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AN insight into a true sporting “legend” was given in Huddersfield.

AN insight into a true sporting “legend” was given in Huddersfield.

Albert Craig, who was born and brought up in Meltham, was revered at soccer and football grounds across Britain more than 100 years ago.

But it not so much his prowess with either bat or ball that wowed the crowds.

Instead, Craig wrote poems and stories about the games he loved and entertained the crowds with his works.

The lecture about the Meltham-born rhymester was the highlight of the 5th Pennine Cricket History Conference at the University of Huddersfield.

The presentation given by author Tony Laughton focused on the life and work of Albert Craig in the late-19th and early 20th century.

Craig attended cricket and football matches, devised rhymes, and then sold them on to spectators at a penny a sheet.

And Laughton's acclaimed book, Captain of the Crowd, tells his story.

He said: “Craig enjoyed the friendship of aristocratic amateurs and working-class professionals, assisting with players' benefits and charitable causes.

“His rapport with the crowd earned him the title of ‘Captain of the Spectators’ and the gratitude of the police in helping to control excesses in crowd behaviour."

Craig was born in 1849 in the hamlet of Thick Hollins, Meltham.

Laughton explained: “He was a one-off. Born of illiterate parents, he became one of the most celebrated figures on the cricket and football grounds of London and the south, accepted and respected at all major sports venues in the land.

“It is difficult to think of a 21st century equivalent. We have the Barmy Army in cricket and swathes of witty fans – who once stood but now sit – at football matches.

“But Craig was something very different.

“He saw it as his duty to attend sporting events, devise humorous rhymes, and sell these on to spectators.”

Craig’s first rhyme was published in 1878 and an early compilation of his work was entitled ‘Original Franchise Songs Suitable for Entertainments and Public Gatherings – composed by Albert Craig. One Penny Each’.

The book includes a foreword by Australian cricket historian David Frith and runs to 294 pages, with many illustrations.

It has recently been nominated for the prestigious Cricket Book of the Year award.

Conference organiser Dr Peter Davies, of the University's Cricket Heritage Project, said: “It was a great honour to welcome Tony to Huddersfield and everyone enjoyed his talk.”

 

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