Around The Boundary - Huw Simpkins

Huw Simpkins loves cricket – and is one of the new breed of umpires in our county 

Huw Simpkins in his new white coatOne of the best things about watching local cricket is the fact that one never knows who will be walking around the other way, or sitting on a bench, who you know - or a smile and a chance hello can develop into a chat, and even a friendship over a period of time.  

And one such person for this writer is Huw Simpkins, whom I first met at Narberth and now see on the circuit because he is one of a new breed of younger men who are setting out as umpires. 

Works hard for Narberth Cricket – and loves it there 

Huw has long worked hard off the field for Narberth since he joined the committee in 2005, eventually took his coaching qualifications and got involved there - and became club chairman when Billy Scale passed away. 

“It was a big pair of shoes to fill,” admitted Huw, “but I did my best and had plenty of help from Richard Howell and everyone else involved in the club. 

Outside of his evident love of cricket, he enjoys watching a range of other sports and is joined by his son Josh in being huge Manchester City fans so it’s been a good end of the footballing season for him! 

Early start watching Glamorgan and playing in school 

Huw and cricketing pal Richard HowellHuw’s interest in cricket stemmed from the time he was about 7 or 8 and was taken to watch Glamorgan by his dad Ron, who loved cricket alongside doing lots with fishing and shooting, and Huw loved watching Robert Croft and Huw Morris. 

“I grew up with Ian Hughes and Richard Adams,” Huw told us, “and we were encouraged to play by Mr Des Stone, who was then head of Narberth CP School. 

“They were already very good players and Ian got me to join the Narberth junior team coached by Bobby Simons, which twice won our age group in the county - and I started off as an off-spinner and eventually morphed into a middle-order batsman. 

Great honesty and memorable early moments 

Huw enjoying himself with wife Debbie“To be honest, I knew then that I was never going to be in the same league as they were but I was thrilled at under 13 level when I was given a bowl towards the end of an innings against Carew and took a hat-trick as I clean bowled two tail-enders and had another caught - and I can remember another great occasion for me when I trapped Simon Cole from Cresselly LBW because he was already playing senior cricket and was destined to be one of the best-ever cricketers of our era. 

“I started turning up on Saturdays, just in case I could get a game if someone dropped out through illness or injury, and I gradually began to get games on a more regular basis - and a team highlight came in 1992 when we won the Alec Colley Final at Pembroke. 

“I was down as No 15 on the team sheet but on the bus on the way to Treleet I found I was in the team and was thrilled. I didn’t bat or bowl, and ran from fine leg to fine leg as a fielder but I was 14 and will never forget being part of an otherwise strong team that was captained by John Owen and had Peter Hughes, Greg and Paul Morris along with me as I collected my winners’ medal!” 

Loved being skipper of Narberth Thirds 

Huw and son Josh cheer on Manchester CityHuw was in and out of the second team for a few years but when the club started a third team in 2003 he was delighted to be asked to be captain. 

“We played at Llanddewi Velfrey and I was lucky to have John Owen to give advice (which he did on a regular basis) and Neil ‘Cookie’ Rossiter, who enjoyed the less-serious form of cricket and regularly took loads of wickets or hit big scores. 

“We really enjoyed playing against other teams who had old stagers alongside teenagers just starting out in the game but sadly there was a lack of numbers and I went back to helping out the seconds when needed. I also played odd games for the firsts when they were short, against the likes of Carew and Neyland but I knew I was a bit out of my depth and just did my best!” 

Persuaded’ to take up umpiring by Debbie 

Huw also became more involved off the field but readily admits that the onset of Covid caused problems because he absolutely missed the camaraderie that cricket brought and decided that it was a good time to still help Narberth when needed but took the umpires’ course on line, helped by some ‘one on one’ meetings with Richard Merriman, who was training officer for the county club. 

“I was lucky that my wife Debbie suggested I should give it a shot and she’s been brilliant ever since, with children Josh (19) having played some cricket as a junior and Jessica (16) playing girls’ football as well as being a grade six in ballet! 

And finally . . . 

Huw in the Man City changing room at The Etihad“I asked Arthur Brady, the umpires’ appointments officer, if he could help me out by allocating cup matches and he was also a great help and so it happened that in 2023 I had lots of games - and also officiated regularly in the Midweek T20 League so well organised by Craig Butland from Pembroke Dock. 

“My first Division One game this year in the middle was Saundersfoot against Carew and it was played in a very good spirit - and I have also helped my old pal Richard Howell and his wife Rhian as they still do a great job of organising the Ken Morris Cup. 

“And now that the new season has finally started I am really looking forward to umpiring, having the best seat in the house. I am happy to go anywhere in the county and officiate in whatever division or cup games I get allocated. I am really enjoying this new phase in my love of cricket and my only regret is that I wish I had started out with my white coat a little earlier!”