Joe Clowes presenting Alphington's Andy Mills with a league trophy during the 1993 awards evening held at the Langstone Cliff Hotel in Dawlish. In the shadows behind Joe is Graham Shears, who was league chairman at the time<br>credit: Contributed


A FORMER chairman of the Devon Cricket League, who oversaw one of the biggest changes in the competition’s history, has died aged 74.

Joe Clowes was chairman of the league in when the decision was taken to scrap the winning and losing draw result that had been in the rulebook since the competition was formed in 1972.

Draw cricket was a throw back to the pre-league days when a team batting second could make little or no attempt to chase a first-innings total and claim points for a draw if they avoided being bowled out.

Numerous attempts were made to dump the draw, all of which failed until the 2011 annual meeting when it was adopted as an ‘experiment’ by Premier Division clubs for the 2012 summer.Joe Clowes (right) receiving an award from the Devon Cricket Board during his spell as Abbotskerswell CC chairman. Also pictured are Chris Kelmere (left) and Andy Fairbairn from the DCB.

The experiment was successful and draw cricket was dropped throughout the league for the 2013 campaign.

Birmingham-born Clowes was an unexpected choice to replace David Gambie when he left the league chair ahead of the annual meeting in 2010. Paul Smith, the vice-chairman, would have been the obvious choice but had ruled himself out in advance.

“I was only vice-chairman because someone else had resigned and the league needed someone to fill in for Dave Gambie, who was finding it difficult at that time to attend all the meetings,’ said Sandford CC stalwart Smith.

“I made it very plain I would not want to serve as chairman and had no problem with Joe taking the role.

“Although he had only been on the management committee for a year he was softly spoken, he exuded a quiet authority and was good to work with.”

Clowes was not a completely unknown quantity to league officials as long-serving members of the executive remembered him from the mid-1990s when Bowring Insurance sponsored the competition.

When league awards were handed out at the end of the season, insurance manager Clowes was dispatched by Bowrings to do the honours. He rose through the ranks to become managing director of Marsh UK before he retired in 2002.

Awards night 1993 – Exeter's Julian Smith collects the Premier runners-up cup from Joe ClowesClowes was re-elected as chairman for 2011 and 2012 but stood down for personal reasons in March 2012 and was succeeded by the then vice-chairman Stuart Munday.

Joe Clowes’ association with Abbotskerswell CC began in the mid 1980s when he moved into the village from nearby Marldon and started playing for the local team.

Clowes was a spin bowler who mainly played second-team cricket with some league fixtures thrown in.

It was not long before Clowes was offered a position on the committee and he served a term as secretary up to 1990. After a break from committee duties he returned as chairman in 2002 following the retirement of Tony Bowhay and filled that role until 2011.

When Keith Shakesheave stepped aside as fixture secretary in 2006, Clowes stepped in. He remained in place until 2014. He was made a life-member of Abbotskerswell CC the same year.

Cricket was one of Clowes’ passions; steam locomotives were another.

Clowes was a long-serving volunteer on the South Devon Railway (SDR), which operates the preserved line between Totnes and Buckfastleigh.

Ernest Elsworth-Wilson, general manager of the line, said Clowes was a man of many roles on the railway.

“Joe will be known to many from the various jobs he had across the railway, including being the regular face at Totnes station on Fridays and helping to keep the line side clear as part of the cutting-back gang,” said Elsworth-Wilson.

“Joe was also an integral part of the SDR, having been their treasurer for many years, and much to form had SDR matters under control right up until his passing.”

The last task Clowes carried out four days before he died was to file the railway company’s latest VAT return.

Other interests including twinning – he chaired Abbotskerswell’s twinning association between 2001-2003 – and choral singing.

“Joe was a member of the Ashburton Big Noise Choir run by Colin Rea and was so proud of having sung with them and other Big Noise choirs in the area at Exeter Cathedral over Christmas 2018,” said wife Liz.

Joe Clowes is survived by his wife and companion of 20 years Liz, son Stuart, step-children Richard, David and Sarah and eight grand-children.

A private funeral is due to take place on October 22. There will be a wake in Abbotskerswell Village Hall starting at 4pm. All friends welcome.

Joe Clowes relaxing on the platform at Totnes Riverside station with a cup of tea