Ivan Johnson in 1975
|Batting style||Left-handed batsman|
|Bowling style||Slow left arm orthodox|
Ivan Nicholas Johnson (born 27 June 1953) is a Bahamas-born former professional English cricketer who played for Worcestershire from 1972 to 1975. Johnson also topped the batting averages for the Young England Under-19 cricket team on a tour of West Indies in 1972. Johnson is also a former staff sub-editor on the Rupert Murdoch newspapers on Fleet Street in London, England, and Australia. And Johnson is the founder, editor, owner and publisher of the bi-weekly popular quality tabloid The Punch, The Bahamas' biggest-selling, most read and controversial newspaper. The then-powerful and internationally star-studded Worcestershire (Worcs) cricket team, which included Pakistan star all-rounder Imran Khan, won the County Championship in 1974 and 1975.
Imran Khan is now one of Pakistan's leading politicians. At Worcester, Johnson also played alongside the great South African Cape-coloured England all-rounder Basil D'Oliveira, who helped bring down apartheid in South Africa; Ron Headley, son of the great West Indies batsman George Headley, of Jamaica; West Indies fast-bowler Vanburn Holder, of Barbados; and Jim Cumbes (Worcestershire & Aston Villa); Ted Hemsley (Worcestershire & Sheffield United); and Phil Neale (Worcestershire & Lincoln City).
- 1 Biography
- 2 Earlier life
- 3 First-Class Cricket Debut
- 4 Young England Tour of West Indies
- 5 Career Highlights: Lord's Cup Final: D'Oliveira Mix-up
- 6 Garry Sobers Last-Ball Drama
- 7 Hutton And Golliwog Incident: Milburn's Glass Eye Falls Out
- 8 Best First-Class Performances: Cricketer Cup Final
- 9 Celebrity Team Matches
- 10 Championship Squash Victory
- 11 Journalism And Fleet Street
- 12 Working For Murdoch Media Empire In Australia
- 13 Journalistic Clashes With Bahamas Prime Minister
- 14 Returning Home And Launching Punch Newspaper
- 15 References
- 16 External links
Johnson was born in Nassau, Bahamas, to a Bahamian father and an English mother. He is the son of the late Bahamas World War II hero Flght-Sgt Basil L.I. Johnson, Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM), RAFVR. Flight Officer Johnson flew 50 war-time bombing missions over Nazi Germany from 1943 to 1944 in Avro Lancaster bomber aircraft for the elite, Pathfinder (RAF) No. 156 Squadron RAF of the British Royal Air Force. Flight Officer Johnson was the only black Bahamian to fly in the British Royal Air Force during World War II. In 2000, Flight Officer Johnson was honoured as one of The Bahamas' top 100 heroes of the 20th century. Johnson is also a grandson of the late professional footballer Thomas Tot Walsh, who was centre-forward for Bolton Wanderers, Bristol City and Crystal Palace. Walsh was the 12th man for the legendary 1923 FA Cup Final, known as the White Horse Final, in which Bolton beat West Ham 2–0 at Wembley. It was the first Cup Final to be played at Wembley. A record crowd of 126,000 fans packed into Wembley with another 100,000 outside the stadium. On 15 January 1927, Walsh scored a record six goals or a double hat-trick in a 9-4 win for Bristol City against Gillingham. This is still a record for the number of goals scored by one player in a Football League match in England. Johnson is the first and only Bahamian to play professional cricket at the first-class and junior Test matches level. Johnson is also the only Bahamian to work as a staff sub-editor and journalist on newspapers in Fleet Street, the mecca of journalism in London, England.
Johnson was educated at Queen's College, Nassau, Bahamas; Seaford Court Preparatory School, Malvern Link, Worcs; and Malvern College, Worcs—one of Britain's top Ivy League private boarding schools; and the Harlow College Of Journalism, Essex, England. Johnson, then just turned 13, was the first boy to score a century for Seaford Court Prep school and all the other boys Prep schools in the Malvern area. In 1966, his last summer at Seaford Court, Johnson hit three hundreds, including 150no. Headmaster Geoffrey Milton, himself an Old Malvernian, was proud of Johnson's outstanding batting performances. However, Milton bemoaned the fact that Johnson cost him a fortune in lost cricket balls by constantly hitting balls out of the school's grounds. Johnson was the first—and still the only boy—to hit a straight six the huge distance over the sight screen and into the adjoining field in a match for Seaford Court at The Elms School in Colwall, Malvern, Worcs. Seaford Court and The Elms were arch-rivals on the prep school sporting circuit. In 1979, the two schools merged in Colwall as The Elms And Seaford Court for a number of years. The Elms is Britain's oldest preparatory boarding school. It was founded in 1614. The Elms is forever linked to The Bahamas by the school's most famous pupil, the legendary Group Captain Lionel Rees, a British Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter-pilot flying ace in the First World War (1914-18). Rees later retired to The Bahamas in the 1930s. At age 31, Wales-born Rees was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) in 1916, Britain's highest medal for bravery, for his aerial destruction of eight German war planes. At the time, he was dubbed "the world's bravest man". Rees was a hero in the true sense of the word. Rees married a Bahamian woman. They had three children. Rees' descendants live in Nassau and Andros, Bahamas. Rees died in The Bahamas in 1955, aged 71. He is buried in the RAF War Cemetery in Nassau, Bahamas. Rees' remarkable story is told in the book "Against The Odds: The Life Of Group Captain Lionel Rees", by W Alister Williams. In 1998, Malvern College cricket coach Geoff Morton (Watford FC and Middlesex), and Malvern College schoolmaster George Chesterton (Oxford University, Worcestershire) described Johnson "as arguably the best schoolboy cricketer" to play for Malvern College since World War II. Johnson was in the Malvern XI for four years (1968–1971), captaining the team in 1971. Johnson was also in Malvern's soccer first XI (1969/70); and the rackets first pair (1970/71). Johnson played several Second XI matches for Worcestershire in his summer vacations from 1969 onwards (and two games for Northamptonshire seconds in 1971).
First-Class Cricket Debut
After leaving Malvern, Johnson made his first-class professional debut aged 18 for Worcestershire in June 1972 in a drawn match against Oxford University. He took the wickets of Michael Heal and Barry May in Oxford's only innings, and scored 7 not out and 1 not out with the bat. He was retained for the County Championship clash with Warwickshire which followed immediately, but managed only 0–28 from eight overs.
In July 1972, Johnson took 7–57 for the Second XI against Warwickshire II and was recalled to the first team, where he remained for six games (three each of first-class and List A). There were no outstanding performances in the three-day games and his bowling was expensive at times. However, Johnson took two vital wickets to turn the game conclusively as Worcs beat Nottinghamshire by 38 runs in a John Player League (JPL) one-day match at Worcester in July 1972. The headline on a story by Derek Hodgson in the London Daily Telegraph of July 17, 1972, said it all: "Johnson Wrecks Notts".
Young England Tour of West Indies
Johnson spent the rest of the 1972 season on a tour of the West Indies with the England Under-19 cricket team. Johnson topped the batting averages on the Junior Test matches tour of the West Indies. This effectively meant that Johnson was the leading rookie teen professional county cricketer in England in 1972. Johnson scored 110no and 70 at Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica; 82no at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados; and 37 at Bourda in Georgetown, Guyana.
All-rounder Johnson also took wickets with his slow left-arm spin bowling. The Young England team also played in Trinidad, Antigua, Saint Vincent (island) and Nevis. Other members of the 1972 England Under-19 team were Graham Gooch (Essex, England), Geoff Miller (Derbyshire, England), John Barclay (Sussex, Capt), Graham Clinton (Surrey), Andy Stovold (Gloucestershire), Bernard Reidy (Lancashire), Antony Good (Lancashire); William Snowden (Cambridge University, Lancashire); Ian MacLaren (Bedfordshire) and Peter Booth (Leicestershire). The Young England team was managed by Jack Ikin (England, Lancashire) and Alan Duff (Oxford University, Worcestershire). Duff was also the cricket master at Malvern College.
Career Highlights: Lord's Cup Final: D'Oliveira Mix-up
1973 was Johnson's best year in the professional game. He played 21 first-class games, scoring 475 runs at 20.65, including three half-centuries, and took 15 wickets, albeit at an average of 51. One of his fifties (54) was scored against Middlesex at Lord's Cricket Ground, the mecca of first-class professional cricket. In his 24 one-day matches he fared better, again claiming 15 wickets but at a much superior average of 27.20; he also occasionally contributed some useful runs from number seven or eight.
Johnson played in the 1973 Benson & Hedges Cup Final at Lord's in front of a capacity crowd of 35,000 fans on BBC Sport TV. Worcestershire were defeated in the Cup Final by Kent. Johnson had scored a valuable 27 in the B&H Cup semi-final against Lancashire at Old Trafford to help Worcs reach the Cup Final. During his useful innings Johnson chatted mid-wicket with the other Worcs batsman at the crease Basil D'Oliveira. Johnson told D'Oliveira that his bat seemed to be middling the ball with exceptional power and sweet timing. D'Oliveira looked at the bat and exclaimed: "I'm not surprised. That's my No.2 bat!" Johnson had picked up the wrong bat in the pavilion changing room! Worcs won the low-scoring semi-final beating Lancs on the last ball of the game. The scores were tied. But Worcs won by virtue of the fact that they had lost nine wickets to Lancs' ten. This Lancs v Worcs B&H Cup semi-final last-ball thriller tie was still being shown on BBC Sport TV as an all-time classic, one-day limited-overs game in the 1990s—more than 20 years later.
Garry Sobers Last-Ball Drama
Johnson had perhaps the most memorable moment of his cricketing career in 1973. It happened in a John Player League 40-over one-day game for Worcs against Nottinghamshire at Dudley. An article by cricket writer Ian Willars in the Birmingham Mail recorded the dramatic finish. Worcs needed four runs to win off the last ball of the match after Johnson and Basil D'Oliveira had put on what Willars described as "67 brilliant runs". Johnson was the batsman. D'Oliveira (68no) was the batsman at the non-striker's end. And the man to bowl the last ball to Johnson was the world's greatest all-rounder Garry Sobers, of the West Indies, Barbados and Nottinghamshire. Sobers delivered a full-length ball on off-stump. Johnson cracked the ball towards the mid-off boundary. But Notts fielder Pasty Harris cut off the ball just before it went for four. Johnson was only able to scamper two runs. Johnson finished on 36no. And Notts won the last-ball thriller by two runs. Earlier, Johnson took 1-26 in his eight overs of left-arm spin.
Johnson got off to a good start to the 1973 season in the opening game against the touring New Zealand team at Worcester. He scored 36no to help Worcs avoid the follow-on against New Zealand. The Kiwis had made a big first innings total thanks mainly to opener Glenn Turner scoring 143. When not touring with New Zealand, Turner was one of Worcestershire's overseas players. Early on in his innings, Turner was dropped at slip by Alan Ormrod off the bowling of Johnson. Ormrod rarely dropped slip catches, especially a straightforward chance like the one Turner had given. Other than that, Turner's knock of 143 was chanceless. As a result of the dropped catch off Johnson, Turner was able to become the first man since the Second World War to score 1,000 first-class runs before the end of May in 1973. The only other batsman to achieve the 1,000-runs-in-May feat since then was Graham Hick, another Worcestershire player, in 1988. Zimbabwe-born Hick became the cricket coach at Malvern College in 2009 after retiring in 2008.
Hutton And Golliwog Incident: Milburn's Glass Eye Falls Out
Another memorable moment happened in Johnson's career when Worcs played Yorkshire at Hull in 1973. The amusing incident was recalled by D'Oliveira in his 1980 autobiography book titled, "Time To Declare". Johnson played a useful innings of 27 to help D'Oliveira score 227, the Worcs and England all-rounder's highest score in first-class cricket. Richard Hutton, son of the great England and Yorkshire captain Sir Len Hutton, grew increasingly frustrated with Johnson. Young Johnson kept slashing streaky shots through the slips and gully area off Hutton's medium-pace bowling. Finally, when Johnson thick-edged a ball for four, Hutton had had enough. He stood arms akimbo and told Johnson: "Why don't you **** off back onto the Robertson's Jam Jar, you Golliwog." Everybody, including Johnson, fell about laughing. Hutton was referring to the fact that with his high Afro hair-style, Johnson resembled the Golliwog trademark symbol on the Robertson's jam jar labels in those days. These days Hutton's remark would be frowned on. But in 1973 such comments were regarded as harmless on-field banter. The advent of the politically-correct era and race relations activists compelled Robertson's to remove the Golliwog trademark symbol from their jam jars. D'Oliveira's nickname was "Dolly". Worcs players jokingly dubbed the Golliwog incident "The Dolly And Golly Show".
Another memorable moment for Johnson was in a John Player League (JPL) one-day game against Northamptonshire in 1973. The former England opening batsman Colin Milburn was making a comeback for Northants. Milburn had retired in 1969 after losing the sight in his left eye in a car crash. But in 1973, he returned to Northants as a medium-pace bowler and middle-order batsman. As he was running in to bowl to Johnson, Milburn stopped mid-stride and shouted: "Don't move, anybody!" The puzzled umpire asked Milburn what was wrong. "My glass eye fell out. I don't want anyone to step on it," replied Milburn. Then Milburn, the umpire and a couple of Northants players crawled around on their knees searching for Milburn's glass eye in the grass. Suddenly Milburn yelled "I've found it" as he waved his glass eye in the air. Water was brought on to the field so that Milburn could clean the eye. Then he popped it back into its socket – and carried on bowling to Johnson.
Best First-Class Performances: Cricketer Cup Final
Johnson played only sporadically for the first team during the next two years. He did, however, manage two first-class career bests. In May against Nottinghamshire he scored 69, while in what proved to be his very last first-team match, against Oxford University in late June, he claimed 5–74 in the second innings. At the beginning of the 1975 season Johnson handed in his letter of resignation to Worcs, effective September of that year. Johnson, then aged 21, had decided to pursue a career in journalism.
In 1975, Johnson also played for the Old Malvernians in The Cricketer Cup, the competition for the Old Boys of Britain's leading private schools. Johnson played two match-winning innings to propel the Old Malvernians to the Cup final. He scored 70 against Old Tonbridgians (Tonbridge School) and 72 against the Old Carthusians (Charterhouse). The Old Malvernians then beat the Old Harrovians (Harrow School) in the final to win the Cup. Amazingly, the Old Malvernian team in the final consisted of nine current or former county cricketers. The nine were: Johnson (Worcs); George Chesterton (Worcs, Capt), Bryan Richardson (Warwicks); John Wilcox (Essex); David Bailey (Lancs); Trevor Tunnicliffe (Notts); Richard Devereux (Worcs); Roger Tolchard (Leics, England); and Jeff Tolchard (Leics). See List of Old Malvernians.
Celebrity Team Matches
After leaving Worcestershire, Johnson played occasional games of cricket for club and charity teams. While working as a sub-editor on Fleet Street, Johnson played for the Fleet Street El Vino's XI, captained by the late Reg Hayter, founder of Hayter's Sports News Agency. The team was named after El Vino's, the legendary wine bar and restaurant that has been serving editors, journalists and lawyers on Fleet Street for almost 100 years. Playing along with Johnson on the El Vino's team were Sun sports columnists Jimmy Greaves (Tottenham Hotspur & England), England's greatest goalscoring striker; footballer Malcolm Macdonald (Newcastle United & England); BBC Sport TV and radio cricket scorer and statistician Bill Frindall; and former England cricketers John Edrich (Surrey), and John Snow (Sussex). Apparently, Greaves kept wicket beautifully to Johnson's left-arm spin bowling! Johnson went on tours with the Fleet Street El Vino's team to Alderney, Jersey and Guernsey in the Channel Islands. In the tiny island of Alderney, Johnson met up with cricket writer, wine connoisseur, poet and BBC Sport TV and radio commentator John Arlott. The legendary Arlott was living in retirement on Alderney. Locals joke that Alderney is composed of 1,500 alcoholics clinging to a rock sticking out of the ocean. Arlott had always joked when commentating while Johnson was playing on BBC Sport TV for Worcs that "Johnson's bearskin or busby, black-fur Grenadier guards helmet-like Afro hairstyle made him the easiest player to distinguish on the cricket field". Arlott, the doyen of cricket commentators, told Johnson over a bottle of wine at his home on Alderney: "Bring together all the talented and gifted players like you who left Worcestershire prematurely in the 1960s and 1970s and they would form a good county championship side." Arlott's remark was food for thought. For some reason, an inordinate number of highly-promising young players with lots of ability left Worcester in the 1960s and 1970s after playing there for only a few seasons.
Championship Squash Victory
Johnson returned to playing squash after retiring from professional cricket. Johnson captained the Hampstead-Abraxas Squash Club to the North-West London Div II Championship title in the early 1980s. The Hampstead-Abraxas squash team included world-ranked brothers Hishi and Iqbal Kahn, of Pakistan. Not surprisingly, Hampstead-Abraxas won all 16 of their championship matches. Johnson also played for The Bahamas in the North Caribbean Squash Championships in 1995.
Journalism And Fleet Street
Having obtained his O-Levels and A-Levels at age 17 at Malvern in 1971, Johnson qualified as an indentured trainee journalist with Thomson Newspapers then owned by Lord Thomson of Fleet in October 1975. He worked and trained as a reporter and sub-editor on the award-winning Hemel Hempstead Evening Post-Echo, Herts, England--then one of Britain's top regional or provincial broadsheet newspapers--and the Harlow College of Journalism, Essex, England. Johnson also spent a year training on attachment with the cadet journalists of the prestigious Reuters international news agency in Fleet Street, London. At first, Johnson learned use of English, writing and reporting techniques and styles and shorthand speed-writing, the basics of journalism. Then, Johnson mastered the specialised sub-editorial, libel, defamation and law, page lay-out and graphic art design, use of type faces or fonts and production skills aspects of journalism. As a specialist production journalist, Johnson was able to learn how to set up and run his own newspaper. Johnson moved in 1979 to Fleet Street, London, the mecca of journalism. He joined Rupert Murdoch's The London Sun newspaper as a staff sub-editor under the legendary editor Kelvin MacKenzie. At the time, The London Sun was the world's biggest-selling English language newspaper with a circulation of four million copies a day. Australian-born Press baron and billionaire Rupert Murdoch is the owner of the world's biggest and most powerful media empire. His holdings include leading newspapers and TV stations in Australia, America, Britain, Europe and China. Among the companies Murdoch owns are Fox News Channel, The Sunday Times, The Times, Dow Jones, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, Hollywood film studio 21st Century Fox and the British TV satellite channel BSkyB.
Working For Murdoch Media Empire In Australia
In 1985, Johnson was one of two Sun sub-editors recruited to work on Murdoch's papers in Australia. Johnson spent the next two years working as a staff sub-editor on The Daily Mirror (Australia) in Sydney, Australia; The Townsville Bulletin in Townsville, Queensland; and The Sunday Times (Western Australia) in Perth, Western Australia. Johnson returned to London in 1987. He worked as a regular freelance sub-editor for The London Sun, News of the World and The Sunday Times before joining Express Newspapers as a staff sub-editor on the Daily Star, sister paper of the Daily Express, in London.
Journalistic Clashes With Bahamas Prime Minister
Johnson's career in journalism began in 1972. He worked as a trainee reporter on The Tribune in Nassau, Bahamas, during the English county cricket offseason winter months. In 1976, Johnson took a temporary break as an indentured trainee with Thomson Newspapers in England to return to Nassau. The Tribune's two chief reporters had quit without warning after a row with management. It was an emergency situation. Johnson agreed to return to work as The Tribune's chief reporter until the 1977 general election. In October 1976, Johnson clashed with then Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Prime Minister Lynden Pindling on the ZNS radio programme called Contact. It was a live, once-a-month show on the Government-run ZNS-TV station in which Sir Lynden was questioned by journalists. Sir Lynden lost his cool as Johnson asked him a series of tough questions which the PM found difficult to answer. An angry Sir Lynden banged his fist on the table and ranted and raved as Johnson grilled him. The Contact show was supposed to end at 9pm. But it didn't end until 9:10pm. Sir Lynden was so angry that he wouldn't let ZNS radio host Calsey Johnson (no relation to Ivan Johnson) close out the show until he'd finished his verbal battle with Johnson. Former PLP Senator Calsey Johnson was appointed Bahamas High Commissioner to Canada in 2012. The next month when Johnson arrived at the ZNS studio for Contact, Sir Lynden refused to go on the air with him. He told Johnson: "I am not going on this show with you. You are too rude." Johnson left the studio a happy man. At the tender age of 23, he had rendered the "God-like" Sir Lynden, known as the "Bahamian Moses", too scared to be interviewed by him. David had slain Goliath. Two months later, ZNS's "Contact" show was taken off the air by Sir Lynden never to return. Johnson continued to goad Sir Lynden with a series of hard-hitting articles in The Tribune. A furious Sir Lynden responded by branding Johnson "the lyingest reporter in the western hemisphere". As agreed, Johnson returned to England after The Bahamas' July 1977 general election to complete his journalistic training—and fulfil his ambition to work as a sub-editor on Fleet Street, the mecca of journalism, and then launch his own newspaper in The Bahamas.
Returning Home And Launching Punch Newspaper
Johnson returned to his native Bahamas in August 1989. Johnson launched his own newspaper in Nassau called The Punch, located on Farrington Road, in February 1990. The highly-politically influential Punch quickly became The Bahamas' biggest-selling and most-read newspaper. Bahamians loved The Punch's Fleet Street London-style popular quality tabloid format. The Punch was credited with changing the course of Bahamian history by bringing about the defeat of the old corrupt PLP Government of the late Bahamas Prime Minister Sir Lynden Pindling in August 1992. Sir Lynden's Old PLP had ruled for 25 years. On the morning of election day, The Punch's front-page headline predicted that the FNM would win the poll over the PLP by 32 seats to 17. And that was the exact result of the election in August 1992. It was an astoundingly accurate prediction by The Punch, since dubbed "Prophet Punch". The Old PLP was defeated by the FNM, the so-called "Sunshine Government" party, under leader Hubert Ingraham. The Punch is a bi-weekly publishing on Mondays and Thursdays in The Bahamas. Johnson is the editor/owner/publisher of The Punch, of Punch Publications Ltd, Nassau, Bahamas.
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