'Best keeper never to play for Devon' dies aged 78

Brian Sambrook (far right) coming out with the Paignton team at Torquay in 1962
Brian Sambrook (far right) coming out with the Paignton team at Torquay in 1962

ONE of the’ best wicket-keepers never to play cricket for Devon’ has died aged 78.

Brian Sambrook was Paignton’s wicketkeeper for 10 years from the mid-1960s and later played at Torquay for two summers in 1974 and 1975.

A teaching career took Sambrook to Kent in 1976, but he retained strong links with South Devon, where he was born and brought up.

Sambrook played rugby for Paignton, moving to the front row after a brief flirtation playing in the backs.

Brian Sambrook at a rugby club reunion with Pete Leins (centre) and Alan Brooking (right)He made his debut as a centre in 1965, moved to prop forward the following season and amassed 238 1st XV appearances up to 1976 He was skipper in 1972/73 and 1973-74.

He was a regular guest at Paignton RFC old players’ re-unions until last year, when ill-health started to cause him problems.

Ken Sambrook, said his elder brother, was a lifelong sportsman who if he wasn’t playing was watching.

“Brian loved his sport and carried on playing in Kent after he moved away,” said Ken, who is four years older than his late brother.

“When he moved to Kent to teach he was close enough to go to the big games at Twickenham and Lord’s.

“My brother carried on playing rugby for a while in Kent and played cricket with Meopham until he was well into his 60s.

“For some years he brought a touring side down to Devon to play on many of his old haunts.”

Sambrook was a nuggety front-row forward on the rugby field and a wicketkeeper-batsman on the cricket pitch.

“It was often said Brian was the best keeper of his era never to play for Devon and I would agree with that,” said Ken, who played cricket himself at Staverton.

“Brian was playing at the same time as a lot of other good keepers, such as Joe Oliver from South Devon and Bruce Coleman at Exeter. Peter Eele. the old Somerset keeper, was around at the same time too.

“Brian missed out to Joe Oliver I think because Joe was a better batsman.”Brian Sambrook

Oliver, who had a brief stint with Paignton himself, remembers Sambrook well.

“He was a decent keeper who would stand up to the fastest bowling and was very brave – a bit too brave sometimes,” said Oliver.

Brian Sambrook was the youngest of two children born to Reg and Edith Sambrook, who lived in Harberton near Totnes.

Reg died following an accident at work when Brian was six or seven, leaving mum Edith to bring up the children alone.

Brian passed the entrance examination for Totnes Grammar School and later trained as a teacher at St Luke’s College in Exeter.

“I am pretty sure the side Brian played in were national college champions one year,” said Ken.

“His first teaching post was in Ivybridge where he taught maths and English. He spent the rest of his career in Kent.

Brian Sambrook was married to wife Jill for 51 years The couple had three children and two grandchildren.

Funeral details have not been finalised yet.

“Although he lived in Kent for many years, all the family is buried in Harberton and it may be that Brian’s funeral takes place there,” said Ken.