Spen Cama was a life long benefactor of the Nomads and was life President until his death in the spring of 2001. Without him the club would never have been formed back in 1927 and would not have survived so long.
He was a very good club cricketer and he played for Sussex during the war years. He scored the first century for Nomads and was a very useful left arm slow bowler – so useful that he once took all 10 wickets in an innings against Ansty.
The following piece is taken from the words spoken by our President, Chris Bidwell at Spen’s memorial service. Chris is the only current Nomad who actually played with Spen.
“At the inaugural meeting of the Nomads, Spen was appointed Treasurer and Vice Captain – interesting, as he was only 18 and probably still at school. The first game was on 14th May 1927 against South Heighton. Nomads scored 46 – Spen top scoring with 16 and South Heighton replied with 53 – Spen taking 7 for 16 off 9 overs. Spen topped the batting averages for that season with 246 runs from 19 innings – average 13.6, and he was 5th in the bowling, taking 19 wickets for 171 – average 9.
In the early years, the clubs played on whatever corporation pitches were available. Spen spent quite a time looking for a suitable site for a ground outside Brighton. He often used to go out to the village of Fulking for peace and quiet to study for his bar exams and one day he found the whole area placarded with “for sale” boards. He looked round all the fields and selected those he thought might be suitable for a cricket ground – and one in particular – and then bought all of them at the auction. Within weeks Cuckfield RDC had assigned the best field as a public recreation ground and eventually Spen had to dispose of it to the council – much to his annoyance especially as it was never used as a recreation ground at all.
Spen was then left with a smaller field, which he then turned into what became the Nomads’ main ground. It was very small indeed, incredibly small, but was increased in size in the 1950’s by the purchase of more land on the East side. When the original field became available in the 1980’s Spen was only too delighted to buy it for the club and that is now our main ground.
Apart from Preston Nomads, Spen’s great love was of course Sussex County Cricket Club. Spen was a long time member of the MCC and was on its Tour Committee for some years. He was also a long-term member of Brighton Brunswick and needless to say he was President for some time. He was also a keen Albion Football Club fan and was a season ticket holder for a number of years.
Spen retired from playing in the early 1960’s – when he was in his early 50’s, but never lost interest in cricket. He had many famous figures as friends. And amongst those who visited Fulking or came to the Nomads’ dinners were Sir Leonard Hutton, the Bedser twins, John Snow, Jim Parks, Tony Greig, Javed Miandad, and one of Spen’s great heroes, Arthur Gilligan.
As a cricketer he was a great believer in playing the game in the right spirit and he was utterly opposed to any form of sharp practice. He was very keen to install this sense of fair play into all his players and I hope his influence will live on for many a year.
Spen was of course a great lover of whisky, but I think our fondest memories of him will always be of Spen the “snuff taker”. He was a wonderful man, a great benefactor of the Nomads and Sussex cricket, and I am sure his memory will live for many years to come – as one of the great men of Sussex Cricket.”
Spen Cama and Preston Nomads Cricket Club
Spen Cama was the instigator and one of the founding members of Preston Nomads Cricket Club and a life-time benefactor of the Club. As a result of his legacy, it has been possible to build our magnificent pavilion.
Spen was born in London in 1908. His father, an Indian, had come to England a few years previously to establish a business, importing carpets from India. Unfortunately, he become ill with a serious chest complaint and had many stays in hospital, where he met and married a Welsh nurse. Spen was born shortly after his father died.
Spen’s mother brought him to Brighton as a young child and he was educated initially at Mrs Bentley’s private school at Athol House, Hampstead Road, and subsequently at the Brighton Grammar School. Just prior to the Second World War he trained as a barrister, and, in 1945, he took an interest in purchasing and leasing property and formed his own company, Lyndale.
Spen started to play cricket at Athol House at the age of six, with his friends Bert Bridle, Ron Jordan and two brothers, Guy and Charlie Homewood, and they continued to do so throughout their schooldays. They were 19 years old when Spen called a meeting, on 8th March 1927, at his house in Maldon Road, Brighton, to propose that a cricket club be formed.
The result was the creation of Preston Nomads Cricket Club, in connection with the Church of the Good Shepherd, in the area of Brighton known as Preston. The remainder of the title reflected the fact that they had no ground on which to play. The Rules stated that the yearly subscription would be £1 and 1 shilling, with a weekly playing subscription of 3d per week, and that “it was especially hoped that members would attend net practice at least once a week”.
Spen was elected Honorary Treasurer and was also Vice Captain to Eric Homewood. The Rev, W.J.R. Allen, the Vicar of the Good Shepherd, consented to be the Club President and Bert Bridle was elected as Honorary Secretary, a position he was to fill for the next 40 years.
Preston Nomads CC played its first match at South Heighton on Saturday, 14th May 1927, with Spen Cama top scoring and taking 7 for 16!! The team went on to play 18 matches that season.
Spen assumed the captaincy of the Club the following year, which he retained until 1959, and continued playing until 1968 – over 40 years continuously, with the exception of the war years, during which he was in Services overseas.
In 1937, while studying for the Bar, Spen frequently drove out to the peaceful surroundings of Fulking in the evenings, to continue his studies. On one such visit, he found the whole area placarded with “For Sale” boards. The meadows were being split up and sold. Spen bought several of the lots, one of which was to become the major part of the present south ground. In 1938, Spen took all 10 wickets (for 14 runs) against Anstye CC, a feat only replicated since by two other Nomads, Garry Dunn and Richard Ball.
There was no cricket at Fulking during the war, during which time, the Club amalgamated with St James CC, under the name of “Preston Nomads”. It was back to normality in 1946, with Fulking again in use, when Spen became the first player to score 1,000 runs in a season.
The original 1937 changing rooms were originally transported over to Fulking from a Hove lawn tennis club. However, in 1954 a new pavilion was erected at the ground, this having started its existence as a store shed at Kemp Town Railway Station. By this time, most of the playing members had their own cars, with the result that the evening walk from the ground to the village to catch the last bus back to Brighton gradually dwindled.
In 1955, Spen purchased a further piece of land to the east of the ground, which greatly increased the playing area and allowed a much bigger square to be established.
The following year, 1956, saw the election of Spen Cama as President of the Club, only the third in its history. It was in the same year that Chris Bidwell, at the age of 15, scored 63 and took 3 for 18 in his first 1st X1 match for the Club. Chris succeeded Spen as Club President, upon Spen’s death in 2001.
One of Spen’s greatest joys throughout his life was to be able to enthuse and encourage youngsters to take an interest in the game of cricket, the greatest, enduring passion in his life. It was with great pride, therefore, that the Colts section was formed, in 1967, under the supervision of Pat Cale. Since then, the section has been a dynamic force in the Club, with some 160 boys and girls in membership, an increasing number of whom are playing regularly in the adult sides.
The early 1970s were important development years for the Club, with the 1st X1 winning the championship title in the inaugural season of the Sussex Cricket League in 1971. On hearing the news, Spen was heard to utter the words “this is the happiest day of my life” – not surprising, considering the modest beginnings from which he created the Club.
Thanks to Spen’s never-ending generosity, the Club was able to open a new pavilion in 1982 and, in 1991 he and the Club purchased a field, which has now become well established as the Club’s north ground.
As he was throughout his life, now through his bequest to the Club, Spen has been the most wonderfully generous of men. During the past three years, the challenge for the Club’s General Committee has been to ensure that we live up to his ideals and expectations.
We have endeavoured to do this in two ways. Firstly, we have sought to establish the best possible facilities at the Spen Cama Memorial Ground at Fulking and to maintain the friendly, hospitable and welcoming atmosphere, which opposition teams, umpires, scorers and visitors have always enjoyed when visiting Fulking.
Secondly, all of our members strive to honour Spen’s other legacy to the Club, which is to play our cricket the “Nomads way” – the way that Spen pioneered. That is to play to win, but always in a fair and sportsmanlike way – with genuine respect for the opposition, officials and each other.
18 June 2006