Obituary: Arthur Jepson

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The Independent Online
Arthur Jepson was a player and character who was much bigger inside sport than to the public at large. He was a right arm fast medium bowler, a big hitter down the batting order who became a first-class umpire, officiating in four Test matches, and a goalkeeper who served Port Vale, Stoke City and Lincoln City. He was known in both sports as "Jeppo" and no one ever needed to ask "Who?"

He was of that generation of sporting professionals whose careers were severely interrupted by the Second World War. He joined Nottinghamshire, from a mining family, in 1938 and was capped the following season, the start of a 22-year career. After serving in the RAF he returned to Trent Bridge to form, with Harold Butler, the county's opening attack until 1959.

His best season came in the hot summer of 1947 when, despite the domination of the batsmen, he managed to take 115 wickets at an average of 27, an outstanding performance. When he retired from county cricket in 1959, after a brief captaincy in 1955, he had played 390 first-class matches in which he had been capable enough to score one first-class century.

Jepson was a doughty opponent with all-round skills that buttressed a Nottinghamshire team whose individual capabilities, for most of the early post-war years, were far superior to their teamwork. All goalkeepers are mad, goes the legend, but Jepson was saner than most and the hard-won experience he accumulated in two sports at four clubs was invaluable when he became an umpire, a classic instance of poacher turned gamekeeper.

He had a caustic sense of humour that could prove extremely disconcerting to young players who were meeting him for the first time. They soon learned to appreciate his impartiality in delivering his barbs.The brighter ones also realised that amid the sharp banter there was often a few pearls to be picked up as to the state of the pitch, an impending bowling change, whether cover point was left or right handed and the progress of the opposing captain's hangover.

His 24 years on the umpires' list also enabled him to act as elder statesman and counsel to a generation of whitecoats that succeeded him and "Jeppo" tales doubtless still circulate in the umpires' rooms. MCC marked his retirement from the first-class list in 1984 with the presentation of a grandfather clock, so it was both ironical and sad that in 1970 he had received a suspended sentence, a conviction he always hotly disputed, for receiving stolen goods in the Tavern. He was strongly supported, in his court appearance, by the Nottinghamshire club.

In later years he helped his son, a golf professional, manage a sports equipment shop near the family home at Kirkby-in-Ashfield.

In his last playing season, in 1959, he had the vicarious satisfaction of a brush with greatness. Keith Miller was employed by the Daily Express as a cricket writer, the Express treating his unscripted telephoned reports with the awe of an exclusive on the Sermon on the Mount.

Miller also played the odd invitation match which is how, regulations at the time permitting, he came to be batting for Nottinghamshire against Cambridge University. Miller arrived, characteristically, with no gear and was borrowing the pads of Reg Simpson, the Nottinghamshire captain, when Simpson pointed out that he was buckling them inside the leg instead of outside, English style.

An argument, between friends, ensued, Miller insisting that the Australian fashion was safer, there being less possibility of the ball's catching the buckle and sounding like a nick off the bat.

Jepson intervened: "Here, Keith, use my stuff and stick it on any way you like." The finale was predictable: Miller used Jepson's pads, gloves and bat and went on to score his only century for an English county.

Derek Hodgson

Arthur Jepson, cricketer, cricket umpire and footballer: born Selston, Nottinghamshire 12 July 1915; married (one son, one daughter); died 17 July 1997.