Norman Atkins (1938-2020)

March 18, 2020

THE cricket community has come together to pay tribute to ‘Mr Suffolk Cricket’ Norman Atkins. The former Suffolk County Cricket Club Chairman, who was 81, passed away suddenly on Monday following a short illness, after undergoing a triple heart bypass operation last September.

He succeeded Martin Corke as chairman of Suffolk County Cricket Club in 1994, which at that time was responsible for all cricket activity in the county.

When Suffolk Cricket Board was formed in 1997, Norman became chairman of the Board and the County Club, a role he continued to hold until he stepped down as Board chairman in April 2009.

He was replaced by Andrew Squire as Suffolk CCC Chairman in December to take on the role of president, which has not been filled since Cyril Perkins passed away in 2013.

The St Margaret’s Youth Fellowship started in 1947 and created the cricket, football and table tennis teams which he was later involved in. Norman had been involved with St Margaret’s Cricket Club in Ipswich almost since its inception. By his own admission he was never a particularly good batsman or bowler, but he found his niche in administration. He took on the role of assistant secretary at St Margaret’s CC in Ipswich in 1961, and had been the club’s secretary since 1964.

Norman, who was born in Ipswich on April 8th, 1938, had also been chairman of the Two Counties Championship for nearly 30 years and was a well-respected Minor Counties umpire for around 20 years.

He worked in the motor tax department at the town hall before a local government reorganisation and from 1972 worked at Ipswich Crown Court until his retirement in 1998. Norman was awarded the MBE in 1998 for his services as chief clerk of Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds Crown Courts.

He was also a lifelong supporter of both Ipswich Town, where he was a season-ticket holder, and a regular on the back straight at Foxhall from where he watched his equally beloved Ipswich Witches. But it was within the local cricket community that he will be best remembered.

Suffolk CCC Secretary Toby Pound said: “I am struggling to come to terms with the fact that, for the first time in 25 years, I will be at Suffolk home matches without Norman alongside me.

“For all those years, as Chairman and Secretary of the club, we have shared the ups and downs, the near misses (many), the triumphs (a few) and the company of many fine cricketers.

“We have laughed together and occasionally willed our team to victory against the odds. Mildenhall in August 1996 against the old enemy, Norfolk, springs to mind. Norfolk, needing 250 to win in the fourth innings, reached 190 for 1 and were cruising to victory.

“Norman, with glass half full as ever, was convinced Suffolk could win – and in a breathtaking finish, with Phil Caley taking six wickets, we did by a handful of runs.

“I first got to know Norman through work, 42 years ago – he the chief clerk at the Crown Court organising judges, barristers, juries and witnesses as only Norman could, with ruthless efficiency and good humour – and I, the raw young articled clerk, ensuring that counsel for the defence was properly briefed. Despite the huge disparity in our positions, Norman treated me as he would the judge, with utmost respect.

“Sadly, my days as a criminal lawyer only lasted one year but it wasn’t long before our paths crossed again in the world of cricket – on the Two Counties Championship management committee and on the executive committee of the county cricket association. Norman was so well connected and liked in Suffolk cricket that he was an obvious choice as chairman to succeed Martin Corke.

“Norman liked to be ‘hands on’. As well as chairing meetings, he undertook many of the tasks that would normally fall to the secretary – I am the first to admit that it would have been impossible for me, without Norman’s input, to fulfil the role of secretary while being a partner in a busy law firm.

“In the 25 years we worked together in Suffolk cricket, I don’t recall an argument or a cross word. Fortunately, we had a similar outlook on life and sport which makes the prospect of not having Norman around rather a bleak one.

“His contribution to cricket in Suffolk at club, league and county level was quite unique. He will be greatly missed by all his many friends across the cricketing fraternity.”

Andrew Squire, who succeeded him as Suffolk CCA Chairman, said:

“What an incredibly sad day for Suffolk Cricket with the passing of recently-retired long serving former chairman Norman Atkins.

“I knew I had some big shoes to fill and I was hoping to lean on his experience, but I wasn’t expecting this. Very, very sad and I send my condolences to wife Maureen and family.”

Former Suffolk captain Phil Caley, who is now Interim Director of Cricket for the National Counties, said:

“He did so much for cricket throughout Suffolk for umpteen years and he will be sorely missed.

“He was a smashing bloke who was very mild-mannered and one of the few people who called me Philip!”

Suffolk Cricket Performance Lead Andy Northcote said:

“Norman was a true Suffolk legend in every sense of the word. A life servant to the game as chairman, umpire, player, coach, parent and supporter.

“My wife had just returned from a week in hospital and Norman, who had never met her, knocked on the door in his Suffolk blazer and tie, a bunch of flowers and goodies and a supportive note to wish her well.

“His kindness, calmness and caring manner has left a lasting impression on all of us within his cricketing circle. He was a true gentleman and one I can only hope to become.”

Rob Jones, Cricket Operations Manager at Suffolk Cricket Board, said:

“I was very sad to hear that Norman had passed away. I’d known Norman for many years and although, on occasions, we hadn’t always seen eye-to-eye – we were both stubborn – he was certainly a man you respected.

“Norman is a great loss to the cricket community, especially the County Club, the Two Counties and his beloved St Margaret’s CC.

“Personally I will miss his witty one liners, dry sense of humour and his passion for the game. I’d like to pass on my condolences to Norman’s family on behalf of everyone associated with Suffolk Cricket Board.”

St Margaret’s CC Chairman Nigel Howlett said: “Norman’s commitment to the cause of cricket and particularly that of St Margaret’s CC could never be faulted; he battled long and hard to ensure that the threat to close Ransomes Sports Ground never materialised.

“He was a fervent supporter of youth cricket, and until last season was always at Ransomes on Monday evenings casting an eye over the latest crop of youngsters who were attending youth coaching at the ground.

“On a personal note, it was sad to see Norman’s health deteriorating as it did; I am in no doubt that his hard work and commitment will be almost impossible to match let alone replace, and I am certain that my own role within the club will be much harder due to Norman’s sad passing.”

St Margaret’s CC President Ian Booth added:

“As many people know he was a massive driving force in our small club which has been running for over 60 years.

“Norman has been secretary for most of those years and along with wife Maureen attended hundreds of matches in that time, mostly Norman as umpire and Maureen doing the teas.”

Norman leaves wife Maureen, who he married in 1963, children Sandra and Andrew and two grandchildren, Megan and Alexander, who he was immensely proud of.

Suffolk 2019 team photograph – The Suffolk team that drew with Cambridgeshire in the Unicorns Championship at Ipswich School. Back row (left to right): Jaik Mickleburgh, Ben Shepperson, Mike Comber, James Poulson, Kyran Young, Jack Beaumont (12th man), Josh Cantrell, Alex Oxley, Tom Rash. Front row: Paul Davidge (coach), Darren Ironside, Toby Pound (secretary), Norman Atkins (Chairman), Adam Mansfield (captain), Andy Broome (scorer), Ollie Bocking, Andy Northcote (head coach). Photograph: NICK GARNHAM
Suffolk 2005 title-winning team – Norman Atkins, far right back row, with the Suffolk team that won the Eastern Division of the Minor Counties Championship in 2005 and shared the championship shield with Cheshire after the play-off at Ransomes Sports Ground was rain-affected.

Words – Nick Garnham


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