`Jock` Tait came within four runs of writing his name in Glamorgan`s history by scoring a century during the Club’s inaugural first-class against Sussex at Cardiff Arms Park in 1921.
The insurance broker had ended the second day’s play unbeaten on 96 after a forthright innings during which he played some cavalier strokes, besides riding his luck as three catches were spilled by the Sussex fielders, some of whom may have still been feeling the after-effects having attended a lavish smoking concert and dinner the previous evening in The Grand Hotel, overlooking the Arms Ground ground.
But there were plenty of clear heads the following morning as play resumed and the Glamorgan batsman was bowled by his namesake, Maurice Tate, in the day’s opening over. Jock returned to the pavilion somewhat crestfallen and told his colleagues “the ball looked as big as a football last night; this morning it seemed as small as a pea!”
Born in the Shetland Islands in November 1886, Jock was a multi-talented sportsman, as he displayed on moving to work in South Wales during the early 1900`s, playing cricket and rugby for Swansea, before moving to the Welsh capital and playing cricket for Cardiff Alpha and their footballing off-shoot Cardiff Corinthians.
His good form for the Corries led to him being chosen for Ireland in their amateur international against England in Belfast in 1913. After the game, the Irish selectors realized that they had acted in error and that his birthplace had really made him eligible for the Scottish team. His period of residence in South Wales though also made him eligible for the Welsh amateur cap and later that year he was chosen in their side for the match against England at Llandudno.
His first cricket match of note came in June 1910 when he played for the Cardiff and District XI against Sammy Wood’s XI in the fund-raising friendly at the Arms Park. It followed a number of fine performances for the Cardiff Alpha side, as well as Cardiff CC, and Jock duly made his Glamorgan debut against Monmouthshire at Swansea during late June 1911. Two months later, he confirmed both his promise and prowess as a batsman by making 66 against Staffordshire at Stoke-on-Trent.
However, his business commitments restricted him to a solitary appearance in Minor County cricket in 1912, but he was available on a more frequent basis in 1913 and struck half-centuries against Monmouthshire at the Arms Park and Wiltshire at Trowbridge, before posting his one and only hundred for the Welsh county against Sir Harry Webb`s XI at Cardiff.
Having moved up the order to open the batting, Jock made 93 against Durham at Sunderland in June 1914, but just as he seemed to be fulfilling his potential, the Great War broke out. Jock joined the Welch Regiment and served as a Lieutenant in their 1st and 2nd Battalions. However, he was struck by a shell whilst serving on the Western Front and was invalided home. Fortunately, the shrapnel wounds to his torso and right leg healed allowing Jock to secure a posting with the Tees Garrison during 1917 and 1918.
When club cricket resumed in 1919, Jock was back in action for Cardiff CC and continued to be a heavy scorer for Cardiff, and the following summer, when the Minor County programme began, Jock opened the batting again with Norman Riches, making 70 against Cheshire at Swansea and 54 against Wiltshire. He was subsequently able to play on a frequent basis for Glamorgan in the County Championship between 1921 and 1923, and in the latter season he deputized as captain when Tom Whittington was unavailable.
Jock also served on the county’s committee between 1921 and 1926. His thriving insurance business in the booming docks in Cardiff meant that he had a host of useful contacts, and he was able to draw upon them as the Welsh county looked for financial assistance to assist with rising costs. Through his friendship with Norman Riches he also played for Wales against Scotland at Perth in 1923, thereby becoming the first person to play both football and cricket for Wales.
His final appearance for Glamorgan came in June 1926 against Warwickshire at Edgbaston, but he continued to play club cricket for several years for Cardiff, besides helping Maurice Turnbull seek out fresh talent by turning out for the Welsh Cygnets in matches against clubs across the region as well as scratch teams formed of promising young colts.
TAIT, John Robert
Born – Lerwick, Shetland Islands, 20th November 1886
Died – Clifton, Bristol, 13th April, 1945
Minor County: 100* v Sir Harry Webb’s MCC XI at Arms Park, 1913; 1/17 v Surrey 2nd Xi at The Oval, 1920.
First-class: 96 v Sussex at Arms Park, 1921; 1/5 v Sussex at Hove, 1922.