Foxes Flashback - George Geary
George Geary (born 9th July 1893)
George was one of Leicestershire’s greatest cricketers. The eldest of 16 children, the son of a Barwell shoe clicker, life must have been hard growing up. He attended Barwell National School on High Street in the village, who fielded a good cricket team. In 1906 they won the local school shield but were thwarted from winning the final outright when bad light stopped play with their opponents floundering at 11 for 8 wickets, and George had taken 5 of them. He started playing for Barwell 2nd team as a 13-year-old in 1907 and in 1911, he took 42 wickets for 142 runs. At the annual dinner, the Leicestershire secretary SC Packer, was able to announce to thunderous applause that George would be joining the county ground staff next season, joining another Barwell player, Albert Lord. His days as a shoe riveter in a Barwell shoe factory were almost over!
RC Robertson-Glasgow (known as Crusoe) a cricket writer who played for Somerset wrote a short sketch of George in his book “Cricket Prints”. He wrote:
‘Geary’s bowling was always good; sometimes it was great, when on a pitch to suit he got that big hand to cut the ball from leg, at something more than medium pace and made it fly from the readiest bat to wicket keeper or slips. On those days he was nearly a Sydney Barnes and could beat the world.’
There are a few frames of him on film bowling, he was certainly not fast, as 49 batsmen were stumped off him (mainly by Tommy Sidwell), indicating that the keeper would stand up to the wicket for him, a similar percentage of dismissals in this way were taken by bowlers such as Maurice Tate and Alec Bedser.
Crusoe again: ‘There were three occasions at least, when he was in the front of England against Australia. First in the third test at Leeds, 1926 as a batsman. In answer to Australia’s 494, England had lost 8 wickets for 182. Geary and Macaulay then put on 108. Macaulay with a face like an angry rock made 76; Geary 35 not out. It saved the match. Then in the deciding test at the Oval, Geary made those two terrific catches off Larwood in the slips at the start of Australia’s second innings on the last day, and the match was as good as won.’ (George in fact took only one wicket in that innings, the final wicket to fall when he bowled Arthur Mailey, and the Ashes were England’s).
‘Then, Trent Bridge, 1934; George in his 41st year. Who or what could take Bradman’s wicket? And George made one fly from the bat’s edge on to Ames’ pads and so in easy arc to Hammond at slip; Bradman out for 29.’
Bradman always said that of the bowlers he faced only Alec Bedser bowled a better ‘leg cutter’ than George. We have in the Charles Palmer suite the signed bat which he used to score the winning runs to retain the Ashes in 1928/29. For someone who only played 14 tests, there were certainly some memorable moments!
George Geary admires a portrait of George Geary
Crusoe ends his short sketch with this;
‘But it is as a Leicester man that I regard him most; unfailing in skill, humour and toil. And you should have been at Hinckley his home village, when in his benefit match in 1936, he took 7 for 7 in one innings against Warwickshire. They knew how to advertise him there, without writing or effort. “Been to the match? How’s George getting on? Your change sir; How’s George bowling?” That’s the publicity worth having.’
Crusoe had attended Charterhouse school in Surrey, and it was to that school that George was appointed coach. There he discovered and nurtured one of the great batsmen of the era, Peter May.
Richard Holdridge - Club Historian