Poignant legacy of a wonderful wordsmith

THE work of writer David Foot, from Westbury on Trym, is celebrated in a new book.

Footprints, which is published on October 2, spans the full range of his work – from cricket, football and boxing to theatre, local history and murder. 

As a journalist and author for more than six decades, David, who died in 2021 at the age of 92, wrote about a wide cast of characters: from cricketer Viv Richards and rugby star Carwyn James to actor Peter O’Toole, politician Harold Macmillan and poet Siegfried Sassoon. 

• As a cricket writer, for the Guardian and in a string of books, he won multiple awards, developing a style all his own. His biography of Harold Gimblett, breaking new ground by exploring the mental turmoil of the Somerset and England batsman who committed suicide, regularly features high in lists of best cricket books of all time. 

• As a drama critic for the Bristol Evening World and the Guardian, David was the first to review a Harold Pinter play and the last to review a George Formby performance. 

• As a historian of Bristol’s past he dug into hidden corners, tapping into memories of a lost world of working-class boxing booths and, through a lady lavatory attendant, the sad and sordid nightlife of the Downs in the 1930s. 

• As a working journalist for more than 60 years, he reflected on the changing world of newspapers, notably in Country Reporter, an account of his apprenticeship in Yeovil. 

Footprints contains all of this and more, including extracts from David’s biography of WG Grace rejected by publishers in the 1960s  and never previously published. There is also private writing: from perceptive teenage diaries, right through to poignant late-life reflections on memory loss. 

David, who was born in East Coker, remained rooted in the West Country. He and his wife Anne and their two children, Mark and Julia, moved into their home in Westbury in 1966 and David died in the house.

The author and editor of Footprints, Stephen Chalke,  who knew David well, was given full access to the writer’s papers by his family. The book has a foreword by Scyld Berrym, former cricket correspondent of The Observer and Daily Telegraph, and a preface by Mark Foot, David’s son.

Footprints is published by Charlcombe Books in association with Fairfield Books and costs £22.