By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE
DEVON County Cricket Club’s long-serving scorer Harold Shaw has been honoured for years of devotion to batting averages and bowing figures with life-membership of the county club.
Shaw, who lives in Newton Abbot, started scoring at cricket matches as a 13-year-old boy for Kirkheaton CC in Yorkshire, the club where legendary Yorkshire and England batsman George Hirst began his cricket career.
Shaw retired from scorebox duty in 2011, having totted up the figures in 261 county matches spread over nearly 19 seasons.
He was still going strong well into his 80s. He will be 90 later this year.
No one in the history of the club, which stretches back to 1865, has scored as many games as Shaw. Predecessor Brian Moylan-Jones scored 208 games between 1976-1990. Torquay’s Ralph Haly totted-up 64 games between 1967-1974.
Devon had to find two scorers to replace the dedicated statistician, who still keeps the county archive up to date in the front room of his home.
Shaw, a retired company director who ran a company making coats, learned of his life-membership in a phone call from county club president Roger Moylan-Jones.
“It wasn’t something I expected – the call came out of the blue – and I was absolutely chuffed to bits,” said Shaw, a father of four.
“I enjoyed every minute of my time scoring for Devon and was fortunate enough to be doing the job at a time when Devon were the leading Minor County in the country.
“Devon won six Minor Counties Championships and shared a seventh, won three cup finals at Lord’s and defeated Leicestershire in the C&G Trophy.
“I had no idea what was coming when I took the job on in 1993, it was quite a ride.
Devon were skippered by former Somerset captain Peter Roebuck for much of Shaw’s time in the scorebox.
Journalist and broadcaster Roebuck, who committed suicide in 2011, was a controversial figure at times for his outspoken views in the media on the professional game.
Shaw said Roebuck was an inspirational captain who not only got the best out of the team but was a shrewd thinker on the field.
“I was in the scorebox for Devon in every game Peter captained and he was a remarkable man,” said Shaw.
“He could look at a batsman who had just come in, work out his weaknesses and find a way of getting him out.
“It didn’t always work, but I remember one cup game against Cornwall where a new man came in, played the first ball and was out to the second.
“Peter noticed something, moved himself into a close catching position and the batsman hit the ball straight to him.”
There’s nothing wrong with Shaw’s memory. The scorebook for Cornwall against Devon at St Austell in 1994 reads: M P Briers – caught Roebuck, bowled Cottam, 0.
With Roebuck as captain – he made 91 in that game – Devon went on to beat Lincolnshire at Lord’s in the cup final, which was another special day for Shaw.
“The Devon opener at the time was Nicky Gaywood who was from my own club, Bovey Tracey,” said Shaw.
“Nick made a hundred before lunch – what an achievement for anyone at the home of cricket – although the blithering idiot gave us all a fright by nearly running himself out in the 90s.”
Harold Shaw was never more than a back-street cricketer himself, but developed a love of the game as a schoolboy that never deserted him.
He left school to join a clothing company in Yorkshire then served two years in the Royal Navy doing his National Service.
Shortly after demobilising Shaw was offered the chance to move to Devon to work for a Newton Abbot company his Yorkshire employer had bought.
Cricket took a back seat for a while, but once son Barry started playing as a schoolboy, Shaw’s interest was revived.
“Barry was invited to go along to play for Bovey Tracey 2nd XI when he was 12 or 13 around 1974 and I started to do the scoring at the same time,” said Shaw senior.
“When Barry was promoted into the first team a couple of years later the scorer, Arthur Payne, offered to swap so I could carry on following Barry around.”
Shaw was a permanent fixture on the Bovey Tracey team sheet until the end of the 2002 season – nearly three decades. A grateful club made him a life-member for services rendered, services that included starting the club's first colts section.
Another long-term cricket commitment was as a results secretary for the Devon Cricket League between 1979-1995. The league made Shaw a life member on his retirement.
Neil Gamble, the chairman of the county club, said Harold Shaw was an un-sung hero not just of the club but the wider game.
“Harold’s work as county scorer over 18 years, commitment to the task, and enthusiasm for the county team were greatly appreciated by all those involved in the club at that time,” said Gamble.
“He presided from the scorebox over a most distinguished period in Devon’s cricketing history when the county had several outstanding players whose team achievements, with others, were as good as any seen in Minor Counties’ cricket either before or since.
In addition to scoring for nearly two decades, he has continued to bring together match and individual player statistics annually up to the present.
“Harold has done vital archive work to provide records of county games and players’ performances that will be of both historical value and general interest to present and future generations of Devon cricket lovers.
“His contribution to Devon CCC over nearly three decades has been admirable and Harold are a very worthy recipient of this distinguished accolade.
“Harold once told me he felt that Devon CCC had given more to him than he had to it. He was wrong.”
Statistical information courtesy of Peter Langford