After 32 years of tending to the Star Stile pitch at Halstead Cricket Club, Brian Firmin has decided to pass on his labour of love to a young understudy, writes Callum Hansey.
Halstead Town Cricket Club groundsman Brian Firmin
Adam Morris is set to take over groundsman duties from a man much admired at the club, having served an apprenticeship alongside during the last two seasons.
After beginning to look after Halstead's cricket pitches back in 1986, former Earls Colne Grammar School pupil and teacher Firmin decided to make his 88th year his final one at Star Stile.
But were it not for a serious illness, the man generations of Halstead cricketers owe a debt of gratitude to, he would likely have never found his way to the north Essex club.
After attending school in Earls Colne. he began his teaching career in 1956 at Percy Jackson Grammar School in Doncaster.
But while there he contracted tuberculosis and, seriously ill, was sent to Broomfield Hospital where he remained for 13 months.
"I count myself lucky on two fronts: both in recovering from a serious illness; and for the opportunity, that came out of the blue, to teach nearer to home," he said.
"In 1975 whilst I was recuperating at home in Earls Colne, I went along to the school sports day and the headmaster asked me if I would like to return to my old school as a teacher, which I did for the next 16 years until the school closed in 1991."
Firmin will be remembered for his staunch efforts in ensuring he always did everything he could to get the sound of leather on willow reverberating out of Star Stile.
Retiring chairman Mark Surridge said: "He would never cancel a fixture if he thought there was the remotest possibility of playing the game, and if that sometimes resulted in teams travelling and sitting in the pavilion waiting for the rain to stop, then that was a price worth paying.
"More often than not, the grounds would dry out and some play would be possible."
Firmin actual began as a man in the middle during matches.
He said: "I never could play the game, so I knew the only way to get involved was as an umpire.
"I had watched Halstead as a boy, then began umpiring for them in the school holidays, beginning in the summer of 1953."
He has affectionate memories of his time at both local schools.
"The roller we still use at Star Stile and pull by tractor is the same old roller we had at Earls Colne where we had shafts fitted and it was horse-drawn, and later even pulled it with the school minibus, so determined was I that the three strips I had prepared would be saturated and rolled out flat, and safe to play on," he said.
While at Earls Colne Firmin taught another who is stepping away from Halstead CC this year, Trevor Cooper - the club's all-time leading wicket-taker, former club captain, chairman, and treasurer.
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