Obituaries in 2000

One of those batsmen often out a little too soon, disappointing both spectators and selectors, Jimmy de Courcy died on June 20 in Belmont, a suburb of his birthplace in Newcastle, New South Wales. He was 73.

De Courcy made the 1st XI of his hometown club, Lambton-New Lambton, at 15, and was still playing for them five years later when called up by NSW in Dec 1947. He needed time to establish himself, waiting until his 29th match to post a hundred: 114 against South Australia in Feb 1952. But after a poised century against Victoria the following season, he was added to Lindsay Hassett's 1953 Ashes touring team on promise rather than performance.

Cricket writer Ray Robinson discerned a touch of [Charlie] Macartney, and there was an unmistakable stamp of quality about de Courcy's cricket. A trim 5ft 7ins, with an open stance, he quickly adjusted to English conditions, relieving Oxford University of 142 in 225 minutes in his fifth innings and causing Peter West to commend a clean vigour about his driving, a sure crispness about his footwork. A composed 41 in difficult conditions on Test debut at Old Trafford struck Jack Fingleton as a great innings, yes, a great one. And when he pouched Bill Edrich in the gully at Headingley, John Arlott celebrated an incredible catch of a hard-hit ball at a few yards' range.

Jimmy de Courcy 1927-2000 by Gideon Haigh

At his best, he matched any of his generation for speed of scoring. Against Essex, he pilfered 28 from an over of Bill Greensmith's legbreaks, in the course of 164 at better than a run a minute. In the tour's penultimate game, against Combined Services at Kingston-upon- Thames, De Courcy and Keith Miller (262*) looted 377 in 205 minutes; De Courcy's share was 204, with 27 fours and five sixes, three of them off Fred Trueman.

De Courcy was a little late in winning his Test place, commented Arlott in Test Match Diary, his tour account. He should, I imagine, hold it for some time. He is an aggressive batsman, with good footwork and a perfect, natural sense of timing. In fact De Courcy played only 16 further first-class matches over four years before fading from view. By Jan 1955 he had lost both his Test and state places; instead he enjoyed a prolific season with Lambton-New Lambton, reaching 1028 runs at 85, His final state appearance was in Oct 1957, and he left a first-class record of 3778 runs at 37 including six centuries, after which he also played Sydney grade cricket for Western Suburbs.

His name suggested a creation of Baroness Orczy - the cricket-loving lyricist Tim Rice even conferred it on a character in his musical Chess- but his roots were solidly plebeian: he was the son of a boilermaker and became one himself. James Harry de Courcy was also one of the quietest cricketers to don a baggy green: his nickname Words was intended ironically. He once undertook a 100-kilometre car journey from Coffs Harbour to Grafton with team-mate Ray Flockton without breaking silence. Keith Miller thought him even quieter than Englishman Cyril Washbrook, which was saying a lot. Only a cricket bat liberated his inner expressiveness and creativity.

Sir Tim Rice confirms: Yes, he was the inspiration for a character in Chess, Walter de Courcey, the adviser to Trumper [the American grandmaster], who was clearly inspired by the great Victor. I can't think of any others - it was a bit difficult to fit an Aussie Test player into Evita.

In brief

Richard Thomas Dick Gaby- June 27 in Hendon, aged 91. Followed his father to Lord's - Old Dick worked there for 63 years from 1873, Young Dick from 1929 to 1973, when he retired as Club Superintendent and was made an honorary life member of MCC. Longtime secretary of Cross Arrows CC, and wrote their centenary history in 1980.

Leonard Stanley Clark- May 2 in Leigh-on-Sea, aged 86. RHB: Essex (24 matches as amateur 1946-47, cap'47); 745 runs at 18.17, HS 64 v Northants at Ilford, 1947.

Peter Henry Denne- May 24 in Cape Town, aged 50. RHB: Western Province (10 matches, 1970-71 to 1973-74), 233 runs at 12.94, HS 55 on debut v Transvaal at Cape Town. Also played hockey for WP.

Sir Raymond Alfred FerrallCBE- June 1 in Launceston (Tasmania), aged 94. Five matches for Tas in 1930s, (one as capt), inc two against 1934 touring team to England. Prominent in Tasmanian life (mayor of Launceston, warden of port authority), knighted 1981.

Geoffrey George Lockwod Hebden- April, in Rowledge, Hants, aged 81. RHB, RFM: Hants (6 matches, 1937-51); 69 runs at 8.63, 3 wkts at 57.33. Also played for Dorset: 140 & 100* v Cornwall at Penzance, 1952. Son of GL (Middx 1908-1919).

Morgan Uriah Herbert- June 15 in Duncraig (near Perth), aged 81. RHB, LB: member of Western Australia's first Shield-winning team in 1947-48. Test trial that season, after taking 7 for 45 v Indian tourists. Also played 17 matches for WA over 10 seasons, finishing with 40 wkts at 42.75 and 398 runs at 14.21. One of the last to play for WA while based outside Perth. Allround sportsman who excelled at Aussie Rules football, played baseball for WA, and later shot six holes-in-one as a golfer.

Harold Pope- June 20 in Chesterfield, aged 81. RHB, LB: Derbys (10 matches, 1939-46); 81 runs at 6.23, 15 wkts at 39.93. Coached at Repton School. Brother of Alf and George of Derbys: George also played one Test for England in 1947.

Jean Mary Sheldon Chapman- July, aged 85. Legendary tea-lady for Hayle CC in Cornwall for more than 40 years: club players acted as pall-bearers at her funeral.

Alfred McDonald Taylor- May 10 in Oakville (Canada), aged 82. RHB, WK: Barbados (16 matches, 1942-52); 860 runs at 34.40, 4x100. HS 168 v Trinidad at Bridgetown, 1948-49: he and Roy Marshall shared opening stand of 278, and Barbados totalled 698. Also hit 161 v MCC tourists, 1947-48. His son, Alfred, played for Barabados too.

Major-General Sir David Calthrop Thorne KBE, CVO- April 23 in Framlingham, aged 66. RHB, SLA: Comb Servs (2 matches, 1964); 98 runs at 32.67, 2 wkts at 66.50. Also played for Norfolk (1954-62), with twin brother Michael.

© John Wisden & Co