'Better late than never, isn't it?': Richard Williams talks to cricketer Harold Larwood, now an MBE at 88

'TO TELL you the truth, I haven't heard anything official yet,' Harold Larwood said last night, his broad north Nottinghamshire accent still more authentic than anything in Ken Russell's version of Lady Chatterley, despite 45 years of living in an Australian suburb. 'All'us I know about it is from such as you. But John Major rang yesterday to congratulate me, so maybe it's true.'

Harold Larwood's MBE, announced in the birthday honours list on Friday, may represent John Major's most meaningful act of classless-society warfare to date, the righting of an historic wrong by which a Nottinghamshire miner was made to take the blame for decisions made by his boss.

'Oh yes, I'm pleased,' Larwood said perkily on the phone from his home in Kingsford, a suburb of Sydney, where he lives, aged 88, surrounded by his wife, five daughters and cricketing mementos that he can no longer see. 'It's better late than never, isn't it?'

Larwood was born on 14 November 1904 in Nuncargate, in the Nottinghamshire coalfields. He made his first-class debut for the county in 1924, aged 19. Two years later he made the first of his 21 Test appearances for England, and also topped the national bowling averages, as he was to do five times in the next 10 years, a feat unmatched by any other bowler this century. He was the fastest and most accurate English bowler of his time, despite his unimpressive physical stature.

He is most closely identified with the 'bodyline' tour of Australia in 1932-33, when he and his fellow Notts opening bowler, Bill Voce, obeyed the orders of their captain, Douglas Jardine, to aim at the bodies of the home side's batsmen - principally Don Bradman. Evidence is still being unearthed to attribute the blame for this most lurid episode in cricketing history, which almost led to Australia's departure from the Commonwealth.

During the fifth and final Test of the series, Larwood broke down. It was later discovered that he had cracked several bones in his left foot through landing on the hard pitches. His bowling, he says, was never the same again: 'I had an operation, and when I came back I cut my run in half and bowled medium pace.' His first-class career ended in 1938 with a total bag for Notts of 1,247 wickets at 16 runs apiece.

To the England selectors, he symbolised an unhappy episode. 'Politicians are trying to hound me out of cricket,' he told the Sunday Dispatch, prompting the next day's headline: 'Cabinet Ministers deny Larwood's allegations. Bowler's charge of political interference described as 'Extraordinary Moonshine' '. He was never to play for England again, and emigrated in 1949.

However bitter the controversies may have been, his memories seem mellowed by the years. 'We left England in mid-September,' he said of the Australian tours, 'and I didn't see my wife again until late April, just in time to start the English season. For that we got pounds 400. And because we sailed first-class, I had to buy a cabin trunk and evening dress and shirts. That cost me about pounds 100 before I'd even left England. But I enjoyed it all.'

In Nottinghamshire, he has always been revered: the latest addition to the Trent Bridge ground is a smart grandstand dedicated to Larwood and Voce, the kind of opening bowlers England are in such dire need of today.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?