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Hawke, Martin Bladen, seventh Baron Hawkelocked

(1860–1938)
  • James P. Coldham

Martin Bladen Hawke, seventh Baron Hawke (1860–1938)

by Elliott & Fry, pubd 1904

Hawke, Martin Bladen, seventh Baron Hawke (1860–1938), cricketer, was born at the rectory, Willingham, Lincolnshire, on 16 August 1860, the second and eldest surviving son of Edward Henry Julius Hawke (1815–1887) and his wife, Jane (d. 1915), third daughter of Henry Dowker of Laysthorpe, Yorkshire. His father, who was rector of Willingham from 1854 to 1875, succeeded as sixth Baron Hawke in 1870. His great-great-grandfather was Edward Hawke, first Baron Hawke, the celebrated admiral.

Hawke's first school was at Newark, where the headmaster, the Revd Herbert Plater, forbade him to bat left-handed. Thereafter, Hawke, who was naturally left-handed as a child, would bat right-handed. In later life he played billiards left-handed and put his gun to his left shoulder. When he was ten Hawke was sent to St Michael's, Aldin House, Slough, then a preparatory school for Eton College, which he attended from 1874 to 1879. Hawke was tall and strong for his age, and although a moderate scholar he became a superb all-round athlete at Eton. In the winter he concentrated on running, sprints up to the quarter-mile, and the field game, the Eton version of football. In the summer he played cricket. An erratic, hard-hitting batsman with a disregard for personal injury, he gained his cricket colours in 1878, playing against Harrow that season, and again in 1879.

After Eton Hawke's father sent him to a private tutor for two years. This decision, made on both scholastic and financial grounds, in no small measure changed the course of his life. During his time at Eton, Hawke and his father were frequent companions. The enforced interregnum enabled Hawke to throw himself into country pursuits. He also regularly turned out for the Yorkshire gentlemen's cricket club, bringing him to the attention of the committee of the Yorkshire County Cricket Club. In the late summer of 1881 he was invited to make his début for the county club, in two matches at the Scarborough festival. Both matches were lost but he had begun a lifelong connection with the Yorkshire club with which his name will always be associated.

Hawke went up to Magdalene College, Cambridge, in the autumn of 1881 and entered swiftly into the university cricket eleven; he won blues in 1882, 1883, and 1885. At Cambridge he was planning a military career, and in 1884 his militia duties impinged upon his cricket to the extent that they cost him his place in the side against Oxford. The following year he returned to captain the Cambridge side to victory.

Hawke might have captained Yorkshire in 1882, but wisely he declined the opportunity, preferring to extend his apprenticeship by another year. While the county club boasted several of the finest professional cricketers of the age, the eleven lacked collective discipline and had never fulfilled their potential. The problem was partly on the field, partly in a committee room entirely dominated by the unrepresentative Sheffield districts. The club lacked a sense of common purpose, a leader behind which it could unite. When in 1883 Hawke accepted the captaincy, he had no illusions as to the task ahead. The early years were not plain sailing and there were times when his commitment to the county club wavered, but gradually he rebuilt the county eleven and instilled a philosophy of attacking cricket into his players. His was a pragmatic root-and-branch reform and modernization of the whole club, a model of changes he would see adopted throughout the English game in later years.

As captain of Yorkshire until 1910 and president of the club from 1898 until his death, Lord Hawke (he succeeded to his father's title in 1887) came to control almost every aspect of the county's affairs. In matters of discipline he could be harsh. Several players were summarily dismissed for transgressing Hawke's law, most notably Robert (Bobby) Peel in 1897 for drunkenness. But these incidents apart, no man of his era did more for the welfare of the professional cricketer than Hawke. Moreover, his concern for his players went far beyond the cricket field. He introduced winter pay for his professionals and ensured that moneys they received from benefit matches were wisely invested.

In 1893 the Yorkshire eleven, now leavened with amateurs—including F. S. Jackson, arguably the finest all-round amateur cricketer of the day—won the championship under Lord Hawke's command for the first time. It was a feat to be repeated in 1896, 1898, 1900, 1901, 1902, 1905, and 1908. The achievements of the Yorkshire sides Hawke captained have tended to obscure his own playing contribution. He was a useful batsman, a dangerous, tenacious hitter rather than a master of his craft, as his career first-class average of 20.15 indicates. However, he often made runs when his side was in trouble, when the competition was hottest. His highest score, 166 against Warwickshire in 1896, was made in a partnership of 292 that was still in 1998 the English record for the eighth wicket.

If Hawke the batsman is overshadowed by his incomparable Yorkshire elevens of the 1890s and 1900s, his place in cricket history is assured for his work spreading the gospel of cricket. He was responsible for organizing and leading cricket tours from England to the farthest corners of what was then the empire, and to other parts of the world. His first tour was to Australia in 1887. Owing to his father's death in December that year he was obliged to return home, but later he took teams to India (in 1889 and 1892), the United States of America and Canada (in 1891 and 1894), South Africa (in 1895 and 1898), the West Indies (in 1896), and Argentina (in 1911). He lived to see South Africa, India, and the West Indies admitted to full test-match status. If, in the history of cricket, the immortal W. G. Grace was the ultimate exponent of the game and George Harris, fourth Lord Harris, its foremost administrator, Hawke was its great exporter.

Although the ancestral Hawke estate at Towton had long been lost to the family, Hawke's father, the sixth baron, had enjoyed the friendship of the millionaire Andrew Montague, who furnished him with a fifty-year lease on Wighill Park, near Tadcaster, and enabled him to become in later years, something of a ‘City man’. Hawke inherited from him extensive estates in the West Riding of Yorkshire. He also held a number of company directorships, income from which allowed him to devote much of his life to the game he loved. On 1 June 1916, he married Marjory Nelson Richie (d. 1936), third daughter of William Peacock Edwards JP, of Edinburgh, and widow of Arthur J. Graham Cross. There were no children of the marriage.

When his playing career ended Hawke found it hard to avoid controversy. His friends wondered how the tactful, hard-working, kindly man they knew could behave so ineptly in public. Hawke's impulsiveness and his willingness to speak his mind were his downfall in the public arena. His infamous off-the-cuff remark at the Yorkshire annual general meeting in 1925 that 'Pray God, no professional shall ever captain England', made in defence of A. E. R. Gilligan's much criticized captaincy of England in Australia, drew a torrent of criticism. Later, he explained that what he had meant to say was that it would be a bad day for England if there was no amateur good enough to play for his country, but by then the damage had been done. He was god-fearing, having found Christianity as a child, and decent to the core. He could be very naïve, but knew his limitations. Although he regularly attended the House of Lords, he never made his maiden speech, recognizing that he was a poor public speaker. In the 1920s and 1930s he travelled widely. At home grouse moors and golf links became safe havens from his critics in the press.

For many years Hawke served the MCC as a member of various committees, including that charged with selecting the England team between 1899 and 1911. He was elected president of the club in 1914, normally an annual appointment, which owing to the exigencies of war he held until 1918; on the death of Lord Harris in 1932 he became treasurer.

Lord Hawke died on 10 October 1938 at 12 Randolph Crescent, Edinburgh, a few days after collapsing at North Berwick. He was succeeded as eighth baron by his brother Edward Julian (1873–1939). Hawke's portrait hangs in the Long Room at Lord's, looking down on the comings and goings of the modern players of the game that in his life he did so much to promote.

Sources

  • J. P. Coldham, Lord Hawke: a cricketing biography (1990) [incl. comprehensive bibliography]
  • Lord Hawke [M. B. Hawke], Recollections and reminiscences (1924)
  • Wisden (1939)

Archives

  • Marylebone Cricket Club, Lord's, London
  • Yorkshire County Cricket Club

Film

  • BBC WAC
  • BFINA
  • BFINA, news footage

Likenesses

  • Elliott & Fry, photogravure, pubd 1904, NPG [see illus.]
  • W. Stoneman, photograph, 1920, NPG
  • W. Allingham, stipple and line engraving (after photograph by Dickinson & Foster, 1894), NPG
  • black and white photographs, Marylebone Cricket Club, Lord's, London
  • black and white photographs, Yorkshire County Cricket Club
  • oils, Marylebone Cricket Club, Lord's, London
  • oils, Yorkshire County Cricket Club

Wealth at Death

£59,043 16s. 11d.: probate, 5 Dec 1938, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

Calendars of the grants of probate … made in … HM court of probate [England and Wales]