Firebrand Ray is still going strong at Tish

When Ray Proctor was a young cricketer in St Ishmaels he earned the reputation of being a firebrand fast bowler who was never afraid to let opposing batsmen what he thought of their stroke-play against him – and he also had over two years with Spurs at White Hart Lane as a very good young inside forward (that’s midfield to you youngsters!).
 Firebrand Ray is still going strong at Tish
He played his sport with a passion but finished both cricket and football relatively early because his work took him all round the world and even now, when he is at an age when most people like to sit back and watch the grass grow, he has recently jetted off to Houston, in the USA, to undertake another sizeable project.
But we caught him watching his beloved St Ishmaels take on Llangwm at Pill Parks just prior to leaving the county and it was great to take a walk down memory lane with a real character who would give you absolutely nothing on the pitch but was the first to buy an opponent a pint when they chatted in the bar afterwards!

Football at White Hart Lane

Ray played football for the county under 15s team that included John Davies (Solva) and the late John Walters (Milford Haven), and it was in 1962, when Ray was a nipper approaching his 16th birthday and playing for Haverfordwest County in the Welsh League that he had something of a shock. Manager Arthur Willis, himself a great footballer who was associated with Spurs, told Ray that he had fixed up for him to spend a month in a trial at White Hart Lane. It was a very nervous young Proctor who caught the train at Haverfordwest to London and stayed with Mrs Barney at 47 Aspens Road, near the famous ground.
He must have made something of an impression because he signed forms and had two years where he played for the youth team in FA Youth Cup matches at White Hart Lane, as well as for the second team alongside Phil Beal, Frankie Saul and John Sainty, who all went on to become professional players. One of his jobs was to clean the boots of star players, amongst them Jimmy Greaves and Cliff Jones, who was especially nice to his young fellow Welsh man.
Ray’s dad Cliff eventually went to see Spurs manager Bill Nicholson about his son’s prospects and, sadly, Ray was released when he was 18, as were so many other aspiring players of the time, and returned to St Ishmaels with very fond memories tucked neatly amongst his natural disappointments.

Back home with the ‘Manch’ and ‘Tish’

He played for the Manchester Club for a while, alongside old-timers like Royston Holman, and was in the team which caused a shock when they beat a very strong Fishguard Sports’ team at St Mary’s Field, including star players like Kenny Harries and John Luke by 3-2, the Sports’ first home defeat for a long time.
Ray played for St Ishmaels until he was 26 and then took over the running of the youth team for four years that had real characters like Mark ‘Dabbsie’ Davies, Robert Cockburn and Jeremy Howell, who moaned when he made them run along the coastal path and up and down to the beaches, whilst he trailed them on his push bike, barking out the orders.

“It certainly kept them fit,” says Ray with a chuckle as he recalls the images and the grumbling.
The family footballing connection was maintained by son David, who signed apprentice forms for Coventry City after playing alongside the likes of Mark Delaney locally at county junior level. There are also two daughters in Lucy and Nicola, with wife Jenny as the person nominated by Ray as the greatest support and influence on his life.

Great cricketing characters at Tish

On the cricket front, Ray started out at St Ishmaels as an 11 year old who had the likes of Stan Richards, Alan Jenkins, Alec Findlay and Wally Stephens as his mentors as he learned his skills playing alongside great characters like Hughie and Gerald Llewellyn, Eric Griffiths, Tommy Wood, Derek Jenkins and Reggie Phillips, plus Keith and Glyn Pawlett. They reached a number of semi-finals in the Harrison-Allen Bowl but missed out on a final appearance.

“But we stuck together as Tish boys and although I was invited to play elsewhere I could never have moved from the village,” admitted Ray, “but I did enjoy competing against others who had the same competitive edge as I did.”

“There was Russell James at Neyland, Peter Rees, Barry John and Dai Davies at Llangwm, Peter Hall, Gerald Hicks and Martin Cole at Carew, Alun Davies, Gareth Jenkins, Dai and Robert Lloyd at Llanrhian, Selwyn Cole at Cresselly, and others too numerous to mention.”

A lesson learned!

He also enjoyed the company of umpires who were characters like Len Barrah, Stan Richards, John Isaac and Cyril Venables; all charged with the responsibility of making sure that Ray didn’t cause chaos.
“I once upset Mr Barrah, as we called him, so he refused to hold my sweater when I was bowling. I put it down nearby and when I bowled my next ball he called ‘no ball’ – and I learned that day that Len was one of those umpires who couldn’t be messed about!
He played for the county at under 15 level and joined John Skone (Pembroke), Tony Myles (Haverfordwest) and Trevor James (Neyland) for Welsh trials in Cardiff but only John Skone was selected
“I was never picked for the county at senior level,” said Ray, “and I think it might have been because I was a little too outspoken for some of the selectors’ liking!”

Wickets galore

During his senior days he once claimed the first nine wickets in a local derby against Herbrandston.
“I was desperate to claim all ten but Glyn Pawlett bowled the last batsman – and I daren’t tell you what I said to him as we walked off the pitch!”

His top score was 95 at Pembroke Dock and, like most of his best scores, was made in a hurry.
“I wasn’t one to hang around so it was hit or miss in my batting time,” admitted Ray with a smile.

World-wide travel

Since he stepped down from both sports, Ray has spent a huge amount of time travelling with his work to places as far afield as Saudi Arabia, India, Egypt, Australia, Kazakhstan, and even Iraq, just before their war with Kuwait, which was hair-rising as Ray and Co could see the missile launchers and other weapons being erected in fields.

He played alongside Sri Lankans, Indians and Pakistanis in Saudi for a team named Yanbu – and in one game he found Pembrokians Russell James and Tacky Marchant amongst the opposing Pemreth side. Even Ray was speechless about that one!

And finally . . .

Looking back now, Ray laughs about how fiery he was but says he meant no harm.

“The best thing about coming home is that I sometimes bump into old adversaries and we always relive the old days. It’s a treat to see them and I wouldn’t have missed the sport I played, or the way I played it, because I was really a pussy cat who tried to roar like a lion, and meant to harm.”
As someone who faced that roar from time to time we can vouch for the fact that Ray Proctor was always good fun to play against – and it was lovely to relive some of a great character’s old memories with him!