At Liz Hall's funeral, John Baxter delivered this moving and humorous eulogy. Thanks to John for allowing us to share this with those who were unable to attend the service.
Liz Hall MBE
Liz’s involvement with cricket began, like so many of us, playing in the garden with her father. Liz always felt that her father had secretly wished for a son but being blessed with three daughters he set about their sporting education by creating a net in the back garden.
Following her father’s death as a result of a plane crash (he wasn’t killed in the crash but when he went back into the plane to rescue those who were still there and the fuselage collapsed on him} Liz was sent to The Royal School, Bath, and it was here that her cricket began to flourish as the school had a very successful girls’ cricket team.
After the Second World War Liz went to Liverpool University and was the driving force behind establishing a women’s cricket team who were coached by the West Indian international, Learie Constantine. Their fixture list included games against other universities across the north of England and frequently they had to have an overnight stay in a hotel. Learie Constantine had to stay in a different hotel; not only was he a man but also black. These things were not allowed in the early 1950s. When I spoke to Liz once about this period it was plain that she was offended by this. Learie Constantine himself was later to be knighted and eventually admitted to the House of Lords.
It was whilst playing for Liverpool that she attracted the attention of Lancashire County Cricket Club’s women’s section and in due course she was invited to play for England and to go on a tour of Australia. Sadly, she couldn’t take up the invitation to tour as, in a totally amateur sport, she would have to fund her trip entirely, a cost of £400, which equates to around £14,000 today. Her consolation was that the girls unable to make the trip were selected to play against those who could in a special game played at the Oval. I never did find out the result.
Liz didn’t only play cricket her other sporting love was tennis and she represented Berkshire for several seasons often partnering the son of the founder of Waitrose in the mixed doubles.
My first encounter with the Hall family was as a teacher at Harrow Way School. The arrangements for parents’ evenings in the 1970s were that all the teachers were allocated to rooms throughout the school, and one evening I was sharing a room with my best friend, Steve Foster, who was teaching Liz’s son, Robert, English at the time. Steve had made notes on every student concerning their aptitude, achievement and so on. As Liz and her husband, Phil, sat down for their interview Phil proved how adept he was at reading something that was upside down and said, ‘So, you think Robert needs a kick up the arse? Well, we agree.’
Whilst at Harrow Way Robert was to form the backbone of a formidable school cricket team along with Peter Aldridge and David Hacker.
At the time Andover Cricket Club had begun an embryonic youth section through the efforts of Alan Ellwood and it was into this set up that Liz brought Robert to join. Of course, it wasn’t long before Liz was getting involved in running the youth section and overseeing its development into one that would become the envy of clubs throughout Hampshire.
The energy that Liz displayed in committing to this cause would have exhausted many younger people, it did me. Apart from teams across age groups beginning at 9yrs old and up to under 15s she would organise an annual cricket festival in the first week of the school holiday, which had games taking place in Andover every day of the week using both grounds, and in conjunction with Andy Hooper a youth league that ran during the school holidays.
If ever you had to telephone Liz to ask about any of the arrangements for these games she would never be in and any enquiry would be met by Phil saying that he had to consult ‘the computer’. The computer was a battered notebook kept by the side of the telephone with copious notes and instructions for Phil on how to respond on just about any eventuality that might arise.
When she was in her mid 70s Liz organised a youth cricket tour to Holland. The somewhat more liberal approach of the Dutch meant that the older boys were allowed to have a beer after the game. However, when some of the hosts started to smoke substances that probably hadn’t been produced by WD & HO Wills and they were inviting the Andover boys to join in Liz very firmly said to the captain of the home side, “It’s bad enough that we have 15-year-old boys drinking beer, perhaps we should draw the line at ‘special cigarettes.’”
In 1985 I was captain of the 1st XI, in 1986 I became captain of the 3rd XI – I was appointed to both positions entirely on merit you understand. Liz, having qualified as an umpire, agreed to stand for us. It certainly had a marked impact on the language of the players and the reaction to decisions made. Her egalitarian approach to cricket and umpiring can be summed up in a story I was told by Ali Hooper. In a youth match he had been batting quite some time when a ball passed by the outside edge of his bat and was caught be the wicket keeper who half-heartedly appealed and Liz give Ali out. Somewhat disgruntled Ali did say afterwards, “I didn’t hit it.’ Liz replied, “I know, dear, but, sometimes, we have to let others have a turn.” The Greek philosopher Plato said, “You can learn more about a person from an hour’s play than from a year of conversation.” That one exchange tells us so much of Liz’s view of sport and life.
There will be hundreds of people who played cricket across not only Hampshire and the south of England but probably the whole of the cricket playing world whose life in cricket was given a start and encouragement by Liz Hall and who will remember with great fondness how they were treated. I hope those players will go on to pass on their experience to others starting in the game, for that is her legacy. A legacy of sporting activities played with great gusto, in the right spirit but ‘sometimes we have to let others have a turn.’