James was introduced to the club by Bob Bairamian when teaching at Claremont School in 1982. A high quality batsman and equally effective off spin bowler, James had played 1st XI cricket for Repton, for whom he also played in the Cricketer Cup. Whilst at Claremont, James also qualified as an MCC player in 1984, the same year that he joined Rye Golf Club. He scored consistently highly for the Bluemantles, as well as for other clubs, such as Free Foresters, Band of Brothers, Yellowhammers, Scorpions and the Stragglers of Asia.
In East Sussex and Kent, James made close and lasting friendships through cricket and the Claremont connection, playing with his friends in the Common Room all over the countryside in those long and balmy Summers, travelling, in some peril, with Rex Roberts to many games, with Ant Lee, Bob, Rupert Bairamian, Ed Atkinson and Rupert “Paddy” Butler. Well known in many of the local hostelries as a result of post match refreshments, James would also entertain great local characters such as John Newbery and The Rev John Lambourne, with whom he would play golf on their regular trips to France with Ant.
On leaving Claremont, James was appointed Master in Charge of Cricket at Cheltenham College, where he enjoyed great success and popularity. From Cheltenham he moved to Radley College, where he became Housemaster of ‘A’ Social. His non-traditional style of pastoral care was hugely appreciated by his charges, creating a happy and laissez faire atmosphere that engendered loyalty and affection.
His real success whilst at Radley was in his time as Master in Charge of cricket. Losing one game in seven years, he forged a strong bond with the legendary Bert Robinson, and with Andy Wagner, the former MCC coach at Lord’s. It is no coincidence that under James, the first class game benefitted from the arrival of Andrew Strauss, Ben Hutton, Jamie Dalrymple and Robin Martin-Jenkins. Punctilious in his adherence to old fashioned standards of good manners and sportsmanship, James imbued a sense of pride in representing Radley, which was repaid by his team and appreciated by their parents.
When James left Radley to pursue his calling in the Church of England, the college was all the poorer. The transition from school master to priest may not have been an easy one, although it is well known that in one of the toughest parishes in the South of England, in Brighton, James was very highly valued, rising to the challenge as ever.
No Bluemantle Week went by without a day or two of “Wessona” holding court in the pavilion with his old friend, Bob. Stories of incidents past, glories re-lived, impersonations of old colleagues and voluble criticisms of fielding positions or bowling changes were de rigeur, becoming louder and louder as the wine consumption went up and up!
As a friend, player and committee member of many years standing, James will be sorely missed by all at the Nevill and in the wider world of cricket where he can claim to have nurtured a future England captain, as well as friendships with groundsmen, umpires and scorers.
A good man.