We speak to New Rover Cricket Club Vice-President Melvyn Reuben about the history of Jewish cricket in Leeds, in light of a new exhibition at Lords.
On 21st June, a new exhibition opened at Lords exploring the history of Jewish Cricket in the community. Melvyn Rubin, Vice-President of the New Rover Cricket Club attended the opening, and sent items from the club’s archives for the exhibition: “My son, Daniel is in charge of the media for England cricket. He got in touch with me last year as said that the MCC is doing an exhibition about Jewish cricket in the community. It’s going to last for two years. I was asked if have any archive materials. I went rummaging at the club and found quite a lot of materials which are now on display.”
While it now welcomes members from all communities, New Rover Cricket Club began as an exclusively Jewish club in 1934: “There were Jewish Rover scouts playing at a Rover camp, and they decided they wanted to form a sports club. They couldn’t think of a name, so they called themselves New Rover. It was exclusively Jewish youth at that time. I started when I was 17 years old, 64 years ago. I was playing football for Leeds Jewish Institute, on Saville Mount, and some older guys came across and asked if we wanted to join their cricket club. I’d never heard of New Rover, though I played cricket at the Judean Club which used to be on Street Lane. I agreed and they asked if I could bring some of my mates along. I’ve been with the club right the way through.”
When asked for items for the exhibition, Melvyn’s dig through the archives yielded some interesting results: “I sent a club tie down and also a shield, which was what we used to call the ‘Clubman of the Year’ shield. It was presented in the name of a chap called Bernard Seaton, we called him Seggy and he was like Mr New Rover, a founding member. He started the club off and through World War Two, he kept in touch with every one of our players, wherever they were off fighting. I also sent down the minute books which were fascinating. You used to come to a meeting and pay a penny a week or something, and in the books you could see that some people hadn’t paid their penny and weren’t allowed to play the following week.”
Melvyn got to attend the opening of the exhibition down at Lords, a prestigious event which was also attended by Marylebone Cricket Club President Stephen Fry and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis: “I went down to Lords and it was a fantastic occasion. There was Stephen Fry, who of course has Jewish heritage. I spoke to the Chief Rabbi, and in fact, he had played cricket in Ireland, so he knew a lot about the sport There were also three Jewish cricketers, two of whom had played for South Africa – batsman Mandy Yachad and wicket keeper Dennis Gamsy, and an Australian batsman Julian Wiener. Mandy Yachad was picked to play for his province, and the match happened to be on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. And a fast day His father was quite religious, and the rabbi went mad with him. Mandy said: ‘Look, I’m going to play but I promise you, I’m not going to eat anything that day!’ And he played wearing his Tzitzit underneath his cricket uniform!”
If you want to see and hear more anecdotes like this, the exhibition will be available for viewing at Lords for the next two years.