times either? All played for Middlesex and John and Teddy played for England. Teddy was one of the finest cricketers of his time, picking up ten wickets in an innings three times and was a renowned underarm bowler!

John formed Southgate CC in 1855 and then Middlesex CCC in 1864. Crowds of up to 10,000 used to travel on the railway up from London to see some of the finest players in the land including the likes of a certain bearded doctor, who liked the odd game of cricket. Brass bands would play and Londoners would forget the smoke, pollution and pea soupers of the Victorian capital as they breathed the cleaner air of Southgate.

John Walker's legacies...Middlesex at The Walker Ground

Having left the ground to Trust and the people of the area to "play sport for evermore" in 1907, cricket continues to this day. With the likes of Phil Tufnell and Gareth Berg, Kusal Mendis of Sri Lanka and many more, the rich heritage that the Walker family left is still part of the fabric of the summer in this part of North London. Jouning's book takes us from that era of the Walker family through to the modern day.

You can see the pride that he has in his venue and it is a recurring theme throughout the book. He was a part of the club who won the National Cup in 1977 - at Edgbaston as the first game at Lord's was washed out - they beat a Bowdon side from Cheshire containing a young Paul Allott.

The book should be part of history. Just as The Walkers left their ground to the local people, Jouning has left his knowledge to those too. Now that the book is in print, it will be part of history for ever more.

Jouning writes in a lovely style - 'The Walkers' might have a heavyweight appearance and subject matter - yet it is easy to work through and offers interesting facts all the way to the end. The book might also be directed at those in a niche market but it makes interesting reading for all cricket fans. For local historians or Middlesex supporters, it is an integral slice of local cricket life.

Have a read of it yourself. You won't be disappointed.


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