A 100 year old Oliver cricket medal

We know from previous stories and articles that the Oliver family have been sports enthusiasts for generations and still today the Oliver family continue to be involved with the village sports teams.

This article both tells of one particular Oliver sporting success story but also serves as a perfect illustration of how finding and sharing information can bring Oliver Family History right back to life after more than 100 years.

Whilst scanning Microfilm of the 1909 Witney Gazette's my eye was caught by the weekly cricket roundup's which summarised the highlights of the weeks games in the Witney Cricket League. Both Stonesfield and Combe had teams represented in the league so I of course scanned the statistics for the mention of Oliver's.

In 1909, from the start of the season through to the very end, one name stood head and shoulders above all others, a 'J Oliver' who played for Stonesfield. On an almost weekly basis he could be found amassing more and more victims with what was obviously some very impressive and accurate bowling. On more than one occasion almost the entire opposition had J Oliver recorded as the reason for their slow trudge back to the pavilion. The Witney Gazette also printed the ongoing batting and bowling average tables, of which J Oliver spent most of that season at the top of.

By the time I had reached the September editions the season was drawing to a close and various finals matches were recorded. The closing average tables were also printed and J Oliver ended the season at the top of the bowling table. The same September edition also included all small piece which talked of a presentation of medals, specifically batting and bowling medals, and sure enough the piece detailed that J Oliver was the recipient of the bowling medal.

By this time I was completely off the scent of what I was originally searching for though I had recently made contact with a new leg of the family and during the exchange of family information it had come to light that there was a very keen interest in cricket in that part of the family, and that involved a J Oliver. So I thought, 'ummm, perhaps I'll get a print of these snippets and pass them on, you never know it may be the same J Oliver', but I had also thought to myself there must have been lots of J Oliver's around at that time and sadly the articles weren't any more specific about what the J stood for. And so I left, printouts in hand.

The next day I passed copies of the articles to the family, obviously stating we couldn't be sure this was the right J Oliver but the cricket connection may mean that it could be.

What came next I can only describe as a wonderful surprise. Within three or four hours I received an email reply which read 'I knew I had one of our grandfather's medals and sure enough it is the one he won in 1909 for his bowling and which is referred to in your latest email. I gave it a polish and took the attached photo'.

Wow, you can imagine the excitement, having located the article on the Saturday only to see a photo of the very medal mentioned in the article on the following Sunday, immaculately and respectfully maintained, what a joy!

With kind permission, photo's of the medal won by J Oliver in 1909 are included below.

So, who is J Oliver? Well, the J is for John, the man in question is John Joseph Oliver, born 1885. For context he was the Grandson of Joby, Waterloo Joseph, and the father if Ruth Elizabeth Oliver who has been discussed on the messageboard after we found newspaper articles on her academic successes at Henry Box School in Witney. We've also been discussing John Joseph on the messageboard more directly as the Witney Gazette also reported on his marriage to Marjorie Hill in 1924.

The front of the medal reads 'J.Oliver 1909' and the back reads 'Witney Cricket League, Best Bowling Average, 78 Wickets, Average 2.5'

Well done John, and how fantastic to bring the story together again over 100 years on.

John Joseph Oliver's cricket medal from 1909, front and back view, kindly provided by John Benson.