Legendary cricket umpire Dickie Bird tells MATTHEW MURRAY why his faith comes first
He has met the Queen 29 times, has been awarded an MBE and an OBE and there’s a statue of him in his hometown, Barnsley. But Dickie Bird has revealed the reason behind his success.
Dickie, 79, is a committed Christian who prayed before each of the 66 Test matches and 69 one-day internationals that he officiated.
“I’ve always had a strong faith in God,” he says. “Throughout my life it’s done a lot for me and I hope I haven’t let the good Lord down.
“I always say that God gives everyone a gift and that he gave me the gift of playing sport and then being an umpire – I am thankful to him for that and believe he was behind everything I’ve ever done and seen.
“I’ve been a believer all my life – and I know that if you have faith in the Lord then you can conquer the world.”
As a youngster, Bird played in a Barnsley side that included Geoff Boycott as well as Michael Parkinson, who became a lifelong friend. He went on to play for Yorkshire and Leicestershire before turning his hand to umpiring.
His Christian faith never left him throughout his career.
“I prayed that the Lord would be with me for the whole match, and that he’d guide me and that I wouldn’t make any bad decisions,” he smiles. “I was always confident that when I strolled out onto the middle he was right there by my side.
“I pray every night – I pray for the aged and for those who have lost loved ones in disasters.
“I pray for young children who are sick and injured in hospital and for all the poor, blind and lame throughout the world. I also pray for my own family.
“I thank the Lord for what he’s done for me, for giving me the gift to play county cricket and to umpire.
“I go to church every week to thank the Lord for what he’s done in my life. I think if people can’t spend one hour of their lives on a Sunday doing that, then there’s something wrong.
“I come out of church and it gives me a lift for the week ahead. I feel good when I go to church – but when I don’t go I feel bad!”
Dickie, who has his own foundation that supplies sports equipment to underprivileged children, believes God saved his life two years ago when he suffered a stroke.
“It was only my faith in the Lord that got me through,” he adds. “God, without doubt, performed a wonderful miracle.
“I was struggling and didn’t know if I would make it, but I am certain that God played a remarkable part in my recovery. I had no feeling down my right side and my voice went, but I’m almost back to normal now and I know it was a miracle.”
Dickie has mixed with sports stars, prime ministers, celebrities and royalty for the past six decades. But what was his proudest moment?
“I’ve had dinner with Blair, Thatcher and Major at Chequers. I’ve had tea with the Queen Mother at Clarence House and I was given the freedom of the borough of Barnsley in 1986.
“I have honorary doctorates at Leeds, Sheffield and Huddersfield for services to cricket. The Lord really has been good to me.
“But my best moment came when I had a private lunch with the Queen at Buckingham Palace,” he recalls. “She is a churchgoer herself and is very religious.
“We talked about our faith, horseracing, cricket and everything. I was there for hours – it was such an honour.
“I am a true royalist and I think the royals do a wonderful job. There are only two things that I will bow to in this world – the Queen of England and the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
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