Joe Hills was a talented young sportsman, who had aspirations of playing professional football during the winter and county cricket during the summer. He initially gained a place on the Kent groundstaff, and subsequently had trials as a goalkeeper with various Football League clubs. Eventually in the mid 1920`s, he secured a professional contract with Cardiff City, and on New Years day 1925 he made his debut for the `Bluebirds` against Sunderland.
Following his move to South Wales, Hills also secured a professional post with Barry C.C., and his fluent strokeplay, classical cover drives and neat wicket-keeping attracted the attention of Glamorgan`s officials who were on the lookout for a regular wicket-keeper. Terms were agreed for the 1926 season, and Joe soon proved to be a useful acquisition, recording his maiden hundred against Nottinghamshire on a quite lively Trent Bridge wicket.
As befitted someone who had been decorated for gallantry in World War One, this was one of many brave and gutsy innings that Joe played, and he took part in several stubborn lower order partnerships, adding 202 for the eighth wicket with Dai Davies against Sussex at Eastbourne in 1928, as well as an unbroken 203 with Johnnie Clay for the ninth wicket against Worcestershire at Swansea in 1929 which still stands as a club record.
In 1926/27 Joe had a spell as goalkeeper with Swansea Town, before joining Fulham as their reserve goalkeeper, but in September, he broke his forearm and ruptured elbow ligaments in a reserve team game. It ended his football career, and also his spell behind the stumps for Glamorgan, and for the next few summers, Hills played as a specialist batsman.
By the early 1930`s, Glamorgan`s finances were in a poor state, and they regrettably had to release various professionals, including Hills, as an economy measure, at the end of the 1931 season. Joe returned to club cricket, before commencing a career as an umpire, standing initially in Minor County games in 1936, before officiating in first-class games from 1937. In 1947 he stood in the Fourth Test of England`s series against South Africa, and remained on the first-class list until 1956.
(Article: Copyright © 2003 Dr.A.K.Hignell)
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