Douglas Smith played sixteen times for Glamorgan in Minor County matches between 1898 and 1909.
Like his father John – a fast round-arm bowler with Yorkshire – Douglas Smith led a peripatetic existence as a professional cricketer, playing county cricket for Somerset, Worcestershire and Glamorgan before emigrating to South Africa where he became an umpire of note and stood in the Fifth Test of the 1913/14 series between South Africa and England.
Born in Yorkshire, Douglas’ first professional engagements were with the Bank of England Club at Alexandra Park in London, and with Meigle CC in Scotland. He then secured a place on the staff of Worcestershire where he was a junior professional between 1889 and 1893. At the time, his father was the groundsman at New Road, but Douglas never made the 1st XI. He subsequently moved to the West Country, playing initially for Bridgwater CC and also helping to coach at Queen’s College, Taunton.
He duly made his first-class debut for Somerset against Gloucestershire at Bristol in April 1896, following some run-laden seasons in club cricket with Yeovil. Despite his success at club level, Douglas lost his place in the West Country side in 1897, and aware that he was not being retained the following year, he approached Glamorgan’s officials during 1898 about the prospect of playing for the Welsh county.
He made his Glamorgan debut against Monmouthshire during the last week of August 1898 in the end-of-season match at Rodney Parade. It proved to be an inauspicious first appearance as Douglas was bowled second ball by Arthur Silverlock and did not get another chance to open his account for the Welsh county as rain washed out the second day of the game. No terms were agreed for 1899 so Douglas headed off to South Africa to coach and play and during the winter months he became the first English professional to score a century in club cricket in Durban.
He briefly disappeared from the first-class scene in the UK and played for a while in Perthshire in Scotland until returning to the Midlands and being selected in May 1901 by Worcestershire for their back-to-back Championship matches against Lancashire at Old Trafford and Yorkshire at Dewsbury. Thirteen months later he made three further appearances for the West Midlands side, before adding four more during 1904.
By this time, he was resident in South Wales having become hired by the Earl of Plymouth in 1903 to act as one of the professionals attached to the St. Fagans club, with his duties including looking after the wicket at their ground in Court Field, besides assisting with the coaching. Given the fact that the Earl also owned property at Hewell Grange, near Redditch, one can only speculate whether Douglas was first approached by the Earl whilst he was playing for Worcestershire.
Whatever, the cause, the effect was that Douglas secured a place in the Glamorgan side and during 1906/07 helped to oversee the creation of a new wicket for the St. Fagans club on land donated by the Earl at Penhefyd Farm, off Croft-y-Gennau Road. Douglas worked closely at the new cricket ground and bowls club with Hugh Pettigrew, the Head Gardener on the Earl’s estate, who also acted as Hon.Secretary to the St. Fagans cricket club. Douglas made his Glamorgan debut in June 1905 during their north-east tour, playing at Northumberland at Newcastle-upon-Tyne and at Hartlepool against Durham.
He only scored 7 runs besides taking four wickets with his off-spin, so it was not until July 1906, after some decent performances for the St. Fagans club, that he played again for Glamorgan appearing in four matches during July, during which he made a decent 35 against Carmarthenshire at Llanelli. He then appeared in eight out of Glamorgan’s ten games during 1907, and came within two runs of a maiden fifty for the Welsh county at Blandford Forum against Dorset, before making 69 against the same opponents at the Arms Park.
1907 was a successful summer for the Welsh county as they beat Surrey 2nd XI in semi-final of the Minor County competition before meeting Lancashire 2nd XI in the final at the Arms Park. Douglas was a member of the victorious side which defeated Surrey, but he was left out of the side in favour of Sam Brain for the final.
By this time, though Douglas had secured a post in South Africa – the country was now playing played an increasingly large part in his life, ironically having played for South Wales against their touring team at the Arms Park during his last season as a Glamorgan player. He had initially playing and coached in East London during the winter months, besides playing for the South African Zingari, before securing a post in September 1907 as cricket coach at St. Andrew’s College in Grahamstown.
Douglas duly spent 45 years at the College and became something of a local legend. As one newspaper wrote, “Modest and unassuring, Douglas was always willing and ready to do a good turn and give advice.” He also became a leading umpire, standing in Cutie Cup matches between 1908/09 to 1927/28, besides officiating in February 1914 in the Test Match at Port Elizabeth where England beat South Africa by ten wickets.
A confirmed bachelor, he also amassed sufficient wealth to leave a generous bequest to his adopted home at the College in Grahamstown, and the Douglas Smith Scholarship, offering one student each year from St. Andrew’s a scholarship to Cambridge University remain in place today. His brother William also played for Somerset during the late 1890s before enjoying a hugely successful career in Minor County cricket with Wiltshire between 1899 and 1913. During this time, William also played for the combined Glamorgan and Wiltshire side which met the 1902 Australians at the Arms Park.
SMITH, Douglas James.
Born – Batley, 29 May 1873.
Died – Grahamstown, South Africa, 14 August 1949.
Batting and Fielding Record
Minor County Championship – 69 v Dorset at Cardiff Arms Park, 1907 and 4/78 v Surrey 2nd XI at St. Helen’s, Swansea, 1905.
Minor County Friendlies – 35 v Carmarthenshire at Stradey Park, Llanelli, 1906.