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Bernie Maher - Famous Derbyshire People

Bernie Maher

When former Derbyshire wicket-keeper/batsman and international cricketer Bernie Maher retired from the professional game in 1995, he finally closed the door on an illustrious cricketing career, and could legitimately have hung a sign on it which read, `Gone Fishing'.
For all-round-sportsman Bernie, who won International honours at scrum-half as a junior with the England Rugby Union team prior to a fourteen-year first-class cricketing career with Derbyshire, and who also played and coached first-class cricket in South Africa and New Zealand as well as at home in England - has been selected for the England Angling Team!

Now Bernie has International Angling Honours to go alongside his cricketing caps!
When he retired from the game ten years ago, Bernie fulfilled a lifelong ambition which had been fuelled by his passion for angling when he became the proud owner of Press Manor Fishery, a three-lake, twelve acre prime piece of picturesque Derbyshire countryside situated about halfway between Chesterfield and Matlock.

In the interim Bernie, an Advanced Professional Game Angling Instructor, who teaches trout and salmon fishing and reached the National Finals last year, has transformed the three stream-fed Victorian reservoirs near the tiny hamlet of Press - officially situated in the parish of Wingerworth - into a veritable angler's paradise with separate lakes for trout, carp and course fishing.
It is said that a man's life can be measured by the sum total of his achievements, so before going along to meet Bernie at the 300 year-old home he shares in Matlock Green with wife Janet and eight year-old daughter Anna, I checked my Wisden `Cricketer's Who's Who' and found the following entry:
`Bernard Joseph Michael Maher: right-hand batsman/wicket-keeper.
Born 11th February 1958 at Hillingdon, Greater London. Height 5`-9"?
Nickname:`BJ': County Debut for Derbyshire - 1981; County Cap -1987:
First- Class 50's - 17: First Class 100's - 4: Best Score - 126 v New Zealand' - and there was so much more, which as a sports fan and former county league cricketer, I found very impressive.
I also found that the man himself was a far more interesting and impressive character than any record of `the sum total of his achievements' could possibly suggest.

What the records don't tell you, for example, is that Bernie is a qualified accountant and financial consultant with an honours degree in Economics & Accountancy; he is also fully qualified P.E. teacher; Sports Development Officer; member of the Institute of Fishery Management; and an Advanced Cricketing Coach, who took his Advanced Coaching Certificate Exam at Lilleshall in 1990 and not only gained a Distinction - but the highest exam marks in the UK.

Bernie was educated at Abbotsfield, and then Bishopsmalt Grammar School near Hillingdon, from where his 10 O Level and 3 A Level GCE Examination passes took him to Loughborough University.
Always a keen sportsman, as a teenager Bernie fished the River Colne near his home, and already his sporting prowess had earned him a place at scrum-half in the England U17 Rugby Union team against Wales in 1974, and in his final year at Abbotsfield School at the age of 18 he made his cricketing debut for Middlesex 2nd X1 against Yorkshire!

At Loughborough University, Bernie not only gained a BSc Honours degree in Economics & Accountancy, but was also vice-captain of the University Cricket X1, and it was during a pre-season friendly match against Derbyshire in May 1981 that he so impressed coach Phil Russell that Russell invited him to play for Derbyshire.
On leaving Loughborough, Bernie worked as an Accountant with Taylor Woodrow and continued to play cricket with Derbyshire 2nd X1 until July 1981 when he made a sensational County Championship debut for Derbyshire against Gloucestershire.
"On the same day that Charles & Diana got married"?, he recalls.

He took five catches behind the stumps, thus establishing a new record for a wicket-keeper on his debut.
The following season he signed a full-time two year contract as wicket-keeper/batsman, and covered for England "˜keeper Bob Taylor whenever he was on international duty. When the English cricket season ended in September 1982, Bernie went over to South Africa as player/coach for Zingari C.C. in Pietermaritzburg where he also coached in schools four days a week, and at the close of the 1983 Championship season he took his Preliminary Coaching Award at Bisham Abbey before returning to South Africa.

For the next decade Bernie spent his summers playing for Derbyshire and his winters coaching and playing in New Zealand, where he particularly enjoyed fishing for marlin and shark in the off-shore tropical waters.
Highlights of his career in this period include his magnificent opening knock of 126 for Derbyshire against New Zealand in 1986; topping the County Championship wicket-keeping averages in 1987 with 76 victims; playing in the Benson & Hedges Final against Hampshire at Lords in 1988; and captaining Derbyshire against Sri Lanka the following season.

His ten years of playing and coaching in New Zealand during this same period included roles as player/coach at Ellerslie C.C. in Auckland and at Kamo C.C. in Whangarei.
Bernie says that he "was passionately interested in cricket development at its roots, especially in the schools, and felt that I wanted to put something back into the game"?.
In December 1985 Bernie was appointed Coach for Northern Districts in New Zealand and two years later he became Northlands Cricket Association co-ordinator, with responsibilities for organising coaching in over 150 schools. He took Cricket Teaching Clinics for teachers, and a course in Kwik Cricket - before introducing it into over 300 schools!
He also coached and examined eighty student teachers at Dunedin College,
choosing Dunedin above other offers "because the trout fishing was good"? - and he also did some P.R. work with the Auckland Savings Bank.
Shortly afterwards in March 1990 Bernie was appointed 2nd team coach for Debyshire, and after taking his Advanced Coaching Certificate in September, returned to playing, teaching - and fishing - in New Zealand until 1993.
The County Championship that year saw Bernie return to the first team as replacement for the injured Karl Krikken, and he was included in the squad for the One-Day Final against Hampshire at Lords.

He continued in a coaching and P.R. role with Derbyshire C.C. until finally retiring in 1995 - but not before he'd spent a year coaching at over 80 schools in Derbyshire, including a summer stint as a part-time P.E.teacher at Abbotsholme School near Ashbourne, and working as a selector for the E.C.B. with the England U19 X1.
These days Bernie is still `putting something back into the game' - the angling game, and at Press Manor Fishery he thoughtfully provides facilities for disabled anglers with a boat, appropriately called a `wheelyboat' which is specially adapted to carry wheelchairs. Anglers who prefer to row themselves out onto the water can hire a fishing boat for as little as £7 per day, or £5 per half day.
Bernie also gives angling tuition at both Press Manor Fishery and along the Haddon Hall stretch of the River Wye, where he teaches specialist fly-fishing and casting. Hotel accommodation and corporate hospitality can also be provided for fishing parties in conjunction with Press Manor Fishery and the Peacock Hotel at Rowsley.
As we walked around the three lakes, each with its own beauty and character and each surrounded by the sheltering, gently wooded slopes opening to wonderful views of the rolling hills, Bernie stopped at each stand and chatted to the fishermen; the talk seemed generally to be about what kind of bait to use, to catch which particular kind of fish, in which specific place, and at what depth. To a fishing dunce like me it all seemed extremely complicated!

Bernie's passion and enthusiasm for the sport is obvious, and his achievements at Press are very impressive - and hard earned. His day sometimes begins as early as 5am, and when poachers are about, goes on long into the night for Bernie and his Head Bailiff, Brian!
There are winged poachers to guard against too, and as Bernie explained, overstocking can provide a feeding ground for inland gulls, and the likes of local herons, goosanders and cormorants. A careful ecological balance must be kept and the local environment closely monitored, and as Bernie himself commented,
"It's a seven-days-a-week job, in fact it's more than that, it's a way of life"?

This article has been brought to you by our resident peak district writer Tom Bates