Nico Craven: Sports historian who chronicled cricket's golden age

The harbinger of any new season for cricket lovers has always been the publication of a book. Alongside the more august Wisden, for many this meant the annual offering from Nico Craven, an endearingly dotty cricket nut who for 34 years was Gloucestershire's most prolific chronicler.

A son of the manse, Nico, whose pronunciation he always insisted rhymed with psycho, spent his formative years in Painswick, near Stroud, where his father was vicar. Taken to the 1935 Cheltenham Cricket Festival, there he first saw the Gloucestershire batsman Wally Hammond effortlessly take 170 off the might of the South African tourists. Instantly captivated, for more than 70 years he remained the county's most unwavering supporter.

Educated at Harrow, following National Service he enrolled on the first Home Office Course for Housemasters in Approved Schools. His first job took him to Pelham House, an elegant 18th century mansion at Seascale in West Cumbria affiliated to the Boys' Club movement. It provided accommodation for troubled youngsters who had fallen foul of the courts or been deemed to be out of parental control.

Throughout his years there, presiding over his charges like a rather indulgent paterfamilias, he proved an inspirational guide for many generations of young people. Amid what was then a most Spartan environment, in addition to academic tuition the school enthusiastically embraced its rugged rural ambience. For many, this proved as character-building as the curriculum in the classroom.

When responsibility for Pelham House was devolved from the Home Office to the local authority in 1969, Craven moved across to become Organising Secretary for the Cumberland and Westmorland Association of Boys' Clubs. An assiduous worker for many and varied other local causes, prominent among which was The Howgill Family Centre based in Whitehaven. Closely involved since its inception, he later served as its President.

His writing career began in earnest in 1969. Thereafter, with cuckoo-like precision he produced a book a year up to 2003. Privately printed and richly illustrated, each labour of love was generally prefaced by one of the leading cricket writers of the day, everyone from Matthew Engel to John Woodcock.

While his many volumes range widely over all aspects of the game, Gloucestershire cricket clearly remained his primary love. Always quick to seize on the game's humour and eccentricity, no matter wherever his travels took him, he somehow managed to find interesting conversation, idyllic surroundings and sumptuous hospitality. For Nico Craven, cricket was always far more than just bat on ball.

A genuine all-rounder in the finest sense of the word, he bestrode the often narrow confines of his art with consummate ease. Here, as in everything, the keystone of his life and work was the warmth of his abiding friendliness – surely a most fitting epitaph.

Kenneth Shenton

Hiram Nicholas Craven, writer and community worker: born Amersham, Buckinghamshire 25 October 1925; MBE 1980; died Newcastle upon Tyne 16 April 2010.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent