Dick Johnson, the son of a well-to-do cotton merchant from Manchester, played for Glamorgan between 1902 and 1908. His life though was interspersed by personal sadness and following the death of his father as well as his first wife, Dick emigrated to Australia and New Zealand.
He was the sixth of nine children born to Thomas and Emma Johnson who lived at ‘The Willows’ in Stretford Road, Urmston. A brother and a sister each died in childhood and this, together with the close proximity of the Lancashire ground at Old Trafford may have spurred on Dick to take part in healthy recreation. After leaving school, he worked initially in his father’s warehouse before becoming a cotton tradesman and secured a position in Penarth in South Wales.
He duly joined the seaside town’s cricket club, besides meeting and falling in love with Annie Augusta (or Mona) Williams, the daughter of the late Rev. John Williams, the vicar of Peterston-super-Ely and the grand-daughter of William Prichard, JP of Llantrisant. The pair were married on 7 June 1900 at All Saints Church in Penarth, with Dick making his Glamorgan debut two years later when Monmouthshire visited the St’ Helen’s ground for their Minor County Championship match.
By the time of his next county appearances, in August 1905 against Berkshire at Reading, Devon at Exeter and Surrey 2nd XI at St. Helen’s, Dick and Mona had moved to Swansea where he had established a regular place in the town’s 1st XI, besides being a leading light with the Swansea Wednesday XI. “A very good change bowler and a steady bat,” is how he was described in a special profile in the Evening Express newspaper on 12th August, 1905. “As a defensive player, he has no superior in the Swansea team.”
His social standing was such that in July 1905 he was also invited to play for the Gentlemen of Glamorgan against their counterparts at The Gnoll. The Neath ground was also the venue for his fifth, and what proved to his final appearance for Glamorgan during 1908 in the Minor County Championship contest against Carmarthenshire. But, by that time, he had sadly lost Mona who had died in Swansea on 10 August 1906, and later in 1908 his father Thomas also passed away.
Dick moved back to Manchester to help his brother’s run the family business, before emigrating to Argentina where he met his second wife, Hilda Lambert, ironically whilst in hospital in Cordoba having been stabbed in the back during an altercation on a train journey. Richard and Hilda had a child whilst living in South America, with Nona Gertrude Johnson being born in Cordoba on 7 March 1912.
After briefly returning to the UK, Dick and his family then moved to New Zealand during November 1913, where he enlisted with the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces and served in Samoa before moving again, to Tasmania, where Hilda had relatives. He duly enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in April 1915 and was in the Anzac force in Gallipoli where he was buried by a shell explosion and invalided out of the AIF as unfit for service 15 July 1916.
Dick subsequently returned to Australia and ran a Poultry Farm in Victoria before moving to live in Geelong where he worked as a gardener. He never however fully recovered from his wartime experiences and exposure to gas and died, aged 50, on 24 October 1924. Tragically, Hilda gave birth to their second child Hope Hardwick Johnson a week later on 30 October 1924. Hilda and her daughters returned to the UK after the Second World War, with both of the girls working as nurses.
JOHNSON, Richard Hardwick (‘Dick’).
Born – Didsbury, Greater Manchester, 1 February, 1874.
Died – Geelong, Australia, 27 October, 1924.
Batting and Fielding Record
Minor County Championship – 21* v Berkshire at Reading, 1905.