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Carr, the sportsman

Football (= soccer, to Americans)

Carr played football during his childhood in Sherburn-in-Elmet, as his inscription in Steeple Sinderby shows. His diary for 1925 indicated that he played for his primary school and then for teams at Castleford Secondary School. A photograph of him in footbal kit dated 1927-29 at Castleford indicates that he was a left half, now usually called left midfield.

During the football season 1930-31, when Carr was working for £1 a week as a Supernumerary Teacher in South Milford, the village next to Sherburn-in-Elmet where he lived, he joined the local football team. The team manager, a man named Wille Harrison, recruited some strong players from surrounding villages including a butcher's son named Granville Heptonstall as centre forward and the Gell brothers from the Gascoigne Woods marshalling yards. The team had a very successful season: they won their division in the football league and played in the Barkston Ash Cup, named after the local constituency. According to local newspaper reports and Carr's taped reminiscences, South Milford beat Swillington St. Mary's in the first round, Boston Spa in the second round and, after two replays and a third at a neutral ground, they beat Barwick United to reach the semi-final. There they played Garforth White Rose, and lost. However in those days the top two teams in the league used to hold a play-off, which, Carr ponted out, was a bit unfair on the winner of the league. South Milford duly payed Halton Juniors in the play-off final for the Barkston Ash Junior Cup on Saturday 25th April 1931. With South Milford winning 3 - 0 the crowd invaded the pitch, the teams fled and Carr was awarded his medal in the back of the local public house, somewhat to his dismay. These experiences of playing for a highly motivated team in a league and cup tournaments were used in the story of How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the F.A. Cup.

Carr continued to play football during his two years at Dudley Training College for Teachers between 1932 and 1934 and then played for one season for Botley, a village near Bitterne in Hampshire, where he was employed in his first job as a teacher between 1934 and 1936. He then gave up playing football as he found that cricket in the summer occupied a lot of his time and was unwilling to give up his time during the winter as well.


Carr played cricket for much of his life. He may have played a little at primary school but was taught cricket technique while he was a pupil at Castleford Secondary School. He only played once for his village, in 1928 when he was 16 years old, when he was invited to make up the numbers for Sherburn-in-Elmet in his first match with adults. The match was played at Hillham Hall, in a nearby village, and the captain put Carr in at number 10 and himself in at number 11. Carr celebrated this action in the second volume of his 'Dictionary of Extraordinary English Cricketers':

Harry Gill, c. 1930, a collier, Captain of Sherburn-in-Elmet C.C. and an admired bass singer of sacred solos, invited this editor, then a schoolboy, to replace a defaulter and play in his first men's game at the last match of the season. He then demonstrated true Gentility and Noblity of Nature by putting himself in at No. 11. Requiscat in pace.

In his village Carr then played for a cricket team organised by the local Methodists called Sherburn Wesleyans, which played friendly matches against other village teams. But that team soon collapsed as the best players left, leaving behind people who had little idea of the game. So in the season of 1930 Carr joined South Milford Cricket Club, which played in the 'A' division of the Barkston Ash Cricket League with nine other teams. One of those other teams was called Tadcaster Magnets who had a good bowler named Ellerbeck (also the name of a family in A Month in the Country), a man who made a vivid impression on Carr by knocking his stumps out of the ground with a delivery that was fast and low.

There is no record that Carr played cricket while he was at Dudley Training College for Teachers in the seasons of 1932 and 1933, but I have little doubt that he did, even though there were only about 80 men studying at the College in those days.

Carr's first teaching job was in Bitterne, a village near Southampton, which he began at the end of 1933. There he played for Curdridge Cricket Club, about three miles from Hedge End, where he was lodging. He was soon asked to be vice-captain of the second eleven and, according to a letter he wrote to his parents, took over the captaincy of the team when the captain was called away.

Carr spent only two cricket seasons in Hampshire (1934 and 1935) and soon returned to the Midlands, where he joined Aston Unity Cricket Club in Birmingham.

During the war JLC very probably played cricket for R.A.F. teams, but no records have been found. A match played in West Africa was the basis of his cricket novel A Season in Sinji.

When he returned to live in Birmingham in 1946, now a married man, he joined Birmingham Municipal Cricket Club (now defunct), which is recorded in the Midlands Club Cricket Conference Year Books. After four seasons cricket with Birmingham Municipal C.C., he moved to Kettering in 1951 to wait for the buildings at Highfields School to be completed.

From the 1952 season Carr then played for Kettering Town Cricket Club, except for the year he returned to teach in Huron. The yearbooks he had contributed to in Birmingham may have been inspiration for similar yearbooks for the Northamptonshire County Cricket League from 1965 to 1961. Carr played his last match when he was 67 years old.


Carr wrote a letter to his father when he was teaching in Birmingham in about 1936 in which he said:

I've begun to do a bit of boxing three nights a week. I used to do a little at coll. and I've borrowed your green book and have picked up no end.

The reference to a green book is unclear, but could be a general book about boxing. A title simply called Boxing by Norman Clark was published by C.Arthur Pearson in 1921 which was issued in green cloth covers. Volume XI in the Lonsdale Library Series on Boxing: a guide to modern methods was published by Seely, Service & Co. in 1931, also in green cloth boards.

Cross-country running

The students' magazine of Dudley Training College for Teachers, called The Eagle, reported in the issue for Christmas 1932 (Ed. J.L. Carr) on all the college's societies and sports clubs. The report on page 27 for the Cross-country Club (C. Whitehouse Capt, F.A. Fellowes, Sec) contained this text:

Out of the sixty men in college this year, rugby took fifteen and the Association football eleven, with the usual officials, leaving about thirty presumably able-bodied men from which to gather an eight of reasonable running ability. . . . .

On November 19th, Birmingham University, with a strong ‘A’ Team’ beat us 42 – 36 though again C. Whitehouse won the race and J.L. Carr, running an exceptionally fine race finished second by a short head.

Rugby Union

In Volume 1 of The Northamptonshire Record, under a painting on page 12 of the Norman font basin at Grafton Regis, Carr has written:

Jack Higham from Rotherham was rector here in 1986. And Rotherham Grammar School was where I captained Castleford Secondary School’s 2nd XV against their 1st XV in 1929 & we lost 83 – 0. [Frankly I never fully understood the rules of R.U.]