Bernard Hollowood

Bernard Hollowood, born June 3, 1910, was a Minor Counties cricketer, an economist, a cartoonist and the editor of Punch. His curious contributions to cricket literature are tinged with humour, sometimes wickedly so. Arunabha Sengupta relates the way he conned Sir Plum Warner into publishing serious sounding nonsense in the ‘Cricketer’ magazine.

Zest for life

Bernard Hollowood was one of those incredibly versatile individuals who live life to the fullest.

A man who effortlessly linked art and science, passion and profession, all his life, he was also a decent cricketer and a prolific, if curious, contributor to the literature of the game.

Bright enough to graduate with a degree in economics from the London University, capable enough to start his professional life as a teacher of economics, geography and commerce at the City School of Commerce, Stoke-on-Trent; he was besotted enough by life and his dreams to try his luck in the world of art. A self-taught artist, he was never much of a draughtsman, but managed to sell drawings to Chambers Journal, Lilliput and Men Only. Subsequently, he contributed drawings and articles to Punch.

Attached to the Loughborough College till 1944, Hollowood thereafter joined the staff of The Economist as an Assistant Editor. Additionally, an expert on industrial ceramics, he was also an editor of Pottery and Glass for six years, and for two years Research Officer at the Council of Industrial Design.

In 1957, Hollowood succeeded Malcolm Muggeridge as editor of Punch and also worked as pocket cartoonist for Sunday Times, at the same time regularly contributing to The Times, Geographical Magazine, Socialist Commentary, Surrey Advertiser, News Chronicle, London Opinion, New Yorker, Evening Standard, Daily and Sunday Telegraph.

All through cricket also played a big role in his life. Hollowood’s grandfather Thomas Robinson was an amateur cricketer for Gentlemen of Staffordshire, and his father Albert was an amateur cricketer at Burslem, Staffordshire, and earned his living as a clerk; his brothers, Ray and Thomas, also played for Staffordshire.

Born June 3, 1910, Hollowood took to the game early during his days at the Hanley High School and St Paul’s College, Cheltenham. He became a competent cricketer, soon appointed skipper of the Burslem side in the North Staffordshire League. For the Burslem side, he played alongside his brothers Roy and Tom. And from 1930 to 1946, he represented Staffordshire in Minor Counties cricket.


The Barnes Cartoons

One of his Staffordshire teammates was Sydney Barnes, the old England bowling great. Later, when Hollowood penned his cricketing memoirs in a book called Cricket on the Brain, he wrote a chapter on this supreme bowler, which included two cartoon sketches of Barnes. One of them depicted the legend leaping in the air with his index finger raised, giving the impression that he had simultaneously appealed and given the batsman out himself. It was captioned impishly: ‘A.N. Other lbw Barnes… 0’.

When John Arlott reviewed the book for Wisden, he wrote: his two caricatures of S.F. Barnes would seem transcendent if they were not outweighed by his chapter on that great bowler which is a fine passage of cricket literature.

Hollowood also contributed multiple illustrations for famed cricket writer AA Thomson’s rather rose tinted memoirs When I was a Lad.

The Warner Sawdust

However, true to his rather sharp and wicked sense of humour, Hollowood’s contribution to cricket literature was seeped in irreverence and farce.

A regular reader of the Cricket magazine, he was both amazed and intrigued by the apparently extraordinary range and depth of the scholarly articles that appeared in the periodical. Hence, he decided to put the system of publication of such articles to an acid test of devilish frivolity.

Grabbing his pen, Hollowood let it run free with his imagination as he scripted an article titled ‘Sawdust’. According to his autobiography, Hollowood allowed (my) pen to consider in mock-serious language the advantages and disadvantages of various timbers as sources of material.

This ‘scholarly discourse’ on the subtleties of wicket preparation was promptly dispatched to Sir Pelham Warner, the editor of Cricketer.

And in the following issue it was published!

Hollowood writes, To this day I believe that he (Warner) accepted it as a genuine and constructive examination of a hitherto neglected item in the paraphernalia of the game. There may in fact be groundsmen operating today with my article as their Bible, groundsmen who talk seriously to their saw-mill suppliers of the virtues of elm sawdust, the reliability of ash and the absorbing quality of sycamore.

It is easy to see why Hollowood was awarded the RSA Silver Medal for his lecture on humour in 1962.

Bernard Hollowood died in Guildford, Surrey, on March 28, 1981.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)