Reader Letter: Tribute to the most amazing man and cricketer Maurice Sills
PUBLISHED: 13:47 20 July 2017 | UPDATED: 14:10 20 July 2017
Graham Lacdao/Chapter of St Paul's Cathedral
Maurice became a member of Norfolk County Cricket Club in 1987 after he and his wife, in retirement from teaching, had bought their holiday home near Fakenham.
The Norfolk home was sold after his wife died, and, every year from then on until age took its toll, he came up from London for the whole of the County Festival (three three day matches, Sunday, Monday Tuesday, so he was in Norfolk for two and a half weeks), staying in accommodation at the University of East Anglia.
He never drove a car, so he either came to Manor Park, Horsford each day by bus or with lifts from friends.
At the cricket he always sat with the same group in the members’ area, ‘the Maurice Sills fan club’ as I called them. On a Saturday during his annual cricket visit to Norfolk he would go to Fakenham Cricket Club, where he was a vice-president, and catch up with friends there.
MORE: Maurice Sills, one of Norwich City’s oldest supporters, has died just weeks before his 102nd birthday
I first met Maurice in 1997 when I had started the Friends of Norfolk Youth Cricket.
A generous cheque came through the post from this man Maurice Sills in London who I had never met.
On the May Bank Holiday Monday I was manager of the Norfolk Under-13 side playing against Hertfordshire Under-13s at Bishop’s Stortford College, and in mid-afternoon Maurice came and introduced himself.
There was no cricket at Lord’s or the Oval that day, so he thought he would catch a train (he never drove a car in his life) to Bishop’s Stortford and come and have a look!
After that first meeting I often saw Maurice at Lord’s, where he was a member of both MCC and Middlesex CCC, and at the Oval where he was a life member of Surrey CCC, right up to the summer of 2016.
Stories abounded when one was with Maurice.
I loved the one about his Surrey life membership.
In the 1960s the county were in serious financial trouble and offered life membership for £100 to anyone over 55 years of age.
Forty years and more later he was writing his annual letter in October reminding the club that he was still alive, and could he have his free tickets for all five days of the Oval Test Match, and could he have his usual seat next to Raman Subba Row and Bernie Coleman.
Maurice was the most amazing man, a wonderful human being.
He kept saying how lucky he was to be blessed with full mental and physical faculties until his century of years was not far off. The older he became, the more he was accorded “celebrity” status. For the Friday of the Test Match at Lord’s a fortnight before his 100th birthday in 2015 he contacted the MCC office to cancel his reserved seat, as in the morning it was Speech Day at St Paul’s Cathedral School. The MCC response? An invitation into the Committee Room at Lord’s in the afternoon. Just before the tea interval I peered through the glass fronted door to the inner sanctum. There was Maurice seated in the front row where the Queen sits when she visits Lord’s!
In 2016 he was selected to receive Maundy Money from the Queen (90 men and 90 women, Her Majesty’s age that year), distributed at Windsor Castle. At the briefing before the ceremony the recipients were given firm instructions. “Thank you Your Majesty” when handed the Maundy purse, but no more. But if the Queen said something to you, a reply was required. Her Majesty, having given Maurice his Maundy purse, looked at his name badge.
“I gather Mr Sills that you are 100 years old.”
“I am indeed Your Majesty, and thank you very much for the birthday card you sent me.”
I was present at the very moving service for Maurice in St Paul’s Cathedral (the first under the dome since Margaret Thatcher’s funeral in 2013).
What would he have made of having a high profile and very public funeral in St Paul’s? “I don’t know what the fuss is all about” was one of his favourite expressions.
Richard Jefferson, former Norfolk cricket captain and a friend of Maurice for the last 20 years.