Cryptics Cricket Club History

The History of the Cryptics CC by Harold J Fawcus

The Early Years 1910 -1918

The Club was founded in May 1910 at New College, Oxford.  The founders were J G Fawcus, Hon Secretary from 1910 to 1949; C H Campbell, Hon Treasurer from 1910 to 1922; Dr D M P Whitcombe, President from 1951 to 1957 and Sir G R F Tottenham - all undergraduates at New College.  To these were added, as original members in the same year, W Laidlaw, O D Paget-Cooke and J F Haynes of Oxford; also the Rev E E Raven and W A Darlington of Cambridge.  The first President, and original member, was Lt Col L E Fawcus, who held this office from 1910 until his death in 1951.

The founders had considerable difficulty in selecting a suitable name. After much deliberation, the Hon Secretary walked over to his bookcase and took down at random a volume of Dickens.  The first word which caught his eye was "Cryptic", and it was promptly decided that this was the right word, as the Greek...means "I conceal" - giving the idea of "Hidden Lights", which was what the founders conceived themselves to be.

The original colours were green for the fields and magenta for New College, but it was soon discovered that these clashed with other clubs and regiments, so they were put on a dark blue background to represent the eight Oxford original members.  The light blue stripe was included to represent the two Cambridge original members.  The entrance fee was 2/6 and annual subscription 5/-.

The first match was against the Bilton Grange Masters at Bilton Grange on 28 June 1910.  The first season was socially a great success, even if it must he admitted that the Cricket was at times disappointing.  Of the eight matches arranged, only one victory was recorded against five defeats.  By the end of 1910, there were 39 members. The report for the following season reads:

"The season of 1911 was very successful in every way.  Out of twenty-two matches played, ten were won, five lost and seven were left drawn.  The batting was usually of a high order, but, apart from the Midland Tour, the attack was seldom strong enough to get sides out on good wickets.  Forty-two members have been elected during the year."

The three centuries that year were all scored by founders - J G Fawcus, C H Campbell and D M P Whitcombe.

The first Southern Tour took place in 1912 and has continued every year since apart from the war years.  In 1913 Hicks was appointed Club Umpire and held the post until 1939.  He also acted as baggage manager.  One recalls his propensity for calling "one short" and the sight of him sleeping on a pile of Cryptics’ cricket bags with a cigarette dangling from his mouth.

In 1914, the fixture list of 32 matches was curtailed by the outbreak of the First World War, during which 37 members gave their lives for their country.

Touring between the Wars : 1919-1939

The Club's activities were revived in 1919 when 23 matches were played, of which 11 were won, 3 lost and 9 left drawn.  The first Dinner was held at the Princes' Restaurant on 8 December at which forty-four members were present. The cost of the Dinner was one guinea and the annual subscription ten shillings.

The first overseas tour was to the British Army of the Rhine in 1922.  Among the members playing for the Cryptics were D R Jardine, later Captain of England and M C Dempsey, MC, later General Sir Miles Dempsey KCB, GDE, DSO, MC, General Officer commanding British Second Army in North-West Europe.  During this campaign, I was introduced to him on the German frontier, where he spent much time recalling happy memories of Cryptics’ Cricket.  The Rhine Army was visited again in 1923 and 1924 when three-day matches were played.  The local paper regretted that Surrey would not release Douglas Jardine for these tours.

In 1924 the Cryptics undertood their first Portugal Tour when three matches were played in Oporto on the southernmost grass wicket in Europe.  So began our long and happy association with cricket in Portugal.  Those taking part in Portugal Tours will never forget the remarkable hospitality of our hosts with port flowing freely, visits to wine lodges, entertainment at the Factory House and so many amusing incidents.  During the Portugal tour of 1925, the Club played its first match in Lisbon.  Between the two wars, the Cryptics also visited Portugal in 1926, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1935 and 1939.  The Cryptics should have toured Portugal in 1927, but this was not possible due to the sudden alterations of a ship's date of departure, so instead the Club paid its only visit to Gibraltar, where four matches were played with the Cryptics winning three and the other drawn.  As the ship passed the mouth of the Duoro, a telegram was sent to the Oporto CC.

In 1925, the Cryptics sent a team to Antwerp at the close of the season where an interesting match against the British Colony ended in a victory for the Club.  In the following year, 1926, the Club defeated both Antwerp and Brussels in enjoyable games.  In 1927, the Cryptics were again victorious in Antwerp and then crossed the border into Holland to play a drawn match with the Flamingos CC in The Hague.  A South African called H F Wade opened the innings for the Cryptics on this tour.  When he came to England as Captain of the South African Touring Team in 1935, the Cryptics held a special dinner in his honour at the Cafe Royal on 11 September.  His vice-captain, H B Cameron, was also a guest of honour.  When Herbert Wade captained Natal, he usually batted in his Cryptic cap. The Cryptics returned to Belgium and Holland again in 1928.

The first tour to the Channel Islands was in 1931 and remained a feature of the fixture list up to the Second World War.  Between the wars, the Cryptics toured overseas 24 times, sometimes twice in a season.  My father, John Fawcus, was the manager of all these tours except the Portugal Tour of 1939, when he was in South Africa for health reasons on the advice of his doctor, co-founder Dr Pithoi Whitcombe.

The first Northern Tour was in 1924 and this tour has continued every year since, apart from the war years.  The Coming-of-Age Dinner was held in the Criterion Restaurant on 23 April 1931 and the Silver Jubilee was celebrated at the Annual Dance at the Park Lane Hotel on 4 January 1935.

The Club flourishes : 1945 onwards

During the Second World War, the Cryptics played a limited number of fixtures against schools.  In 1945, further schools were played and the Southern Tour recommenced.  In 1946, there was a full fixture list ending with a tour of the Rhine Army, where we played No. 30 Corps and No. 1 Corps.  When 1 was appointed as DAQMG of 5 Infantry Division, my first task was to make all the arrangements for the visit of the Cryptics to Brunswick, which is the furthest East that the Club had so far played.  I was fortunate to have an office window overlooking the cricket ground.  In the same year, 1946, Hyde was appointed as Club Umpire.  He was a much respected umpire and a devoted servant of the Club off the field.  I only heard of one mistake - when he gave an eleven ball over at Sandhurst.  When he died in 1954, a member of one of our opponents wrote "I have no doubt in saying that he was the most popular umpire I have ever met:  I am certain all cricketers are of the same opinion".

In 1947 the Club visited the Hague where David Carr averaged 89 and Alan Hilder, the Captain, left his passport in England and entered Holland as Bush O'Callaghan's son!  The Channel Islands Tour was revived in 1948 and continued regularly until 1956.  In 1948 the Channel Island Tour  was the last one managed by John Fawcus, who died on 19 January 1949, only a week after handing over the office of Hon Secretary to me and being elected a Vice-President.  His record speaks for itself:  Founder of the Cryptics, Hon Secretary for 39 years, Match Manager of 26 overseas tours as well as many other tours and individual fixtures at home.  His father, Lt Col L E Fawcus, died in 1951 having been President since the foundation.  He was succeeded by Dr D M P Whitcombe and the office of President was limited to five years.  Other Presidents have been C B Blackshaw, R S Thompson, J 0 E Steele, Hon F F Fister, CBE, MC, H J Fawcus, G H Chesterron, R J Fawcus and A H Beadles.

Since, 1951 the Cryptics have played against University XIs at Oxford and Cambridge, the Cambridge fixture being played at Fenners.  It was as early as 1913 that the Club first played colleges of Oxford and Cambridge at the start of the season.

Each year we play matches against leading Club sides throughout England.


Our founders were particularly anxious to encourage cricket in schools.  Our first school fixture, against Aldenham, was in 1910.  Since then fixtures against schools and Old Boys sides have been prominent features of our annual fixture list. 


In September l960 the Cryptics celebrated the Golden Jubilee at St Edwards School, Oxford, under the Presidency of Charles Blackshaw and the auspices of Frank Fisher the Warden.  A vast concourse of cricketers and their wives gathered for the occasion.  Two-day matches were played against the Durban Pilgrims, Hampshire Hogs and St Edwards Martyrs with one-day matches against the President's XI, Lancing Rovers, Old Biltonians and Uppingham Rovers. The matches were played on various grounds in Oxford.  On the Friday night there was a Cocktail Party and Buffet Supper with the Jubilee Dinner on the Saturday night, while the wives went to the Theatre.

The Diamond Jubilee of the Club in 1970 was celebrated by a match against the Old Biltonians at Bilton Grange where the first fixture was played.  The Jubilee Dinner was held at Lords the following January.  1974 saw the inauguration of the first Scottish Tour, which continued until 1983 and boasted some splendid fixtures. 

1985 was the Club's 75th Anniversary. This was celebrated by a special dinner at Lord's in April, and a weekend's gathering at Malvern on 31 August and 1 September with four matches and a large buffet dinner.

The Club Abroad

In 1955 the Cryptics were invited to Portugal for the celebration of the centenary of the Oporto Cricket Club.  What memories!  Fourteen firms produced a blend of excellent old tawny port with an anonymous, but decorative label.  There was the longest lunch interval in the history of the Club - one hour and fifty minutes!  Iain Camphell as night watchman scored 57 in 25 minutes.  There was a never-to-be-forgotten evening at the Factory House and the Easter weekend up the Duoro among the vineyards.  After Oporto, we visited Lisbon where HM Ambassador, H E Sir Charles Stirling, honoured the cricketers by having tea with them and also taking the chair at the Dinner at the British Club.  On the evening of the Cryptics Dinner in January 1956, there was such a thick fog that many, including Londoners, failed to find Lords, but Maurice Symington, President of the Oporto CC came all the way from Portugal to arrive punctually with a crate of Centenary Port.

In April, 1961, the Cryptics again toured Portugal.  In July 1967, the Cryptics visited Paris for the first time and we have continued to go there regularly for a week-end to play two fixtures against the Standard Club. In 1968 the Cryptics, the Wine Trade and Lisbon CC were invited to Oporto for a Cricket Festival to celebrate the official inauguration of their new Club House by HE Sir Anthony Lambert, KCMG. It was another memorable fortnight.  The hospitality of the British Colony in Oporto was once again quite remarkably generous in spite of the fact that Peter Mountford and John Wait bowled out Oporto for 12 on the opening day!

In 1984, 1985 and 1986 a Cryptics team visited Berlin to play on the Olympic Stadium ground. In recent years both Oporto and Antwerp have been restarted and fixtures played at Eymet in the Dordogne.

On Boxing Day 1981 a new chapter in our history opened when a Cryptics side flew out to Kenya for our first tour on the Continent of Africa. 

The Club toured Kenya again in 1984/5 and 1987/8 and made its first tour to Asia in 1995, visiting Singapore and Malaysia under the management of Tony Beadles.

In April 2002 the Club ventured into new territory again when it visited Spain to play at Sporting Alfas CC.  Since then pre-season tours have included Menorca, Mallorca, Corfu and Malta.

The Oxford Millennium Festival of Wandering Cricket

The Club enjoyed this unique event, playing 4 games, winning two, drawing and losing one each. The whole event and the magnificent dinner were marvellous opportunities for good cricket and many wonderful meetings with old friends.

Cryptics Cricket Club Celebrates 100 not out by David Fawcus (Oct 2010)

The Cryptics Cricket Club flourishes as one of the country's better known wandering Clubs.  The 2010 Centenary Year celebrations have left this vibrant club in exceptionally strong health, ready to continue onwards towards its double century. 

This remarkable club was founded in 1910 by J G (John) Fawcus, and other undergraduates, while he was at New College, Oxford.  Early in its life it survived the ravages of the Great War and then later the Second World War. In all other years it has played some forty to fifty fixtures annually against hospitable opponents, having no home ground of its own.  It has also completed some sixty eight overseas tours.

The success of a club of this nature is always down to the considerable efforts of its many dedicated servants.  Having founded the club, J G Fawcus remained its secretary and also lead most of its overseas tours until his death in 1949, when he was succeeded in that secretarial role by Harold Fawcus for the next 50 years, through to the age of eighty in 1999.  Since then the administration has been more widely spread, although the founder’s grandson, David Fawcus, has had an overall coordination role in the planning of this year’s centenary celebration - with considerable support from numerous committee members.  

David Fawcus said: ‘The Centenary was planned with two objectives in mind.  Firstly a worthy celebration of past achievements and secondly to position the club well for the future in a changing environment where wandering cricket comes under huge competition from leagues and other competitive commitments.  We believe we have achieved both these aims’.

The club began its centenary year by making its first tour of South Africa, a fitting destination since the club boasts of having had fifteen Test and International players among its club members, two of whom went on to become South African Test captains – to match the several that held the England captaincy in their time.

The club centenary dinner was held in the Long Room at Lords in March 2010.  The occasion was presided over by the centenary year President, Tony Beadles, who was for many years Assistant Hon Secretary and leader of the clubs more ambitious long haul overseas tours in the 1980’s and 1990’s. We were addressed by John Barclay, President of the MCC, which was fitting as club records reveal that as many as eight former MCC presidents were also members of the Cryptics.  Jamie Dalrymple, the current captain of Glamorgan responded on behalf of the club.  His father, Dougie Dalrymple, took over as Hon Sec from Harold Fawcus, and Jamie scored his first overseas half century playing for the club as a young teenager on the tour in Malaysia in 1995, led by Tony Beadles.  John Barclay’s most entertaining speech found mention in a Daily Mail by-line a few days after.

This season the club has completed its usual pre season short European Tour (a more recent annual warm up instigated and managed by Nick Priestnall, as the club seeks to emulate the tactics of the first class counties) and its full list of regular UK fixtures.  These include the traditional Southern, Northern, and West Midlands tours which have been a backbone over the years.  Originally they provided summer holiday cricket and conviviality for the club’s largely schoolmaster based membership, but the tours continue successfully today with the club’s playing membership now drawn from a much wider occupational base.

 In addition there have been several special centenary celebration fixtures.  In the three day Centenary Festival held in July at Radley College we defeated the MCC despite their last minute call up of West Indian legend, Courtney Walsh.  The Presidents X1 comprised representatives of many of our leading opponents, who we were able to invite to join us for dinner after we had proved our supremacy on the field.  Finally we had a marvellous fixture against one of our long standing opponents, an even older wandering cricket club, The Free Foresters, who were founded in 1856. As a testament to the past, and prelude to the future, this fixture was played for the Wingfield-Digby Trophy, which will be competed for in all future years.  The late Michael Wingfield Digby was a colourful member of both clubs and at the end of a hard fought day the trophy was presented to the Cryptics by his widow, Jacky. 

The Cryptics were privileged to play The Cross Arrows at Lords on 14th September 2010, where Simon Halliday, Master in charge of Cricket at Harrow School, scored a further 100 to add to his century in the Festival fixture with the MCC.  Poor weather intervened, allowing a timely departure to the evening reception organised by Malcolm Watson in the Officers Mess at the St Johns Barracks, home of the King’s Troup.

The club is greatly indebted to Bill Blackshaw one of its dedicated elder statesman who researched the archives, and his own encyclopaedic memories, to produce a wonderful history of the club that is also something of a social history of the development of wandering club cricket over the past 100 years.  Many members have enjoyed reading his accounts and the BBC Test Match Special Team found time during the Lords Test against Pakistan to mention this memorable work, before their attention was drawn by contemporary issues with international repercussion.

The season ended strongly looking forward to the future with the election of the youngest President in its history, Andrew Lewis, to succeed Tony Beadles and take the club forward under new management into its second century.  As a current player, not of school master origin, he and his committee are well placed to attract to the membership quality cricketers who love to play wandering cricket at some tremendous venues in the UK and overseas (we look forward to Argentina in 2012) against a range of strong opponents, where the concept of “taking part” is not wholly lost to the league concept of “winning at all costs”.