Foxes Flashback - Charles Palmer

Foxes Flashback - Charles Palmer

Who was the most influential person in the history of Leicestershire CCC? Sounds like the start of a twitter poll! There will always be debate about this. If my own ‘unsung hero’ would be Sir Lindsay Everard, who rescued us from oblivion in the 1930s, you could really do no better than Charles Palmer, born 101 years ago today.

When he signed a seven year contract with the club, he had not yet played a full season of first class cricket and not scored what was in those days the basic, 1000 runs in a season. A schoolmaster at Bromsgrove School, he had no first hand experience of cricket administration. He was though, well thought of at Lord’s and had toured South Africa with MCC without breaking into the test team.

In the curious world that was English cricket in the 15 years after World War Two, Charles was paid to be Club Secretary so that he could continue to play (and captain) the side as an amateur. In fact he was paid the salary of two players.

Charles took over a team close to mutiny, and as secretary, minimal support. What he did have was the support of a determined management committee. The highlight of his 8 years in charge was the brief (3 days) leadership of the County Championship table and eventual 3rd position in 1953, then the best season in the county’s history. There were also two other highly respectable 6th places…and two ‘wooden spoons’.

He safely scored a thousand runs in each season, and 2,071 in 1952, and a top score of 201 against Northamptonshire in 1953.

Though batting was his strength, he is best remembered for one amazing bowling spell. In May 1955 against Surrey at Grace Road, he decided to change his bowlers round by bowling an over himself (despite being told by his doctor not to bowl). He dismissed Peter May, then the best batsman in the country, with his second ball, so he kept himself on. He took two wickets the next over, and at the end of 12, he had taken 8 wickets for no runs. The crowd shouted very loudly ‘take yourself off Charlie’, the reason being that no one had taken 8 wickets for no runs. The record was 8 for 2, and its holder, Jim Laker was at the crease.

It was Laker who ensured his own record remained by hitting two shots for two in the 13th, and 3 in the 14th, to leave Charles with 8 wickets for 7 runs. Not bad for someone too injured to bowl. He was quick to go into the Surrey dressing to apologise ‘so sorry gentlemen’.

This performance was bowling gentle medium pace, but he also bowled what are affectionately known as ‘donkey drops’. Very slow deliveries that were designed to land on the stumps, and sometimes made experienced batsmen look foolish (Jock Livingstone of Northamptonshire and Rohan Kanhai of the West Indies for example).

In the winter of 1953/54 he was ‘Player Manager’ on the MCC tour to the West Indies, a particularly difficult assignment, and during the tour he played his one test match.

In retirement, he was successively Honorary Secretary, Club Chairman and then Club President, and was involved in the management of the club for 44 years. He captained the club in 226 First Class matches, more than anyone else. He was MCC President in 1978/79, which included negotiating with the World Series cricket supremo, Kerry Packer.

And of course, he is remembered by giving his name to the dining/function room at Grace Road, built during his time as Club chairman.

Richard Holdridge - Club Historian