The Saint brothers, on the battlefield and the sports field
Upon the death of John Jackson Saint in 1918, the accountancy firm was passed to his sons John Boustead and Roland Cyril.
However, prior to this, the brothers already held near-celebrity status in Cumbria during the early decades of the 20th century. Accomplished cricketers and rugby players, John Boustead, the elder brother, and Roland, three years his junior, both represented their city and county in both sports. And all while learning their trade as articled clerks at their father’s accountancy firm.
Roland, the most naturally gifted of the brothers, was just 17 and a pupil at Carlisle Grammar School when he scored a try that helped the city team lift the Cumberland Rugby Cup in 1910.
The local newspaper described him as a “half of uncommon ability” who “won praise from every quarter of the field”, including the team’s vice-captain – his elder brother.
A Sporting Life
Their many achievements are documented in a bulging scrapbook of press cuttings, collected by their mother, Charlotte, and treasured by the family ever since.
In 1911, both brothers were selected to play for a “North” team against a visiting Springboks side. Their performance was praised in the press:
“Although Cumberland had only two players taking part in the second North encounter against the South Africans, the display given by the brothers Saint did them every credit.
“[Roland] timed his passes beautifully, and gave such a display as will cause his career to be watched with close interest by England’s selectors.
“[John] was somewhat at fault over the Colonial’s first try, but the way in which he hauled down Mills or threw him into touch when danger threatened was as fine as anything one could wish to see.”
Despite those early predictions, Roland was never picked by the England selectors – an unfortunate result of his home in Carlisle, according to one commentator of the time:
“Were he in a south country team, R Saint would be reckoned one of the ‘geniuses’,” he wrote.
For King and Country
Roland was just 21 when war broke out in Europe in 1914. Both he and his brother put their sporting ambitions to one side and quickly signed up to serve King and country.
John and Roland served with the Border Regiment during the First World War, with both achieving the rank of Second Lieutenant. Their day-to-day life is documented in a series of letters to each other and to their mother in Carlisle, that have been preserved by their descendants.
While John was posted to Burma, his brother served in France. Rather than detail their role in the war effort, their messages home contained accounts of the troop’s cricket matches and requests for home comforts.
In one indiscreet letter to Roland, John reveals that he had been doing the accounts for the Mandalay Race Course. We have reprinted this letter at the bottom of this blog post.
On their return, cricket came to replace rugby as their major passion. Roland became legendary for his hard-hitting at the Carlisle club, where he was part of a team that regularly drew thousands to the banks of Edenside.
He was “an exceptional player”, according to Tom Hamilton, who recalled the golden days of cricket in an article for Carlisle’s News and Star in 1994.
“His arrival at the crease after the first wicket down was always eagerly awaited by spectators. He kept the bank alive with his fabulous driving and lightening scoring.
“More balls than we could count landed in the River Eden – feats of distance we never see today. Other great hits lodged on the hoods of cars parked within the enclosure. The adjacent tennis courts and the Edenside bowling green also testified to Saint’s massive driving.“
In 1926, he was one of an invitational XI selected to play a touring Australian team at Edenside. More than 5,000 spectators streamed onto the banks to watch the match and, to this day, it remains the largest gathering of first-class cricketers ever seen at the ground.
Both brothers were clearly passionate about their sports, but a speech made by Roly upon his retirement as captain of Carlisle Cricket Club reveals the sociable side of his nature.
One newspaper reported Roland’s words:
“Cricket, to his mind, was one of the best games. It inculcated unselfishness, reliance, and self-control. It also helped people to acquire one of the best things in life, that as friends.
“He had been up and down the country and had made a tremendous number of friends throughout England. He would treasure the gift so long as his memory enabled him to recall the very happy times he had had in connection with the club and so long as he could remember the many sportsmen he had met on and off the field, and who he hoped he would always be able to call friends.”
It is perhaps all the more tragic that this supremely fit man was just 48 when he died in 1940, having been struck down by a bout of appendicitis. He left his young wife, Kathleen, and two very young children, Oliver and Joceline.
This must have been a devastating shock for the whole family, not least his brother and business partner, John Boustead. People who worked with the elder Saint brother described him as a “gruff” and serious man who rarely left his office on the ground floor of the Lowther Street building.
But he was well-respected around Carlisle and in the accountancy industry. A long-standing resident of the small village of Wreay, to the south of the city, he was also known for his charity work as one of the Twelve Men of Wreay.
Following his death aged 72, in 1962, The Cumberland News ran a glowing obituary. It read:
“In his professional capacity Mr Saint audited the accounts of many city firms and had seen the rise of many of them from small beginnings.
“During his long career he saw the growing importance of his profession in modern business and industry and he assisted by wise advice on financial matters to many local firms. He also undertook the audit of many local charities.”
He was survived by his wife Beryl, and his daughters, Jennifer and Ann.
John Boustead’s letter to his brother Roland, dated 22nd January 1916.
¼ Border Regiment
Last week’s mails, contrary to what the Post Office people told us, went down in the SS Persia and this week’s are four days late, not being due until Wednesday night.
Yesterday I got the accounts of the Mandalay Race Course posted together with a report on them, which amount to five pages, and of which I was quite proud. I have to check the a/cs in connection with a sweep which that have on every race and as there are over 50,000 books to examine it will be rather a big job. They make a nice profit out of this – 62,000 Rupees this year – in fact if it was not for this sweep they would make a loss of over 16,000 Rs a year.
Two items I came across in doing the vouching rather amused me, they were:
- To Coolie bringing steam roller to race course – Rs1.
- To Coolie getting steam roller out of mud – Rs3.
Of course it did not say whether it was the same Coolie or not, if it was, he had a good eye for business.
Most of the invoices were in English but among them was one in Chinese and several in Burmese; the latter I had to get one of the boys to translate. What else could I have done when figures such as… Stared me in the face? It seemed very like shorthand but I was told they meant Rs83, 22/8 and 6.
Last Sunday we had another game of cricket and like the previous week only three of us were wanted – Halstead, Jimmy and I. The match this time was “The Volunteers” v “The Rest”, Jimmy played for the “Volunteers” as they were a man short. They started jolly well, a chap called Harper Knocking up 50 in no time and about 4 o’clock they returned with 167 and only four wickets down. W.S.C. had gone in first and made 18 before he was caught.
We had an hour and a half before us, in which to knock off the runs. I was lucky again, getting 39. Liest Uruston, a very amusing chap who was in with me, got 50 odd in about 30 minutes. Guy Heelis got 6 or 7, Beuole (who is growing as fat as a pig) got a blob and Haldstead 1. We eventually finished up just as the bugle in the Pioneer lines blew retreat (5.30pm) with 168 and two wickets to fall.
There is nothing more to say, and a letter with a lot of questions would be most acceptable but as it is not forthcoming I will close.