Black History Month: Lasting legacy of pioneering former coach Derief
Jamaican-born Derief was the first black player to play County Championship cricket for Warwickshire when he joined us in 1948 following his World War II service in the British Army.
He enjoyed success with bat and ball in 1949 – hitting 121 not out during one stand with Edgbaston legend Tom Dollery – but it was as a coach that he really made his mark with the club.
Derief took countless junior players under his wing during a 30-year career from 1951-81, including some who went on to represent England, and was widely recognised as one of the country’s finest youth coaches.
He returned to Jamaica in 1982 following retirement and died 1987 – but his legacy lives on here at Edgbaston.
Last week we invited Central Sparks teammates Davina Perrin and Charis Pavely to our club museum to meet Errol Simms and Chris Barnes – both ex-Colts coached by Derief – to learn more about his life as a pioneering black cricketer.
Errol Simms, now our Indoor Centre Manager, said: “Many hundreds of players would have benefited from Derief’s coaching. He had a unique ability to connect with young players and develop them. Techniques I learned from him I was still using many years later when I was a youth coach.”
England and Warwickshire cricket legend Dennis Amiss – who hit more than 100 first class centuries and made 50 Test appearances – was also coached through the youth system by Derief.
He recalled: “Derief was my first coach; I had a wonderful start under him. He was calm, very encouraging, gentle – there was a little bit of steel there when needed – but he was a fine coach especially for some of the youngsters when they first started.
“There was one thing I’d always remember, he’d put some skittles down at cover, extra cover and he’d come up and bowl, right on the spot and you’d have to knock the skittles over. He would spend hours bowling at you until you got it right.
“He made the game really enjoyable for us. If ever you wanted to start your career under a coach that would kick you on, keep you in the game and keep you interested then Derief Taylor would be the one.”
Davina, aged 16, said: “It’s really inspiring to see a black man who achieved all he did at that time, he managed to break down so many boundaries and helped many other black people to come into the sport.
“I can thank him for being in such a privileged position now playing for Central Sparks.”
And 17-year-old spinning allrounder Charis added: “It’s really nice to hear about Derief’s story and that Warwickshire has set this up in his honour.
“It’s nice to see that more black children can get involved in cricket, something that’s traditionally a white sport, and he set a precedent for the future.”
Derief’s son, Lord John Taylor of Warwick, said his father joining Warwickshire CCC was not just a career, but a “calling”.
He added: “He went on to become the only black coach at an English county club. He also managed the England Women’s Cricket team in 1970 on their tour to the West Indies. So he was a real pioneer.
“He was a great coach, who believed in teamwork. For my father there was no excuse for not working hard, at cricket or in life.”
Warwickshire Cricket Board runs a programme called ACE (African & Caribbean Engagement) which aims to inspire more children from black communities to take up cricket, plus an academy for those on the brink of stepping into the professional game.
Through ACE, hundreds of local primary school pupils have been given their first experience of cricket, with regular coaching sessions now delivered across several schools.