Iconic Pollocks honed skills in Mill Park ‘tests’

Old friends tell tale of ‘Pikkie’ and ‘Pooch’

Henry Goldin holds the original bat used by Peter and Graeme Pollock and the Burton Road kids when he was resident in Mill Park. Looking on is his boyhood friend, Peter Joseph
Henry Goldin holds the original bat used by Peter and Graeme Pollock and the Burton Road kids when he was resident in Mill Park. Looking on is his boyhood friend, Peter Joseph
Image: Ivor Markman

Little did they know some 66-years-ago that their neighbourhood cricket games with two young brothers would see the emergence of a pair of Port Elizabeth’s most iconic sports sons.

Last week, Dr Henry Goldin – who lives in London – and Peter Joseph were reminiscing in Port Elizabeth about their childhood days playing cricket with Graeme and Peter Pollock in their Mill Park street. And Joseph, 72, still has the bat they played with.

Their friendship had been renewed two years ago during a chance encounter in Cape Town.

When Goldin, 79, hired a tour guide to drive him to Port Elizabeth, he could not have imagined who his guide would turn out to be. None other than Joseph.

“I went to the President Hotel and saw this gentleman walking towards me and I said ‘I know you. I don’t remember your name, but I definitely know you – I think you might have been living in Burton Road at some time’.” And Goldin replied, “Yes, I did!”

Foremost in their memories was that of playing cricket on a concrete cricket pitch with the neighbourhood kids.

“We had many reminiscences of times playing cricket together with Peter and Graeme Pollock,” Goldin said, on his first trip back to SA since that chance encounter.

“Graeme and Peter were our neighbours – we were at number 14, the Pollock family was at 18 and the Josephs were at 3 Burton Road,” he said.

After the first test against England in Trent Bridge in June 1951, there was a tremendous increase in cricket’s popularity.

The super-hero of the day was South African captain Dudley Nourse, who scored 208 before he was run out – after nine hours and 15 minutes at the crease – with a pin in his broken right thumb.

Nicknamed the “Graveney thumb”, it was caused during an earlier match when Nourse fielded a clout from Tom Graveney.

This heroic action was a great inspiration to the Mill Park kids and the game caught their imagination – so much so that in 1952 Reg Joseph, Peter’s father, cast a concrete pitch on his property so the kids had a safe place to play.
In 1952 Goldin was 13, Peter 11, Graeme eight and Joseph six.

The whole neighbourhood was roped into the cricketing project and the fence separating Joseph’s plot from the neighbours was removed and the plot levelled to allow the fast bowlers the run-up needed to build up some speed.

The garage wall, situated behind the wicket, served as the wicketkeeper.

“If you edged the ball and it carried to the garage wall you were out – caught behind,” Joseph said.

The neighbourhood children sat on the stone boundary wall as they watched the “international tests” which were played by the group of young sportsmen who also included Ian Barclay.

“Graeme and I normally represented Australia and the others represented South Africa,” Joseph said.

“At that time Graeme was not even a teenager,” Goldin said. “He was the smallest of the lot and we used to call him ‘Pikkie’ Pollock while Peter was known as ‘Pooch’.

“The bigger boys were always trying to get the ball past Graeme because he was so good at hitting.

“It was not often that we could get the ball past him even though we used to run up hard and bowl as fiercely as we could.

“It proved impossible to get the ball past Graeme – even at that young age. This went on for a number of years and Graeme obviously honed his skills on this pitch,” Goldin said.

The pitch lay there until 1972 when Joseph, who inherited the property after his father’s death, built a house on top of it. He did, however, leave a small three-metre section of it on the side of the house for visitors to see.

“I called the house ‘Trent Bridge’ after the famous cricket grounds in Nottingham where Graeme Pollock excelled in August 1965,” Joseph said.

Peter was chosen to become a Springbok fast bowler, while Graeme rose to become one of the most famous batsmen in the world.