Paul Edwards talks to former Lancashire all rounder Peter Greenwood
Todmorden-born Peter Greenwood was a bowling all-rounder who played 75 games for Lancashire between 1948 and 1952. He took 208 wickets with his off-spin and, later, seamers, and he also scored 1,270 runs. He dismissed Len Hutton four times and ran the great batsman out for nought in the Roses match of July 1949. He is now one of the few surivors from the side which shared the title with Surrey in 1950. But professional county cricket was only a part of Peter Greenwood's rich life. Paul Edwards visited him at his home in Chester.
Peter, when do you manage to see Lancashire play these days? Do you watch them much on the television?
No, I don't, I'm afraid. Really it's the Old Players' Day when I get to see them now and I enjoy that as a day out. I do a bit of crown-green bowling in the summer so I don't get to see them too much. That gets a bit frustratating because the wood doesn't go where it should but still.... So I don't think I'm qualified to speak about the current players because of that. I think it would be unfair of me to do so.
But you were pleased when they won the County Championship in 2011, weren't you?
Oh indeed. I was delighted when they won the title. We finished joint champions with Surrey in 1950, who beat Leicestershire after a declaration, and I never really thought about winning it again. I did have an invitation from the Mayor and Mayoress of Stretford to a celebration but I'd started work at an engineering firm in the meantime and I didn't want to pinch a day off for a celebration.
But as well as a career as a professional cricketer, you were also a professional footballer. Tell me a little about that.
Yes, I had two seasons at Burnley, 1946-7 and 1947-8, and then I was transferred to Chester and I lived there from then on, well, in the winters anyway. I was in the navy for four years until 1946 and when I came out, it was a question of what am I going to do. I had worked in the office of a cotton manufacturers but I'd played for Burnley reserves before I went in the navy, so I wrote to the club and went for a trial and they signed me on at £5 a week, which was more than I would have got in the mill. Bob Lord was trying to get on the board at the time.
How did it happen that you joined the navy?
I volunteered in Manchester but I'd earlier broken my arm playing football in the street - it's still not straight - so I was refused on medical grounds and then I was refused in Leeds as well. But they accepted me to do office work in the navy. They called me up to Butlins camp in Skegness, and then I went to Highgate and played for Wood Green v the Metropolitan Police. Then I went to barracks at Devonport and I was posted to HMS Colombo, an anti-aircraft cruiser, which was having a refit in Devonport dockyard. After about a fortnight they told me to bring my bag and hammock because I was going on board. When I arrived in the dockyard, it had sailed to Scapa Flow for gunnery trials the previous night. I set off on Sunday night and got on board by Tuesday afternoon. After a couple of days at sea, if they had put a coffin there I'd have crawled in, I was so seasick. After gunnery trials we were in the Mediterranean for two years.
When we out in the Med I got games of football. We'd play opposing ships in Gibraltar. We also saw a bit of action when the bombers came over. I was lucky, I had an action station. The first time there was action I said: "Those are big guns" and someone replied "Those aren't guns, they're bombs!" We were attached to the Americans on the invasion of Sicily and then we went to Yugoslavia, berthed there for four or five months acting as a utility ship. We weren't allowed ashore for a month and there were 425 men on board! Then they allowed us to go on the jetty and do exercises.
You were 22 when you came out of the army. How did you approach sport?
After the war you've seen the serious side of life, so to a degree everything else is enjoyment. And yes, I did enjoy my sport.
What was your first contact with Lancashire cricket?
I'd played for the Navy against Cornwall and Devon and then I took seven wickets for Plymouth against the United Services. After that I got games with the United Services and when I finished with the Navy, both Penzance and Kendal asked me to be their pro. Well I went to Kendal and it was great. We won the league and lost the final of the cup. Alec Leggatt [future Treasurer and President of Lancashire] was playing for Kendal and he must have said something because I got an invitation to play for the second team. I did quite well and they offered me an agreement for 1948 (£10 a week but that was just for the summer). In the late forties I was making a living from cricket in the summer and football in the winter.
What was the regime like at Old Trafford at that time?
Well let me say this. I was once playing in a game and hit one nearly to the boundary and I managed to get run out going for a fourth run. As I was going into the pavilion, the chairman, T A Higson, was coming down the stairs. "Oh are you out?" he said, "How did that happen?" Well I was nearly too embarrassed to tell him because I didn't know whether he'd give me a rollicking or what. But he didn't give me any abuse.
What was the coach, Harry Makepeace, like?
Oh, Harry was great. He came to me when I'd been injured in 1948 and gave me plenty of encouragement.
You went to Old Trafford as an off-spinner and later bowled seamers, didn't you?
Yes, well, when I first arrived at Old Trafford, Dick Pollard was opening the bowling, and when he finished, they put me on to open the bowling.
You played against touring sides too.
I played in the second game against Australia in 1948 and that was Cyril Washbrook's Benefit Match. Bradman played in that game, as did Keith Miller and Ray Lindwall. I had a chat with Bradman when John Ikin was out for 99. Now he was a bit unlucky, John, because he'd made 99 in the last match at Liverpool and I said this to Bradman, but he wasn't a great deal bothered, I think. He was more interested in getting the rest of us out.
Well there's not so many around who played against Bradman and you did get the wicketkeeper Don Tallon out, didn't you. You can alway say that you dismissed one of the Invincibles.
One for plenty [actually one for 62 off 19 overs]. I had the experience of playing against them and that was fair enough. But thinking about touring games I was only recalling the other day that I played against New Zealand in 1949 and my mother, who wasn't well at the time, was laid up in bed and just happened to be listening to the radio when I hit one for straight for six against New Zealand in 1949 and my sister said it just bucked my mother up. Actually, I would put that as the highlight of my career because she was so chuffed. I missed my father's death because he died when I was in the Mediterranean and I didn't even get to his funeral.