Tom ‘Topsy’ Wass – An Appreciation by Edward W. Elliott
Availing myself of an opportunity, kindly provided recently by that keen lover, and great supporter of cricket, Mr. Hedley Wright, in the office of his Sutton-In Ashfield works, I had the pleasure of renewing acquaintance with Tom Wass. I had not seen the famous old Nottinghamshire fast bowler for a very long time, and it was fitting that I should meet him in his home town and in the course of one of his periodical visits to the cricket ground of the Simpson Wright and Lowe’s club to have a look at the wicket in which he has taken a ‘fatherly’ interest since he retired from First Class Cricket.
Tom, a few weeks earlier, on December 26th to be exact, had celebrated his 74th birthday, but except that, as he readily remarked, his legs were not now standing up to the strain, he was the same upstanding figure, and was possessed of the same old merry twinkle in his ark eyes that followers of cricket saw, when in his prime, he helped his native county to one of their many Championship successes in 1907.
With me in addition to Mr. Wright, were Stanley Johnson, a very old colleague of mine and Mr Geo. Green, two cricket enthusiasts both of whom have done much to make the Notts County Handbook the success it is. In such an atmosphere it was only natural that the conversation should be about cricket and crickets over a cup of excellent tea Tom revelled in the past and told us of the giants of his day.
It was of course a conversation of a more of less reminiscent character, such as befitted the occasion, but my readers will be as surprised as I was to find that ‘Topsy’, as we have always known this great-hearted fast bowler, was a devotee of fox hunting.
As a follower to hounds, he always relied upon ‘Shanks’ Pony’, and through little of covering anything up to 20 miles in pursuit of his favourite sport after going long distances to the meets. To this, combined with punch-ball practice for an hour before breakfast every morning-during the winter months, Tom attributes his fitness during the cricket seasons.
Small wonder therefore that after expressing his unqualified opinion that Arthur Shrewsbury, the only player who could make runs on any type of wicket, was the greatest of all batsmen, and that know one had dealt with all fast bowling in the easy and graceful style of Geo. Gunn, Tom had a word to say about the fitness of cricketers.
He avers that present day cricketers spent too much time in, and make too much use of their motor cars. ‘How can they expect to be fit’, he remarked, ‘seeing that they hardly ever think of walking’. By indulging in walking exercise, and plenty of it, combined with before breakfast exercise Tom is certain that Nottinghamshire’s cricketers would become fitter and more successful in consequence.
Tom had much that was interesting, and also appreciative to say about his old bowling comrade the late A. W. Hallam. ‘Had Arthur been stronger he would have had a long career as an England bowler but unfortunately he was no’, he stated.
It was because of his successful bowling partnership with Hallam that Tom will always be fondly remember in connection with Nottinghamshire cricket.
Another great characteristic of the old fast bowler was his truly remarkable knowledge of the state of a wicket. Many was the time when he was able to correctly forecast a result of a match on taking a first look at the pitch, and his verdict was reached without the slightest hesitation.
On one occasion A.C. MacLaren took Tom with him to inspect the wicket at Augburth after rain. ‘Tom’ he said, ‘you know this wicket pretty well, what do you think of it?’ Tom’s reply was very brief and to the point, ‘We shall win’ he said and proceeded to justify ‘the faith that was in him’ by taking 9 wickets for 60 runs.
Tom as a lad played for several seasons in his native village of Sutton in Ashfield, and then had a year as a professional to Edinburgh Academicals. Whilst on the Liverpool C.C. staff (two seasons) he qualified for Lancashire, and was offered an engagement at Old Trafford, but turned this down to join Nottinghamshire for whom he first played in 1896.
During his 20 years of first-class cricket Tom Wass took 1,665 wickets, a record for Nottinghamshire and in his 302 innings his score was 56 made against Derbyshire at Derby in 1906. In the Championship winning season of 1907 he secured 163 wickets, and held the record until 1922 when Richmond took it over with 169.
On two occasions- against Surrey at the Oval, 1902 (9 for 91) and Derbyshire at Blackwell nine years later (9 for 67) he obtained nine wickets in an innings., and in 15 other innings his total was weight. In the Blackwell game his record at one time was 8 for 19 in 14 balls.
Tom Wass played his last match for Nottinghamshire on the occasion of Joe Hardstaff senior’s benefit against Yorkshire at Trent Bridge in 1920.