Obituary, 1933

F. S. Ashley-Cooper

ASHLEY-COOPER, MR. FREDERICK SAMUEL, unrivalled as an authority on cricket history, died on January 31, at his home at Milford, Surrey. He was born in London on March 2, 1877, and so had not quite completed his 55th year.

From his earliest days he was troubled with poor health and consequently did not follow any profession and yet his unvarying researches and his literary output involved an amount of labour which might well have deterred the most robust of men.

His enthusiasm, however, carried him through from these early days when, helped by his friend H.T. Waghorn, an officer of the Reading Room at the British Museum, he spent several years going through, in his search for cricket matter, the newspapers and magazines printed up to the year of 1830.

In this devotion to the history of the game, he was in the succession of the Rev. James Pycroft who, born 1813, was author of "The Cricket Field" and of Mr. Arthur Haygarth (born in 1825) the compiler of that wonderful work Scores and Biographies.

Such was Ashley-Cooper's amazing energy that altogether he brought out 103 books and pamphlets on the game dealing with cricket in England, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, India and other places, besides a very large amount of matter including 40,000 biographical and obituary notices, every production of his pen, moreover, being characterised by phenomenal accuracy to secure which he spared neither time nor trouble.

Among his works were two brought out in conjunction with Lord Harris, "Lord's and the M.C.C." (dedicated to King George) and "Kent Cricket Matches 1719-1880" and one with P.F. Warner "Oxford and Cambridge at the Wicket".

Other products of his pen were "Cricket Highways and Byways", "Curiosities of First-Class Cricket", "Eton and Harrow at the Wicket", "Gentlemen v. Players", "E.M. Grace, Cricketer" "W.G. Grace, Cricketer", "Hambledon Cricket Chronicle", a new edition of Pycroft's "Cricket Field", and "Scores and Biographies, Volume 15", this last being a monumental piece of biography based in the first place upon notes left by Mr. Arthur Haygarth and by innumerable additions brought up to date.

Mr. Ashley-Cooper edited the newspaper, "Cricket" for five years and in 1920 he held the Secretaryship of the Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club.

He was responsible for more than thirty years for "Births and Deaths" and "Cricket Records" in Wisden, which latter section of the Almanack had grown from two pages in 1887 to sixty-one pages in last year's edition.

In the course of his career he had gathered a unique collection of cricket books and pictures. For this fortunately he found in Sir Julien Cahn a purchaser a month or two before he died so the splendid library was not dispersed.

Early in 1931, Ashley-Cooper took a trip to the West Indies but derived no benefit from the voyage. Indeed, his health became worse and his sight failed so badly that in the autumn he had to abandon all work.

A most modest and kindly man, he was always ready to give from his wonderful store of cricket history to anyone who asked his help and grudged no time spent in satisfying such requests.

To those associated in the production of Wisden's Almanack the passing of Ashley-Cooper is naturally felt as a personal loss. Year by year he had spared no endeavour to make the list of "Births and Deaths" as complete as possible, conducting an enormous correspondence on the subject and searching the columns of practically every paper he could obtain to bring his information up to date and to eliminate any error.

Equally zealous was he in his pursuit of any happening in the game of sufficient importance to be included in "Cricket Records". All this labour he performed with a measure of enthusiasm which never flagged even when the shadows were gathering and he knew his days were numbered.

Such devotion as his to the game of cricket could not have been surpassed. It should be recognised by the powers that be in the making of arrangements such as will ensure the enlightened continuance of his life's work.

© John Wisden & Co