Dennis Silk

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Dennis Silk
Personal information
Full name Dennis Raoul Whitehall Silk
Born (1931-10-08)8 October 1931
Eureka, California, USA
Batting Right-handed
Role Batsman
Domestic team information
1952–1955 Cambridge University
1956–1960 Somerset
Career statistics
Competition First-class
Matches 83
Runs scored 3,845
Batting average 29.80
100s/50s 7/19
Top score 126
Balls bowled 357
Wickets 1
Bowling average 240.00
5 wickets in innings 0
10 wickets in match 0
Best bowling 1/22
Catches/stumpings 45/–
Source: Cricinfo, 15 June 2013

Dennis Raoul Whitehall Silk CBE (born 8 October 1931) is a former first-class cricketer and schoolmaster. He was also a close friend of the poet Siegfried Sassoon, about whom he has spoken and written extensively.

Early life and cricket[edit]

Silk was born in Eureka, California. He was educated at Christ's Hospital, and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he gained an MA in History and represented Cambridge University at cricket. A useful opener or middle-order batsman, he scored centuries in the matches against Oxford University in 1953 and 1954, and captained Cambridge University in 1955. He went on to play first-class cricket for Somerset as an amateur during the school summer holidays, but gave priority to his teaching career.

He toured East Africa with the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in 1957–58, and captained the MCC on tours to South America in 1958–59 and to the USA and Canada in 1959 and 1967, none of which included first-class matches. He also captained a strong MCC team on a tour of New Zealand in 1960–61, which included 10 first-class matches, three of them against the full-strength New Zealand team. After the New Zealand tour he retired from first-class cricket.

His highest first-class score was 126 for Cambridge University against the MCC in 1953.[1] He very seldom bowled his leg-breaks, and his single first-class wicket came in his second-last match, when he bowled Gerry Alexander in the MCC match against the Governor-General's XI in Auckland.[2]

He later wrote two instructional books on playing cricket.


Having taught at Marlborough College, Silk moved on to Radley College, where he was Warden (headmaster) from 1968 to 1991. In this role he appeared prominently in the 1980 BBC documentary series, Public School. Eric Anderson, who headed Shrewsbury (1975–80) and Eton (1980–94), regarded Silk as the best headmaster in England, who transformed Radley from what Anderson described as "a pretty ordinary place" to one of England's best public schools.[3]

When Silk retired from Radley, rather than accepting any retirement gifts for himself, he established the Dennis Silk Fund to support the education of talented boys whose parents might otherwise have struggled to pay the school's fees.[4]

He was Chairman of the Test and County Cricket Board from 1994 to 1996, and has also served as President of the MCC. He has been an Honorary Life Vice-President of the MCC since 2000 and continues to be involved in membership matters.[5] He was made a CBE in the 1995 New Year's Honours List for services to cricket and education.

Friendship with Sassoon[edit]

During the early 1950s, Silk was introduced to the cricket-loving poet Siegfried Sassoon by a mutual acquaintance, Edmund Blunden. Until Sassoon's death in 1967, Silk was one of his closest friends, and made several unique recordings of the poet reading his own work at Sassoon's home in Heytesbury, Wiltshire. These formed the basis of a BBC Radio 4 programme on the subject: Siegfried Sassoon: a Friend. In 2009, Silk became President for Life of the Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship.[6]

In 2014, Silk and his wife, Diana (who also knew Siegfried Sassoon well), appeared on the BBC programme Countryfile in a feature on Sassoon's residence at Heytesbury.[7]

Portrait bust[edit]

Dennis Silk sat for sculptor and former Radley College pupil Alan Thornhill for a portrait in clay.[8] The correspondence file relating to the Silk portrait bust is held as part of the Thornhill Papers (2006:56) in the archive[9] of the Henry Moore Foundation's Henry Moore Institute in Leeds and the terracotta remains in the collection of the artist.


  • Cricket (Hart-Davis, 1964)
  • Attacking Cricket (Pelham, 1965)
  • Siegfried Sassoon (Guinness lecture) (Michael Russell, 1975)
  • T. E. Lawrence and Siegfried Sassoon: a Friendship (Reading Room Press, 2010)


  1. ^ Cambridge University v MCC 1953
  2. ^ NZ Governor-General's XI v MCC 1960–61
  3. ^ Anderson, Eric. "How Silk transformed the country club". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 16 June 2016. 
  4. ^ "The Silk Fund | Radley College". Retrieved 2017-04-20. 
  5. ^ "Honorary Life Members". MCC. Retrieved 16 June 2016. 
  6. ^ SSF Annual Conference 2009
  7. ^ "How Warminster war poet's cricket thrived", This is Wiltshire, 28 February 2014. Accessed 6 March 2014
  8. ^ Portrait head of Dennis Silk image of sculpture
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-10.  HMI Archive


  • Siegfried's Journal (journal of the Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship) – no. 10

External links[edit]