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Jack Meyer
Personal information
Full name Rollo John Oliver Meyer
Born 15 March 1905(1905-03-15)
Clophill, Bedfordshire, England
Died 9 March 1991 (aged 85)
Kingsdown, Bristol, England
Nickname Boss
Batting style Right-handed batsman
Bowling style Right-arm slow-medium
Role All-rounder
Domestic team information
Years Team
1936–1949 Somerset
1924–1926 Cambridge University
1924–1929 Minor Counties
1926/7–1934/5 Europeans (India)
1929–1950 MCC
First-class debut 10 May 1924
Cambridge University v Lancashire
Last First-class 22 July 1950
MCC v Minor Counties
Career statistics
Competition FC
Matches 127
Runs scored 4621
Batting average 23.69
100s/50s 2/24
Top score 202*
Balls bowled 21965
Wickets 408
Bowling average 25.31
5 wickets in innings 25
10 wickets in match 3
Best bowling 9/160
Catches/stumpings 85/–
Source: CricketArchive, 26 November 2007

Rollo John Oliver Meyer (15 March 1905 – 9 March 1991), known generally as "Jack Meyer" and at Millfield, mainly as "Boss", was an English educationalist who founded Millfield School in Somerset; he was also an all-round sportsman who played cricket at first-class level in England and in India.

Meyer was born at Clophill, Bedfordshire, on 15 March 1905 and educated at Haileybury College. He was at Cambridge University between 1923 and 1926; then went to India to work as a cotton broker for 10 years. He returned from India in the mid-1930s with seven boys, six of them princes, and founded a school for them in Somerset. He then played county cricket for Somerset and captained them. And he built Millfield up into a leading public school. He died in Bristol on 9 March 1991.

Meyer was unpredictable in most of what he did. Tales of his eccentric behaviour are legion and many of them appear to have more than a smattering of truth. But he was also a genuinely far-sighted educationalist, an unorthodox but successful entrepreneur, and a talented if unharnessed sportsman. He inspired fierce loyalty but also, often at the same time, a large measure of exasperation.

Contents

Early life

The son of a clergyman, Meyer was educated at Haileybury where he stood out as a cricketer: a forceful right-handed batsman and a right-arm bowler of medium pace picked out by the Wisden chronicler of public schools cricket of the time, H. S. Altham, for the amount of bowling work he got through, the maintenance of line and length in his varied bowling, and his flair for the "big" occasion[1] .

The cricketer

At Cambridge, Meyer made an immediate impact in cricket, taking nine wickets in the Freshmen's Match at the start of the summer term in 1924. He took four wickets in the first first-class innings he bowled in and retained his place in the university side for the whole season, winning his Blue[2]. After the university term was over, he played Minor Counties cricket for Hertfordshire, scoring a lot of runs and taking 51 wickets at low cost. He was picked for the Minor Counties representative side which was accorded a first-class match against the South African touring team and his six wickets for 60 runs in the South Africans' first innings put the Minor Counties on the way to a surprise victory by 25 runs[3]. He was then called up for the Gentlemen v Players match at Blackpool and responded by taking eight Players' wickets for 38 runs in the first innings[4], a feat that did not prevent the Players from winning rather easily in a match that Wisden deemed "by no means worthy of its high-sounding title"[5].

Meyer retained his place in the Cambridge sides of 1925 and 1926, batting fairly low in the order and taking regular wickets. Less than three months after his final University Match appearance in July 1926, he was working as a cotton broker in India and turning out for the Europeans in the final of the Bombay Quadrangular Tournament. Over the following Indian cricket season he played four times in matches against the touring side from the MCC led by Arthur Gilligan, including one appearance for the full India side.

Meyer stayed in India for nine years and played first-class cricket in several Indian seasons. In the 1927-28 season he played only two games, both for the Europeans in the Bombay tournament, but took 28 wickets in these matches, including his career-best nine for 160 in the final against the Hindus when he finished with match figures of 16 wickets for 188 runs. In 1929, in a summer spent in England, he played Minor Counties cricket for Hertfordshire again and in several first-class matches for amateur teams against the universities, and in his last season in India, 1934-35, he captained the Western India side in two matches in the Ranji Trophy.

The second stage of Meyer's cricket career began after his return to England to set up Millfield School in Somerset. From the 1936 season, he appeared in Somerset matches, almost always those in the second half of the season when the school term had ended and, with rare exceptions, those played at home. In these games, he played as an all-rounder, his batting having improved significantly since his Cambridge days. Against Lancashire at Taunton in the last match of the 1936 season, he rescued Somerset from likely defeat with his maiden century, an undefeated 202, scored in 225 minutes. There is no doubt of the innings' merit – Somerset were still 48 behind with half their second innings wickets gone – but there is an oft-repeated story that the double century was obtained by an offer to contribute to the Lancashire beneficiary's fund[6 ][7]. And he got a second century the following year against Sussex[8]. As a bowler, he managed at least one five-wicket innings haul in each of the four seasons running up to the Second World War, though his bowling was an increasingly idiosyncratic mixture of spin and swing. In the war, he served in the Royal Air Force[9]

After the war, Meyer resumed his prewar pattern of late summer home games in 1946, but then, in 1947, at the age of 42, allowed himself his solitary season of full-time cricket as Somerset's captain. By this stage, he was badly affected by lumbago, and though he scored 850 runs and took 43 wickets, the season was not a success for Somerset, and he stood down at the end of the year. He played a couple of first-class matches in each of the next three seasons, and then retired from cricket to full-time schoolmastering.

The educator

Meyer was accompanied on his return to England from India in the mid 1930s by seven Indian boys, including six princes, having been entrusted with providing them an education. He set up Millfield School near Glastonbury in Somerset in 1935 and remained as its headmaster and guiding spirit for the next 35 years. He was universally known as The Boss at school.

Millfield from the outset was an unconventional public school, with an emphasis on all-round excellence, not just academic, including strength in areas such as sports and the arts. Meyer had a flexible attitude towards school fees, charging wealthy parents some of the highest in the UK but waiving them entirely for some pupils whom he considered deserving. Nevertheless Millfield became a huge success, attracting well-known parents and achieving big success in the development of athletes and sportsmen.

Links between Millfield and Somerset County Cricket Club remained close. In 1960, Meyer recruited Colin Atkinson, who had played Minor County cricket, on to the Millfield staff. Atkinson played regularly for Somerset from 1960 to 1962, and then was released from school duties to captain the county side from 1965 to 1967. When Meyer retired as headmaster of Millfield in 1971, Atkinson succeeded him.

Meyer then went to Greece where he took charge of a newly-established English-language school, Campion. He remained headmaster for seven years and inspired a number of tales of his eccentricity which were still being recounted two decades later. In 1980 Meyer split with the school and founded another English-language school, St Lawrence College. One 2nd-grade pupil remembers him visiting the classroom in 1986 as akin to a royal visit given his great age and substantive aura that surrounded him.

The personality

Meyer was a restless character, and tales of eccentric behaviour are not confined to the cricket pitch. Some examples are as follows:

  • Allegedly in 1947, Arthur Wellard, even older than Meyer, was bowling rather well, when Northamptonshire batsman Dennis Brookes played a false stroke through the slips which Meyer, too crippled by lumbago to bend down, failed to catch. Meyer reached into his back pocket: "Sorry Arthur, here's a quid."[10]
  • He once pulled the communication cord on the Manchester train so that his players could get some food.[11]
  • In a match interrupted by rain, Somerset took the field with only 10 men until Meyer appeared under a large red umbrella.[11]
  • Meyer allegedly needed little sleep, which he would take in the headmaster's study. He carried a horse racing form book along with other more academic works and on occasion went to London where he wagered large sums of money in gambling casinos, often losing the lot.[6 ]

References

  1. ^ "Public School Cricket in 1923". Wisden Cricketers' Almanack (1924 ed.). Wisden. pp. p309.  
  2. ^ Cricket Archive
  3. ^ Cricket Archive
  4. ^ Cricket Archive
  5. ^ "Gentlemen v. Players Matches". Wisden Cricketers' Almanack (1925 ed.). Wisden. pp. p442.  
  6. ^ a b David Foot and Ivan Ponting. Somerset Cricket: A Post-War Who's Who' (1993 ed.). Redcliffe Press, Bristol. p. p83.  
  7. ^ Cricket Archive
  8. ^ Cricket Archive
  9. ^ Anandji Dossa and Mohandas Menon, ed. Obituary in ACSSI Cricket Yearbook 1990-91. p. 464–465.  
  10. ^ David Foot. Sunshine, Sixes and Cider (1986 ed.). David & Charles, Newton Abbot. p. p152.  
  11. ^ a b David Foot. Sunshine, Sixes and Cider (1986 ed.). David & Charles, Newton Abbot. p. p153.  
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Bunty Longrigg
Somerset County Cricket Captain
1947
Succeeded by
Mandy Mitchell-Innes,
George Woodhouse, Jake Seamer (shared)

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