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Essex Shield

Tales from the Boundary

Gordon Barker


Gordon Barker was ‘Tonker's’ senior pro when I started watching Essex.  He made his debut in 1954, aged 23, against the Canadians at Clacton-on-Sea, starting with a duck and then making 107 not out in the second innings.

After this match he popped off to play for the Army against the Royal Navy at Lord’s, along with Peter Richardson, Tom Cartwright, Doug Padgett, Peter Sainsbury and Terry Spencer; then against the RAF who had John Murray and David Allen in their ranks.

Then it was off to Southend to play for Essex against the Pakistanis, with a young Hanif Mohammed opening the batting and scoring 142 not out in a total 241.

1955 started at Fenners, then a county championship debut at Lord's, which yielded two ducks.  Matches against Derbyshire and Surrey brought few more runs but what can one expect against Titmus and Young, Jackson and Gladwin, then Loader, Bedser, Laker and Lock!

48 and 35 against Sussex at Worthing must have settled the nerves a bit but it was not until July that Gordon cracked it with 104 and 62 against Notts.

He finished with 1,494 runs at 27.66, including two centuries and was pretty well an ever present for the next 15 seasons, passing a thousand runs in each of those, except 1968.

Overall Gordon played 451 matches for 22,286 runs at 29.20, with 30 centuries, 116 fifties and 236 catches.

He then became coach at Felsted School where his protégés included Nick Knight, John Stephenson and Derek Pringle, who later wrote of him: "During his long career with Essex, Gordon Barker was said to be one of the finest county batsmen never to play for England.   As a coach, his vocation after retirement, there was no such ambiguity.  He was simply without peer."

He also played football for Bishop Auckland, Southend United and Chelmsford City.

Andrew Appleby