Sidmouth cricketers past and present salute the memory of Alan Marsh - ‘one of life’s very nice people’
- Credit: Archant
Sidmouth players from across the generations have been remembering long-serving clubman Alan Marsh, who has died aged 85, writes Conrad Sutcliffe.
Marsh played and umpired for the club over a period spanning nearly 60 years and was proud to have stood on the ground man and boy as a spectator, player and umpire.
A wristy batsman blessed with good hands behind the stumps as well, Marsh had three spells with the club from the early 1950s onwards.
As a player he was part of a formidable partnership with the late John Palmer. Scorebooks are liberally marked ‘caught Marsh, bowled Palmer’.
The older generation remember Marsh as reliable 1st XI player; their successors knew him as a knowledgeable umpire who officiated in second-team games for more than 20 years.
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“When I broke into the first team as a teenager in the mid-1970s, Alan was a batsman who also kept wicket,” said Graham Bess. the
“For some time we had not had a regular keeper – several people had a go, even if they were not keepers – then Alan came along.
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“He had great hands and kept as if he was wearing baseball mitts. If the ball went down the leg side he stuck out his left glove and if it was on the off he stuck out his right.
“His batting was a bit unorthodox, but he was wristy, effective and very competitive.”
John Goodwin, also a wicketkeeper, joined Sidmouth in 1982 and soon became the preferred glovesman in the 1st XI, which forced Marsh into retirement.
“After a couple of seasons we found ourselves short of players and Alan came out of retirement to keep wicket,” said Goodwin. “I had a new role wandering around in the outfield.”
Marsh left Sidmouth in the mid-80s, when he stopped playing and teamed-up with son Kevin at Riverside in nearby Newton Poppleford.
Having learned the umpiring ropes at Riverside, Marsh returned to Sidmouth and spent the next two decades umpiring second-team cricket.
“He hardly ever missed a match,” said Bess, whose latter career at Sidmouth was as 2nd XI captain.
“His commitment was tremendous, although we did not always see eye to eye.
“Alan would always have a good explanation why that lbw shout you thought was plumb when you were bowling wasn’t out – and why you were out lbw batting when you thought the ball would miss another set of stumps.”
Nick Gingell, who was Sidmouth’s 1st XI and club captain in 2019, was among the generation of players whose first exposure to senior cricket was in games umpired by Alan Marsh. He recalled the man in the white coat with affection.
“Alan was one of my favourite people,” said Gingell. “He was a very humble and kind man who was incredibly supportive to me and many others through good times and bad.
“As we won’t be able to attend his funeral, perhaps we could all meet somewhere at a safe distance to raise a glass and share an amusing Alan Marsh anecdote? There are many of them.”
Marsh umpired for Sidmouth 2nd XI until the end of the 2012 season. He continued to follow the club as a spectator until 2019.
Alan Marsh was an all-round sportsman whose winters were spent on the football field. He played in the youth team at Exeter City in the early 1950s and was awarded a professional contract for the 1953-54 season.
City used Marsh as a reserve team striker for two seasons in the old Southern League, then switched him to defence for the next two seasons, most of which he spent doing his National Service with the Royal Army Pay Corps in Devizes.
While based in Wiltshire he captained the RAPC football team to victory in the 1955 Army Cup final.
Back in Civvy Street his day job in the building trade took Marsh to North Devon where he joined Western League side Bideford Town in 1958. He played 366 games for them in all competitions and was a member of their league title-winning team in 1963-64.
Marsh also played cricket for the North Devon CC while living on Torridgeside.
When Marsh returned to East Devon it was to work for F J Luxton & Sons in Ottery St Mary.
Once his football playing days were over Marsh took over as manager of Heavitree United. He steered them to the Devon & Exeter Premier Division title in 1970-71 when they were unbeaten from start to finish. He also had two spells managing Sidmouth Town.
Alan Marsh was born in Sidmouth in September 1934, educated at the King’s School in Ottery and married Jan in 1960. The couple had four children of their own and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Some personal dedications to the memory of Alan Marsh.
England spinner Dom Bess was one of the first to react to the death of Sidmouth stalwart Alan Marsh.
Bess posted a tribute to Marsh on his Twitter account, accompanied by a picture of the two during a 3rdXI game early in his Sidmouth career. Bess dedicated the two West Indies wickets he claimed for England the same day to the late Sidmouth umpire.
“I am absolutely gutted to hear the sad news about Marshy, such a kind, nice gentleman,” Bess told his 11,700 Twitter followers.
“Some great memories of him umpiring Sidmouth 2nd/3rd XI games when I was a youngster!
“Trying to get him to raise the finger was always tricky though! Those two today were for you.”
Past team captains at the Fortfield led the tributes to Marsh.
“Very sad news. A legend of the valley. I suggest raising a glass at the club after golf, watching a bit of cricket on The Fortfield.”
Anthony Griffths – current 2nd XI captain and former 1stXI skipper
“Such sad news. Such a lovely man and my ‘Mr Reliable’ when I was in charge of the 2ndXI. He will be missed along with all the others of his era.”
Saj Patidar former 1st& 2nd XI captain
“So many memories. My first few weeks of playing for the club in 1984 included playing with Marshy along with John Palmer, Gerald Bess, Martyn Dean and Alan Wardrop. So sad to think all are no longer with us. So much humour. Bet they’ll have a laugh reunited.”
Charlie Dibble – former 2nd XI captain
“A real clubman. I enjoyed playing with him and enjoyed his company in a deckchair after he retired from umpiring. He wasn’t short of an opinion! He was also a stalwart umpire in the Sidmouth Pub League played at Sidmouth CC.”
Mike Dibble – former 3rd XI captain
“Devastated to hear that the general secretary of the Sidmouth Wicketkeepers’ Union has passed on.”
John Goodwin – team-mate and former Devon League chairman
“When we first came to Sidmouth in the early 1970s, Marshy was the first member I met, and his gentle personality and character made a lasting impression. He epitomised everything that is special and friendly at the club. It was a great honour to propose him as a life member.”
Neil Gamble – current Devon CCC chairman
“An absolute legend and a lovely man. Will always remember numerous post-game discussions in the bar with him. Alan debriefing Graham Bess on how his lbw was plumb when he was batting, and not hitting another set when bowling, was always a very amusing finish to a Saturday as a teenager.”
Matt Cooke – 1stXI player
“Very sad news about Alan. When we first came to the club in the late 90s, he was someone who made us feel very welcome. A true gentleman. RIP Alan.”
Tom Overthrow – past chairman