Ex-cricketer Don Topley ‘devastated’ if bawdy poem caused offence at sporting dinner

Don Topley at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton, where he was due to be commentating on Hampshire v Essex

Don Topley at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton, where he was due to be commentating on Hampshire v Essex at the start of the domestic English Season Picture: Don Topley - Credit: Archant

Former Essex cricketer Don Topley, who faced criticism for reading an ‘inappropriate’ poem during an after-dinner speech at Oxford, has said he is “devastated” if it offended anyone.

Mr Topley has spoken of the fallout from the incident in a column for this newspaper, which followed his recent unpaid speech at the annual sports dinner at Bracenose College, Oxford University.

As well as talking about his cricketing career at the event - including coaching Zimbabwe when they defeated England in the 1992 World Cup - he read out a poem called Never Trust a Cricketer.

The poem includes a string of double entendres, including: “The number three is a dasher, he seldom prods and pokes, when he goes into action, he has a fine array of strokes.”

MORE: Don Topley column: I’m devastated if poem caused offence

It has been reported a number of female students walked out of the dinner.

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Mr Topley, who is based in Suffolk, said: “I always read cricket-themed poems at the end of my speeches with the intention of entertaining. I certainly did not read out all of one of the poems, bowdlerising the few verses I did read - but I accept, in hindsight, that this was still not enough to remove the risk of offence.

“I have formally issued an apology, but the damage has been done.”

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He said he was “extremely disappointed” with some national newspaper reports following the incident, and that the BBC had subsequently cut ties with him.

Mr Topley added: “Maybe my humour is of a different era, but I am devastated if I offended anyone. We do live in a different society today as previously people would immediately challenge you or have a quiet word, but today anyone can whip up a frenzy on social media and can do it anonymously too.”

He added: “I have been overwhelmed by the many supportive comments associated with the national online articles. I have also received many emails, tweets and letters suggesting you would hear worse at a ‘Best Man’s speech’.”

He said he had not been aware of anyone walking out of the event when the poem was read. The Bracenose Principal, John Bowers, said in a blog that he didn’t see anyone walk out either - though said some of what was said was “inappropriate”.

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