Arthur Milton book paints affectionate portrait of a man as happy delivering letters as posting runs for England

Arthur Milton played for England at football and cricket yet in later years he told friends he felt as much a sense of satisfaction working as a postman in Bristol, the job he took when he retired from cricket coaching at Oxford University.

"I loved the quiet of the early morning, looking at the stars,” he once said. “People used to say I'd missed the big money of present-day sport. I told them I was still a millionaire, out on my bike as life stirred so excitingly."

Some would suggest that being so easily fulfilled was symptomatic of a lack of ambition, but for which he might have won rather more than his six Test caps, and not been restricted to one appearance for the England football team.  Others could argue that he was simply a man who appreciated life in all its shades, and that his sunny, even temperament was a virtue to be cherished.

Mike Vockins, the former secretary of Worcestershire County Cricket Club, enjoyed a friendship with Milton spanning many years and would count himself without apology as an admirer, so it is hardly surprising that his biography, Arthur Milton: Last of the Double Internationals, is written as an affectionate portrait.

Milton played on the wing for Arsenal between 1950 and 1955, finishing his soccer career with a season at Bristol City, and cricket for much longer, making his debut for Gloucestershire in 1948 and not calling it a day until 1974, by which time he was 46.  An opening batsman with a sharp, mathematical brain, he amassed more than 32,000 first-class runs, but could also offer useful medium pace bowling (79 wickets) and excellent close fielding (758 catches).

Regularly pressed to put his life story into a book, he decided he would do so in the autumn of 2006. He called Vockins, who would have willingly suggested any number of potential ghostwriters among cricket journalists had Milton not insisted that he should be the one to translate his memories into prose.  They began meeting every Tuesday, Vockins quickly filling tapes and notebooks.  The meetings came to an end, sadly, the following April, when Milton suffered a heart attack and died, aged 79.

Happily, Vockins already had a wealth of material and Milton’s survivors -- his wife, Joan, and their three sons -- were keen to see the project completed and he interviewed many of the player’s friends and former colleagues to ensure he left nothing out.

Milton was one of only 12 men to have been capped by England at both national sports and was the last, before the expansion of the seasons and the heavy physical demands made of players in the modern era made the combining of careers in two disciplines impossible.  His contribution to cricket was immense but he did not want it to end when he put away his bat for the last time and, as a coach at Oxford, he helped nurture richly talented cricketers of the calibre of Imran Khan, Chris Tavare and Vic Marks.

It is a remarkable story, not least for the way in which he eschewed all thoughts of conventional retirement and chose to get up before dawn, first to work as a postman and later, when he was told he could not go on beyond 60,  to deliver papers so that he could continue to enjoy watching the sun come up on his beloved Clifton Downs, the part of Bristol which had long been his home.

Buy Arthur Milton: Last of the Double Internationals (published by SportsBooks) direct from Amazon

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