A larger-than-life cricketer who helped his club to three Welsh Cups and a host of other titles has been commemorated at the ground where he scored so many runs.
John Shone, who died suddenly last year aged 61, was a high-scoring batsman for Brymbo in its glory days 30 years ago when, along with local rivals Marchwiel, it dominated North Wales cricket.
Now Brymbo’s splendid Tan y Fron ground has a set of spectators’ benches commemorating John and some of the quotes that regularly used to have his team-mates in stitches.
Among the hilarious pearls of wisdom are “The only good thing to come out of Marchwiel is the A525” and “By the time I’d caught you up … you’d gone!”
The benches have been made by chainsaw sculptor and all-round handyman Paul Morris, who works for the Pendine Park care organisation in Wrexham and lives near the ground which is on the site of the old Brymbo Steelworks.
Paul has carved an array of creatures, including a gorilla, a squirrel and an owl, to adorn the grounds of Pendine Park. His latest project is a nine foot tall giant grizzly bear.
Before joining Pendine he was assistant groundsman at Brymbo and was the go-to guy when the club were looking for a memorial to their former player.
The benches were unveiled at a commemorative match, attended by John’s wife, Tracey, when over 400 friends, former team-mates and opponents turned out and helped raise over £1,000 for Nightingale Hospice, close to the couple’s home in Chester Road, Wrexham.
Former Wales Minor Counties star and Brymbo chairman Nigel Roberts, who shared many partnerships with John, said: “Shoney was a very good player and also a great character and he kept us in stitches with his comments.
“We have collected some of the funniest of those and put them on brass plaques on the benches and we hope they’re a fitting memorial to someone who was very special to so many people here and across local cricket.
“It was a great day here and brilliant to see so many familiar faces who played with and against John over the years.
“Paul has done a great job with the benches and it was lovely to have Tracey here for the commemoration match to see how much John meant to so many people.”
The club asked Tracey, who was married to John for 25 years, what would be a fitting memorial to John and she suggested benches for spectators.
She said: “John used to love sitting and watching the cricket so it is lovely that the club have made this memorial to him and paid these tributes to him.
“In recent years he loved to sit on the bank and watch the cricket and I remember him and Nigel sitting and chatting there just the week before he died last July.
“John was such a genuine and honest person who would go out of his way to help anyone . He could instantly light up a room with his bubbly personality.
“I am so proud that you have put these benches around the ground. John will be there in spirit whenever there is a match here, cracking a few jokes and having a good laugh.”
The Memorial Match was attended by current and former players from cricket clubs across North Wales, including old rivals Marchwiel.
Paul said: “I was glad to be able to help out when the request came.
“I was the assistant groundsman here for 16 years and I live locally so I have always kept the connection with the club.
“I’ve done a few things for them including a special battymobile, an old Ransome mower which I have repaired and customised with the rear roller replaced by a steel beer barrel and a couple of Nigel’s old bats for decoration – it’s got a Honda engine that will run forever.”
Pendine Park’s head gardener Andrew Jones is a big admirer of Paul’s skill.
He said: “Paul is incredibly creative and can turn his hand to anything and his talent had now been used to great effect to commemorate a much-loved member of Brymbo Cricket Club.
“Here at Pendine, he uses wood from storm damaged or diseased trees we have to cut down.
“Instead of the wood going to waste or just being burned it’s been given a new lease of life and the sculptures really add something new and interesting to our gardens.”