Former Lymington umpire and Honourary Life Member Walt Drodge has sadly died at the age of 86. Walt was a popular and respected figure in local cricket, and officiated for Lymington during the club's most successful period in the 1980s.
The eldest of six children, Walt was born at Pilley Green but grew up in East End. His prowess on the sports field was evident from an early age, although opportunities to take up cricket and football professionally with Hampshire and Southampton FC respectively were sadly never realised as Walt was required to take a labouring job in the Forest in order to support his family.
During World War II Walt was assigned to an anti-aircraft and searchlight detachment, and in quieter moments was invited to play football for various army XIs and even turned out on occasions for the likes of Norwich City and Brentford. Following the War the talented centre-forward firstly played for, and then managed, Blackfield & Langley and son Malcolm still proudly possesses the programme and medal from the 1949 Southampton Senior Cup Final at The Dell when Walt's team defeated Eastleigh Spartans. Many years later Walt was honoured to be made a Vice-President of Blackfield & Langley FC.
On leaving the army Walt and wife Irene moved into one of the temporary houses on Beaulieu Aerodrome before eventually moving to Blackfield and he worked for many years at the Fawley oil refinery.
Aside from his talents on the football field, Walt was also a fairly handy opening batsman and represented, among others, Pylewell Park, Exbury, Hythe & Dibden, Fawley, Minstead and Esso Cricket Clubs. Once his playing days were over he took up umpiring and stood for Lymington for a number of years and briefly served on the Southern League panel. Walt also umpired for the army, Canford School, and in many benefit matches involving the likes of Hampshire's Malcolm Marshall and Mark Nicholas. He was Chairman, and then President, of the New Forest Association of Cricket Umpires, as well as Chairman of the Southampton & District Umpires Association. Fellow umpire and close friend Monty Green recalled that Walt was highly adept at handling any tricky situations that might arise during a match with the utmost tact and diplomacy, but would not tolerate any bad behaviour on the field.
|Walt with a very young Craig Tapper
Walt was always an avid supporter of New Forest cricket and was a familiar figure at the finals of the annual NFCCA cup competitions when he would often adjudicate and present man of the match awards. He was particularly keen to see the development of youth cricket in the Forest and umpired many colts matches until a bout of angina finally forced him to hang up his white coat well into his seventies. Even then, Walt and Irene were often spotted at the Sports Ground watching the cricket from their familiar vantage spot in front of the football stand.
After 61 years of marriage, wife Irene sadly died following a long illness in 2006. Walt himself was taken ill last summer, but was discharged from hospital in October before falling ill again just after Christmas and he died on New Years Day. Walt is survived by two sons, two grandchildren, two step-grandchildren and one step-greatgrandchild.
A service of thanksgiving will be held at East Boldre Chapel on Tuesday 15th January at 2.30pm