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Alan Gibson

Alan Gibson

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Norman Alan Stanley Gibson (28 May 1923 at Sheffield
Sheffield
Sheffield is a city and metropolitan borough of South Yorkshire, England. Its name derives from the River Sheaf, which runs through the city. Historically a part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, and with some of its southern suburbs annexed from Derbyshire, the city has grown from its largely...

, Yorkshire
Yorkshire
Yorkshire is a historic county of northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom. Because of its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been increasingly undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform...

 – 10 April 1997 at Taunton
Taunton
Taunton is the county town of Somerset, England. The town, including its suburbs, had an estimated population of 61,400 in 2001. It is the largest town in the shire county of Somerset....

, Somerset
Somerset
The ceremonial and non-metropolitan county of Somerset in South West England borders Bristol and Gloucestershire to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east, and Devon to the south-west. It is partly bounded to the north and west by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the...

) was an English journalist, writer and radio broadcaster, best known for his work in connection with cricket
Cricket
Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players on an oval-shaped field, at the centre of which is a rectangular 22-yard long pitch. One team bats, trying to score as many runs as possible while the other team bowls and fields, trying to dismiss the batsmen and thus limit the...

, though he also sometimes covered football
Football (soccer)
Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, is a sport played between two teams of eleven players with a spherical ball...

 and rugby union
Rugby union
Rugby union, often simply referred to as rugby, is a full contact team sport which originated in England in the early 19th century. One of the two codes of rugby football, it is based on running with the ball in hand...

. At various times Alan Gibson was also a university lecturer, poet, BBC radio producer, historian, Baptist lay preacher and Liberal parliamentary candidate.

He was born in Yorkshire, but the family moved to the East End of London
East End of London
The East End of London, also known simply as the East End, is the area of London, England, United Kingdom, east of the medieval walled City of London and north of the River Thames. Although not defined by universally accepted formal boundaries, the River Lea can be considered another boundary...

 when he was a small child, and subsequently to the West Country
West Country
The West Country is an informal term for the area of south western England roughly corresponding to the modern South West England government region. It is often defined to encompass the historic counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset and the City of Bristol, while the counties of...

, where he attended Taunton School
Taunton School
Taunton School is a co-educational independent school in the county town of Taunton in Somerset in South West England. It serves boarding and day-school pupils from the ages of 13 to 18....

. Apart from his time at university, he spent all his subsequent life in that region, most of his cricket reporting being of Somerset and Gloucestershire matches. After school he went to Queen's College, Oxford
The Queen's College, Oxford
The Queen's College, founded 1341, is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. Queen's is centrally situated on the High Street, and is renowned for its 18th-century architecture...

, where he gained a First in history and was President of the Oxford Union
Presidents of the Oxford Union
Past Presidents of the Oxford Union are listed below, with their College and term & year in which they served, if known. Iterum indicates that a person was serving a second term as President ....

.

He was briefly a travelling lecturer with University College, Exeter, before getting a job with the West Region of the BBC Radio
BBC Radio
BBC Radio is a service of the British Broadcasting Corporation which has operated in the United Kingdom under the terms of a Royal Charter since 1927. For a history of BBC radio prior to 1927 see British Broadcasting Company...

 Home Service
Home Service
Home Service are a British folk rock group, formed in late 1980 from a nucleus of musicians who had been playing in Ashley Hutchings' Albion Band. Their career is generally agreed to have peaked with the album Alright Jack, which is usually considered one of the finest products of the electric folk...

. That led him into cricket (and other sporting) commentary on matches in the region, though he did not do much of this until leaving the BBC staff and becoming a freelance. Eventually he graduated to national broadcasts, including appearances on Test Match Special
Test Match Special
Test Match Special is a British radio programme covering professional cricket, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 , Five Live Sports Extra and the internet to the United Kingdom and the rest of the world...

from 1962 to 1975. Subsequently he did some TV commentary on county matches for HTV
HTV
HTV, now legally known as ITV Wales & West, is the ITV contractor for Wales and the West of England, which operated from studios in Cardiff and Bristol. The company provided commercial television for the dual-region 'Wales and West' franchise, which it won from TWW in 1968...

.

He wrote on cricket at various times for The Sunday Telegraph, The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

, The Spectator
The Spectator
The Spectator is a weekly British magazine first published on 6 July 1828. It is currently owned by David and Frederick Barclay, who also owns The Daily Telegraph. Its principal subject areas are politics and culture...

and The Cricketer
The Cricketer
The Cricketer was an English cricket magazine published between 1921 and 2003 when it was merged with Wisden Cricket Monthly and relaunched as The Wisden Cricketer....

. From 1967 until 1986 he was a cricket reporter for The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

. He also reported rugby union
Rugby union
Rugby union, often simply referred to as rugby, is a full contact team sport which originated in England in the early 19th century. One of the two codes of rugby football, it is based on running with the ball in hand...

, in print and on radio. He spent some time as an early-morning disc-jockey, as well as appearing on the radio shows Sunday Half Hour
Sunday Half Hour
Sunday Half Hour is a long-standing show broadcast on BBC Radio 2 in the United Kingdom.It is broadcast on Sunday evenings between 8:30pm and 9:00pm and focuses on Christian hymns and prayer. It is one of only two remaining Christian based shows on Radio 2, the other being Good Morning Sunday...

and Round Britain Quiz
Round Britain Quiz
Round Britain Quiz is a panel game that has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 since 1947, making it the oldest quiz still broadcast on British radio...

.

As a cricket commentator he was articulate and often drily humorous. On a Saturday afternoon sport programme, Neil Durden-Smith once mentioned that he had been having tea with the Bishop of Leicester. On being cued in, Gibson began his commentary stint with: "No episcopal visitations here." His cricket writing for The Times was generally light-hearted, often concentrating more on his journey to the match (invariably by train, often changing at Didcot, rarely straightforward) than on the cricket itself. In his pieces he coined the descriptions "the Sage of Longparish" for his colleague John Woodcock
John Woodcock (cricket writer)
John Charles Woodcock OBE is an English cricket writer and journalist.He was born at Longparish, Hampshire, where he still lives, and was dubbed "the Sage of Longparish" by Alan Gibson. He is a co-author of the Longparish Village Handbook. Woodcock attended Trinity College, Oxford, and won hockey...

, "the Demon of Frome" for Colin Dredge
Colin Dredge
Colin Herbert Dredge was an English first-class cricketer for Somerset. He was known as the "Demon of Frome", a nickname coined by journalist, Alan Gibson....

 of Somerset, the Old Bald Blighter (the OBB) for Brian Close
Brian Close
Dennis Brian Close , usually known as Brian Close, is a former cricketer who is the youngest man ever to play Test cricket for England. He was picked for the Test team to play against New Zealand, in July 1949, when he was 18 years old. Close went on to play 22 Test matches for England,...

 and "the Shoreditch Sparrow" for Robin Jackman
Robin Jackman
Robin Jackman is a former English cricketer, who played in four Tests and fifteen ODIs for England from 1974 to 1983. He was a seam bowler and useful tail-end batsman. During a first-class career lasting from 1966 to 1982, he took 1,402 wickets...

. Woodcock said concerning their reports for The Times: "I write about the cricket, and Alan writes about 'A Day at the Cricket'." His cricket books, though still containing plenty of humour, were more serious affairs, knowledgeable and well researched.

In 1975 he he was chosen to give the address at the memorial service for Sir Neville Cardus
Neville Cardus
Sir John Frederick Neville Cardus CBE was an English writer and critic, best known for his writing on music and cricket. For many years, he wrote for The Manchester Guardian. He was untrained in music, and his style of criticism was subjective, romantic and personal, in contrast with his critical...

, held at St Paul's, Covent Garden
St Paul's, Covent Garden
St Paul's Church, also commonly known as the Actors' Church, is a church designed by Inigo Jones as part of a commission by Francis Russell, 4th Earl of Bedford in 1631 to create "houses and buildings fitt for the habitacons of Gentlemen and men of ability" in Covent Garden, London, England.As well...

. This was printed in the following year's edition of Wisden Cricketer's Almanack. He was elected the first President of the Cricket Writers' Club in 1982.

Not a robust man, he had spells of depression, once spending some time in a psychiatric hospital. He also had a drink problem (which was the reason he was dropped from Test Match Special). His reports for The Times often referred to his regular appearances at 'The Star' public house in High Littleton
High Littleton
The village of High Littleton and its hamlets of Hallatrow and Amesbury form a civil parish and are located in the county of Somerset and straddle both the A39 and A37, from Bath, from Wells and from Bristol. The parish has a population of 2,086...

, where he lived, and reports of matches involving Gloucestershire invariably mentioned the GRIP – the Gloriously Red-headed Imperturbable Pamela, the barmaid in the main pavilion bar at the County Ground at Bristol.

Select bibliography

  • Jackson's Year: The Test Matches Of 1905, Sportsman Book Club, 1966.
  • A Mingled Yarn, Collins, 1976. ISBN 0-00-216115-X (Autobiography)
  • Growing Up With Cricket - Some Memories of a Sporting Education,George Allen & Unwin, 1985. ISBN 0-04-796099-X
  • The Cricket Captains of England, The Pavilion Library, 1989. ISBN 1-85145-390-3 (A revised edition, the original being published in 1979.)
  • West Country Treasury: A Compendium of Lore and Literature, People and Places, Ex Libris Press, 1989, ISBN 0-948578-19-X (Co-authored with his son, Anthony Gibson)
  • Of Didcot and the Demon: The Cricketing Times of Alan Gibson, Fairfield Books, 2009, ISBN 978-0-9560702-5-8 (Compiled by his son, Anthony Gibson)