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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
Sport
football
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us