Tributes flood in for local cricket legend Brian Roe

Brian Roe (left) and Graham Atkinson going out to bat at Torquay in June 1963 Brian Roe (left) and Graham Atkinson going out to bat at Torquay in June 1963

Monday, June 30, 2014
9:51 AM

Roe, who played for Somerset and played across North Devon for five decades, has died aged 75

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HE was the schoolboy batting prodigy from Barnstaple talent spotted by Somerset at the age of 14 – and nearly 60 years later Brian Roe was still rattling up the runs.

Roe, who has died aged 75, scored nearly 5,000 First Class runs for Somerset in 132 games between 1957-66, He added enough to get over the 5,000-mark in four more matches for the Combined Services.

The head at Barnstaple Secondary Modern School, Mr Heppenstall, recognised cricket talent when he saw it and sent the watchmaker’s son – Roe was the youngest of eight– to Somerset for a trial.

He made his 2nd XI debut aged 15 – scoring 12 and 27 against Kent at Bath - and stayed at Taunton for the next 12 summers.

Roe’s career stats were 136 matches and 5,010 runs, including 25 half-centuries and four centuries, the best being 128 against Essex at Brentwood.

Roe was still turning out in the North Devon League for Barnstaple & Pilton on summer Sunday afternoons aged 73.

The first signs of ill-health – he could still hit boundaries, but running between the wickets was becoming a problem – forced Roe to retire at the end of the 2012 season.

He had been a virtual invalid since February this year and was looked after by friends Rodney and Janet Bowden in Bickington.

Tributes have been piling up for Roe since his death over the weekend, from team-mates and rivals alike.

Steve Moore, the current captain of Barnstaple & Pilton CC, first met Roe when he was a 14-year-old lad playing for the now defunct Raleigh club in Barnstaple.

Moore went on to play Premier cricket for Braunton and represented Devon in the Minor Counties Championship. He said Roe was a massive influence on his career.

“Brian was the best coach and teacher any young cricketer could have,” said Moore.

“Everything I achieved in cricket was thanks to him – I owe him a lot.”

Roe opened the batting for Somerset during most of his professional career and earned a reputation for being hard to dismiss. He stayed that way right to the end.

Bob Cottam, who opened the bowling for Hampshire during the 1960s, had many a duel with Roe in the County Championship.

Cottam, a former bowling coach to the England team now living in retirement in Devon, remembers those battles well.

“Chico – everyone called him that – was fiercely competitive and would not give his wicket away,” remembered Cottam.

“He did well opening, nothing fussy or flash, and when you looked at the stats at the end of the season he always had a stack of runs.”

Somerset’s current president Roy Kerslake was an up-and-coming all-rounder with the county in the early 60s and played alongside Roe for three seasons.

Kerslake, who was Roe’s best man when he got married, said his friend and team-mate always kept it simple.

“Brian knew his limitations as a player and always made sure he played within them,” said Kerslake.

“His defence was solid and he had the temperament to bat and bat, which was how he scored his runs.”

Somerset released Roe at the end of 1966 and he went into the insurance industry shortly afterwards.

With a wife and two children to support and a regular income coming in, Roe declined an offer to return to Somerset in 1967.

Instead, he piled up the runs year after year for the next four decades, for Devon CCC and a whole host of clubs in North Devon.

Raleigh, Nondescripts, Pilton, North Devon, Braunton and Westleigh – he played for them all.

During three seasons with Devon – 1972, 1973 and 1974 – Roe scored 992 runs at an average of 39.68.

“The job meant Brian could play almost as much cricket as he wanted – and he took advantage of that,” said Mike Snell, who employed Roe in his insurance agency.

“I remember we won a competition organised by Cornhill Insurance at the agency – and the prize was a cricket tour to New Zealand,” said Snell.

“John Jamieson, the old Warwickshire and England batsman, ran it and when we got there we played on the Test ground in Otago and he scored a hundred,” said Mr Snell.

Roe played so much club cricket in 1980 he totted up 4,034 runs in all games.

The runs just kept coming, four centuries in 1989 for Westleigh contributing to his final tally of 222 tons.

Roe topped the North Devon League averages for Barnstaple & Pilton every season from 1991-93. He best average was a remarkable 148.3.

“Cricket was in his soul,” said Snell. “He loved the game and I think it loved him.”

Brian Roe was divorced from his wife Marlene. The couple had two children, a son and a daughter.

Brian Roe’s funeral is on Friday, July 11 at 11.40 at the North Devon Crematorium.

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