TRIBUTES TO MURRAY HEDGCOCK
CWC members and friends have been paying tribute to senior member and former News Corp London bureau chief Murray Hedgcock, who has died at the age of 90. Murray was an active member of the Cricket Writers' Club, serving on the Book Award subcommittee since its inception, and most recently helping to judge the 2020 award. The number of contributions from across the membership is testament to the high regard in which Murray was held.
Below are tributes from Brian Scovell, Patrick Kidd, Stephen Brenkley, Rob Steen, Clayton Goodwin and - with kind permission of The Cricketer - the full obituary written for the magazine by David Frith.
From Brian Scovell
Murray Hedgcock represented all the good about cricket - he was soft spoken, helpful with historical facts, and was a teetotaller who never swore.
Born in Melbourne on February 23, 1931 he would have known that James Lillywhite junior, the first England’s captain in 1842 was born on that date at Westhampnett, Sussex and went on six tours to Australia. Bill Woodfull was one of his first headmasters.
After working in a bank he joined The News in Adelaide.
He first arrived in London to watch the Ashes series in 1953 and lodged near the Oval and was successfully given a press pass for a local newspaper.
Considerably younger, I was sitting in the Vauxhall Stand when Denis Compton swept England to victory but I remember our first meeting in the early 1960s while working on the Daily Sketch.
He then was appointed the cricket correspondent of the “The Australian" until his retirement. He edited a collection of PG Wodehouse’s titled “Wodehouse at the Wicket" in 1997 and was a member of the CWC panel which chose the best cricket book of the year and when he died suddenly on May 6 he was reviewing my 28th sports book “Learie - The Man Who Broke the Colour Bar.”
He was also a very active member of The Cricket Society.
From Patrick Kidd
A former London correspondent for The Australian, whose headmaster at school in Melbourne had been Bill Woodfull, Murray had been a longserving member of the Cricket Writers Club (I believe he was still on the book award committee) as well as the Cricket Society and MCC. Reflecting his love of both the sport and the work of PG Wodehouse, he was author of the collection Wodehouse at the Wicket. He also helped to set up the Wodehouse Society cricket team, the Gold Bats, and their annual match against the Sherlock Holmes Society, which was played under the 1895 Laws and reflected Murray's own tastes: so helmets, reverse-sweeps and hits to the leg side were frowned on and moustaches encouraged. He also banned fielders from diving unless it could be shown they had hit the ground "through ineptitude or decrepitude". He did not disapprove of all progress, though, being immensely proud when his granddaughter Georgia started to play the game and very supportive of women's cricket in general. He was a gentleman, a kind man and an interesting man and Lord's will be a slightly less lovely place without him.
From Stephen Brenkley
For years, Murray sat in front of me in the new press box at Lord’s. For years, although we were both ever-presents, we did not say exchange many words.
There was a ‘good morning’ here and a ‘good evening’ there and at first not much in between. I knew who he was, of course, and I was slightly in awe of him.
He shared my undying admiration for the works of PG Wodehouse and had compiled an anthology of all the comic master’s works that included cricket. These were faithfully reproduced in Wodehouse At The Wicket which also contained a masterly introduction written by Murray. A compendium, he called it.
As the seasons went by, I would occasionally ask his opinion on some part or other of the play, or more often, on matches gone by which I thought might be pertinent to what was unfolding before us. He would invariably have a crisp, well-modulated opinion, amiably delivered, but very definitely Australian.
It was clear that he read avidly about the game and had firm ideas. Barely a cricket book was published that did not make its way to Murray’s collection even if he loathed its contents.
When – at long last – the CWC decided to introduce an annual award for the best cricket book of the year I agreed to assemble a panel to do the judging. Murray was the first person I asked to join it and I never thought of not asking him every year afterwards.
He was a wonderful judge: shrewd, logical, recognising easily what was good writing and what was pretending, holding strong opinions but always willing to listen to the other side of the argument. So long had he been involved in the game and so much did he care for it that he could often persuade me and the others to see his point. You knew that not a word we were judging had gone unread by Murray.
He met Rupert Murdoch when they were both boys in Adelaide and over the decades they stayed mates. In later years Murray would provide his old pal/boss with a daily round-up of the English papers, an arrangement that suited them both.
All that time, it perplexed Murray that Rupert had little or no time for cricket. In truth, it perplexed him why anyone would have little time for cricket (although he forgave his wife who was German). It delighted him when his granddaughter, Georgina, came to share his passion for the game.
We were unlikely luncheon companions, not least perhaps because he was steadfastly teetotal. But we rubbed along extremely well and when he gave me a signed copy of Wodehouse At The Wicket I was overjoyed. It was one of the first books I saved when we had an attack of damp in the garden shed last year and I immediately placed it in a more exalted position where no harm could come to it. There it will stay.
From Rob Steen
Murray was crusty and contrary, old school with a grin and a wink. He could have picked an intellectual fight with Norman Mailer and kayoed him inside a minute with half his brain tied behind his back. To eavesdrop on his press box debates with David Frith in the 1980s was all the education a fledgling hack needed. To be allowed to very occasionally butt in, and maintain an email relationship with Murray until shortly before his death, were also delightful privileges. Me being stubbornly middle-aged school, anti-nostalgist and un-Australian, we seldom agreed, but who cares? A passion shared is a passion squared. And besides, we always giggled, at ourselves as much as anything. RIP.
From Clayton Goodwin
The contributors here, some of whom were acquainted with Murray for longer and more intimately than myself, have covered the variety and achievements of his life so fully that for me to attempt to add would be an impertinence. However, I can write of the gentleman I knew and sat beside many times in the press-box. In this profession colleagues are many, but real friends are few. Yet everyone who knew Murray could claim him justly to be a friend, and I have not heard anyone speak a bad word of him, which must be so unique as to be otherwise impossible. On arriving in the press-box it was always reassuring to see Murray already there and hope to get a seat close to him. His talk (in an almost soft confidential voice) on cricket, politics and the world – though never the flesh and the devil – was both knowledgeable and interesting, a rare combination. His e-mail correspondence was appreciated and his Christmas card/newsletter with news and comments on cricket and his family was awaited eagerly. His words were considered, and his opinions were thoughtful, knowledgeable, principled, sometimes judging but never judgemental. His quiet censure packed greater authority than the slashing deletions by any editor. To follow Rob Steen’s remark, I hope that when my time comes to depart I can find accreditation in The Lord’s elysian press-box again between Murray Hedgcock and David Frith with the topic ….. on cricket …. almost anything - but particularly the Australians who graced the county championship in the 1950s. Yes, Murray, as you told me a good few years back, and as I have now found for myself, the joy of being a grandfather (or “Opa”) is immense.
Steven Lynch also tells the club that Murray helped out with some of the better Ask Stevens on ESPN Cricinfo.
Murray Hedgcock Obituary (published here with kind permission of The Cricketer magazine)
By David Frith
A career journalist who spent nearly three-quarters of his life in England, Murray Bertram Hedgcock seemed no less Australian with each passing year. Not for a moment would he have considered redirecting his fervent support for his native land during an Ashes series. Yet he had a strong ancestral feel for England. He was also a fervent devotee to the writings of P.G.Wodehouse, producing a felicitous book about him in 1997: Wodehouse at the Wicket.
Born in Upwey, a rural town in Victoria, and proud to have had Australia’s Bodyline battle-weary skipper Bill Woodfull as his high-school headmaster, in due course the youthful Murray found himself working in an Adelaide newspaper office alongside the owner’s young son, Rupert Murdoch. Hedgcock ventured to London in 1953 and began an enduring employment with the News Limited group as chief of the UK bureau. Always his heart was in cricket, and always, notwithstanding decades of residence in south-west London, his sympathies – if that’s the word – were with his native land. Behind the calm and deceptively solemn countenance, he remained deep down the lad from Ferntree Gully, in Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges.
There was something slightly contradictory about his life and career. It was almost as if to some degree he felt trapped in an alien country, displaying a fierce loyalty to Australia, while at the same time admiring the fundamentals of traditional English life, perhaps in recognition of his ancestry, his creation of that Wodehouse book being a pointer. Murray Hedgcock was also active in the Cricket Society movement, as well as in local affairs, writing regularly about the history of the Richmond and Twickenham area. His research on the John Wisden factory in Mortlake was particularly significant. He was also a keen collector of cricket books.
A sometime Methodist lay preacher, by his own definition he was a “clean-living, non-smoking, non-gambling, non-swearing church-goer, who went to cricket matches for the cricket, and not to cut up rough”. The notorious Bay 13 at the MCG used to be a peaceful place for one who described himself as a “quiet and ultra-respectable kid”. The youngster first sat there in November, 1946 to watch the visiting Englishmen play Victoria. Later that summer a pocket-money shortage disappointingly prevented him from watching Ray Lindwall hit a century in the Melbourne Test; but he did see leg-spin genius Bruce Dooland at work, later proclaiming him to have been the finest leggie he ever saw, Benaud and Warne notwithstanding. Murray was also witness to a famous delivery in Ashes history: Hassett bowled by a perfect fizzing Doug Wright leg-break at the MCG in 1950-51.
Murray Hedgcock took time off from the Murdoch offices in London to fly to the Centenary Test match in 1977, staged at an MCG, which to him was now unrecognisable. By then he had dropped roots firmly in England with his family, a prime example of an Anglo-Aussie whose natural posture involves looking in opposing directions much of the time.
Murray Bertram Hedgcock was born on February 23, 1931, and died on May 6, 2021