Posted by: mattburleigh | October 14, 2019

Charles Vyvyan Robinson

As you enter Preston Cricket Club in Hertfordshire, the ground gently slopes uphill away from you towards the pavilion on the far side. On your right, set back from the boundary rope, is a varnished, wooden bench. It’s a favourite spot for players and spectators as they walk around the edge of the playing field, taking in different views of the action in the middle. And when the Sun starts to set in the early summer evening, when the supporters in the pavilion start to drift away or reach for a jumper as the shadows lengthen, that bench is the best place to watch the play. Sheltered by the slope and the trees behind it, looking north-west and catching the last of the day’s sunshine, it is the warmest place on the ground. The bench has been there for almost three decades. It even features in a painting of the ground we commissioned a few years ago.

Carved into the top of the seat, in smart lettering, is the name “Charles Vyvyan Robinson”. Charles played one season for Preston, in 1989. Thirty years ago today, on 14th October 1989, Charles took his own life. He was 19.

Charles was a year older than me. His family had moved to the village after his father took a position at the Princess Helena private girl’s school, which lies opposite the ground. He wasn’t a particularly brilliant cricketer, and mainly played in the Saturday and Sunday Second XIs, back in the days when we ran only two league sides. He bowled medium pace, long hair flapping as he hustled up to the wicket. His batting was of the village green variety: no point hanging around when you can swing across the line and see how far it will travel.  These days he’d be a happy 3rd or 4th XI cricketer.

Charles was a quiet lad, shy, never saying much. But I enjoyed playing with him, as did the other youngsters of my generation at the club. He came on tour with us that summer, to Bournemouth and the New Forest. Cadnam with its fence to keep out the ponies; Lyndhurst, where the wild ponies charged across the pitch and we stood rock still in terror, praying they wouldn’t run us over;  Fordingbridge, where Lardy scored a famous ton; and Hartley Wintney on the way home, with its pub on the boundary edge, where we could nurse a week of hangovers… all grounds bathed in glorious sunshine in my memory. 1989 was one of those long, hot summers where the grass began to turn yellow.

One night in Bournemouth, Charles got very drunk. Being drunk on tour is not unusual, but it was for Charles. We gently persuaded him out of one pub, and as we walked away, we realised he still had his pint glass with him. He tossed it into the road where it smashed, loudly. Come along Charles, before the police spot you.

The club cricket season tended to go on a little longer in those days, towards the end of September.  Then Charles went off to University. By all accounts, he did not settle, and was soon back home. He took his father’s shotgun, we were told, and went into the woods.

We heard the news at school. Most of us youngsters were in the same year at The Priory School in Hitchin. I went to the funeral at the small church in Preston, and to the reception afterwards at Princess Helena. The Gatehouse brothers came too, as did several of the senior players from the club. We didn’t really know what to say to each other, and we youngsters were soon back at school rehearsing the pantomime, throwing darts at Colesy’s terrible jacket in the 6th form common room, and spending our evenings playing match after match of indoor cricket at Bumpers in Stevenage. But Charles’ sudden death deeply affected at least one of my older friends at the club. It wasn’t an event so easily forgotten.

Could we have done anything? Today, we are all much more aware of the mental health issues faced by many young people, although some of our institutions still have a long way to go. As the years passed after his death, I always felt that the summer’s cricket with Preston helped Charles, and gave him some happiness. Perhaps that is why his family donated a memorial bench to the club (they moved away not long afterwards). Then I worry that it was season’s end, coupled with the stress of moving to University, that might have been part of whatever went wrong. But I can only speculate.

Charles is buried in the little graveyard at St Martin’s in the village. Sometimes, I stop by and say hello. I did so yesterday. And I will always enjoy sitting on Charles’ bench. Rest in peace, our cricketing friend from long ago.




  1. Thank you for remembering my cousin Charles

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