Tributes paid to cricket and rugby stalwart John Murray

Tributes have been paid to former Crawley Cricket Club player, umpire and committee member John Murray who died this week.

Friday, 6th November 2020, 1:38 pm
John Murray in action

Current Crawley CC chairman Gul Khan said on behalf of the committee: "Over the years John had been pivotal in shaping Crawley Cricket Club. His love for the sport resonated every time he played or watched a game. John will be sorely missed by everyone in the cricketing community and our sincerest condolences are extended to his family.

"John was a great and longstanding servant of the club in his various roles and he will be sorely missed."

Former Crawley skipper Geoff Short, who captained the team in the 1980s, said: "I knew John for a long time since Ifield Grammar School played St Wilfrids at rugby in 1961. He was such a genuine bloke and one of the best club men I have ever met.

John Murray

"Unknown to many he was also a very accomplished amateur boxer as a teenager and he beat Gordon Spilling twice in county competitions and that was no mean feat.

"RIP John and thanks for all you did for St Francis Rugby Club and Crawley Cricket Club.’

Many of the current Crawley team along with a few ex-players were present at the funeral of club stalwart and Murray’s good friend Tony Brand earlier this year.

Murray was renowned for his love of sport, especially cricket and rugby, and played an active role socially and convivially for more than 50 years.

John Murray receiving his long service award from Gareth Chilcott, England & British Lions

Former Sussex and Glamorgan cricketer Keith Newell came through Crawley Colts and he said: "Another legend of Crawley CC. RIP John", while other ex-players were fulsome in their praise of a player whose unorthodox bowling claimed countless victims.

Murray perfected the ‘pie’ which he rained down from a great height. Gareth Richardson said: "I remember one President’s v Chairmen’s XI game, he walked in to bowl tome and I thought “this is simple, just step outside off stump and hit it over…Oh no. Middle stump.” He was a lovely man who will be missed by all who had the pleasure to play with him. And when he bowled, the ball came down with ice on. I know that."

Current Crawley player Paul Bowden added: "At a Sunday game at Pulborough he took seven wickets with his “lobs”. He craftily bowled with the sun behind him as it set!"

Ex-player Andy Wales said: "John would have dined out on that seven-wicket haul at the Legion for a while. Nothing gave him as much pleasure as getting out “proper” batsmen. I think he remembered every one of his wickets and his 0 not outs."

Gareth’s brother Kingsley added: "He was a real gentleman in every sense of the word and a real devotee of the game we all love. RIP John."

Former second team skipper Dean Morris played most of his cricket with Murray and remembered fondly: "John could navigate to any ground in Sussex using pubs as waypoints."

At one memorable match in the 1980s, after Murray began the season with a string of first-ball ducks, he finally nicked a run and his team mates burst into applause.

An impressed fielder asked the Crawley players: "Is that his 1,000 runs in May?"

When he was told his team were the first team in southern England not to remove Murray first ball and then concede a run to him, he uneasily shifted away from the celebrations.

John Murray was a one-off, a genuine club man who loved cricket and rugby with equal verve and did everything he could to make sure everybody enjoyed those sports as much as they could.

Losing him and Tony Brand in the same year is a devastating blow to the local sporting fraternity but what they put in place continues to reap reward with the next generation of teams coming through.

Russell Macintosh, St Francis Rugby Club Club President, said: John was an ever present stalwart of St Francis, in his younger days as a player or latterly as a spectator come rain or shine. He always had a welcoming smile and was the type of character that all clubs need. He will be sadly missed by all,young and old."

Chairman Vince McGahan said: "John played for over 30 seasons for St Francis RFC & was a founding member in 1960, he was a very talented player & captained the Club for numerous seasons.

"He was always a very sociable person & always welcomed new members to our club, loved his sport particularly Rugby & Cricket. It has been a long time tradition at St Francis Lunches and dinners that John said grace ... but perhaps not a verse that you would hear in Church on a Sunday.

Tony Lock said: "My memory of John is when I joined the club in the early 70’s I always found him very supportive making younger players feel welcome and helping them develop. I played fir many years and he used to inspire us with his skills, speed and determination.

"I will always remember him as a good friend and practical joker."

Rob Stewart said: "John played cricket for Crawley cricket club for many years as well as organising the fixtures He was a very sociable cricketer known for his bowling delivery which was so high that it came down with ice on it but it was very effective !!

"He organised a cricket touring side to Devon called the Ducklings for approximately 23 years enjoyed by all age groups , who were attracted by Johns humour and enthusiasm for the game .

"After he hung up his cricket boots he became an umpire for the Sussex League which he enjoyed immensely."