Sir John Frederick Neville Cardus was an English author and music critic. He is regarded as one of the greatest cricket writers ever due to his extensive work as a cricket reporter spanning roughly five decades. He had a tough childhood and his mother worked as a part time prostitute. He grew up in the house of his maternal grandparents. He did not complete school but immersed himself in extensive reading at the local library. Although he made his name as a cricket writer, the occupation more close to his heart was that of a music critic and in his long career at the ‘Manchester Guardian’ he worked in both capacities. He worked for the ‘Manchester Guardian’ for more than two decades before the start of the Second World War saw him without a job and he went to Australia to work for the ‘Herald’ and then the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’. Cardus returned to England after his stay in Australia and worked for a host of newspapers during the latter part of his career. Other than the ‘Times’ and ‘The London Evening Standard’, he also wrote for the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.
Childhood & Early Life
Neville Cardus was born in Rusholme in Manchester, England on 3 April 1888 to Ava Cardus. The identity of his father is unknown. His mother got married to a blacksmith named John Frederick Newsome when she was pregnant but the marriage did not last long and she returned to her father’s house. His mother turned to prostitution in order to take care of the household expenses.
He was enrolled at a school run by the school board in his area and the education imparted by the school was not up to the mark. Gradually, he developed a liking for writing. His first published work appeared in ‘The Boy’s World’ magazine when he was still at school.
He quit school after studying there for only five years but he developed a healthy appetite for reading and writing. After the demise of his grandfather in 1900, he started working in different odd jobs, including that of a clerk and at the same time immersed himself in reading literary, philosophical and scientific books of the time. He attended classes at Manchester University and also played cricket whenever he could in the club circuit.
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Following a few stints in the Manchester cricket league circuit, he applied for the job of the assistant cricket coach at the Shrewsbury School located in Shropshire country and started the job in 1912. He worked there for four years and finished as the headmaster’s secretary. He also worked as a music critic for the Manchester based publication named ‘Daily Citizen’.
In 1917, he applied for a job at ‘Manchester Guardian’ newspaper and was initially employed in an unpaid position. However, he showed his ability as a writer quite early and within a year he was given the charge of a column. A year into the writing job, he was made the junior drama critic. However, it was the position of music critic that he coveted most.
In 1919, he was asked to cover a cricket game for the first time and his very first report was on a game played between Lancashire and Derbyshire. A year later, he was made cricket correspondent of the ‘Manchester Guardian’, a position that he would go on to hold for the next two decades. His reports were published under the byline ‘Cricketer’. The same year, he became the deputy of the chief music critic to Samuel Langford and seven years became the chief music critic.
Throughout the 1920s, he covered cricket games involving Lancashire and particularly the county’s games against rivals Yorkshire. His language and style became hugely popular during that time, as his intimate style struck a chord with readers. He went to Australia in 1936 as a correspondent to cover the Ashes series.
Following the outbreak of the Second World War, he found himself without a job and in 1939, upon the invitation of Sir Keith Murdoch he started to work for ‘Herald’ and his first assignment was to cover a tour by Sir Thomas Beecham. Subsequently, he moved to ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’ in order to work as a music writer. He lived in Australia for eight years during which he wrote the book ‘Ten Composers’ and ‘Autobiography’. He also covered the 1946-47 Ashes cricket series for ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, ‘The Times’ and ‘The Manchester Guardian’.
In 1948, he had short but fruitless stints with ‘The Sunday Times’ and ‘The London Evening Standard’, before he decided to return to Australia. He came back to England intermittently and after writing on the 1950-51 Ashes series in Australia, he moved back to England. He was made the music critic of ‘The Manchester Guardian’ upon his return.
During the decades of the 1950s and the 1960s, he continued to be a prolific cricket writer and wrote for number of esteemed publications. He wrote an annual piece in the prestigious ‘Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack’, covered the Ashes series of 1953 for the ‘The Manchester Guardian’ and in the 1954-55 cricket season he went to Australia to cover the Ashes for the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’. He worked into his eighties and guided young writers who wanted to take up cricket writing.
Other than his considerable body of work on cricket, which is regarded as the best cricket writing by most, his autobiographical works titled ‘Autobiography’, ‘Second Innings’ and ‘my Life’ are considered among his finest works.
Awards & Achievements
He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1964.
In 1966, he was bestowed with a knighthood by the British Queen.
Personal Life & Legacy
On 17 June 1921, he got married to Edith King, an actress and art teacher by profession. The marriage lasted 47 years, till the death of his wife. They had no children and often didn’t live together.
He died at Nuffield Clinic located in London on 28 February 1975 at the age of 86. He had collapsed at his residence a few days earlier but the exact reason behind the death is unknown.