Standing room only at the funeral of Hucknall cricket legend

LOCAL LEGEND -- E.C. Rhodes, who has died at the age of 77.
LOCAL LEGEND -- E.C. Rhodes, who has died at the age of 77.

It was standing room only when Hucknall cricketing legend E.C. ‘Cis’ Rhodes padded up for the final time last Saturday morning.

More than 250 mourners crammed into the chapel at Mansfield Crematorium for the funeral of Rhodes, who collapsed and died of a heart attack on Thursday 10th Aprtil at the age of 77.

A stalwart of Hucknall Cricket Club, Rhodes was regarded as one of the best cricketers of his generation. A giant of the amateur era between the mid-1950s and the mid-1980s.

The congregation included the captain of England’s under-19 cricket team, Will Rhodes, who is the grandson of E.C.’s older brother, Peter Rhodes (81), who lives in Hucknall with wife Jane.

Will (19), a professional on the books of Yorkshire CCC, made a special journey from his home near Hull to pay his respects -- only weeks after E.C. (Edward Cecil) had flown out to Dubai to support him leading England in the ICC Under-19s’ World Cup.

A splendid service was expertly conducted with both wit and reverence by veteran minister Canon Alan Haydock.

Canon Haydock (73) had been a personal friend of Rhodes since taking up one of his first ministerial positions as vicar of St John’s Church in Butler’s Hill, Hucknall back in 1968.

“I had meals three times at the week at the Rhodes family home with mum Daisy,” he recalled. “Since leaving Hucknall, Cis was the only person who regularly kept in touch.”

Canon Haydock spoke not only of Rhodes’s cricketing exploits, mainly with Hucknall CC, but also of his many qualities as a person, including his generosity and his sense of humour.

“It is no exaggeration to say that half of Hucknall was shocked to hear news of Cis’s death,” said Canon Haydock. “He lived life to the full.

“He was also a bit of an entrepreneur, setting up shops at Arnold, Hyson Green and Aspley. And I know from personal experience how much he was appreciated by under-privlileged and deprived customers in those areas.”

Rhodes leaves a son, Jason (42), who travelled from his home in Dallas, Texas to attend the funeral, which was also attended by the ex-cricketer’s former wife, Pamela.

Canon Haydock relayed to the congregation the memories of his dad that Jason held dear.

He said: “Jason says he will never forget the hugs with his dad after he’d finished batting, how he taught him the value of sportsmanship and then, later in life, the look on his face when he held his grand-daughter, Charlotte, for the first time.” Jason’s wife Elizabeth is expecting twins next month.

A fitting tribute to Rhodes and his lifelong involvement with Hucknall CC was read by the club’s current chairman, Martin Cassidy.

“Cis was a huge part of the club -- and the club and cricket were a huge part of his life,” Cassidy said.

“When a scorebox was erected at our original Gatehouse Ground, his mother promised an engraved tankard to the first person to score a century in front of it.

“Cis became that man -- and last year, he presented the tankard to the club for display in the pavilion.”

Cassidy reminded all of the role Rhodes played in setting up Hucknall CC’s new ground, off Hayden Lane. transforming it from a poppy field and spending hundreds of hours over 12 years cutting and rolling the outfield.

“Cis had many fine qualities,” Cassidy went on. “He was kind, considerate, humorous and entertaining company. He was modest, diplomatic, forgiving and also generous -- generous with his time, his praise and his money.

“He loved to reminisce, but he didn’t live in the past. He also enjoyed and took great interest in the present.

“He became quite poorly two or three years ago, but he never showed self-pity.”

Rhodes also played for the former Hucknall Ramblers Cricket Club late in his career and was vice-president of Kimberley and Denby Cricket Clubs.

He was keen too on football, as a supporter of Notts County and Hucknall Town, and was an excellent golfer and snooker player.

Donations in memory of Rhodes were made after the service to Hucknall Cricket Club.

He had been due to take part in the opening ceremony of the club’s new £65,000 pavilion extension at the New Gatehouse Ground the week before the funeral.

Added Cassidy: “On the day he died, Cis had been on the ground talking about his planned involvement in the opening ceremony.

“He loved cricket occasions such as that.

“He didn’t make it, of course, but I know his spirit was there, as it always will be as long as the ground and the club exist.”