Memories of a great friend, 1933

The late Lord Harris


Last year, dear Mr. Editor, you and your readers were good enough to appreciate my short history of Yorkshire Cricket. Now you have invited me to send you some memories of my great friend, the late Lord Harris. The first was an easy matter but the second makes me shudder when I think how unworthy I am to attempt such a task.

It is impossible to give an adequate idea of what an irreplaceable asset he was to our great game. He was the only one who had a close playing and watching experience of first-class cricket and also sixty-five years, actual participation in the game.

In 1862, at the age of eleven, he was practising at Lord's and, on the glorious Fourth of June, 1930, he batted in a Second Eleven Match at Eton.

Little did my old friend dream when, on going out to Bombay as Governor in 1890, that his connection with the game was not terminated, for at this time he said: "My cricket book is closed, but it contains nothing but the pleasantest recollections." But neither Lord's nor the game of cricket could allow that State appointment to deprive them of his invaluable sagacity.

It was my very good fortune to take a team to tour through India in 1892. I can answer for my side that none of us will ever forget his great kindness. He entertained my whole party for a full fortnight. We spent such a happy Christmas with him, and it was on Christmas Eve, when we gave him a silver bowl, that a visitor up from Bombay made the famous remark: Do you take an interest in cricket, Lord Harris?

For many years it was my pleasure and honour to serve with him on the Committee at Lord's and I can say that only on one occasion did we disagree.

We were walking down Jermyn Street and discussing the serious problem of County players joining League Clubs. He held that a player was entitled to sell his services to the highest bidder and that if a professional played for a League Club he might still represent England. I ventured to disagree, saying that County Cricket, and County Cricket only, was the mainstay of the English Eleven, and that no man could serve two masters. All he replied was: "I am sorry to disagree." That was the only time we did not see eye to eye.

I have said he was Cricket's irreplaceable asset. Am I not correct in stating that the whole cricket world looks for leadership and guidance from Lord's?

It was on the Finance and Cricket Committees of the M.C.C. that my old friend was the guiding star. No one could have watched over expenditure with a more eagle-like eye and yet, when it came to spending money or buying property to benefit the Club, no one could have advised me more earnestly, than he did, to go ahead.

Perhaps in no matter concerning cricket was his wisdom of greater value than when the Committee had to solve conundrums showered on it from all over the world. I cannot recall that the M.C.C. has ever had to acknowledge having given a wrong ruling. Then again, alterations in the laws of the game. Slow to move the M.C.C. may have been at times, but it cannot be accused of failing to look before it leaped -- here truly we see the hand of Lord Harris.

I recall now what the retiring President of the M.C.C. -- Lord Jersey -- said when nominating Lord Harris as his successor. "I nominate as my successor Lord Harris, who having been a cricketer among Governors will be a Governor among cricketers," to which Lord Dartmouth added: "As governor among cricketers Lord Harris will remain for all time in the cricketing world."

None can deny how true Lord Dartmouth's prophecy proved to be. Governor he certainly was but he always used his power in that capacity with discretion and wisdom. So much so that I am confident all who were privileged to work with him (my apprenticeship started in 1889) were proud to have him as their leader and to be able to seek his advice.

It has been said, and gratefully appreciated by me, how much I have done towards the betterment of the Players. I would add that just as much credit is due to Lord Harris for the great improvement which has taken place. His interest in their welfare was unfailing, and was specially shown in his works for the Cricketers' Fund Friendly Society.

In Lord Harris cricket and the M.C.C. lost their greatest and most devoted son. To him, Lord's was as the breath of his nostrils; he loved every nook and corner of it.

Lord Harris received many honours, and deserved even more. The one which pleased him most was the very warm invitation of the Australian Board of Control to go to see the last Tests in Australia. I do not suppose that anyone will ever receive such an invitation again, and only in a very small way can one visualise the enormous welcome he would have received.

It was my privilege to see him only two days before he passed on: and what was his main thought then? Would he be well enough to address, as Treasurer, once again, the annual meeting at Lord's? Alas! it was not to be.

To have seen him in the home he loved so well, surrounded by his family and a host of friends, was to know him at his best. It increased my admiration for him a hundredfold. I never wish to have a truer friend -- he was just one great Sahib.


The Editor of Wisden has been good enough to ask me to give my impressions of the late Lord Harris. I gladly try to write a few words, though with great diffidence.

It was my good fortune to be brought in close touch with this great personality during the last twenty-five years of his life, and I say at once that no one could wish for a better friend.

To enjoy his confidence was a great privilege. Unbeknown to some, he was the kindest and most affectionate of men. Shortly before Lord Harris died a very famous professional cricketer told me that if he wanted the best advice he would always consult his Lordship.

To stay with him in Kent was to enjoy English country life in its best sense. What a charming host he was, always thinking of his guests.

He knew no fear. Indeed, he told me that the only time in his life he was ever afraid was when some few years ago he was knocked down in London by a taxi-cab.

Will those who heard him ever forget his reading the Lesson at the Memorial Service for Lady Harris? He was, of course, much overcome, but with that wonderful restraint refused to show it. A few days later I remarked on his courage. His reply was, "She never funked anything, and I made up my mind I would not, otherwise I could not have done it."

He was for several years Chairman of the M.C.C. Finance and Cricket Sub-Committees, and, as Honorary Treasurer of the Club, took the chair at meetings of the General Committee if the President was absent at any time. All were delighted to serve under him. He wrote short and concise notes on the agenda paper, and, though he insisted on accuracy, he was never fussy. At Christmas he would telephone to Lord's to make sure that the staff were receiving their Christmas boxes.

He can never during his long innings (all too short for the good of cricket) have let anyone down. He accepted full responsibility for any action he took or advised the Committee to take. Essentially a strong man, with very definite views, he would listen patiently to others before coming to conclusions. When anything difficult or of an unpleasant nature had to be faced, it was not unusual to leave it to the Treasurer.

Perhaps only those who served with him in Committee will know how faithfully and well he handled the many problems that must necessarily be associated with the management of a Club responsible for sending cricket teams overseas. He would not hesitate to express disapproval if things were wrong but woe to the man who complained without just cause.

Cricketers will remember the presentation made to him by the Counties represented on the Advisory County Cricket Committee in 1931. In asking him to accept a Georgian tea service, Lord Hawke said that the whole cricketing world regarded him as its great leader.

I do not think in recent years he was ever happier than when playing cricket at his old school.

By his death, cricket and M.C.C. have lost their best friend. He used to say that no one was ever missed. In his case at any rate this has proved to be incorrect -- surely one of the very few occasions on which his judgment was at fault.


A great batsman and a brilliant field in his younger days, and all his life a commanding figure in the world of cricket, Lord Harris, who died on March 24, was born at St. Anne's Trinidad on February 3, 1851, and so, at the time of his death had entered upon his 82nd year.

As a boy, he had a private tutor in town and in this way saw a lot of Lord's where he enjoyed the benefit of considerable coaching with the result that, even before he went to Eton, he knew a good deal about batting. At that famous school his cricket education advanced, under the direction of R.A.H. Mitchell and the Rev. G.R. Dupuis, and he obtained his place in the Eleven in 1868 and the two following years.

On leaving Eton, he was sent up to Oxford and secured his blue as a Freshman. He also played against Cambridge in 1872 and 1874, and would, no doubt, have played in 1873 but early that season he bruised his hand so badly when practising catching in the longfield that he found himself compelled to stand down.

Prior to his career with Oxford there had commenced that close association with Kent which during the rest of his life commanded so much of Lord Harris's energy and enthusiasm. Indeed, so far back as 1870 he played for Kent, and was elected to the Committee of the County Club -- his father at that time being President -- and in 1874 he succeeded to the honorary secretaryship which for 25 years previously had been held by W. de Chair Baker.

Twelve months later, he became captain of the Eleven and so continued for fifteen seasons, resigning after the summer of 1889 on his appointment to the Governorship of Bombay which kept him out of England from 1890 to 1895. Even after the five years in India, he, when in the middle forties, played occasionally for Kent in 1896 and 1897.

He was president of that county so far back as 1875 when he also officiated as secretary and captain. During the latter years of his life, he was not only a trustee but also chairman of the County Club.

Almost as close as the connection with Kent was that of Lord Harris with the Marylebone Club. First elected to the committee in 1875, he was president in 1895, and was chosen in 1906 as one of the Trustees, a position he resigned ten years later when, on the death of the Hon. Sir Spencer Ponsonby-Fane, he became treasurer of the club.

Lord Harris -- at that time the Hon. George Harris -- was a member of the side which under the leadership of R.A. Fitzgerald, secretary of the M.C.C., visited Canada in 1872, and in the autumn of 1878 he took a team out to Australia.

This latter undertaking came about in the first place as the result of an invitation issued by the Melbourne Club to the Gentlemen of England. A thoroughly representative band of amateurs could not be collected to make the trip, and so George Ulyett and Tom Emmett, two famous Yorkshire professionals, were called upon to complete the side. The two professionals were the only regular bowlers, yet of five eleven-a-side matches -- the full programme comprised 13 fixtures -- Lord Harris's team, if badly beaten by the Australians who had visited England in the summer of 1878, won and lost against Victoria and New South Wales.

In the second game with New South Wales, there occurred over an umpire's decision a disturbance of so disgraceful a nature that the Australians, on the occasion of their second visit to England in 1880, could secure scarcely any fixtures with first-class sides.

Of recent years it has been urged that the failure of the Australians to arrange a first-class programme came about through the neglect of the tourists to enquire beforehand whether their visit would be welcome. The lack of courtesy shown in this way had, no doubt, some effect in leading most of the counties to decline fixtures but, equally, it may be asserted the deplorable affair on the Sydney ground had a big influence in reducing the tour largely to engagements with local eighteens.

Whatever the dominating cause of this cold reception, the fact remains that at the end of August the Australians had taken part in only five eleven-a-side games. Such wonderful work with the ball against those local eighteens, however, stood to the credit of Spofforth, Boyle and Palmer that public opinion demanded the tourists should be given a real trial of strength.

Accordingly -- Sussex agreeing to the postponement of a fixture -- Lord Harris got up a team and there was decided at the Oval, in the early days of September, the first real Test Match, Lord Harris captained not only the side victorious on that occasion but four years later, when for the first time in this country the number of Test Matches was increased to three, led England at Lord's and at the Oval.

While his work for Kent cricket, into the improvement of which he threw himself heart and soul -- he had his reward in seeing that county carry off the Championship on four occasions -- was his great monument, Lord Harris will always be remembered for the splendid stand he made against unfair bowling. Thanks largely to his efforts, cricket to-day is practically free from that evil, but in the early eighties the practice of throwing obtained to no inconsiderable extent in first-class cricket and threatened to become more and more pronounced.

The situation, particularly as the authorities failed to deal firmly with the trouble, called for drastic action and this was forthcoming on the part of Lord Harris. At that time, Lancashire played two professionals -- Crossland and Nash -- whose delivery of the ball was, outside that county, generally recognised as unfair.

Umpires, though more than once reminded by the powers of those days to carry out the strict letter of the law, did not move in the matter, so Lord Harris, after participating in a match with Lancashire at Old Trafford, wrote to the Kent Committee urging that, as a protest against the Lancashire bowlers, Kent should scratch the return match with the northern county. The Kent Committee duly adopted this course.

Crossland later in the season was found to have broken his qualification for Lancashire and Nash dropped out of the eleven, so fixtures were renewed the following year. While circumstances thus prevented a prolonged breach, there can be no doubt the action of Lord Harris, even if it did not entirely remove the throwing evil, had a very healthy effect on the game.

Lord Harris in 1887 was mainly responsible for the establishment of the County Cricket Council. This was a body of considerable possibilities but very jealously regarded by some of the older brigade of cricketers and when Lord Harris left England to take up his duties as Governor of Bombay the Council, passing a resolution to adjourn sine die, voted itself out of existence. In these days the work which, no doubt, would have gradually fallen into the hands of the Council is performed by the Advisory County Cricket Committee of the M.C.C. which was formed in 1904.

So far back as 1886, Lord Harris, at a meeting of the M.C.C., brought forward a proposal that the period necessary to give a residential qualification to play for a county should be reduced to twelve months. That is the rule today and has been so for over a year but Lord Harris, when he urged the alteration from two years to one, was in front of his time and the motion was lost by 14 votes to 3.

A batsman of very high class, possessed of an excellent style and great punishing powers and full of pluck, Lord Harris was never afraid of a rough wicket -- he played, when suffering from a damaged or broken finger, an heroic innings against Derbyshire on a vile pitch at Derby in 1884. In 1882 and in each of the following years he had a batting average of over thirty -- no small achievement in those days -- that of 1884 being 33 with an aggregate of 1,417.

In the opinion of some of his contemporaries, Lord Harris was one of the finest batsmen ever seen against fast bowling on a fiery wicket. Good driving-power both to the off and to the on were at his command and he was a master of the square cut. Indeed he possessed practically all the recognised strokes and, if a bowler kept an immaculate length, he would jump in, make a half-volley of the ball and lift it over mid-off or mid-on.

G.G. Hearne has placed the fact on record that when batting with him against Jack Crossland of Lancashire, one of the fastest bowlers in the country, Lord Harris drove in such tremendous form that Crossland was compelled to have two men in the long field. The only time I had over seen it to that pace bowling, added George Hearne.

Lord Harris first appeared for Gentlemen against Players in 1875 in the famous match in which W.G. Grace (152) and A.J. Webbe (65) made in the second innings 203 for the first wicket. He fielded admirably anywhere and especially in the outfield.

Lord Harris was also a particularly able captain as he showed in the England v. Australia match at Lord's in 1884 when, although Peate was bowling an admirable length and worrying the Australian batsmen, he noticed that the pitch, just short of where Peate dropped the ball, was wearing. To the surprise of most people present, he took Peate off in favour of George Ulyett, coming to the conclusion that Ulyett, if able to find the particular spot, would, with his pace, be particularly nasty. Ulyett did find the spot and took seven wickets for 36 runs, England winning by an innings and five runs.

Lord Harris's highest innings for Kent was 176 against Sussex in 1882, when he and Lord Throwley made 208 for the first wicket. Altogether, he scored 7,806 runs for Kent with an average of 30 -- a figure he exceeded in nine different seasons -- and for that county played nine separate innings of a hundred or more.

A great figure at the Canterbury week over a period of sixty years, Lord Harris first participated in the Festival in 1870 when, appearing for the Gentlemen of Kent against the M.C.C., he was in each innings bowled for eight by F.C. Cobden who, a few weeks earlier, performing the hat trick when Oxford, wanting three runs for victory, had three wickets to fall, had snatched a memorable victory for Cambridge. Later in the same Canterbury Week the Hon. George Harris -- as Lord Harris was then -- made top score -- 64 -- for I Zingari against the Gentlemen of Kent.

Always keenly interested in the Cricketers' Fund Friendly Society, he had been President of that body for many years to the time of his death.

Lord Harris was the author of three books "A History of Kent County Cricket", "A Few Short Runs", and (in conjunction with Mr. F.S. Ashley Cooper) "Lord's and the M.C.C."

A characteristic story of Lord Harris used to be told by George Hearne. Joining his captain, who was well set and batting in fine form, Hearne, almost directly he went in, found himself called upon to attempt a sharp single. To Hearne's idea there existed no chance of a run being obtained and he momentarily hesitated but, seeing Lord Harris coming, Hearne responded and, as he expected, was run out several yards.

As he retired from the wicket, Hearne had to pass Lord Harris who -- very hot-tempered as a young man -- muttered, "Damn little fool. Serve you jolly well right. Why the devil don't you come when you're called?" Having sacrificed his own wicket to save that of his captain, Hearne naturally thought these words rather hard. Some time later Lord Harris got out and walked across to where Hearne and the other professionals were sitting. "George," said he, "that was no run." "No, my lord," replied George, "I didn't think it was." "Why then did you come?" he was asked. "Well, I saw you coming and thought your wicket was worth more than mine." "Another time I do a silly thing like that," said Lord Harris, "don't you come. I beg your pardon."

© John Wisden & Co