COUNTY cricket chiefs have shared their memories of the HRH The Duke of Edinburgh following his death at the age of 99.
Prince Phillip’s association with Worcestershire CCC began almost four decades ago after the Pears won the County Championship in 1974.
An intervention from former county secretary Mike Vockins led to the Pears players, led by skipper Norman Gifford, becoming the first team to receive the trophy from the Duke of Edinburgh.
The cup had been donated by the cricket charity The Lord’s Taverners of which Prince Philip was permanent Twelfth Man.
“Following our Championship win in 1974, there was no mention of going to Buckingham Palace”, Vockins said
“So I pressed the Test and County Cricket Board (TCCB)to arrange such a visit for our players.
“At first reluctant to approach the Palace, the board eventually did so and, after much toing-and-froing, we were invited, the team and the club’s officials along with representatives of TCCB and the Lord’s Taverners.
“Since then, it has become a feature of every season that the County Championship winners are invited to the Palace to receive the trophy from the Duke himself.”
Worcestershire’s County Championship title successes in 1988 and 1989 meant captain Phil Neale and his team, accompanied by the club officers, went back at the Palace again to receive the trophy from the Duke of Edinburgh.
However, things didn’t go quite to plan for the 1988 presentation, as Vockins explained.
“Minutes before we were due to meet His Royal Highness, it was discovered the trophy had not been reclaimed from Nottinghamshire, the previous summer’s champions,” he said.
“One of the Lord’s Taverners’ officials gamely offered to whizz round to their own offices, just around the corner from the Palace, and produce a substitute which was why the Duke presented to Phil Neale the Brands Hatch Motor Racing Trophy – which brought a wry smile to the Duke’s face and an amusing comment or two from him.”
In 1999 when the club celebrated its centenary in the County Championship and its hundredth year at New Road, the Duke was guest of honour for the one-day game against the Australians, part of the visitors warm-up programme before the Cricket World Cup that summer.
“Prince Phillip took a keen interest in the pitch before the start of the game and was introduced to the players of both teams. He stayed to watch much of the cricket and was a delightful guest,” Vockins said.
“Somewhere around tea-time, with the game moving to an exciting climax, the Duke said he would love to stay and see the finish.
“We readily agreed, of course, but his equerry leant across and tactfully said ‘Sir, you won’t forget you are meant to be giving a lecture in the City this evening’, which brought a pithy response from the Duke who delayed his departure as late as possible, before boarding his helicopter and off to London.
“It had been a memorable and greatly valued visit helping the club to mark its centenary royally.”