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Memories of Richard

Then to Kent Farm Institute to study fruit farming and horticulture and following that a two month trip, travelling on his own, to study latest techniques in the USA and Canada. By then it was clear to us all that, as Mrs Collis had predicted, Rick could lead an independent and productive life. My parents were hugely proud; and they were equally happy when aged 26 he and Vanda were married and they made their home together at Western Court, the base for his fruit farm, with Cherry coming along a few years later. Professionally too was admired. After a visit in 1970, a well-known fruit grower and friend wrote to our mother: “We were so impressed by Richard’s fruit. The whole place was full of intelligent planning and was so obviously efficiently run. It must be wonderfully satisfying for you and Dick to see. Richard seems to be full of courage and personality.”

 

On this day I also remember our younger brother Jim who died in a motor racing accident aged 22. Rick and I shared together with our parents the crushing experience of that terrible loss. It created a special bond between us.

 

Rick never thought of himself as a sufferer or wanted to champion the cause of the disabled. If anything he made a laugh out of his disability. And what an inimitable laugh that was!

 

And after Vanda died it was a stroke of providence that led to a chance re-encounter with Jill, by then a widow herself; this led to them finding love, a shared passion for cricket, giving Rick ten totally unexpected happy years.

 

We can take comfort from the fact that his death was quick, that he did not suffer. The fact is that his walking was getting much worse and soon he would have been in a wheelchair - which he would have hated. Nor did he have to endure a long drawn-out illness - he would have been a terrible patient. He went in a way that perhaps we would all like to go. It was Woody Allen who said: “I’m not afraid of dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens”. Happily for Rick, he wasn’t there when it happened.

 

No one who encountered him ever forgot him - and, I may say, will ever forget him.

 

And so I have the honour to share with you all some special pride in the life and achievement of this uncomplaining, intelligent, convivial, perceptive man, endowed as his Headteacher had said, with a natural courtesy of manners which earned him friendship wherever he went. That was my big brother.

Eulogy by Walter Merricks

Rick was born soon after the war had started. Imagine what it was like for my parents to discover that their baby was not developing normally, couldn’t learn to walk, couldn’t control his arm or leg, couldn’t learn to say words properly. A handicapped child. There was no cure, and received medical opinion was that children like this should go into an institutional care home and live out their days there. This was partly because there was no known treatment, and also - awful to say this - society really didn’t want to see apparently deformed, spastic, children or adults.

 

But my mother was nothing if not persistent. Amazingly she discovered that a Cerebral Palsy Unit had opened in 1942 at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Carshalton run by a pioneering paediatric physiotherapist named Eirene Collis. It was the only one in the country. Mrs Collis believed that children with cerebral palsy were not necessarily mentally affected by the birth damage to their brain, and in the right hands their condition could be considerably improved.  In a paper she wrote: “From helpless invalids tied down in bed and treated as sick and of poor mentality, they can, if helped, lead full and happy lives”. These were radical, ground-breaking ideas. The children would need determination, effort and persistence in carrying out exercises and following drills, but she believed improvement and greater motor control could come. Thank goodness for pioneers.

 

So it was that for his first 12 years, long and short visits to Carshalton were part of Rick’s life. He was there for most of a year. Later we would be driven up to Carshalton every other Saturday for Rick’s treatment sessions. His walking improved. He learned to hold a fork or a spoon, controlling his right hand with his left, and learned to hold a mug or a glass – a pretty vital skill for the adult Rick. For him this was a struggle, there was frustration and resentment as he came to realize that while things had improved, he would never get completely better.

He learned to ride a bike, and could do most things except run. Early on cricket was a passion. Endless games on the Broadstreet lawn involving us three boys, Rick, Jim and me. I well remember how excited he was when he got a set of cricket pads as a birthday present. You can see photos of him wearing them on the memorial website.  From our big brother, Jim and I learned patience (you had to wait till Rick got the words out), resilience (we saw him tackling challenging physical effort) and respect (even if he failed there was never any self pity, only cackling laughter).

 

Normal schooling was not going to be successful, so he was largely home schooled with the help of a live-in tutor, until finally at the age of 14 he was able to go to Rye Grammar School. In his final term he wrote a note of thanks in the school magazine. He wrote: “I should like to thank all members of the School, both teachers and pupils for their friendliness to me. Everyone has been very understanding, and has regarded and treated me as no different from any other person, an attitude that always helps me to feel happy and at home”.

In reply the Headteacher wrote: “Richard has thanked us. I think we can just as sincerely thank him for the example he has given in the wonderful way he has overcome his disability, and above all for a natural courtesy of manners which earns him friendship wherever he goes, and is one of the truest signs of a real gentleman. To see him at “long on” diving to stop a drive was a sight to inspire anyone.”

Going back to the early days, John Newbury who made cricket bats, and therefore knew lots of cricketers, got a side together and called it The League of Gentlemen.  John was very friendly with Dennis Atkinson, who used to captain the West Indies and Dennis said to John that if he would like to bring the LOGS out to Barbados he would arrange the fixtures.

This was the first of many tours for the LOGS and was very successful and needless to say Rick was part of it.

I said earlier that Rick was disappointed that he could not take part in cricket,  but while in Barbados we found a pitch and put course and several of us decided to play.  Rick was encouraged to join in and was able to play pretty well. I shall never forget the pleasure he got by actually taking part, the smile on his face and the sheer determination to do ok.

Around this time, George Brann formed a side, made up mostly of local cricketers,and a few county players,  called the Circus Cavaliers, and Rick was invited to join which enabled him to meet the likes of Mike Deness, Brian Luckhurst, John Shephard and Norman Graham who often played for the Circus when not on international duty or playing for Kent.  Long term friendships were formed with these players who really respected his deep knowledge of cricket, and although Rick

 was physically disabled, his brain was as sharp as a tack and he could answer any questions about cricket,  and crosswords where an absolute doddle to him, but as his writing was a bit woncky, to say the least, he did the whole thing in his mind without writing anything down, quite amazing.

As time went by things changed and the Rye and Marden tours eventually petered out.  However Rick was determined to keep things going and formed a side called the Western Court Wanderers which continued to tour each year.  These tours were well supported by one or two old stalwarts and several of the younger generation.  This year's tour will go ahead in Rick's memory.

In 2007 Rick married Jill and it was the beginning of a great period in his life.  Jill loved cricket every bit as much as Rick and before long they were joining cricket tours to South Africa, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand and even Menorca. So most of the winters were spent watching cricket in hot climates.

Then back home in England they would both travel the country watching cricket.

Rick was a member of the MCC and was a regular visitor at Lords.  He also belonged to Kent and Sussex and numerous other clubs across the country.

A few years ago Rick and Jill met a friend from America and he invited them to Florida to join in a festival of cricket in Sarasota and needless to say they enjoyed wonderful hospitality.

When the cricket was over they drove across to Jacksonville to stay with friends of Jill.  They then drove to California and San Fransisco to stay with the Beaneys and finally headed up to Canada to stay with John Scott.   So you see their lives were hectic but full of fun and involved cricket for most of the 52 weeks of the year.

The friendships they made and the people they met is evidenced by the number of letters that Jill has received from people all over the world and one thing that comes out from these letters is that everybody thought Rick's cup was always half full, never half empty.

Rick died doing what he loved, he was about to have breakfast in a hotel before going with Jill to the 3rd day of a minor county match.

Jill had a wonderful life with him both of them doing what they loved most.  The only problem was it was too short.  He was a great man who fooled a lot of doctors by learning to walk and living to the ripe old age of 77.

God bless you Rick and thanks for the memories.

Eulogy by Mike Balcomb

 

Rick married Vanda in 1966 and Cherry, their daughter, was born in 1970 and produced a grandson, Harry in 2006.

 

Rick and his family lived at Western Court Farm Udimore where he was a very successful fruit farmer but sadly Vanda died after 40 years of marriage in 2006.

To say Rick was a cricket enthusiast was a huge understatement.  His biggest regret was that he was not able to play the game.  He was involved with cricket from a very early age always coming down to support Rye where most of his friends played.

Apart from weekends Rye also played a lot of mid week cricket on a Tuesday, and often on a Thursday as well when touring sides from all over the country came down to play.  One of the things Rick really enjoyed was that while a side was batting there were always people in the clubhouse which gave him the opportunity to talk to lots of people and get to know them forming a lot of friendships that were to last for a long time.  One man in particular was the Australian, Peter Crossing, who Richard stayed with in Australia and who stayed with Rick and Jill when over here.

One of the most popular sides to come to Rye was the

TVG and as it was pre breathalyser days, they were always up for a party after the game.  It was the tradition in those days for the touring side to buy jugs of beer for the home side, and Rick was very capable of drinking a pint of bitter through a straw as quickly as anyone.  However the TVG used to buy jugs of gin and tonic and Rick very quickly adapted to drinking large gin and tonics through a straw!

Ingham were another side that used to come down  from Norfolk, and Jack Borrett invited Rick to take a side back to Norfolk and so it was that Rick with a little help from John Sunnocks of Marden, started the Rye and Marden tours.  He arranged the players, the fixtures and the hotels.

I remember one match at Ingham when we were actually playing a two day game and although Jack and Rick were great friends, there was a lot of rivalry on the cricket field.

John Sunnocks was captain and Rye and Marden were fielding.  Things were not going that well so John decided to bring his strike bowler back, Tiger Wilson, affectionately known as the Bengal Tiger.  Now Tiger was pretty fast but could also be erratic.  Rick was watching by his car from the boundary.  Tiger came into bowl and the first ball bounced twice before reaching Clive Hacking, who was keeping wicket. The second ball was short and bounced over the batsman's head and managed to hit Clive on the foot much to everyone's amusement.  The 3rd ball was even shorter and bounced over the batsman's head and over Clive's head and thudded into the boundary.

By this time John was getting very concerned that Rick would not be impressed and was probably getting fairly cross.  However, when he glanced over towards Rick he was doubled up over the bonnet of his car and was in fits of laughter.

On a later occasion when Rye and Marden were touring Worcestershire we were due to play the Worcester Ramblers at Ombersleigh.  We all had lunch at the Hadleigh Bowler which had the oldest bowling green in the country and even King Henry 8th was rumoured to have played there so several of us decided to have a game.  In the meantime our umpire Norman Tyley had decided to bring his lunch out and sat down to watch the proceedings with his lunch on a chair next to him.  After a lot of encouragement, Rick decided to have a go but unfortunately as he bent down to bowl, he let go of the ball too late and it went up over his shoulder and landed in Norman's lunch, sending him flying and causing absolute chaos.

Clive Hacking and Rick did a lot of things together, and on one occasion they had been watching cricket all day at Canterbury, probably in the Hoppers tent, when on the way back Rick managed to demolish two keep left signs and his car ended up right in the middle of the traffic island.  When Clive realised that Rick couldn't go forwards or backwards he said come on Rick we'd better make a run for it to which Rick replied I don't think I'll be running anywhere!!

 

 

My Childhood by Cherry Merricks

Cricket.

Tractor rides.

The smell of apples.

Wet autumn holidays between cricket seasons home and abroad.

Taking the pick-up around the farm.

Cricket.

Sunday mornings and John and Sonja's.

Saturdays playing in pub carpark.

Gin and Tonic.

The smell of a pipe. 

Cricket.

Lots of laughter.

Swearing at the dogs and cat.

Very loud sneezes

And Cricket.