Robbie Robins: Schoolteacher and expert on the laws of cricket

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The Independent Online

Robbie Robins, who has died aged 85, was a man of many parts. By profession, a distinguished schoolmaster, for more than half a century, he also served the world of cricket with unswerving devotion. Here his unstinting efforts, particularly in nurturing and developing young talent, made a most vital contribution to the game at all levels.

A native of the Midlands, Walter Thomas Robins, always affectionately known as Robbie, was initially educated at George Dixon Grammar School, Edgbaston. In 1939 the sudden death of his father brought his academic promise to an end, and he worked as a railway clerk. Enlisting in the Fleet Air Arm at the beginning of the Second World War, he served in the Far East and Australasia on the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable.

Returning to civilian life in 1945, he moved north as one of the early pioneering students undertaking teacher training at the recently opened Alsager College of Education in South Cheshire. Marriage subsequently took him to Liverpool and the beginning of a long and happy association with the city. Newly qualified, he taught at Dovedale Junior School, Mossley Hill, where his many protégés included the Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison, the comedian Jimmy Tarbuck and the newsreader Peter Sissons.

In 1968, promoted to a headship, he was invited to put into practice the local education authority's outline plans for a new purpose-built junior school. Opened in February 1971, Norman Pannell Primary School in Netherley remains still a most fitting testimony to the high ideals of its first headmaster.

An assiduous administrator with an ordered mind and a particularly keen eye for detail, he could, on occasion, be somewhat impatient with anything less than perfection. Among the many local sporting organisations coming within his immediate orbit were Sefton Cricket Club, Liverpool Schools Cricket Committee, Lancashire Schools Cricket Association, the Liverpool Competition, Merseyside Cricket Umpires Association and Lancashire Youth Cricket Council.

Further afield, he represented Lancashire on the Council of the National Cricket Association and for 20 years, from 1964 until 1984, he served as Treasurer of the English Schools Cricket Association. Subsequently elected Chairman of ESCA in 1986, it had been under their auspices that 15 years earlier, during the winter of 1970-71, he had been chosen to manage the England Under-19 Team on their highly successful tour of India.

In 1982, at the instigation of the chairman, Cedric Rhoades, he retired early from teaching to take on a new challenge at Lancashire County Cricket Club. In addition to becoming Administrative Assistant to the Secretary, Chris Hassell, he broke new ground with his appointment as Development Officer. His brief was simple: to unite the many somewhat disparate strands of youth cricket then feeding into Old Trafford, while at the same time creating a more suitable environment whereby emerging young players could both develop and flourish.

Robbie had first joined the Association of Cricket Umpires and Scorers when officiating for Northern Cricket Club in the Liverpool Competition of the early 1960s. A national federation, primarily focussed on training aspiring officials, it soon proved a further apt vehicle for his tireless activity. He first made his mark at local level, and soon his articulate advocacy nationally, particularly as Chairman of its Training Board, did much to underpin the association's burgeoning reputation. In 1990, in collaboration with Sheila Hill, he began a thorough update of what had by then become a seminal text, Tom Smith's Cricket Umpiring and Scoring. Invited to serve on the Laws Sub-Committee of MCC, he made a highly significant contribution to the extensive revision of the laws of cricket which were subsequently adopted worldwide in 2000.

Alongside cricket, an equally enduring sporting passion remained rugby union and, for many years during the winter months, he ran the line for Liverpool Rugby Club. While always the most convivial of companions, nevertheless he remained essentially a very private man, perhaps most at ease amid his own idyllic family circle. Elected a Life Vice-President of Lancashire CCC, the Merseyside Cricket Umpires Association, the Association of Cricket Umpires and Scorers and the English Schools Cricket Association, here was one of the last guardians of a great tradition, the like of which we shall perhaps never see again.

Walter Thomas Robins, schoolteacher and cricket administrator: born Winson Green, Birmingham 15 April 1924; twice married (one son, one daughter); died Poole, Dorset 9 July 2009.

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