George Gibson Macauley 1897-1940.

Our speaker on 5 August was Giles Wilcock who gave us a talk and presentation about the cricketer, George Gibson Macauley 1897-1940. Giles went on to tell us about why George didn’t become a household name like some of his contemporaries and is almost forgotten about when the Yorkshire cricket team is talked about.
George was born in Thirsk to a family who were in the public house business; his father was a professional cricketer who had his own pub called the Commercial Hotel. His father died in 1909 and George was sent away to the North East County School which is now Barnard Castle School where he was very happy, won awards in cricket and was involved in other sports. In 1914 he left school and moved to Wakefield, reason unclear. He played cricket for the city and lived here for a few years.
We were told that in 1915 he enlisted in the army but was wounded at Ypres in July 1917 and invalided back to England. At the Gardenhurst Hospital he met his future wife, nurse Edith Kate Hey and they married in 1919. Back in Wakefield he continued to play for Ossett and Harrogate and was on the fringes of the Yorkshire Cricket Club but then moved, again mysteriously, to Kent and stayed there for 10 years.
Giles informed us how he was successful in becoming a member of the Yorkshire Cricket Club in 1921, the same year he was capped, received increased pay and gave up his job in banking.
People started paying attention in 1922 when he was chosen to play in the prestigious gentlemen versus players game. He went to South Africa with the England team in what was regarded as one of the best England debuts, hitting the winning runs. 1923 was his best season. Bill Bowes, a cricketer who became a journalist, described him as fiery, hostile and sometimes wicked ‘there was the devil in everything he did’. He was also devilishly good looking and he wrote that he didn’t know ‘Mac’ well, even after years of playing alongside him. He bowled in a different way than today- quite abrasive, intense, would swear at the batsman but he was an amazing fielder with a dry sense of humour.
Giles told us that in 1924, people were starting to turn against the Yorkshire team with their attitude of winning at any cost, with George getting a lot of grief for how he played the game and consequently was not picked to play in the Ashes against Australia. He was developing a reputation for being difficult. He subsequently rehabilitated himself but 1926 finished him as an England cricketer; he continued playing but was on a downward slide and this had consequences for the money he earned from the game.
Giles described how he started to suffer injuries but in 1932 played for England again. In 1935 he retired, citing rheumatism but the Yorkshire committee had decided they didn’t want him to play and he was given the option of release or retirement. He tried to market a cure for rheumatism which failed. In 1936 he was declared bankrupt, by this time living in Tadcaster. In 1939 he was accepted into the RAF reserve after initially being turned down but died suddenly ‘on active service’. His death certificate stated he had died of heart failure and alcoholism after 10 years and unfortunately, because he didn’t die on active service, his wife was denied a war pension.
Giles thought that this made sense of some of the mysteries of his life, his illness casting a long shadow over his many achievements.
Lorraine Simpson

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