Alan Hill, born in Yorkshire in 1928, had a lifelong love of cricket and cricketers. That lifetime extended into his own nineties until he died on 5 February this year. His much loved wife, Betty, with whom he had enjoyed sixty years of marriage had died a few days earlier on 29 January. Alan and Betty had no children and were totally devoted to each other. It is fitting that they should pass away within a few days of one another.
Alan was brought up, before the Second World War, with a passionate regard for Yorkshire cricket. By 1939 Alan was fully aware of the glorious talent of Len Hutton continuing to unfold whilst the magic of Hedley Verity remained enthralling. At the end of that summer Hutton and Verity played their last game together as Yorkshire defeated Sussex at Hove to retain the County Championship. Alan then waited until near to the end of his teenage years before county cricket was played again.
After the war, journalism became Alan’s career. He learnt his trade with Yorkshire papers and years later dedicated a book he had written to “Old friends in South Yorkshire who helped to polish my talents as a writer”. He in time decided to move to London to join Hayter’s Sports Agency and became with them a writer on cricket and soccer. He preferred the word ‘soccer’ to ‘football’. He also became Assistant Editor for the magazine ‘World Sports’.
His own talent as a biographer did not emerge until 1969 when he helped Bill Alley with the writing of the autobiography ‘My Incredible Innings’. By this time Alan and had met and married Betty who had her own teaching career to sustain. They moved to Lindfield in Sussex, where cricket had been played on the local common for more than two hundred years. They lived in Lindfield for the rest of their lives and naturally an affection for Sussex cricket developed. Alan’s first book, ‘The Family Fortune: A Saga of Sussex Cricket’ was published in 1978. Five years later, with poignant glances back to Yorkshire greatness he wrote ‘A Chain of Spin Wizards’ tracing back the skills of Yorkshire left arm bowlers from Isaac Hodgson to Phil Carrick.
Alan’s breakthrough as a successful author came in 1986 with the writing of ‘Hedley Verity: A Portrait of a Cricketer’. That won Alan the Cricket Society Silver Jubilee Literary Award and much praise. His research had been diligent and his writing sympathetic and flowing. Thereafter over the next 25 years Alan wrote biographies of Johnny Wardle, Les Ames, Herbert Sutcliffe, Bill Edrich, Peter May, Jim Laker, The Bedsers, Brian Close, Tony Lock and Trevor Bailey. This output only ceased in 2012 when Alan was aged 84. Most books were very well received, not least by John Arlott, who wrote -” Mr Hill’s style is both balanced and unfussy; he knows when to state and when to quote”.
Alan would liked to have written a biography of Len Hutton. That opportunity did not come his way, but he did, in 2005, write a wonderful book, ‘Daring Young Men’, about that most famous of tours, in 1954/5 to Australia, and expressed in clear terms the joy that Len Hutton gave him - ‘a homage to a great cricketer who advanced the professional cause during his then evolutionary elevation to the England captaincy’.
Len Hutton, through his batting gave joy to Alan Hill. Alan Hill, by his writing, has given joy to members of the Cricket Writers' Club of which he was a proud member. February 21 2021