County's cricket clubs pay tribute to gentleman John Williams

A minutes silices observed before 2019 Alec Colley Cup Final at Treleet

The large crowd at the Alec Colley Cup Final in Pembroke observed a minute's silence in memory of much-respected umpire John Williams, whose tragic accident whilst officiating at Treleet resulted in his passing away this week.

A similar scenario was also to be found the previous day at all cricket grounds across the county, including the wearing of black arm bands at some, as a token of the esteem in which John was held as a top umpire.

Played with Hundleton from the start

John WilliamsHe was also very much an integral part of his home village team of Hundleton, where he had been involved since the team was restarted in 1954, and being a major part of the development of their facilities at the community ground.

He joined other genuine characters like Dave Williams, Pop Willington, Ray Williams, Maurice Jones and Lionel Paish in the team alongside the Shepherd brothers Donald, Graham and John. They eventually entered the Third Division (South) in 1958 and they gained promotion to the second division in 1966, with John as captain.

Allan Brown Cup always a highlight

One of the undoubted highlights was Hundleton's involvement in the first three Allan Brown Cup Finals, for first teams outside the top two divisions - and after tying the first one against Cardigan, they beat Herbrandston and then missed out against Maenclochog - and when he was appointed chairman of the Pembrokeshire Association of Cricket Umpires and Scorers the final was always one that he and wife Hilary aattended.

Indeed, in one Allan Brown match he was joined by sons Mark and Jonathan, with Phil as a participating 12th man, and with Hilary scoring to complete the family involvement!

Interest started in umpiring – and recognition soon started

He played until he was well over 50, and was skipper during a number of seasons - and by then he was already involved in umpiring, starting at Burton when the Hundleton pitch was being built - and establishing a lasting friendship with Cyril Venables.

John had soon passed his local umpiring qualification and in 1981 he achieved success in the challenging Association of Cricket Umpires exam, with Gerry Steptoe, Jimmy Williams and Stan Richards as his mentors.

His umpiring skills quickly earned John recognition 'up the line' and after applying to join the Minor Counties' panel for two-day matches he was appointed for three games in his first season. He made his debut at Leek when Staffordshire entertained Buckinghamshire, and followed up with Shropshire v Oxfordshire (Wellington) and Herefordshire against Wiltshire (Leominster).

County representative at the Welsh Cricket Association and some big games ‘up the line’

John was also a local representative on the Welsh Cricket Association, attending two meetings a year in Cardiff in supporting local cricket matters - and his work locally on behalf of local umpires earned him Life Membership of PACUS.

As his reputation grew he was also invited to umpire a number of top competition finals in Wales, including the Welsh Counties Cup Final at Aberystwyth, the Welsh Cup Final in Swansea and the National Finals in Sophia Gardens.

Loved local matches with juniors and an amazing Alec Colley tussle

But John was equally at home umpiring locally and junior organiser Martin Jones said that John had officiated at every under 13s final since the competition began - and was ever-ready to help out at as many junior games as possible.

One of his most memorable matches came in the Alec Colley Cup and it  took four evenings to reach an outcome as Burton Seconds took on their counterparts from Lawrenny. They tied their first match, as they did the second a night later, and then, amazingly, there was a third tie 24 hours later! The match was featured at national level on television news and Burton eventually made it fourth time lucky!

Six Harrison-Allen Bowl Finals

It was the sort of tussle that John readily admitted he thoroughly enjoyed! He stood in the middle at the final of every cup in the county, including six Harrison-Allen Bowl Finals, starting in 1979 alongside Len Barrah when Cresselly beat Neyland.

He stood again in 1984 (with Graham Price when Cresselly beat Burton), 1993 with Les Hastings as Llangwm beat Cresselly), 2000 (with Dai Morris as Lamphey beat Hook), 2007 (again with Dai Morris as St Ishmaels beat Carew)  and 2014 (again with Les Hastings as Haverfordwest beat Cresselly).

Very much a proud family man

And now, at 80 years of age, John has departed the cricketing scene forever and our thought go out to Hilary, sons Mark, Jonathan and Phil, plus their wives and his grandchildren, because above all else he was a devoted family man and proud of them all.

He was hugely respected by cricketers across the county for his quiet, but firm approach and he treated players with respect and received it back in bucket loads - and he was a real gentleman off the field as well.

On a personal note I will miss John because whenever our paths crossed we chatted about the old characters, umpires and players that we had come across - and my family's hearts go out to John Williams' family at such a huge loss.

I also spoke briefly to four respected officials from our county’s cricket and this is what they had to say:

Paul Webb (Chairman, Pembroke County Cricket Club):

John's death was a terrible blow for cricket in our county because he was the epitome of all that is good in cricket. He commanded respect from players everywhere just by his calm, quiet control, knew the game inside out and was great company afterwards. John was a terrific umpire and real gentleman who will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with his family at this dreadful time.

Dave Brandon (Chairman of PACUS): This is a terrible loss for umpires and cricketers. When I arrived from Lancashire, John was one of the first colleagues I met - and was immediately impressed by his cricketing knowledge and feel for the game. We sometimes travelled together for Glamorgan 2nds matches and as well as enjoying the games we had some good times afterwards. He is impossible to replace and our thoughts go out to his family.

Trefor Evans (Hon. Assistant Secretary of Pembroke County Cricket Club and Hon Treasurer and Child Welfare Officer of PACUS):

The thing I admired most about John was his willingness to share his wealth of knowledge about the game with less experienced colleagues, without ever appearing to be talking down to them. I can speak with experience because when I started out umpiring he was such a huge help and I was never afraid to go to him for a chat. He was a real gentleman of our sport and my thoughts are with Hilary and the boys at this awful time.

Steve Blowes (Hon Secretary, Pembroke County Cricket Club):

When I came to Pembrokeshire from London I was immediately made welcome by some great umpires, and John Williams was one of the first to make me feel part of things in his quiet, positive way. I was very impressed by his umpiring skills and I've learned a lot just by watching him, and he will be sorely missed. I thought it was lovely that I have received messages of commiseration from around the world and the Welsh Guards played a Welsh song at Lords prior to the start of the second test - and dedicated it to John.