ONE was shot dead by armed robbers in South Africa, another ended up resident commissioner on a group of remote Pacific islands, while a third went on to become a star of the stage, understudying Fred Astaire no less.

Life, and death, for former Worcestershire cricketers has covered a broad sweep.

Serious followers of the County Cricket Club, those who take their cushions along to plonk on wet seats and then sit for hours in the hope the clouds will part and there might be time for a few hours’ play in the late afternoon, will be very familiar with names like Kenyon, Graveney, D’Oliveira, Hick, Turner, Flavell, Gifford, the Richardson brothers and probably the Foster brothers too.

But what about Barley, Rogers and Vorster? Possibly never heard of them and being as they contributed a combined total of 20 runs and no wickets during their First Class appearances for the County that’s probably not surprising.

Worcester News:

But the time has now come for Jack Charles Barley, Rupert Ashby Cave Rogers, Louis Phillippus Vorster and 49 others, many of whom will be complete strangers to the New Road faithful, to take their place alongside the greats.

Because they feature in a new book by WCCC historian Tim Jones, which aims to plug a gap when it comes to a record of those who have represented Worcestershire at top level.

Tim explained: “In 2005 the Club replaced the awarding of a county cap with a colours system for players who represented it in County Championship matches. When colours and numbers were allocated retrospectively to former players, 52 of them missed out because the games they played, against opponents like Oxbridge universities or the RAF, while First Class, were not in the County Championship. 

“I felt a sense of injustice for these players and that’s why I compiled The 52 – Worcestershire’s Forgotten First Class Cricketers.

“It gave me the opportunity to right the wrong and acknowledge the contribution of those who otherwise are in danger if being air-brushed out the Club’ history.”

 It is a task that has involved considerable diligence. For not only has Tim unearthed the (usually) minimal part – ie not many runs and not many wickets – in the (usually) single game the 52 played for WCCC, but far more interestingly, has supplied a fascinating insight into their lives, often lived long ago.

Hence you learn John Barley, who scored one not out for the County against Oxford University in June 1909, joined the Civil Service and was resident commissioner of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands in the Pacific when the Japanese invaded in 1941.

Or that Louis Vorster, who became a successful businessman and captained Namibia’s cricket team, was shot dead and robbed at a Pretoria filling station in 2012 after withdrawing a large amount of cash from a nearby bank.

A prolific batsman for Worcestershire 2nd XI, his only appearance for the first team was against the West Indies in 1998, making 16 not out.

On the other hand, the more flamboyantly named Rupert Ashby Cave Rogers, who attended Malvern College and sometimes hyphenated his surname to Cave-Rogers, took to acting, appearing as Rupert Rogers on both the stage and radio in a career that lasted until the 1960s.

He understudied Fred Astaire in Lady Be Good in London’s West End. Batting at three, Rogers scored three runs for Worcestershire in a two-day friendly against Warwickshire at Edgbaston in 1919, when one of his teammates was Wing Commander William Shakespeare (presumably not him) who made 62 not out.

 But there are some names which will really strike a chord with local sports fans. John Spilsbury, for example, who might have scored only 16 in his one appearance for WCCC against a very strong Combined Services team (which rattled up 548-4) at New Road in 1952, but was multi-sported and multi-talented.

His grandfather Fred Wheldon had played in Worcestershire’s inaugural First Class match against Yorkshire in 1899, top scoring with 49 not out, and was an outstanding footballer. Capped four times by England, Fred was also a member of Aston Villa’s League and FA Cup double winning side of 1896-97.

He bought the Farrier’s Arms pub in Worcester, which was where grandson John grew up and inherited the family sporting genes. As well as being a forceful bat and fast bowler, John was also a fine footballer, being offered professional terms by Stoke City, before deciding to stay with Worcester City and continue his job at the MEB.

During one spell he played 100 consecutive games for City, later becoming player-manager of Kidderminster Harriers. Now 87, John Spilsbury was also a top local squash player, decent golfer and played bowls too.

The person Tim had the most problem tracking down was Dennis Cunliffe Good.

Yorkshire born, he also made his only appearance for Worcestershire against a Combined Services team, but this time in 1946. “I had almost given up hope,” said Tim, “but then I put a post on a genealogy website and a chap offered to help.”

Eventually Dennis Good was found living in Canada, to where he had moved in 1952 after an Achilles tendon injury cut short his county cricket career as a very fast bowler playing for Glamorgan. “The next Harold Larwood” he was christened at one stage.

He became a successful businessman in textile import,  but continued to play rugby, cricket, snooker, golf and tennis. Sadly Dennis died on June 26 this year at the age of 94, on the very day Tim Jones put a copy of “The 52” in the post to him.

Copies of “The 52. Worcestershire’s Forgotten First Cass Cricketers” can be obtained by emailing: Cost is £25 inc p&p.