Thompson Pays Tribute to Bernie Coleman - Kia Oval Skip to main content

Richard Thompson, Chair of Surrey CCC, has written the following personal tribute to Bernie Coleman, who passed away yesterday at the age of 97.

For a club to be thought of as a ‘Great Club’, requires great people. Few people could personify that more than Bernie and do more to help in building that reputation.

He was one of the true greats.

Without ego or malice, Bernie did more for Surrey CCC than people will ever know. Never wanting the limelight or attention, he just wanted to help in any way he could.

There are generations of players, that without his support, would not have fulfilled their potential in the way Bernie enabled. His contribution to English cricket and Surrey was profound across an extraordinary 78 years of continuous membership of his beloved Surrey CCC.

He is credited with ‘inventing’ perimeter advertising. In talking to Gubby Allen at The Oval in the Long Room, as Gubby looked out and pointed disapprovingly at an Advertising hoarding and said, ‘What is THAT?!’. Bernie’s reply was simply, ‘That Mr Allen is the future and without it, we are skint’! Nothing more was left to be said…

This was one of many innovations that Bernie created. Without his commitment & creativity along with the others, I doubt Surrey would be the club it is today.

Few people will have as many tributes paid to them as I know Bernie will, in the coming the days and weeks. I feel privileged to be one of them.

Having spent time with him over the past month, we knew this day was nearing, but you can never be ready for it.

Rarely do you sit with Bernie and not get a new insight. Whether it be Cricket, Football, his knowledge of Musical theatre or current affairs, you knew you would leave having learned something new.

Just a few weeks ago I had the privilege to spend some time with Bernie. He was on great form.

As we reminisced, I picked up a photo album. The first picture was Bernie chatting to the Queen. Her Majesty was clearly enthralled in Bernie’s company.

The year was 1991 and Bernie was Surrey CCC’s 31st President. As Patron of the Club, the Queen was in attendance to open the Queen’s Gate behind the Bedser Stand.

I asked Bernie how he found the experience. As for anyone, it was very special and a great privilege. He said, ‘Who else gets the chance to sit with the Queen for two hours?’ Very few.

What I later found out, that the Queen was only supposed to be at the club for just over an hour. It proved the Queen was only human after all, as an hour with Bernie Coleman would never be long enough….

In quoting Rudyard Kipling…

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you
If all men count with you but not too much
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is The Earth and everything that’s in it
And – which is more – you’ll be a man, my son.

That was Bernie Coleman and I, like so many, have been the richer and so fortunate to have known him.

The Surrey flag will be put at half mast in his honour.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.