Obituary of John Harold Millican
by Michael Latham

Player:JH Millican

DateLine: 13th September 2013


John Harold Millican 1922-2013


One of the great stalwarts of Penrith and Cumberland cricket, John Harold Millican passed away on 2 September 2013 at the age of 91 after a long illness.


Harold Millican served Cumberland Cricket as Player, Captain, Chairman and President for over 50 years and also enjoyed a long association with the Penrith club.


Born in Penrith in 1922 but originating from Greystoke, Harold Millican attended Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Penrith where his growing prowess as a cricketer was recorded in the school magazine. “Young Millican is a fine all-rounder who plays forceful cricket and does not believe in poking about,” wrote the school correspondent.


After playing his early cricket with village club Stainton, he moved to Penrith in 1939 but lost some of his best years to the war when he served in the RAF.


The County Club was re-formed in 1948, and was then known as Cumberland & Westmorland CCC before being forced to drop the Westmorland appendage when entering the Minor Counties Championship in 1955.


Harold Millican made his County debut in 1951 against Yorkshire II at Edenside, Carlisle and represented the County against Clyde Walcott’s Commonwealth XI in 1951, the South Africans in 1955, South Australia in 1956 (when he scored two fifties in the match) and the West Indians in 1957.


He played in Cumberland’s first Championship match against Yorkshire II at Edenside in 1955 and made his last appearance for the County in 1968 against Lancashire II on his home club ground at Tynefield Park.


In 89 Championship games he scored 1,843 runs at an average of 13.07 and captured 120 wickets at a shade over 30, recording a highest score of 51 against Lancashire II at Old Trafford in 1960 and best bowling of six for 23 against Northumberland at Workington in 1957.


A left-handed batsman with an adventurous style, particularly outside the off-stump, Harold Millican was also a useful right-armed medium pace bowler who could purvey slow off-breaks to good effect.


He succeeded Dick Ellwood as County Captain in 1958 after Ellwood’s premature death at the age of 44 and led the County for a decade until he stood down and was replaced by Adrian Gray after the 1967 season.


Harold Millican later served the County as Chairman from 1973-1992 and as President from 1993-2003.


Current Cumberland President Malcolm Beaty had a long-standing friendship with Harold, forged during their early years playing alongside one another in the County side and at Penrith.


“Harold was a master of improvisation with both bat and ball,” Beaty recalled. His batting style was generally aggressive, sometimes flamboyant but seldom conventional. Cutting powerfully off the back foot or advancing down the pitch to carve an unfortunate bowler through the covers, an in-form Millican, using his bat like a sabre, was a difficult man to bowl to.”


As long-standing County wicketkeeper Beaty was best positioned to judge Millican’s bowling style. “As a bowler Harold had a wide repertoire,” Beaty added. “He might try some medium paced swing bowling or, if conditions were suitable, resort to slow off-breaks, often it was a mix of both. As a wicketkeeper you also had to watch for the ball he delivered without returning to his normal bowling mark; this surprise packet often caught the batsman off-guard and (in my early days at least) the wicketkeeper unprepared.


“As County captain Millican’s capacity for improvisation was often tested to the full in those early Minor County days; his team would probably comprise of one professional plus a nucleus of regulars. But, all too often there were numerous last minute vacancies to fill and numerous league players helped out and made their one and only Minor County appearance in these circumstances.


“Competing against the strong County Second XIs from Lancashire, Yorkshire and Warwickshire with a relatively weak team was no easy task; often it involved fielding for a long time while the opposition built up a large total, then batting twice in quick succession as the ‘follow-on’ was enforced. Throughout these trials and tribulations Harold retained the respect of friend and foe alike with his unfailing good humour and unquenchable spirit- and there were of course occasional successes to savour.”


Harold Millican was a successful club cricketer, reserving some of his best individual performances for County Cup (known as the Meageen Cup) finals with Penrith. He was a member of winning sides on six separate occasions between 1958 and 1971 and also twice finished as a runner-up. He scored 57 and took three for 28 in Penrith’s inaugural Meageen Cup win against Workington in 1958, 48 against Workington in the 1962 final and scored 48 and took five for 30 against Cockermouth in the 1963 final. Perhaps his greatest moment was hitting an unbeaten 62 and sharing an unbroken first wicket stand with Malcolm Beaty (57 not out) as Penrith overhauled Haverigg’s total of 120 to win the 1967 final by a margin of ten wickets on his home ground of Tynedale Park.


When his playing career was over Harold Millican devoted many years to the County’s cause as an administrator and committee-man, putting much back into a game from which he had derived so much enjoyment. He was a well-known figure around the Penrith area, particularly among the farming community due to his employment with the National Farmers’ Union and is remembered most of all as a cricketer and a gentleman. He is survived by his wife Marion and his two daughters.


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