Miles Kington: Ned Sherrin: the last third-wicket down of showbiz

I was sad to learn that Ned Sherrin had died during my absence and it seems that I am not alone, judging from the many letters I have received on the subject. Perhaps, in his memory, I should bring you the best of them today...
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The Independent Online

From Sir George "Gubby" Trotter

Sir, You might not at first sight have taken the form of Ned Sherrin, that eminent theatrical figure, to be also an outstanding character in the world of cricket. You would be wrong. Seldom have the two performing acts been more happily unified than in the shape of Ned "Stumper" Sherrin.

I first met him in the gay old days of the 1950s, back in a time when "gay" still meant "gay" and not "gay". In those times Ned was always on the road with a troupe of players he called "Heaven's Eleven", which was the world's first and probably only dual-purpose group of tourers. Everyone in the team played cricket. They were all also skilful actors. By day they played cricket against the local team. At night they put on a play in the local village hall. I still have not quite got used to the experience of being bowled out for a paltry 15 in the afternoon by a man whom I next saw on stage that evening playing Lady Bracknell.

Ned's familiar name of "Stumper", by the way, came from his position in the field and also from the very difficult questions he would ask guests on Loose Ends, which would always stump them. He didn't mean to baffle them. He just hadn't read the cuttings very attentively on which he based his questions.

From Mr Jack Corden

Sir, As a regular member of the group "Heaven's Eleven" led by the late Ned "Bouncer" Sherrin, I can vouch for the foregoing, having joined the troupe after answering an ad reading: "Slow right-arm bowler and junior romantic lead needed for long summer season". If you could call Donald Wolfit the last of the actor/managers, then you could certainly describe Ned as the last producer/director/writer/ compère/bowler/keeper/third wicket-down of showbiz.

I once asked him if he saw cricket as a branch of theatre, or theatre as an indoors offshoot of cricket.

"Well," he said, "as Johnny Gielgud once said to me, 'My dear boy, if you ever have to choose between sitting through the last three days of a drearily drawn Test match, or going out in some equally dreary potboiler by Bernard Shaw in the provinces for three weeks, I would go for crucifixion any day ...'"

"Did Johnny really say that?" I asked.

"No," said Bouncer, "but if I say that he did often enough, people will come to believe he did."

And, sure enough, 10 years later I saw the quote under Gielgud's name in the "Wisden Book of Theatrical Sayings", edited by Ned.

We called him "Bouncer", incidentally, because of a night club incident which I would rather not elaborate on.

From Sid "Saucy" Singleton

Sir, I rather fancy that this is the same Ned Sherrin who ran a theatre cricket team in the 1970s for which I worked as a dresser, called "The Green Room Boys", though Ned was always known to us as "Long Hop", because, I think, of the way he danced.

I was the dresser for them when they acted and indeed for when they played cricket, and if there is any double-entendre involving the word "box" that I haven't heard, then I haven't heard it.

He once told me that combining cricket and theatre was his dream, even if it had one hideous drawback.

"Meaning?" I asked.

"Meaning," said Ned, "that, as there are no women cricket players, we have to have an all-male team, which means that we can only put plays on with male actors, and there aren't many all-male plays apart from Waiting for Godot and Twelve Angry Men. And that means that we have to do a lot of cross-dressing."

I can't say that he looked displeased at the idea.

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