Half-century signals end of Turner's long innings

David CuffleyOne familiar white-coated figure has been missing from Norfolk's cricket grounds this year after half a century in the middle. Mike Turner brought his marathon innings to a close at the end of the 2009 campaign, when he completed 50 seasons as an umpire.David Cuffley

One familiar white-coated figure has been missing from Norfolk's cricket grounds this year after half a century in the middle.

Mike Turner brought his marathon innings to a close at the end of the 2009 campaign, when he completed 50 seasons as an umpire.

Now the 66-year-old from Bacton is enjoying a view from the boundary as he travels to some of his favourite grounds.

The son of pre-war Ingham captain Harold Turner, he began umpiring almost by accident after a promising start to what proved to be a very short playing career.

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He recalled: 'I used to score for Norwich Wanderers at Barton Turf when I was 11. I was paid the princely sum of five shillings a game, which was a lot of money at the time.

'I went to Stalham High School and in my last year there I took 52 wickets in 12 games, including four in four balls at Aylsham High.'

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But it was when the teenage Turner was 12th man for Ingham in a game against Carrow that he first donned the white coat.

He said: 'My first match was at Lakenham in May 1960, when I was 16. It was a game in the 'Little League', which was played before the Norfolk Alliance started. It was made up of nine teams and was devised by Peter Powell, who was Norfolk captain.

'Whoever was supposed to umpire did not turn up and I think Jack Borrett, who was Ingham captain, felt for a boy of my age I had fairly good knowledge of the game and it might be a risk worth taking - and I've done it ever since.

'I took my umpiring exam in a big pub off the seafront at Yarmouth.

'I didn't miss playing. I took umpiring seriously and I enjoyed it - I enjoyed it more in the last five years than I ever did. I was still getting good marks from the captains last year. I think I must have done more Norfolk Alliance games than anyone alive and I've missed fewer than 10 games ever since the Alliance started.

'When I had done 45 years I was determined to do 50. But I felt I would be 66 by the time this season started and I didn't want to go on too long. I didn't want to suddenly deteriorate.

'Players who are now in their 80s or 90s would remember me, but so many have gone.'

He spent three years umpiring in the East Anglian Premier League and his last game was in the Alliance at Acle, when they played Diss at the end of last season.

'My intentions now are to have a ride over to places I've enjoyed going to, like Downham, North Runcton, Barton Turf, Ingham and Cromer.'

Turner - 'practically everyone calls me Charlie' - said the late Jack Borrett and the late, great Norfolk, Middlesex and England hero Bill Edrich had a big influence on his cricketing life.

'They were the people who inspired me and encouraged me more than anybody,' he said. 'Bill played his latter years of club cricket at Ingham. I've never met a man with his knowledge. He had the reputation of skippering both sides in Minor Counties cricket and umpiring as well. He also had this reputation of being a hell-raiser. But he helped me a lot and taught me lots of things.

'The people I most enjoyed standing with were Ted Searle, now a life member of Norfolk Cricket Umpires and Scorers' Association, and John Tythcott, who stood no nonsense and was great company.'

Umpiring duties and tours took Turner to some well-known first-class grounds - Canterbury, Maidstone, Hastings and the Nursery Ground at Lord's, where he stood in a Cross Arrows game in 1968.

He umpired in the first year of the Carter Cup competition, 1969, and stood in the first final after the move to Manor Park in 2001, when Yarmouth & Martham beat Swardeston in a match postponed three times. He also stood in four Stan Biss Trophy finals.

And a Norfolk Under-19 game at Horsford gave him his first glimpse of a future star.

'Shropshire's star man was Joe Hart, now England goalkeeper and going to the World Cup. He was a quick bowler and batted number three. He was the quickest 19-year-old I've ever seen - he was lightning,' said Turner.

Now retirement has given him more time to spend with his family - wife Rena, three daughters from his first marriage and nine grandchildren.

A former chairman of Stalham and Walsham Amateur Boxing Club, he is a former sales director for Robinsons Volkswagen of Norwich, once main sponsors of Norfolk County Cricket Club.

'It gave me a marvellous opportunity all through my umpiring career - the number of cars I sold to people I knew through cricket!' he said.

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