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Fred Gibson

Leicestershire CCC is sad to learn of the passing of Fred Gibson.

Fred, who was Leicestershire's first cricketer to celebrate his 100th birthday, died on June 28 aged 101 at Manton Hall Residential Home in Rutland.

His funeral will be at Loughborough Crematorium at 11.45 on Thursday July 11.

Club Archivist Richard Holdridge wrote the following article on Fred's career at the time he celebrated his 100th birthday. Richard visited Fred at that time to give him a card and gift on behalf of Leicestershire CCC.

Fred Gibson by Richard Holdridge

Fred was born in Devon, a small village in central Jamaica. He was taught cricket by the manager of the large banana plantation in the village, a man with a ‘big belly’ called Lee Carr. He was very fond of Fred, taught him all he knew about cricket, and treated him almost as a son.

The highlight of his cricket on the island was the match that he played against George Headley. As stated above, his village was quite remote, so it was a red letter day when the local dignitaries arranged for Headley to play. The match was at Christiana, a larger place in Central Jamaica.

Fred was keeping wicket in this match, and he recalled the great man coming into bat. What impressed him most was Headley’s silk shirt, and how immaculately he was turned out. He would brush off the merest speck of dust from his shirt with a flick.

Headley hit the first three balls for 4. The fourth ball did not get up as the others had done (it was after all, only a country pitch) it crept along the ground and bowled the maestro. Headley turned round to Fred and said “That’s the thing about this game, you never stop learning.” The curious thing, Fred recalled was that he did not speak in a Jamaican accent. (Headley was in fact born in Panama, which perhaps accounted for this).

Sadly, Headley was guarded by the men who had brought him to play, and had little opportunity to talk to the other players or spectators, which was a shame as the people of Jamaica idolised him. Later on in the game Headley bowled both leg and off breaks.

In 1944, Fred, accompanied by a teacher friend, set sail for England in a large passenger ship carrying 1100 passengers. When in England, he joined the RAF, and found himself based near Melton Mowbray.

He enjoyed playing cricket, especially at Egerton Park. He remembers hitting one ball out of the ground and into the car park. “It wasn’t strength, it was timing.” On another occasion, playing against Holwell Ironworks, he scored a century. Such a feat was so unusual that a collection was taken, and raised £5, a substantial sum at the time. As a government employee, Fred did not think it appropriate that he should receive this, but eventually he was persuaded to do so.

It was whilst playing in Melton that he was spotted by CJB Wood. During the war, he was acting secretary of the Leicestershire County Cricket Club, and towards the end there was concern that the club would not be able to raise any sort of competitive side when the championship resumed in 1946.

During 1945, the county played a few one day matches against neighbouring sides, and there must have been great delight when Fred scored runs in the first two matches; an unbeaten 30 against Northamptonshire, whose attack include Nobby Clark, and an unbeaten 63 against Nottinghamshire.

Though he was dismissed cheaply in the two remaining matches of the season in which he played, he was one of the first players to be offered terms. In November 1945 he accepted £2 a week, and £5 match fees. These were the same as offered to Vic Munden, and only just less than that originally offered to Maurice Tompkin (£3 a week, and £5 a match).

Despite the best attempts of the committee, there was no amateur to lead the side in 1946. In fact by the beginning of March, the club only had 8 professionals who had signed up, and the only wicket keeper was Fred, though it is likely that they were not aware of this capability.

Fortunately by the end of April, the Australians Jackson and Walsh had arrived, and Paddy Corrall, on the promise of a three year contract agreed to return.

Outdoor preparation was handicapped by the lack of a ground, but finally at the Banks sports ground, just a few yards down the Aylestone Road from the Grace Road ground, a practice match was attempted on Thursday 2nd May.

Of the 22 players participating, only 13 ever played for Leicestershire, and only two of the remaining 9 ever played a club and ground or 2nd XI match. The Mercury reported in an early edition that the score was 33-6, and ‘many batsman were given second chances’.

It was with this rather shambolic match that the team prepared for the first championship match at Lord’s, the following Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. The club announced ten names, and had finally given up hope of finding an available amateur by saying that Berry (the senior professional) would captain the side for the ‘match’.

Fred remembers returning to Melton Mowbray to find a telegram from the club saying that he would not be needed for the match at Lord’s. He was disappointed, but when he spoke to his co, all he was given was a knowing smile.

In the end, Jack Howard became the 11th man for the match. Against the Indians he was 12th man, and ended up fielding in the Indians' 2nd innings because of an injury to Jack Walsh. He kept his place in the side that went north to play Yorkshire at Headingley.

This game witnessed a spectacular batting collapse by Leicestershire. At one point they were 199 for 3, but Berry was dismissed on reaching his century, followed by Vic Jackson for a duck. With the score now 199 for 5, Fred comes in to join Tony Riddington, and play his only championship innings.

Fred plays out the final ball of Bill Bowes’ over, and he and Riddington play out 4 successive maiden overs bowled by Bowes and Ellis Robinson. Robinson then traps Riddington lbw, and in the following over, Fred edges Bowes for 4, to bring the total to 203. Jack Howard then plays out a maiden from Robinson, before Fred edges Bill Bowes to Ken Fiddling.

His innings lasted 21 minutes, and he was dismissed by the 24th ball he had faced. The only runs scored during this time were his edged four. Three more wickets fell in the next 8 deliveries, with Leicestershire therefore losing 7 wickets for just 4 runs in 39 minutes.

Fred was left out of the next match, the first first-class match ever played at his beloved Egerton Park, and his final match was the following game at the Parks where the county were playing the university.

Here, he came in on a hat trick, JN Bartlett having dismissed Vic Jackson and Tony Riddington in successive balls. He scored a couple of singles off Bartlett, before being bowled by the Oxford captain, Macindoe. His partnership with Maurice Tompkin lasted 14 minutes, during which they accumulated 9 runs, and Fred received 14 balls.

The second day was memorable because Maurice Tompkin scored his maiden first class century. He had reached 91 in his first first-class match 8 years before, but this was the first time he had reached three figures for the county.

Fred came into bat on his dismissal, just after 6. In 14 minutes, he put on 17 runs with Tony Riddington, including a 6 off Sutton, the Oxford off break bowler, who shortly afterwards bowled him.

Just a couple of weeks later, Fred was badly injured in a car accident breaking his left arm and suffering head injuries. He was not re engaged by the county and his professional cricket career was over.

He went onto play for Loughborough Town and then Mountsorrel Castle, and occasionally featured in Sunday benefit matches for the county players. He was also involved in the early days of the Loughborough based club, Carillon Old Boys.

His big hitting persisted. His unbeaten 114 for Mountsorrel in 1957 was by some distance the largest innings played in the North Leicestershire League in 1957, and he was part of the team that won Division 2 in 1968 when well in his 50s.


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