Brighton and Hove Albion and Sussex legend Tommy Cook remembered in a new play.

The life of Brighton and Hove Albion and Sussex legend Tommy Cook is remembered in a new play.

Phil writing the play
Phil writing the play

Writer Phil Dennett has dedicated Tommy Cook- Sporting Legend to former Mid Sussex Times arts writer and news reporter Mark Gale.

Phil hopes local groups will perform the play, which runs to just over two hours. The 70th anniversary of Tommy’s death is in January 2020.

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Phil, of Junction Road, Burgess Hill, a former news editor on the Middy, worked with Mark for many years

He said: “Apart from his outstanding arts writing, Mark and his late wife Margaret were keen Albion and Sussex fans.

“At the time of his death there were suggestions that he might have written, or at least started, a play about Tommy Cook, but this never materialised. Last year I decided to write the play in Mark’s memory, as he was such a well-respected theatre reviewer.”

Tommy Cook was born in 1901 in Cuckfield, where his parents ran a shop. He soon showed promise at schools level in football and cricket, in which he also had success with the village teams.

Sussex plucked Tommy from the obscurity of local cricket and he became one of the county’s finest batsmen, scoring more than 20,000 runs in a 15-year career.

Albion spotted him playing in a parks game and he initially played at half-back, before beginning a record-breaking run of goal-scoring for the club that has not been matched in peacetime football since, ending with 123 goals in 209 league and FA Cup matches between 1922 and 1929.

The play also touches on Cook’s personal life, which included three marriages, a war-time bravery award, an air crash that blighted his life and his eventual suicide in Cuckfield at the age of 49.

Phil said: “The play uses a mix of facts and imagined dialogue from Tommy’s life to celebrate his achievements, whilst acknowledging some of the challenges he faced off the pitch.

“I was surprised how far my research took me, from Cuckfield museum to Russia and finally hiring a researcher in South Africa. Tommy proved to be a fascinating subject, quite apart from his superb sporting achievements.”

Mark Gale, who lived for many years in Hurstpierpoint, died peacefully at his flat in Haywards Heath in 2009 aged 76.

“In more than 50 years working for the Middy, then based in Haywards Heath, Mr Gale was renowned for his wit and his deep knowledge of literature and classical music.

“Although a kindly and inoffensive man by nature he was known for not pulling any punches about below-par productions.

“His direct comments occasionally got him into hot water with local groups, but he accepted their criticism with good grace.”

Any group interested in seeing a copy of the play may contact Phil on [email protected]