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John Gordon Dewes

by
05 June 2015

Cricketer and teacher: John Dewes

Cricketer and teacher: John Dewes

Kenneth Shenton writes:

JOHN DEWES, who died on 12 May, aged 88, was the last living English cricketer to have played in Donald Bradman's final test match at the Oval in 1948.

Then a Cambridge undergraduate, perhaps thrown into international battle prematurely, sadly he was never quite able to consolidate the rich sporting promise of those early years. Later, both here and in Australia, he enjoyed a distinguished career in education.

An aggressive and entertaining left-handed opening batsman, born on 17 October 1926, John Gordon Dewes was educated at Aldenham School. He made his first-class debut at Lord's in the 1945 Victory Test against Australia. While reading Geography at St John's College, Cambridge, he won Blues for both hockey and cricket. Soon he was a member of one of the finest batting sides in the history of the university.

Against Essex, at Fenners in 1949, he shared an unbeaten second-wicket partnership of 429 with Hubert Doggart, at that time an English record. In May 1950, facing the West Indies, Dewes, with 183, and David Sheppard, with 227, put on 343 for the first wicket. Three weeks later, in an opening stand of 349 against Sussex, again in the company of David Sheppard, Dewes contributed a magnificent double century.

While Sheppard went on to become Bishop of Liverpool, Dewes, too, contemplated the priesthood, before teaching won the day. These two lifelong friends, both greatly influenced by the writings of Frank Morrison, always made time each week for Bible reading, discussion, and prayer. While touring Australia and New Zealand together with MCC in 1950-51, each asked not to be considered for selection for any Sunday cricket.

Having been chosen for the ill-fated Ashes Test at the Oval in 1948, there Dewes partnered Len Hutton, as England lost by an innings and 149 runs. He appeared twice against the West Indies in 1950, making 67 at Trent Bridge, before touring Australia and New Zealand with MCC the following winter. Though winning two further caps, he struggled badly against the pace of Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller.

Between 1948 and 1956, while he was teaching first at Tonbridge and then Rugby, summer holidays were invariably spent playing county cricket for Middlesex. He was capped on his debut, and, among many typically combative displays, none was perhaps finer than when he carried his bat against Surrey at the Oval in August 1955. Out of the Middlesex total of 203, Dewes remained undefeated on 101.

Appearing in 137 first-class matches, he scored 8564 runs at an average of 41.77. He passed 1000 runs three times, and his best season was 1950, when he scored 2432 runs. His highest score was the 212 he made against Sussex at Hove in 1950. Always a wholehearted and committed team player, he also had 48 catches to his name.

With his natural authority and many gifts, it was perhaps inevitable that Dewes should think of promotion to a headship. This duly came in September 1958, with a move to New South Wales as Headmaster of Barker College, Sydney.

Placing the newly completed Memorial Chapel at the heart of this Anglican foundation, he considerably improved the facilities, expanded the range of subjects, and presided over an increase in pupil numbers. His enthusiasm, but, above all, his constant demand for excellence, endeared him to all who came under his influence.

After he returned to England in 1968, his talents found a particularly happy and expressive outlet teaching geography at Dulwich College. There, over the course of the next 24 years, equally at home in the classroom or on the games field, he enjoyed great success coaching both hockey and cricket.

A schoolmaster in the widest sense of the word, for 20 years he ran the school's Christian Union. Among the many to benefit from his wise counsel as a careers master was a young Nigel Farage.

He married Shirley Henderson in 1954. The couple had five children, two boys and three daughters, one of whom, Debbie, is Vicar of St Luke's, Brislington, in Bristol diocese.

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