Simon Hart is best known in our county as the Member of Parliament for South Pembrokeshire and West Carmarthenshire but many o his constituents might not be aware of the fact that he is an able all-round sportsman who still plays cricket and table tennis but was also useful in hockey, football, snooker and the ancient game of fives, writes Bill Carne.
Simon would rate cricket as his favourite sport and at 51 still turns out for the Lord’s & Commons XI as a wicketkeeper/batsman in charity matches. Prior to his election to Parliament, however, Simon played for Cresselly in the Pembroke County Cricket League for over a decade and then for another few years after moving with work for a couple of years and playing in Mid Wales for Montgomery Cricket Club, joining another Pembrokian in Keith Griffiths in the side.
He started out in Cresselly when work brought him to Carmarthen and he stayed in West Williamston and popped into the Cresselly Arms at Cresswell Quay for a pint. He bumped into landlord Maurice Cole, who immediately enquired if he played cricket and roped him in to play for them in a friendly later in the week. Simon was made welcome straight away and was soon in the club’s league at the start of a long and happy association where he played in two losing Harrison-Allen Finals (against Llangwm and Haverfordwest) and a number of winning Alec Colley Finals.
Simon also scored two centuries in Welsh and Village Cup games against Bronwydd and Llechryd.
“I played alongside Glyn Cole, Terry Harvey, Phil James, Lyn Richards, John Arthur and Doffo Arthur, plus Aled and Ceri Davies before they moved ‘Down the hill’ to Carew,” said Simon, “and no group of players was better at keeping my feet on the floor after I was immediately dubbed as a ‘posh geezer’.
“I also enjoyed the company of gentlemen like Roly Edwards and Maurice Cole – as well as making good friends with players from all over the county.”
Simon had started out in cricket at his school near Oxford, initially as a batsman but then as a wicketkeeper when he stepped in to help and enjoyed fielding with the gloves on.
“I took to it straight away, perhaps because it gave me the chance to talk to the batsmen or slip fielders after every ball,” admitted Simon with a chuckle!
Now he plays far fewer matches but takes part as often as he can for the Lords and Commons XI which plays on some famous grounds.
“John Major and Tom King still plat at least once a year and although we have about eight regulars we rope in a few young researchers from Parliament to help out. But there are some good MPS involved and Nigel Adams, the MP for Selvey (Yorkshire) scored a superb 125 against the MCC on the nursery ground at Lords.
“We also have charity dinners where the likes of David Gower, Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting have spoken alongside Henry Alonga, the Zimbabwean who finishes his speech with a couple of lovely songs sung in his powerful baritone voice.
“Like a star struck kid, I’ve chatted to Ian Botham about fishing, Alastair Cook about farming and Mike Gatting about food.
“Well-known footballer Peter Crouch looked in the other day, as have numerous Olympians as they continue to spread their fantastic achievements amongst the younger generation of aspiring sporting greats.”
Simon had hoped to take the Lord’s & Commons XI to Cresselly last year to play a County Select team in aid of the Tom Maynard Fund but the weather intervened.
“We were really looking forward to playing,” Simon told us, “but we hope to fulfil the fixture in 2014 if the weather will allow us.”
Outside of his hard work for his constituents, Simon is very much a family man whose wife Abi has always supported him, as well as being a good lacrosse player and skier. They have two children in Adam, who plays rugby at scrum half and in cricket is a useful bowler at Monmouth School. Adam also plays dad at table tennis and has gained the ascendancy in the last year or so. Then there’s daughter Elinor, who is already a useful young sports lady in her own right!
Hockey was another sport which Simon played in his youth and he represented Shropshire and the Border Counties as a left-winger (he’s definitely more a ‘right winger’ now, at least as far as politics goes!) He has also enjoyed snooker and billiards, and the game of fives.
“We played it in school and the best way I can describe it is like squash but without a racquet and using a hard, bigger ball and a heavy leather glove. It is played on a court and the ball must be hit above a line drawn on the back wall – and it is a tough sport indeed if you get hit on the head by the rebounding ball!”
“When I was cricket mad kid the BBC sports news invariably started with the words ‘it’s been another bad day at the test’ and although I was sorry that we lost so badly in recent The Ashes I hope we soon bounce back and Alistair Cook does well.
“We need to remember that it is, after all, just a game and keep it in some form of perspective.
“It is wonderful to be involved and I fervently believe that there is a sporting or leisure activity for everyone – we just have to go out and find it.”
“As a middle aged, boring MP, I was recently handing out the prizes in the UK Short Mat Bowls Championship at Heatherton, near Tenby, thinking how lucky I am to have a job that gives me contact with our local sporting heroes and a few national ones too.
”I learned more about short mat bowling that day than I had in the previous 49 and a half years, so I told myself that every week or every year from now on there will be a sporting contest somewhere in our county that I should know more about.”
Knowing Simon Hart MP as we do we are confident that he will do just that – and we are delighted that the Honourable Member for South Pembrokeshire and West Carmarthenshire enjoys his sport so much, locally and nationally!