1997

Fred Castle

Fred Castle: batsman, bowler, conjuror

Well played, sir: Fred Castle's pupils congratulate their headmaster after a county innings at Bath's Recreation Ground

FRED CASTLE was the Bath headmaster who was invariably cheered off the field by his doting pupils whenever he played for Somerset. He made only 23 appearances for the county, mostly in the school holidays. On other occasions when Somerset were short - as they often were in those immediate post-war years - he adeptly juggled with the timetables and also leaned on the sympathetic support of the chairman of the local education authority who conveniently once taught Fred in his native Kent.

There was a strong case for him to become a cricketer with Kent- or even an inside-forward with Crystal Palace. Instead he opted for marriage and the more settled career of teaching. He arrived in Bath and threw himself with much enthusiasm into local life. He was a bellringer, who completed his first peal at the age of ten, and sang in the church choir. His zestful baritone voice was featured in Gilbert and Sullivan productions.

At Oldfield Boys' School he entertained the classes, at the end of lessons, with his conjuring tricks. He was a member of the Inner Magic Circle and won a special award in America for brilliant close-up magic. County cricket encompassed some fine conjurors over the years, from Bill Bowes to Jack Mercer. Fred Castle was probably the best of them all.

He had his first match for Somerset at the age of 37. Somerset's captain, Bunty Longrigg, who had a law practice in Bath, persuaded Fred to play for the county. A stylish bat and outstanding cover point, he equally enjoyed his scope, however restricted, as an offspinner. He was proud of the maiden he bowled to Wally Hammond at a time when the great batsman was effortlessly stroking almost everything to the cover boundary.

Castle twice took over from Longrigg as Somerset's unofficial skipper. `I was put in charge at Old Trafford when we lost by an innings. We had an awful thunderstorm, mind you, and were bowled out twice the next day!' And when Longrigg missed a match at Worcester through illness, Castle deputised for him. He had a relaxed, affable manner, and back in the dressing-room, when it was raining, he'd pull out his pack of cards.

In later years, when he lived near Dean Park at Bournemouth, he used to tell of the crash course given him by Bunty, on how to pay the bills and tip the head waiter. He also confided how much he would have loved to play cricket permanently. He had scored three hundreds in his last year at school and he was happiest when going for his shots.

Frederick Castle died in a nursing-home near Truro in Cornwall on May 17, aged 88. His wife Doris, a well-known amateur actress in Bath, passed away last summer. He is survived by a son, John.

An article on Fred Castle appeared in WCM March 1987.


David Foot

Bert Cheetham: memories of Lord's

BOWLER OF the first ball in international cricket following the Second World War, Albert George Cheetham died in Melbourne on May 23, aged 81. In May 1945 he sent down the opening delivery to Len Hutton in the first `Victory Test' at Lord's. Later in the match Cheetham made a duck, of which he was oddly proud.

Prior to the war he played 20 times for NSW, registering a top score of 85, and taking 35 wickets as a fast-medium bowler, a rather disappointing return for one who had shown such great promise as a teenager with Sydney's Balmain club.

During the war he served with the AIF in the Middle East, enduring among other things the 168-day siege of Tobruk. Bert Cheetham was one of that cheerful band who reminisced at the 1995 Sydney reunion of the Australian Services cricket team. His uncle, Hammy Love, kept wicket in one of the Bodyline Tests.


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