1867-1944: Joseph Soult – A most dangerous man with the ball

Putting a face to the player –  Joseph Soult.

We have been contacted by Richard Miller, who writes on the early years of cricket in Scotland and who previously got in touch looking for a photo of local hero Tommy Shutt.

Richard has been trying to find a good, authenticated photo of Joseph Soult, who was pro at Lowerhouse for just one season, 1893.  Soult was professional for several years at Clydesdale Cricket Club, and he also represented Scotland in 1896.  Whilst we were unable to help Richard on this occasion, we now know a lot more about Joseph Soult, and we are delighted to be able to add a brief profile to our archive together with the images which Richard has found so far.

Joseph Soult (1867-1944) “a most dangerous man with the ball.”

A photo of the 1895 Clydesdale team, with Joe, possibly, fourth from the right on the back row, holding a cricket ball.  This appeared in a book, but did not name the players.

Joseph Soult was yet another of those professional work-horses, often from humble origins, who were the glue which held League cricket together in the early years and who were able, through cricket, to make good money and, for a time at least, to escape from the drudgery of the workplace, which in Joe’s case, was the mine.

Joe Soult was born in Ripley, Derbyshire, in October 1867 and started making a name for himself as a bowler in the Derbyshire League in 1887 at Butterley Cricket Club, a colliery company team, by which time he had already been working as a miner for several years. Three seasons later, his bowling got him his first professional job at Clydesdale Cricket Club in the Western District Cricket Union, where he stayed until the end of the 1896 season – with the exception of that one season in 1893 when he went to play for Lowerhouse.  His excellent bowling performances at Clydesdale caused “The Scottish Referee” newspaper in 1892 to advise Derbyshire that they should be looking at him, and it was perhaps in order to further his case for county selection, that he took the job at Lowerhouse. Soult came, according to the Burnley Express of 15 April 1893, “very highly recommended.  His sponsor’s word has not been known to fail”, but they do not reveal who the sponsor was, perhaps another pro, or former pro.

In the days of two pros, the second Lowerhouse pro in 1893 was John Henry Goodband, who had been their sub-pro twice in 1892 and was probably signed as a bowling all-rounder, on the basis of his 101 against Nelson, whilst Soult would have been signed as an all out bowler.

If Soult was looking to impress Derbyshire, he certainly hit the ground running, taking an impressive 23 wickets in the first 4 games.

Soult and Goodband did almost all the bowling that season. The stats on the Lancashire League website, show that Soult bowled 1614 balls, taking 83 wickets at 10 and Goodband bowled 1578 balls, taking 70 at 14.6. On more than one occasion they took all 10 wickets cheaply between them but were still on the losing side. Soult’s best performance was 7 for 20 at home against Accrington, when Lowerhouse skittled the visitors out for 42 and won by 133 runs,  and 7-31 against Burnley at Turf Moor in May, when Lowerhouse still lost. Goodband was out that day without scoring and he did not live up to expectations with the bat all season, with a highest score of only 22, averaging only about 7, no better than Soult, and, despite occasional good individual performances, the amateur batting was also pretty poor.

A highlight however was bottom of the table Lowerhouse’s surprise but deserved 5 wicket victory against a previously undefeated, top of the table Burnley at Lowerhouse on 8th July 1893. Soult continued his good form against Burnley and took 5 for 28. The Lancashire Daily Post on 15th July praised Lowerhouse’s demeanour in victory: “Did they shout and holler like Nelson did, when they thought they were winning? Not at all.  They won modestly.  They knew it was dangerous shouting before they were out of the wood, and when they were out of the wood they did not lose their heads. Lowerhouse should be proud of Soult, who is a most dangerous man with the ball.”

The Express ventured the opinion that

“Burnley and Lowerhouse are very old friends and neighbours and if they are to be defeated the Turfites would rather that honour belong to Lowerhouse than any other club.” !!

Soult did get his trial with Derbyshire, against Leicestershire in a game starting on Monday 31st July 1893 at Grace Road.  It was not the success he would have wished. Although Derbyshire won, it was more due to the batting and bowling of Hulme, the then Nelson pro.  Soult only bowled a couple of overs, took no wickets, and only scored 6 in the first innings and 2 in the second. He did take a couple of brilliant catches but unusually for someone known to be an excellent fielder, he also dropped Tomlin, the then Colne pro, who went on to be top scorer for Leicestershire. And that seems to have been his County opportunity over.

At the end of a poor season, when Lowerhouse finished third bottom, neither pro was retained.

Soult’s excellent bowling performances would surely have attracted attention from plenty of other league clubs but when the pro whom Clydesdale had lined up for 1894 mysteriously didn’t materialise, Joe went back to them as match pro, groundsman, coach and practice bowler.

He knew his place

On 30 August 1895, just before his annual benefit match, a long article on him appeared in “The Scottish Referee” with a drawing of him, of uncertain accuracy.

Created with GIMP

He was said to be “Quiet and unassuming, attentive to his duties, knowing his place and keeping to it, Soult is a general favourite, and not only with the Clydesdale but with all the cricketers with whom he has come in contact.“

Joe stayed there until the end of the 1896 season, by which time his bowling was less successful, but his batting was improving.

After leaving Clydesdale, he had three seasons in the Birmingham and District League, 1897/8 at Smethwick, turning out once in 1897 for Staffordshire, and a final season at Walsall, before he turned amateur again, and went back down the pit full time, including 20 years at Ormonde Colliery.


“A great bowler in his day”

When he died in August, 1944, aged 77, the Ripley and Heanor News printed an obituary (and a very indistinct photo), saying he was a great bowler in his day, and his proud boast was that he had bowled out the great W.G. Grace, and indeed he had, playing for a Glasgow XI against a W.G. Grace touring XI in 1891 he bowled Grace “with a ball with a foot of break in it”.

Although Soult only had the one season at Lowerhouse, his influence may have been significant as he played half a dozen first team games alongside a young Tommy Shutt.  It is not unreasonable to suppose that Tommy not only benefited from being coached by Soult, but may have heard from him about the financial advantages of playing professionally in Scotland, not just the good wages, more than a working man would normally earn, but especially the annual benefit games, which usually realised a very nice sum indeed.  It may even have been Joe Soult who recommended Tommy to Perth.

Our thanks go to Richard Miller for his help in putting this item together.

Anne Cochrane & Paul Hargreaves

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