Friday, May 16, 2014
John Lovell seemed to become even more involved in cricket when he stopped playing for Ottery St Mary around 40 years ago, writes Conrad Sutcliffe.
A reliable batsman in his prime, playing in the same team as judge Graham Cottle, Lovell went on to serve the Strawberry Lane club as groundsman, umpire and secretary. He also found time to serve as secretary of the old East Devon League, overseeing the merger with the Devon League in 2001.
But it was as a youth coach and administrator that he really made his mark, not just with his club but in the wider game.
Lovell started coaching at Ottery CC in the late 60s and pioneered the concept of District coaching after that.
Kings School in Ottery became the base for District coaching where, overseen by John, the best young cricketers in the area had their skills polished.
Adrian Codling, now president of the Bradleys East Devon Youth League, said Lovell had a passion for helping young cricketers and put it into practice.
“He was my first coach more than 40 years ago – and I think I was one his first students,” said Codling (left).
“Although John had no formal training as a coach, he was enthusiastic and fantastic with the boys.
“District coaching was something he pioneered – years before the District set-up we have across the county now.
“Although not in favour of youth cricket for youngsters at first, he came round to the idea and was very supportive as Ottery’s representative on the league.
“And when we set up the Peter Howard Fund, John was one of the trustrees and used his legal training to help channel money and help to youngsters.
“John, just like Peter Howard, was a true gentleman of cricket and will be much missed.”
The late Peter Howard was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the East Devon League in the early 1980s. He played for Sidmouth and was a member of the team who won the Premier Division title for the first time in 1989.
Robert Bradshaw-Smith, the current chairman of Ottery St Mary CC, said Lovell had given massive amounts of his time to cricket.
“He lived, ate and breathed cricket,” said Bradshaw-Smith.
“John ran the youth cricket for 20 years from the mid-70s when he took it over from my father.
“As an umpire he was scrupiously honest and bent over backwards to be fair.
“I can remember congratulating him in a game for giving me an lbw decision – it was the first one in eight seasons!
“He made things happen in cricket and that will be his legacy.”
Lovell coached a number of players at Ottery who went on to play at Premier Division or Minor Counties level.
One of them was Mark Woodman, who played for Devon between 1988-1997, who remembered Lovell with huge affection.
“He was ‘Mr Cricket’ and a tireless worker for the club,’ said Woodman.
“He would spend hours at the ground after work helping to coach the colts in the nets. “He loved cricket and never gave up watching even when he became unwell and will be sadly missed.”
Anthony Griffiths, who led Sidmouth to a Premier title and played for Devon, learned his cricket with Lovell at Ottery.
“I can remember him cramming five or six of us into his car for away games, taking us there, umpiring the match and making sure we all got home,” said Griffiths (right).
“He was a great influence on me as a young cricketer – and many more besides.”
John Lovell was born in Manchester and studied at Oxford University before qualifying as a solicitor.
He moved to Ottery with wife Sandra in the mid-1960s and started practicing with Mossop and Whitham. The couple had two sons – Peter and Alan.
John Lovell was an all-round sportsman and sports fan. He played hockey for Isca and switched allegiance to football, becoming an avid follower of Ottery St Mary FC.
His funeral is at the East Devon Crematorium, Whimple on Thursday, May 15 at 1.00 pm.