Master batmaker, John Gasson, reaches 50
Clients have included some of the greatest names in the game and only recently current England captains Andrew Strauss and Alistair Cook collected their handcrafted bats from the Robertsbridge factory.
John applied for a job at the tender age of 15 after being sent by his mother to get a haircut in the village. And he has remained every since, learning the craft over many years under the guidance of Cecil Unstead and his colleagues.
John recalls: “The first day I joined in 1962 Richie Benaud was testing out the first ‘Steel Spring’ handle which was the most popular handle in its day.”
In 1979 John made David Gower’s first GN500 bat. “David really loved that one and went on to score a four with the first ball of the Test match.”
Other highlights included West Indies great Brian Lara breaking the world Test record with a knock of 375 against England in 1994. “We at Gray-Nicolls had a great party,” he said.
“So much has happened over the years,” he went on. “We have survived a factory fire. Then the Robertsbridge floods in 2001, we had four feet of water in the factory and the bats were literally floating out to sea!
“I really enjoy my working life as I have met so many famous players, Bill Athey (ex-Sussex and England) dropped in just last week for a chat. Shiv, Ramps and many other players have spent hours with me perfecting their bats.”
Operation director Neil Gray said: “We at Gray-Nicolls really appreciate the hard work and dedication that John has given the company over this amazing length of service. His knowledge and craftsmanship is remarkable.”
John is planning to continue working part-time guiding the next generation of batmakers and, with luck, help Strauss and Cook win the next Ashes series in Australia.