The Reverend Frank Hay Gillingham
September 06, 1875, Tokyo, Japan
April 01, 1953, Monaco, (aged 77y 207d)
Right hand bat
Dulwich College; Durham University
Frank Gillingham's other claim to fame, ignored in his Wisden obituary (below) is that he was the BBC's first ball-by-ball commentator. At Leyton on May 14, 1927 he broadcast four stints, totaling 25 minutes, on the Essex v New Zealanders match. Picked largely because he was a former county cricketer who was "a terrific preacher" according to TN Pearce, a former team-mate, he was not really suited to the confines of the BBC. The newspapers greeted the experiment with indifference. Gillingham continued to do the odd commentary until he infuriated Lord Reith, the BBC's overlord and a stickler for a complete absence of anything commercial, when he filled in time during a rain break at The Oval by reading the various advertisements round the ground.
The Reverand Frank Hay Gillingham was a great personality in the Church and on the cricket field. Born in Tokyo on September 6, 1875, he came to England when eight, gained a place in the Dulwich XI's of 1891 and 1892, and appeared with much distinction for Durham University. When ordained in 1899, he became a curate at Leyton and so qualified for Essex. During this period he showed his love of the game when making his rounds of the parish by joining in street cricket with local boys.
After a few appearances for the second eleven, he first played for the Essex Championship side in 1903, and he appeared whenever his clerical duties permitted till 1928. Altogether he scored 9,942 runs, average 30.49, and brought off 102 catches. Tall and powerfully built, he was a strong believer in hitting the ball hard in front of the wicket, and, though the first to admit that he was not at ease against spin, he dealt firmly with bowlers of pace. His best season for the county was that of 1908, when he scored 1,033 runs, average 39.73, and hit four centuries; his highest innings was 201 against Middlesex at Lord's in 1904.
He appeared three times for Gentlemen against Players, and in 1919 bore a considerable part in the defeat - their first - by an innings and 133 runs of the Australian Imperial Forces XI at the hands of the Gentlemen of England at Lord's. Gillingham scored 83 and made four catches. He was also a member of the Essex eleven who, in 1905 at Leyton, beat J. Darling's Australians by 19 runs, and he went on tour to Jamaica with the Hon. L. H. Tennyson's team in 1927.
A fine preacher who filled his churches to overflowing, he was appointed Chaplain to the King in 1939. He was also an after-dinner speaker with a wonderful sense of humour; his supremely funny anecdotes, told without the vestige of a smile, frequently convulsed listeners. As Sir Pelham Warner wrote of him in The Cricketer: "Gillingham was a man with a charming individuality who exerted a powerful and beneficial influence over people of various types and characteristics. He was a very human being, kind, gentle and understanding, who was the last to condemn. No one ever came to him in trouble without going away comforted. His friends and admirers were numerous indeed."
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