Roy Abell 1931 to 2020

Written by: Dick Chase
Date: 09/07/2020

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Roy Abell 

I once asked Roy whether he would rather be known as a cricketer who painted or a painter who played cricket. “A painter who played cricket” was his immediate reply. That certainty shaped his life. Moseley used to play Warwickshire in pre-season friendlies, and after one of those games MJK Smith asked him if he wanted to play for the County. He declined, as he wanted to pursue his art, and cricket he would play for Moseley. As an artist he had a very distinguished career as both an art teacher and a painter, using both oils and watercolour, with the subject being mainly landscapes, as well as portraiture. He painted the grounds of all of the League clubs, and the original painting still hangs in their clubhouse, just as ours does. He is also responsible for the plaque of David Heath that adorns the front of the pavilion.   

 Roy came to Moseley in 1948. He started his cricketing life as a brisk seamer, and was very accomplished at it, such that playing for Moseley against the 1950 West Indies touring side as a 19 year old, he was complimented during the game by Everton Weekes: “Which county do you play for?” Roy said, “Just Moseley”. Weekes replied, “You’re one of the best bowlers in England”. He did, in fact, make one appearance for the County, in 1967, at the ripe old age of 36!   

However, he is best known for his leg spin. He was not a conventional leg spinner, but pushed it through rather than creating big turn, so that l.b.w. and leg slip came into play a lot. He often bowled lengthy spells in partnership with Bert Latham and the combination undid many a side. At one stage they were described by The Cricketer Magazine as the best pair of bowlers in Club cricket. Roy became the first bowler to take 1000 Birmingham League wickets – 800 plus in the First Division (now called Premier) and the remainder in the Second. (Bert became the first to take 1000 wickets in the First Division). When Roy retired, in 1982, he did so because he felt he was stopping younger players from being given opportunities: “I don’t want to be a stumbling block” he said. A selfless gesture from a selfless man. 

As a cricketer he was one of a number of very talented players who won the League title 7 times between 1959 and 1970 under the astute leadership of David Heath. Roy took 50 wickets in a season twice, and holds what is probably a League record of 6 for 2 against West Bromwich Dartmouth in 1958. On the field he was highly competitive but not confrontational, and off the field he was warm and outgoing, funny and sociable, a man who drank very little but was very generous when getting drinks for others. He had a wonderfully dry sense of humour and was an acute observer of people and situations. He was extremely gifted artistically, intellectually curious and bright enough to undertake successfully the most challenging of crosswords. He came on the first Moseley cricket tour, to Paignton in 1979, participated fully (although politely avoided the drinking games, where a pint of shandy would probably have seen him off) and produced miniature portraits of all those who attended, which can be seen in the bar. A typically generous gesture. 

He was devoted to his wife Pat, who sadly pre-deceased him, and his 3 children David, Richard and Debbie. He will be greatly missed not only by his family but many in the art world, and of course the cricket world, particularly Moseley.