J.D. actually lived in North Rigton's pub, 'The Square and Compass', for a number of years before and after the war, renting a suite of rooms where he had his meals served. This provided a crucial connection with the young Keith Dibb for the pub was run by Keith’s grandmother Mona Elizabeth Dibbs (the family have since dropped the ‘s’ in Dibbs). Indeed Mona had managed the pub since the earliest years of the century, running it by herself from 1924 following the death of her husband.
Keith, who was born in 1935, grew up in Harrogate but regularly visited his grandmother in North Rigton in the immediate post-war years both at the weekends and in school holidays, travelling by bus at a fare of 2½d. He also lived there for a period during the war when children were evacuated from towns and attended the local primary school (which is still serving the local community).
Keith and his parents moved into the pub in 1947 to help his grandmother, who was in her late seventies, manage the establishment and ease her into retirement. He started playing in the lad’s team around this time. Keith remembers J.D., as being relatively shy and reserved despite his involvement in the village cricket team, difficult to know, but he retains a great fondness for the man who set him off on his cricketing life which has lasted some seventy years and counting! Keith says J.D. did not often look you in the eye but seeing photographs of him he was shorter than average height whilst Keith is well above and has been since he was a six foot plus teenager!
Delius chauffeured the junior side to matches at the neighbouring villages of Pannal, Huby, Beckwithshaw, Pool and Arthington, cramming the entire team into his Rolls! Keith enjoyed the cricket but thinks he and the other lads gained as much excitement travelling in such style. As Keith was 6 feet 4 inches as a 13 year old, and actually featured in the press as a ‘Yorkshire Giant’, then squeezing into the car had its own challenges! Keith reckons the vehicle might have been over twenty years old.
Keith’s grandmother died in July 1949 and Keith recalls following her coffin down the hill from the pub to the local church of St. John, a short walk, for the funeral. She was buried there alongside her husband. Their grave is near the footpath leading to the church.
Life was about to undergo a most fundamental change in the village at the time of Mona’s death because the Lascelles family had large duties to pay following the death of the 6th Earl in 1947. His son and heir, George – who was first cousin to Queen Elizabeth II and became President of Leeds United and the Football Association – reluctantly took the decision to auction off outlying land and properties at a number of villages, notably East Keswick, Spofforth, Pannal, Sicklinghall, Kirkby Overblow and North Rigton. ‘Considerable sections’ of the villages and 45 farms were put up for auction, comprising about 7 000 acres in 99 Lots.
The auction took place in June 1950 at the Queen’s Hotel in Leeds. Happily, it was believed that 80% of the sales went to the existing tenants but Keith’s family could not have possibly have put in a bid for ‘The Square and Compass’. The public house, which was described as a freehold and opened 6 days a week (a stipulation of the Lascelles was that it was closed on Sundays), did not immediately sell and was withdrawn at £6,000. J.D. Delius himself was reported to have purchased a cottage holding of 17 acres for £1 700 and what was described as ‘accommodation land’ of 22 acres on Woodgate Lane for a further £1 600.
Keith and I met up in North Rigton virtually a year after our conversation at Arthington, on a warm summer’s evening and he showed me around the village, pointing out various properties that he recalled and the people who lived there, the former shop, post office and chapel – now all private dwellings - a house that J.D. Delius moved to, and the sites of the old village well and pond. He also showed me his grandparents’ grave.
Finally, Keith took me to the former ground of North Rigton C.C., situated about half a mile out of the village towards the busy Otley-Harrogate road on the right down Hall Green Road. The Leeds-Harrogate railway line and a local crossing can be seen just beyond the road. Alas, the former cricket field is now untended and the grass and weeds have grown four feet tall. There are two ‘buildings’ there but neither belonged to the cricket club, being old unused hen huts. Keith thinks a gatepost may be the only remnant from that time.
Afterwards we visited ‘The Square and Compass’, which is now a much enlarged and busy country pub, serving drinks and meals in a large dining area and also outside under canopy on a large patio. Open top sports cars were in the car park, a sign of modern local affluence. It is a world away from the times of Mona Elizabeth Dibb, when the most anticipated visitor from outside the village was the Earl of Harewood on horseback surveying his land.
Delius married relatively late in life, in 1947 aged fifty three, but continued to run the club in Keith’s time in the village, Keith becoming a regular member of the men’s team as a gangling six foot teenager. Delius sometimes went abroad, either on business or pleasure, but he was so enthusiastic about his village side that he managed to stay informed about their matches. Indeed, Keith still has a postcard sent to him by Delius dated May 2nd 1951 when the latter was away in Germany, following Keith’s part in a last wicket stand of 37 to beat Moorside C.C.. Delius wrote, “Congratulations on your successful and brilliant innings on Saturday“.