Hucknall cricket is in mourning on the eve of the new season after the death of one of the sport’s local legends.
E.C.Rhodes, universally known as Cis, was widely regarded as one of the most naturally gifted players the town has produced.
A powerful, flamboyant batsman, and occasional left-arm spin bowler, Rhodes was the star attraction of the era before competitive league cricket was introduced.
He collapsed with a suspected heart-attack while walking on Station Road after visiting the New Gatehouse Ground, home of Hucknall Cricket Club, on Thursday last week.
Aged 77, Rhodes hailed from a famous cricketing dynasty that has been at the helm of Hucknall CC for almost an entire century.
His father, Cecil, was captain, secretary and outstanding batsman for the club until he died in 1958 at the age of 61.
Cecil Rhodes’s legacy was passed on to his sons, Peter and Cis, who scored a hatful of runs for Hucknall during the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
“He was one of the best cricketers in the district,” said his older brother Peter (81), who lives on Brickyard Drive, Butler’s Hill, Hucknall with wife Jane.
“He had such batting ability. He once scored 1,000 runs in a season virtually before the end of June.
“I also remember a match at Skegness when he and Mike Taylder shared a century partnership. Mike was on one not out.
“On another occasion, Cis scored 80 in about 20 minutes at the old Gatehouse Ground, off Linby Road, against Woodthorpe. When he got back to the pavilion, he went to fetch a hand-saw and sawed the blade off his bat, complaining it wouldn’t drive properly. He’d only hit about eight sixes!”
Local cricketing folklore suggests that if Cis’s flair and talent could have been harnessed to Peter’s dedication and patience, the result would have been an England Test player.
So, how appropriate that the last conversation of the two brothers, hours before Cis died, was about Will Rhodes, Peter’s 19-year-old grandson.
Will, who is on the books at Yorkshire CCC, captained England at the ICC Under-19s World Cup in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year.
Cis flew out to Dubai on what proved to be the last of many globetrotting holidays he enjoyed, watching cricket.
“He rang me from the Gatehouse to say he’d got a cutting from the Yorkshire Post about Will,” said Peter.
“He said he would bring it down to us and was on his way to the tram station when he collapsed.”
Edward Cecil Rhodes was born in Hucknall in June 1936. The son of Cecil and Elizabeth (known to friends as Daisy), he was the youngest of three children. The eldest was sister Joyce, who died at the age of 79 seven years ago.
Cis attended Nottingham High School before leaving to become a trainee manager for Woolworths. It was a job he didn’t enjoy, so he went to work in the finance department of the old Hucknall Urban District Council for many years. One of his colleagues was Hucknall historian Eric Horriben.
In 1968, Cis married wife Pamela and moved into the retail industry to work for her father, Allan Williams.
Cis and Pamela divorced in 1980, but they had one son, Jason, who is now aged 42 and lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife Elizabeth. They have a two-year-old daughter, Charlotte, and are expecting twins in June.
As his retail interests grew, Cis later ran his own shops on Oxclose Lane, Arnold, Radford Road, Hyson Green and finally Aspley Lane in Nottingham, from where he retired but continued to live in a flat above the shop until his death.
He enjoyed all sport, taking a keen interest in football as a supporter of Notts County and Hucknall Town, and also golf, which he played well.
But Cis’s first love was cricket. He spent most of his career with Hucknall, although he also turned out for Notts Forest on Thursdays. In the twilight years of his career, he played for Hucknall Ramblers, where he had many close friends.
In the 1980s, Cis fronted negotations to sell the old Gatehouse Ground for housing development.
He and Peter were part-owners of the ground, which had been sold to their father and five other Hucknall CC members back in 1928.
For a while, controversy raged as Hucknall fought to stay put. And the case even reached the High Court.
But the saga was resolved when, with help from Hucknall’s Conservative MP Andy Stewart, the current site, off Hayden Lane, was found as a new ground for the club.
Since the New Gatehouse was opened in 1993, Cis has been inextricably linked with Hucknall again, serving as club president for a time.
His health took a turn for the worse when he was diagnosed with diabetes, and he suffered a heart attack four years ago. But he continued to live as active a life as possible and regularly helped with ground-maintenance at his beloved Gatehouse.
“We were both made life members of the club, “ said Peter.
“The last time I saw him was when he bought me a bottle of whisky for my birthday last week.
“He was the best brother in the world. We shall all miss him greatly, especially everyone at the cricket club.”