Throwback Thursday: Harold Gimblett truly a Somerset legend.
Batting legend Harold Gimblett is the leading run scorer for the county and kicks off our new website feature ‘Throwback Thursday.’
The youngster from Bicknoller came to prominence for his batting exploits whilst playing club cricket for Watchet and on the strength of a recommendation by local tailor Bill Penny the big hitter spent a week’s trial at the County Ground in the spring of 1935.
The Somerset bosses weren’t too impressed with Gimblett and come the end of the week he was paid 35 shillings (£1.75) plus his bus fare and told him that he ‘wasn’t quite good enough.’
However, as he was leaving the ground late on Friday afternoon to catch the bus home to Bicknoller, he was called back and told that first team regular Laurie Hawkins was injured. As a result Gimblett would be playing for Somerset against Essex at Frome.
The next morning Gimblett was up at 6am but missed the early bus from Bicknoller to Bridgwater and thumbed a lift in a lorry which enabled him to meet Somerset wicket-keeper Wally Luckes, who was picking him up at 9am and taking him to Frome.
After winning the toss Somerset captain Reggie Ingle chose to bat first, a decision he probably regretted when his side found themselves 35 for three which by lunch had become 105 for five. Soon after the break another wicket fell and the young Gimblett (batting at number eight) walked to the wicket with a bat that Arthur Wellard had lent him.
Gimblett was not at all overawed by the Essex attack that included international bowlers and went to his half century with a six off just 33 balls in 29 minutes. Essex took the new ball but Gimblett continued to plunder and went to his maiden century in 63 minutes. He went onto make 123 before giving a return catch to help Somerset to 337 all out.
In reply Essex were bowled out for 141 and following on they were 147 all out giving Somerset victory by an innings and 39 runs.
That innings has made Gimblett part of Somerset folklore and was the magical start to a career that lasted until 1954.
During his career Gimblett played in 329 first class matches for Somerset in which he scored 21,142 runs, the highest by any player for the county, at an average of 36.96. He also made 49 centuries and his highest score was 310 against Sussex at Eastbourne in 1948. He also took 41 wickets with a best of four for 10.
Gimblett played for England on three occasions and should have played many more times, but in those days there was very keen competition for the opening berths in the team.
His memory has been perpetuated by Somerset after the seating area created in front of St James’ Church was named “Gimblett’s Hill”.
Talking at a memorial service in St James Church in May 1978, Alan Gibson, cricket writer for The Times and a former BBC Test match commentator, who knew Harold Gimblett and watched him play on numerous occasions summed him up as ‘The finest apple ever to fall in a Somerset Orchard,’ a pretty apt description.