Arthur Milton was surely the last of that rare breed – a man good enough to play cricket and football for England. Twelve have had that rare distinction but the all-year-round nature of both sports makes it impossible that the feat will happen again.
Arthur had played 12 games for Arsenal when he was called up to play against Austria in 1951 because two legends, Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney, were unavailable. He decided to concentrate on cricket at the relatively young age of 29 in 1955 and Arsenal sold him to his home town club, Bristol City, for whom he made 14 appearances. He had played 84 times for Arsenal, scoring 21 times.
Although he had been picked as 12th man for the series against Australia in 1953 (and again against South Africa in 1955) he did not play his first Test until 1958. Coincidentally, he opened the innings against New Zealand at Headingley with Mike Smith, who was a double rugby and cricket England international. Milton scored 104 not out. That performance put him in the squad to visit Australia. He finished his six-Test career with 204 runs at 25.50. He was more at home playing for Gloucestershire, which he did from 1948 until 1974. He finished with more than 32,000 runs and 56 hundreds in first-class cricket. He was also outstanding in the field with 758 catches. In retirement he became a postman in Bristol and later a paper boy because he still wanted to cycle over the Downs in Bristol in the early morning. He received an honorary MA from Bristol University and could ask with a chuckle how many universities gave a degree to someone who delivered their papers!
He asked former Worcestershire secretary Mike Vockins to work on the book with him but sadly died midway through the project. Mike finished the book by speaking to many of the people who Arthur met in his long and distinguished career.
As well as being a prominent figure in the world of cricket, having managed England A tours to Australia and Pakistan, Mike Vockins is Rural Dean of Ledbury and as a Prebendary of Hereford Cathedral. He is also a member of the ECB’s Major Match Group responsible for recommending the allocation of Test Matches, One-Day Internationals and the finals of domestic competitions. He lives with his wife Eileen on the north western slopes of the Malvern Hills in a cottage in which Sir Edward Elgar composed The Dream of Gerontius.
'Boys Own' stuff
... a fascinating insight into the life and times of Arthur Milton... It was Boys Own stuff and today Arthur Milton would undoubtedly be a multi-millionaire sportsman with sponsors, agents and a string of products or places vying to be associated with him.
Vockins has written a most magnificent biography of Milton, which brings out the sporting qualities and personal amiability of its subject. But is it a biography? I would call it a superb work of journalism. Sadly, Milton died (in 2007, aged 79) while Vockins was still coaxing his life story out of him. But, finally, four years later that story can be told, and Milton feels ever-present throughout, as Vockins seamlessly reports the double international?s own words. I cannot believe a better book would have emerged had he lived to see its publication. ?what a wonderful story it is. Milton would have been proud and, I?m sure Vockins would tell us, embarrassed at the result.
Mike Vockins has written a thoroughly engaging biography of a man who, after just a dozen games for Arsenal, was called up to play for England against Austria in 1951, when he was preferred to Stanley Matthews.
...affectionate, informative and readable biography
(Mike) Vockins, whose sporting pedigree was established by his many years as chief executive of Worcestershire, delivers an affectionate, informative and readable biography of a sportsman whose like will not be seen again. And the Herefordshire connection is completed by Guardian columnist and county resident Frank Keating who provides a typically rhapsodic foreword, celebrating one of the heroes of his younger days.
...a vivid picture of the man and the cricketer
I'm reading the biography of Arthur Milton. It's written by Mike Vockins, who was secretary of Worcestershire for 30 years. There are those who think that Ian Botham invented cricket in about 1980; and this book is probably not for them - but it's an amazing story of a remarkable man and the times, now long gone, in which he lived. Arthur Milton of Gloucestershire was the last person to play both soccer and cricket for England. He opened the batting for England in 1958 with our own MJK Smith who was the last person to play for England at both cricket and rugby. He was a highly gifted sportsman and an extremely popular personality. He played for Gloucestershire with distinction for a quarter of a century and scored 56 first-class hundreds. What makes him unusual, especially by modern standards, is that, after he retired, he became a postman; and when he had to retire from that, he did newspaper deliveries in the same area (Sneyd Park in Bristol, where I lived briefly a few years ago). But this isn't a riches to rags story of a sad decline. Arthur took these jobs from choice, because he enjoyed being out in the open air of his beloved Downs and having the opportunities to meet people. He was a highly intelligent man who could do the Daily Telegraph crossword in record time and could have applied his mind to a whole range of possible second careers; but he was blissfully happy just delivering mail or newspapers. He died in 2007 aged 79. Mike Vockins spent many hours interviewing Arthur before his death, as well as talking to many of his contemporaries, so he is able to paint a vivid picture of the man and the cricketer - and of the times in which he lived and performed. It's a highly entertaining and informative read. If there is any criticism, it is that maybe Mike Vockins goes a bit overboard in his appreciation of his subject. Mike is now the Rural Dean of Ledbury so I'd love to hear one of his sermons. I suspect that he sees God as a bit like Arthur Milton - but not quite so strong off the back foot.
It could be argued that had Milton been a more driven, self-centred personality he would have achieved greater international recognition, but as this affectionate and well-researched biography makes clear, that is to miss the point entirely. For full review go to http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/arthur-milton-by-mike-vockins-2302999.html
It is a remarkable story, not least for the way in which he eschewed all thoughts of conventional retirement and chose to get up before dawn, first to work as a postman and later, when he was told he could not go on beyond 60, to deliver papers so that he could continue to enjoy watching the sun come up on his beloved Clifton Downs, the part of Bristol which had long been his home.
A vivid picture of the life of a talented professional sportsm ... I am pleased that Mike Vockins wrote this up. It provides a glimpse of the life and times of a gifted sportsman who looked back on his life with some regrets. Not unlike the rest of us. Thanks Mike.
Well served by author
Milton?s omission from the book shelves has now been rectified. He has been well served by his author. The research has been thorough and never remotely like a boring sermon. Personal dressing-room asides are plentiful. There is not much sign of confrontation but you would not expect that from ?Art?. ? He was a likeable, diffident sportsman (neatly described by the author), at his best when pondering the game?s intricacies. That was something he often did to my benefit in the days when latterly he delivered my post and then my papers. He was at his most contented in that early-morning solitude on his bike as nature awakened. There was nothing flash or ostentatious about him. He looked in a hurry only when going for sprightly singles. Vockins does well to underscore the more withdrawn nature of the man.
I so enjoyed this fine biography
I so enjoyed this fine biography and I commend it to my readers. The book is rich in fascinating quotations from Arthur in conversation with Mike Vockins. The comments of several of Arthur?s contemporaries only add to the interest for the reader.