|The Parrs Wood Press; ISBN 1-903158-06-0|
When Kenneth Farnes was tragically killed in a night flying accident in October 1941 at the age of just 30, English cricket mourned the loss of a colossus in more ways than one.
At around six foot six inches tall, Farnes was a giant of a man who could propel a cricket ball at frightening speed. Conversely, off the field he was an amiable and gregarious character who wrote poetry, liked the finer things in life and was popular with everyone, particularly women.
Born in Leytonstone on July 11th, 1911, Farnes's youthful enthusiasm for cricket blossomed at The Royal Liberty School in Romford. After leaving school, he took a job as a bank clerk in London, a job he hated with such intensity that he walked out after seeing Bill Woodfull's 1930 Australians at the county ground at Leyton, vowing to pursue his own dream of becoming a first class cricketer.
Later that summer, he made his debut for Essex to begin a distinguished county career as one of the mainstays of one of the most attractive cricket teams of the 1930's. At the same time he went to Cambridge to read history and geography, and after graduating became a schoolmaster at Worksop College in Nottinghamshire.
Although his cricket career was severely restricted by his teaching post, he quickly became a feared fast bowler and, with England searching for a new bowling spearhead following the controversial Bodyline series in Australia in 1932/33, Farnes made his debut for his country against Australia in the first Test at Trent Bridge in 1934, taking ten wickets in the process.
Due to injury, the vagaries of the selectors and the demands of being a schoolmaster, Farnes represented his country on just 15 occasions from 1934 to 1939, but in that time he was regarded, arguably, as the fastest bowler in the world on his day. By the time war broke out, he had established himself as England's leading fast bowler and was set to frighten the world's greatest batsmen for many years to come.
In Diary of an Essex Master, author David Thurlow uncovers the real Kenneth Farnes. Through the personal testimonies of Farnes's colleagues on the cricket field and in the classroom, and his autobiography and tour diaries, Thurlow brings to life one of the most engaging characters cricket has ever produced. Ken Farnes was one of the last great gentleman amateurs.1
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1 From the dust jacket.