Across the country, cricketers of all standards would normally have been going through their paces, getting their eye in, in their last net before the start of the season. For Surrey CCC, it was to have marked a very special anniversary. Here, DAVID MORGAN recounts the story of a Croydon-born player who was a regular in the county side through the 1920s
Everybody loves a wedding and over the years there have been thousands of marriage ceremonies performed at Croydon Minster. It was a wedding held at what was then known as the Croydon Parish Church in October 1927 that provides this piece of Croydon history.
October might not be the most popular month for weddings, but this wedding’s groom had been working throughout the summer.
There would have been many local Croydon residents interested in this ceremony. A loud cheer went up from the crowd when the couple came out of the church. There was a guard of honour that was not like any other that the church had seen. The newlyweds walked out of church beneath an archway of cricket bats. The groom was Albert Geary, a professional cricketer with Surrey, with Eleanor Ross at his side.
Born in East Croydon on September 11, 1900, Albert Charles Taylor Geary began to play for Surrey in 1921, turning out for their Second XI in the Minor Counties’ Championship. He made his debut for the first team in 1922 against Somerset but it was not until 1925 that he became more of a regular in the first team.
The 1927 season was not only the one where he was preparing for his wedding, but it was also his most successful for the ‘Rey. That season, he was the most successful Surrey bowler, taking 79 wickets at an average of 25.25 runs each. Included in that total was a 6-50 performance against Hampshire, which was to be the best figures of his career.
At the end of this season he was very close to the top of the county averages but Geary never really got the recognition for this outstanding achievement and he struggled for consistent form for much of his career.
As a right-arm medium-fast bowler, The Oval’s featherbed wickets didn’t always suit Geary’s bowling style and he had much competition for the bowling slots in the team. One example of a game in the early part of his career was against Leicestershire at The Oval in August 1924. The Surrey team was captained by PGH – Percy – Fender and included other outstanding England players such as Douglas Jardine and Jack Hobbs.
Leicestershire batted first and only managed 133. Geary bowled just six overs, two of them maidens, taking no wickets for 13 runs. Surrey then batted and scored a huge total, 418 for 8 declared. As the No11 batsman, Geary didn’t get out into the middle. Surrey’s formidable score included 192 from TF Shepherd and 115 from England opener Andrew Sandham.
Leicestershire faced the ignominy of an innings defeat if they could not manage a better score against Surrey’s bowling attack. Geary was much more involved in the second innings, taking two wickets for 34 runs in 11 overs as Surrey got their opponents out for 130 runs, therefore winning the match without having to bat a second time, by an innings and 155 runs.
Remarkably, following his highly successful 1927 season, Geary only took three wickets in the whole of the next campaign. His form seemed to desert him and apart from one outstanding match against Glamorgan in 1929, when he took 5-22 to help dismiss them for only 37, he drifted out of a regular first-team place.
In 1932 he took a professional contract in Jersey, playing for eight more seasons against visiting teams. When he left Surrey, Geary had played 90 times for the county taking 193 wickets. He had bowled 16,163 balls. As a lower-order batsman, he scored 670 runs at an average of 10.63. He took 30 catches.
His last first-team game was against Lancashire at The Oval in 1931.
During his time as the professional playing for Jersey, he took 437 wickets. This included a highly successful match against an MCC XI in 1934 when he took eight wickets in the game and scored a century in Jersey’s first innings. Geary lived out the rest of his life in the Channel Islands. He died in St Peter in January 1989.
On his wedding day, he was a well-known and well-liked figure with cricket fans across the country appreciating and acknowledging his talents with the ball. A photo of the happy couple leaving the church was even printed in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph. It’s not known if the bride, Eleanor Ross, was a Yorkshire lass (there’s nothing in the newspaper to suggest that she was). The newspaper must have chosen to use the photograph because of the celebrity of the leading cricketers of the day, and the rivalry between Yorkshire and Surrey on the field.
Ross carried a huge posy of flowers as she left the church. Marrying such a high-profile cricketer today might make her a celebrity bride! In 1927 though, they contented themselves with walking through the cricket bat arch and off to their reception. I think for many, their appearance outside church would have been talked about for some time.
Surrey County Cricket Club is rightly proud of its heritage. This was to be the summer season when the club marked its 175th anniversary. The club was constituted on October 18 1845, and they played their first inter-county match against Kent at The Oval on June 25 1846.
The club is encouraging supporters to remember the many players over the years who have represented the county. So in this 175th Surrey season, let’s hear a round of applause and appreciation for Albert Geary, a Croydon cricketer of old.
- David Morgan is researching a new book on the Rectors of Croydon in 13th, 14th and 15th centuries.
- To read previous David Morgan articles on the history of Croydon Minster, click here
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