As a Derbyshire county player, Brian Jackson has many memories, playing against and alongside England stars, as well as visiting players from Australia, the West Indies, South Africa and India. But his most vivid and happy memories are probably from his boyhood days, when ‘Taxal was our playground’.
Part of that playground is the large field off Macclesfield Road/ Linglongs Road in Whaley Bridge. Now soggy and full of reeds, it was once smooth enough for Brian to learn his cricket on. It is now the subject of a battle between developers who would like to build houses on it and locals like Brian who want to keep it green and clear for children of today to enjoy the simple pursuits he enjoyed nearly 70 years ago.
In his living room full of cricket photos and souvenirs, Brian says: “I don’t agree with the building. But I am 80 now – too old to get hot under the collar about things. It would be an awful shame if it was built on. We played on it winter and summer, sledging, November the Fifth bonfires, cricket, fishing in the river by tickling trout.”
Brian and his wife Jennie have sent their objections to building proposals on the greenfield site to High Peak Borough Council. They live on Linglongs Road. Brian says: “From our bedroom, we would see the rooftops of any new houses.”
Brian was born in Kettleshulme in 1933. He clearly remembers hearing Neville Chamberlain announcing on the radio “We are now at war”. A little while after that, his dad, fed up of dawn walks from Kettleshulme to be at his job at the Botany mill in Whaley Bridge for 6am, moved the family to Macclesfield Road. Brian’s play days were just about to get better.
“The fields used to be green grass, like a lawn,” he recalls. “We played cricket three or four times a week. It’s where I really started my apprenticeship as a cricketer.”
He remembers a kind man, Arthur Oldfield, who lived on Macclesfield Road and liked cricket. He placed silver sixpenny bits on the bails of the wicket and if a boy could bowl him out, he could keep the sixpence that fell off. “I won loads of them,” said Brian, who would go on to be a fast bowler with Derbyshire. One season, he took 120 wickets, and was second in the national bowling averages, just behind colleague Harold Rhodes.
Another man who helped Brian to develop his cricket was Arthur Vollands, head of the Taxal Lodge special school, who was Whaley Bridge’s opening batsman. He had a practice square at the Lodge, and encouraged Brian to improve his bowling.
“I was never coached, it all came naturally”, he said. From Whaley Bridge 2nd team he moved to national service in 1952, with the RAF in Egypt. Playing on rolled, solid sand, with matting along the full 22 yards, he played for the RAF and Combined Services. They only lost one match in two seasons. Professional roles followed, then two five year stints with Derbyshire.
“It was a great life,” he says. “I enjoyed every minute.” Now he would just like to see the big field below his house stay as green – and building-free – as it was in those halcyon boyhood days.