Tribute by W.H.P. Comben

Canon A.V. Hurley
"Slogger of Sixes"

The Reverend Alfred Vincent Hurley was born 12th January, 1896, at Caversham, Reading. The family eventually moved to Droxford, Hampshire where he went to the village school. From there he won a County Scholarship to the Queen's School at Basingstoke.

In the first Great War (1914-18) he enlisted in the Artists Rifles, whence he was commissioned into the RFC serving in France after gaining his wings. He might indeed have been "One of those magnificent men in their flying machines". He certainly took more than a usual amount of interest in Sir Alan Cobham's Flying Circus who for many years used Lodmoor as a runway.

Following the Armistice he volunteered for General Ironside's 1919 Expeditionary Force in N. Russia, supporting the White Russians against the Bolsheviks. Returning from Russia in the autumn of 1919, within a few weeks he had applied and was given a place at Keble College, Oxford where besides attaining his degree and becoming ordained, he won his first Soccer Blue in 1920 and 1921. He was also a member of the Tug O' War team and took part in the only "flying match" in 1921.

A writer in the Free Portland News has used the term "legendary" - a word which aptly describes this pillar of the Church. Here are a few facts which I have ascertained about this remarkable man:

  1. Oxford University Soccer Blue (he also played for Oxford City and County)
  2. Corinthian Footballer - this was at a time when the Corinthians were exempt until the First Round Proper of the FA Cup and whose standard of play was equal to that of the present 3rd Division (or even 2nd Division) of the Football League
  3. His first curacy was at Armley, Leeds, where he became chaplain of HM Prison. He also played sometimes for Leeds United F.C. - one of the three 'footballing parsons' who played First Division Football
  4. He came to Portland in 1924 and was Chaplain to HM Borstal Institution until 1928, becoming Deputy Governor 1928-31. It was during this latter period when he married Miss Jenny Drummond-Samsom (second daughter of Mr. H. J. Sansom of the Pennsylvania Castle, then manager of the Bath and Portland Stone Firms).

War Record (1939-46): At the outbreak of war in 1939 he, being a "terrier" was mobilised, where besides doing "yeoman" service as a padre, he became (in 1944) Assistant Chaplain General to the 8th Army; awarded the OBE; mentioned in dispatches. In 1945 he was appointed to Deputy Chaplain General to South East Asia Command and awarded the CBE. With these responsibilities and rank he must have been well acquainted with both Montgomery and Mountbatten.

At the cessation of hostilities he returned to Portland and resumed his parochial duties, leaving in 1948 to take over the Parish Church at Old Swinford, Stourbridge Worcester, becoming Archdeacon of Dudley in 1951, retiring in 1968.

I must however return to the 1931-39 era. In 1931 he became Rector of All Saints Parish Church, following the Rev. David Barnes-Griggs (Oxon) who had moved to Hoddesdon, Herts. The temporary Rectory was the Clarendon House in Straits, soon afterwards he was responsible for the erection of the new Rectory behind the Church. In 1939 he was made Canon and Prebendary of Chisenbury and Chute in the Diocese of Salisbury.

It was during this period he joined and played for the Red Triangle C.C. where he became a legendary figure with the bat. His main aim was to land the ball in his own Parish Churchyard or preferably on top of the George Inn. Profuse apologies could then be made, followed by a refreshing glass of "milk!!!" (Quote: "A dry job, hitting sixes").

The Rector, or "Shep" as he was affectionately known, consistently grumbled at the bat he used, it was never big enough. On one occasion he arrived at the crease with a bat at least 1 inches longer and inch wider than bats used by ordinary mortals. Our opponents were momentarily non-plussed. Eventually he only refrained from using it at the request of the opposing captain. Was that "Cannon" blade especially made for him by Gunn and Moore - A "Cannon" for a "Canon"?

His fielding showed a good "grounding" in its basic skills. He stopped everything with the sole of his boot or at lower leg level. This was a source of mystery to all spectators who often winced when they heard the thud of leather on leg. The other members of the team only smiled knowingly - he wore his soccer shin guards under his flannels.

Batting at Number 5 he was usually followed by the writer of these notes at Number 6 and I am pleased to recall we had many good partnerships together. Although a huge man, a sharp call for a quick single was always "on". About 5 huge paces, a huge stretch and he was safely home.

On one occasion in 1955 we played at Lodmoor on a secondary pitch which had a very short leg-side boundary. The writer, more by luck than judgment, amassed 18 runs in one over (4 fours + 2). At the change over and feeling somewhat pleased with himself, he beheld the Rector approaching. With a benign and apostolic twinkle in his eye he simply said "Don't tickle 'em lad". On returning to his own end, with Botham-like strokes, he dispatched the unlucky bowler over the short leg-side boundary for 3 consecutive sixes and 2 fours. A quick single off the last ball and he was at the other end. A couple of lusty hits and he was out, trying to hit the ball into Weymouth Bay. In 15 balls, 53 runs had been added - surely a club record. I believe our opponents on this occasion were Weymouth Co-op - always a very sporting side.

Surely his favourite opponents, both on and off the field, were Portsmouth Amateurs C.C. - a summer touring side mainly from the many drawing offices of the Naval Dockyard. He muffled the "Pompey Chimes" that day by going from 72 to 102 in sixes. Although not playing myself in this match, I have it on good authority that several shots would not have disgraced Wimbledon - yes, Wimbledon - not Lords. Shades of Fred Perry or Ian Botham. This burst of beligenrency can easily be accounted for - Paternal Pride. His son Robin was born on the same day 12.8.1935.

When things were not going too well for the Triangle, one could hear "Here comes Shep, the Good Shepherd will soon put things to right". This was from his flock under the wall. Oh yes, we had quite a following - a supporters club - in those days, who often traveled to away matches!

Such was Canon A.V. Hurley - Rector of the Island and Royal Manor of Portland:
A man's man.
The "Sportsman Parson".
A wonderful example - not only to the lads of the YMCA, but to all the youth of Portland, irrespective of colour, class or creed.
Thank you - slogger of sixes.

Thank you Rector - we wish there were more like you. You did more than your share in making our Club the best in Dorset.

W.H.P. Comben