By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE
THE death of former Devon cricketer and Bovey Tracey captain Stuart Mountford has ended a connection with the county club dating back more than 80 years.
Mountford, who died recently in an Exeter nursing home aged 96, first played cricket for Bovey Tracey in the mid-1930s.
Georgie Rowe jnr, a Bovey Tracey team-mate, and Mountford were both selected to play for Devon Colts in 1938. And in August the same year the clubmates played for Devon in a friendly game against Devon Dumplings at Exeter CC.
Mountford, who played in more friendly games for Devon in 1939, was the oldest former Devon cricketer known to be alive at the time of his death. He had an 11-year career span with in the Minor Counties side between 1947-57 and played for Bovey Tracey between 1938-1973.
Stuart Mountford featured 25 times for Devon between his debut against Kent 2ndXI at Canterbury and is final appearance, which was against Oxfordshire at Paignton.
He was the last surviving member of the Devon team that played Surrey 2ndXI at the Oval in the 1954 Minor Counties Championship play-off game, which ended in a draw that handed Surrey the title.
A keeper-batsman who bowled off-spin when required, Mountford made 637 runs for Devon – top score 79 against Gloucestershire at Plymouth - and claimed 25 catches and 10 stumpings.
Nigel Mountford, Stuart’s son and a former Devon cricketer himself, said there were two things his late father was most proud of.
“Apart from his family my father’s proudest achievement was his county cap,” said Nigel.
“He became a capped player in 1950 – an honour never bestowed on a Bovey Tracey player before – and that cap was one of his prized possessions.
“Over the years that cap became battered, tattered and generally moth eaten. “When Chris Bradley from Bovey became Devon captain eight or nine years ago he presented my father with one of his own caps to replace the old one. We will be placing it on his coffin before the funeral service.
Stuart George Elliot Mountford was born in Bovey Tracey in July 1923 and attended the local school up to the age of 14, when he went to work in one of the many potteries in and around the town.
“Dad’s job was sticking handles on cups – and after a while he absolutely hated it,” said Nigel.
“His Uncle Walt was a partner in a garage business – Moir and Davey – and he took my father on as an apprentice.
“My father learned his trade, gained more experience in the RAF towards the end of the war and immediately afterwards, went back to Moir and Davey then went to work for the GPO in the vehicle maintenance section in Newton Abbot in 1960.”
Another relative, Uncle Bill, was the cricket enthusiast in that branch of the large Mountford family and introduced his nephew Stuart to the game when he was still at school.
Stuart Mountford first appeared in Bovey Tracey’s batting averages as a consistent run scorer in 1938 when he topped 400 runs. He also spun out 28 batsmen. took six catches and claimed two stumpings.
For the next 25 years, which included a reduced fixture list during the Second World War, Mountford was never far from the top of the averages.
His first century for Bovey came in June 1948 when he made 100 not out in the derby match against Chudleigh. The following season there was a second century, this time scored against Kingsbridge.
There were no hundreds in 1949, but a grand total of 908 runs in all games was impressive in its own right.
After topping the averages one more time in 1956, a grateful committee presented Mountford with a new bat! Presumably the old one had worn out by then.
During the 1950s Somerset showed an interest in Mountford as an understudy to their keeper Harold Stephenson, but the precarious nature of a career in cricket held no appeal to a man with a young family.
Bovey asked Mountford to captain the 1stXI in three different spells. He served as skipper between 1951-53, again between 1957-1960 and one last time in 1971.
He carried on playing until 1973, sometimes in the second team with son Nigel, before retiring for good.
“We were playing against Cockington and dad was hit in the mouth while batting against Stuart Gibson,” said Nigel.
“He went off the field, cleaned up the blood, went back out to bat, scored a 50 then retired at the end of the game, saying he had had enough.
“Dad tried umpiring, but it was not really for him.”
Mountford was happy to work on ground preparation in his spare time and also maintain the club’s pitch machinery.
“Dad acquired an engine from an old Vauxhall for a fiver sometime in the 60s and spent the winter fitting it into our pitch roller,” said Nigel.
“We had to replace it in 2003, not because it was broken but because we could not get unleaded fuel to run it on any longer.”
A difference of opinion over pitch preparation led to Mountford leaving Bovey Tracey for a couple of seasons in the early 1960s and joining arch rivals South Devon.
By 1965 Mountford was back at Bovey and helping to run the colts section. He was never one for committee work – a term as assistant secretary in 1940 is the only mention in Bovey’s archive – but he helped on the ground until old age intervened.
Stuart Mountford was a useful footballer as a young man and played in goal for Newton Spurs in the 1949 Herald Cup final, when Bishopsteignton were thrashed 9-0.
“He stopped playing aged 26 because of a knee injury he sustained during a practice game while he was in the RAF,” said Nigel.
“Although he did not play for the RAF he was good enough to play for his camp and was training for a game over in Germany.
“Because of the injury he never made it to Germany, which he would not have minded too much as he hated flying all his life.”
“My father went all over the country while he was in the RAF, including the flying-boat base at Southampton.
Stuart Mountford met wife to be Doris in 1948 and the couple were married two years later. They would have celebrated their 70th wedding aniversary later this year.
Son Nigel, who was named after Stuart’s 1950s Devon team-mate Nigel Bloy, presented his parents with two granddaughters.
Stuart Mountford’s funeral will take place at the Exeter Crematorium on March 17 at 11.30am.