John Phillips 1920 – 2021

We are very sad to report the passing of our wonderful long-serving president John Phillips. John celebrated his 100th birthday in September of last year and died peacefully of natural causes in a local care home last week. John has been an incredible servant to North Devon Cricket Club since the 1940’s and has been president since 1986 – the calm, clear-thinking, steadying hand on the NDCC committee for decades. He was highly respected within the cricketing fraternity and will be sorely missed by us all. Thanks to our Vice President and long-time friend of John’s, David Lea, here is a brief summary of John’s life.

John Poynder Phillips, the son of an Australian father and English mother, was born on 16th September 1920 in Sydney. His father, a mine and estate manager in Malaya, arranged for his wife Ruth to have her baby in Australia where medical facilities were better. When John was seven he was sent to a preparatory school in Sussex and from there moved on to be educated at Stowe School in Buckinghamshire.

Cricket was an early passion and John was a regular member of the 1st XI during his final three years at Stowe, often opening both the batting and the bowling. Nearly 50 years later, his son Andrew followed his father into the Stowe 1st XI.

After finishing school at Stowe John chose a career in law and had started studying the subject at Cambridge University for a year when the war intervened in 1939, so John and several of his friends decided to enlist.

John joined the Indian Army and, after basic training in Bangalore was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Gurkha Rifles. He served with the Gurkhas throughout the entire war in the Far East and despite his young age rose to the rank of major. Towards the end of his time with the Gurkhas they were involved in the battle for Mandalay.

John’s father died in Japanese captivity during the war, but his mother survived and returned to her North Devon roots where she found a job with a Barnstaple law firm.

John didn’t return to Cambridge to resume his studies in law, but instead came to North Devon too where he was articled to Chanter, Burrington and Foster and became a solicitor via that route. He practised law in North Devon for more than 50 years with the same firm.

At work John met his wife, Sally, and the couple married in 1966, and had two children, Ruth and Andrew.

Phillips first appears in North Devon CC scorebooks in 1949 and was soon a regular member of the 1st XI. He was also a playing member of the Devon Dumplings and the MCC. John had played cricket at school but until he joined North Devon CC in 1949 he had concentrated on honing his significant golf skills.

As a member of the MCC, John is one of a select few in the cricketing world to have watched English Test match victories over Australia at Lords in 1934 and in 2009.

Phillips’ cricket career tailed off during the 1970s, but in his 60’s he revived it again during the 1980s when his son Andrew started playing – he liked the idea of playing matches with his son and did so for three or four years.

John became president of North Devon CC in 1986 and was very active within the club until the last few years. Mark Ansell, our chairman, said Phillips’ dedication to the club was remarkable, “John was a true gentleman and a great asset to the club for decades – as player and then president.

Cricket wasn’t Phillips’ only sporting enthusiasm. He enjoyed skiing and was an excellent golfer; he won the Devon amateur title in 1948 and played golf for Devon for 15 years, captaining the county golf team in 1955 and 1960. Devon won the South West Championship under Phillips’ captaincy. He was president of the South West Counties Golf Association in 1974.

John had strong ties to the Royal North Devon Golf Club for more than 70 years as a committeeman, later chairman and president and the organiser of the club’s centenary celebrations in 1964.

Mark Evans, the general manager at RND, said Phillips was made an honorary member of the club more than 30 years ago in recognition of his work there. He added: “John was an accomplished golfer whose name appears on many honours boards. He was a character not to be forgotten.”

John was a true gentleman who had a long and very distinguished innings in North Devon and will be sorely missed. We send our condolences to John’s family.

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