The era of uncovered wickets must have been challenging for groundsmen?
Oh, yes! We used to cover an area four foot six inches in front of the popping crease and the rest was left open to the elements. The umpires had to decide when play was possible and the bowlers were always more keen to get on with it than the batsmen!
There was a touring side playing at Chesterfield and the rest came to Derby to practice in the nets. They were fine in the morning, but Jack Ikin from Lancashire, who was doing some coaching, asked me to leave the covers off when they went for their lunch, even though the rain was threatening.
Well, it duly came down for about an hour and when they went back out the wickets were 'sticky'. Ooh, they didn't like it a bit...
Who were the standouts, apart from Cliff and Les, in that team?
Arnold Hamer was a fantastic batsman. I loved watching him bat and he lodged with my wife and I on occasions. I was with him when he got released and he was really upset. He cried and I could understand why. He deserved better after what he'd done for the county, although he was getting on a bit by that time.
John Kelly was another nice bat. He was a quiet lad, but a good team man. I remember him getting into a row from Denis Smith one time, just for giving a woman a lift in his car! There was nothing going on, but Denis reckoned he shouldn't have been doing it, that it wasn't professional.
Did the batsmen say much to you about the seam friendly pitches of the period?
They used to say 'Leave the grass on it for Les, Wal”. Seriously, they just wanted to win and realised that the more was in it for bowlers, the better chance we had. After the first hour the green had gone and if you could bat, you could score runs.
Albert Lightfoot of Northamptonshire was a character and I remember him telling me that I should put some holes in the wicket at the end of the day, so they could have a game of snooker! That's how good it was. Mind you, I caught him that night, about eight o'clock it was. They were round having a drink at the Grandstand Hotel and Albert came on to the ground and I caught him peeing on the wicket...he wanted a bit of life in it for their bowlers!
We were good mates Albert and me, so I didn't report it.
Players used to drink together then, of course and sometimes the journalists joined them. I remember giving John Arlott a lift to the station after his last visit to the County Ground. They'd presented him with a bottle of whiskey and he was pleased with that
Did you retain involvement in other grounds?
No, I had enough to do at Derby. They had a groundsman and if he asked for advice, he got it. All I had to do, was make sure the stands were taken around the grounds and I had to put them up and take them down again.
I had all the pieces lettered and numbered and I could put four up in about an hour, but if others did it, they took a lot longer. Sometimes these stands were rented out to places and I remember taking them to Repton School for a play and setting them up there.
If we played at Buxton I got a couple of ground staff lads to go with me. We used to get Brooks' removals from Derby to take them up and we'd go with them in the van.
I didn't have the money for a car until 1966, when I bought an old banger to get us around.
How did your budget change over the years?
I didn't really have much of one! I used to buy marl, which was quite expensive, and fertiliser. There was a farmer on the committee for a long time, Bob Green, and he used to send me bags of fertiliser as he knew I didn't have much money to buy what I needed.
I remember one time a committee man came and told me that I'd spent hardly any money on the ground. I told him straight, 'that's because there is no money'. I used to scrounge whatever I needed. People would come and drop me a lorry of top soil and I'd give them a drink. That's how I operated and how I kept going as long. It was the same with lorries of tarmac for the road into the ground – give them a drink and they'd see you right.
I saved the club a fortune over the years and hardly anyone appreciated or understood what I did and how I did it.
Except for Eddie Gothard. He was a gentleman. He used to hold lavish parties at his home, Mickleover House and my wife and I were always first on the guest list. Denis Smith, too. We were regulars because Eddie acknowledged what both of us did for the club. Mind you, he had a dog, named Jim and you'd to watch, because he'd bite your backside if you turned your back on him!
One time Denis and I went out there and Eddie had a blockage in his toilet – he had a septic tank in the garden. Denis and I had to find out where it was blocked, following the pipe...we were tapping away and then this thing burst! We were covered in you know what...we mended the pipe, got it all sorted for him. He was a gentleman, Mr Gothard and made sure we were rewarded appropriately for it.
I just wish he hadn't been as old when he made his debut in first-class cricket. He wasn't a great cricketer at that level, but by crikey he had guts – AND he was one of the few men who could say that he bowled Donald Bradman.
What was your salary as groundsman?
Not enough! When I came to Derby from Chesterfield, it was on the understanding that I would get £5 a week. I got three. When I came out of the army after the war, they said they were giving me a raise and took me to £4. It was chicken feed, though the club never had any money, of course.
That's why I used to do so many 'foreigners' – extra jobs, or 'homers'. There's not a ground in Derbyshire that I haven't worked on over the years, but I only got told off for going on one.
There's an unwritten rule in cricket that as a groundsman you don't go on someone else's ground without asking permission first. I got told off at Darley Dale for doing that and it was right. You had to wait for an invitation. I'd have given anyone who went to look at mine short shrift, if they'd not asked in advance!
To be continued...picture shows Walter raising the New Zealand flag at the County Ground, 1965