No more popular umpire has raised a finger to give a batsman out than Dickie Bird - one of Barnsley’s favourite sons. Calm, consistent and unarguably impartial, Harold Bird (“Dickie” from schooldays) was respected throughout the cricket world. His commonsense and humour calmed many a tense, and potentially explosive, incident on the field. He umpired in 66 Test matches - then a world record - and 69 one-day internationals including three World Cup finals. There were tears around the ground as he came out at Lord’s, through a guard of honour formed by players from both England and India, for his last Test match in 1996.
He wasn’t a bad player himself. A right-handed batsman, he represented Yorkshire and, later, Leicestershire but failed to become a regular first-team player. He retired aged 32 before, a few years later, turning to umpiring.
His first Test appointment was appropriately at Headingley in 1973. His white cap and infectious humour made him a popular figure – not only with the public but also the players. In 1994 an International Panel of ICC Umpires was established from which a ‘neutral’ umpire would thereafter be chosen for all Test matches. Dickie Bird was the first. He grew into a national and beloved institution.
The life-size statue shows Dickie Bird in a familiar pose. His white cap, shoulders ready to twitch in that idiosyncratic fashion and forearm stretching as the finger is raised - all became a compelling feature of international cricket and are now a permanent feature of his beloved Barnsley. The statue received a Royal visit in 2012 when Prince Charles came to Barnsley and met the famous resident. Enjoying the statue, Prince Charles enquired whether the sculptor had put the finger the wrong way round. Dickie Bird gave a chuckle.