CHRIS Snowdon draws attention to the great Harry Pearson’s new book, a biography of West Indian cricketer Sir Learie Constantine, and to a Daily Mail on-line review which supposes it “beguiling.”

Constantine, whose grandfather was a slave, had been the pro at Nelson, Lancashire, in 1929 when the town’s only other black man had a rag and bone cart.

Even when famous, in 1943, he was asked to leave the Imperial Hotel in London at a time when racial discrimination wasn’t illegal.

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He became the first black member of the House of Lords, a member of the Race Relations Board and a governor of the BBC – all of which reminds Chris of the night he had a drink at the Ship in Guisborough with Ashok Kumar, who was to become the area’s MP.

“Ashok got into conversation with a couple of old boys in the pub, getting on better with them than I would have done – but that’s because I’m from Middlesbrough.”

Chris remarked upon it. “They think I’m Guisborough’s new cricket pro and I hadn’t the heart to correct them,” he said.

A good example, says Chris, of sport’s part in combatting racism.

The Mail’s piece appeared two weeks ago. Sir Learie, it said, would be “spinning in his grave at the gutless performance of the West Indian players currently touring Britain….”

THE programme for last Saturday’s match between Jarrow FC and Billingham Town sought the difference between a kangaroo and a kangaroot. One’s a marsupial, the other’s a Geordie stuck in a lift.

TALK last week of cricket on the delightful ground at Masham, North Yorkshire, recalled the last time that the column drank deep on that boundary.

It was exactly 20 years ago, St Boniface’s Day, Diocese of Durham v Diocese of Bradford in the Church Times Cup and Durham’s clergy down to just eight men at the start.

Three had gone down with funerals, a fourth was at his wife’s bedside after labour had been induced. “That’s bloody ridiculous, couldn’t she have waited,” wailed the captain (who’d best remain nameless.)

Durham batted first, managed 157. Bradford, the biggest favourites since Goliath of Gath, were dismissed for 76.

The column retained a biblical theme: “It was the greatest slaughter since the Children of Israel had that little run-in with the Midianites.”

ALMOST coincidentally, John Raw in Bishop Auckland sends a poem called The Church Cricketant – it’s usually the Church Militant – written by Norman Gale who published books of “cricket songs” in 1894 and 1905.

This one’s about a chap who claims a hat-trick of priests. Room only for the final lines:

What do I care if sciatica comes

Or elephantitis calls,

I bowled three successive curates

With three successive balls.

CHAPTER and verse, last week’s column also felt compelled to quote the Northallerton Town follower eager to cite Ezekiel 25:17 – something about vengeance – after his side managed a corner.

It’s thus slightly disappointing to learn, that while the original is definitely biblical, it was pinched from a film called Pulp Fiction – but comforting that the Town lads still know their Old Testament.

Encountered at last week’s match at Darlington RA, they claimed also to be the only fans in the Ebac Northern League who don’t have tattoos. “It says you can’t in Leviticus.”

“EDUCATION is important but beer is importanter” – blackboard message outside the Druid Park sports ground clubhouse in Newcastle.

….AND finally, last week’s column invited readers to suggest the improbable clause inserted into Stefan Schwarz’s contract when Sunderland paid £4m for the Swedish international in 1999.

John Cowley in Billingham – whose email address is rokerman73 – was first to confirm that it was that Schwarz mustn’t engage in space travel.

The midfielder, apparently, had his name down for one of the first passenger flights. “It’s a reasonable request. At the end of the day we’re protecting the club,” said Sunderland chief executive John Fickling of the new man’s grounding.

Paul Dobson, co-editor of Sunderland fanzine A Love Supreme, recalls that a similar restriction was placed upon Noel Gallagher, formerly of the band Oasis.

Schwarz, who last May expressed interest in succeeding David Moyes at the Stadium of Light, retired at the end of 2002-03 when Sunderland finished the season with just 21 goals and even fewer points – what might be supposed coming down to earth with a bump,

Last anyone heard, the urbane spaceman still hadn’t managed to slip the surly bonds.

Today let us return to last Saturday’s match at Jarrow, where Mr Nigel Brierley sought the identity of the only English cathedral city whose name is made up solely of letters from the first half of the alphabet.

Since readers of my blog – mikeamosblog.wordpress.com – may already know the answer, they can have a supplementary. The only cathedral city whose name solely comprises letters from the second half of the alphabet.

A-to-Z as always, the column returns next week.