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Yorkshire Honours Great All-rounder Bobby Peel

— 23 October 2013

The White Rose of Yorkshire now has a permanent place at Morley Cemetery following the dedication of a headstone at the grave of Bobby Peel, one of the greatest left-arm slow bowlers Yorkshire and England have ever seen.

The moving ceremony, conducted by Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s chaplain, Canon Max Wigley, took place on Saturday, October 19, attended by proud family descendants of Bobby Peel and representatives of Yorkshire CCC. The 40-strong party then repaired for lunch at the Commercial Inn, Churwell, where Peel was once the landlord.

Money for the tasteful black marble headstone was raised jointly by Peel’s relatives and funds from the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation’s Archives Committee. The White Rose adorns the top left-hand corner of the headstone upon which is written:

Also His Wife

Following Ted Peate in the line of great Yorkshire left-arm bowlers, Peel played in 318 matches for Yorkshire between 1882 and 1897, when he was dismissed by Lord Hawke. By then he had captured for his native county 1,311 wickets at a miserly average of 15.74 – and scored 9,322 runs with nine centuries and one double century. In 20 Test matches he took 101 wickets at 16.8, and hit 427 runs with a top score of 83.

How did the placing of a headstone upon Peel’s previously unmarked grave come about? By sheer co-incidence in the latter part of 2011 two descendants of Bobby Peel made inquiries to Archives Committee member Paul Dyson, seeking information about Peel’s cricket career. These inquiries came within a couple of weeks of each other.

The older of the two, Robin Barron, from Wakefield, having been given the telephone number of the other, made the necessary contact call…before doing so he recognised that the number had a Lancashire dialling code, which led him to wonder if he was about to re-engage with an arm of the family that had been lost. He only had one name to work with – “Verna”.

The call was made. Andrew Clarke responded, and he was soon confirming that he was a great-great grandson of Bobby Peel, and that his mother was Verna. They all arranged to meet at Brighouse and spent an enjoyable lunch and afternoon catching up on family history as well as agreeing what do next. They were unanimous that the great man should be suitably honoured. Andrew had already confirmed that Bobby was buried in Bruntcliffe Cemetery, Morley, and had been given a plot number.

After two unsuccessful trawls of the cemetery Robin contacted the Crematorium Department in Leeds, from whom he received great help in terms of the grave’s location, but it was unmarked. Mission accomplished, he reported back to the others. A further enquiry of the Department was needed to find out what was required in order to erect a headstone. A mass of paperwork to complete followed in order for the ownership of the grave to be transferred and then permission given to erect a headstone.

While all this was going on Robin was maintaining contact with Paul Dyson and through him, the Archives Committee. A meeting of that committee agreed that it wished to be involved in the next phase, and Yorkshire Board member Robin Smith gave his permission for the Yorkshire Rose to be used on the headstone. Work on the final stage could begin, and it ended with the installation and dedication of the stone.

Those who were able to attend the ceremony, meticulously organised by Robin Barron, included direct descendants of three of Bobby’s children – the fourth was killed in the First World War – from one grandchild through multiple great-grandchildren and a nice spread of great-great-grandchildren.

Other relatives included a good representation from the line descending from Bobby’s brother, Solomon, a descendant of Thomas Foster – one of about 30 players who were born out of Yorkshire yet played for them before the boundaries were opened – Clive McManus, chairman of Morley Historical Society; Coun. Judith Elliott, one of the Local Authority members for Morley Ward; Richard Taylor, representing MCC, and both the chairman and secretary of Wombwell Cricket Lovers’ Society.

The County Club were represented by Board member Robin Smith, Members’ Committee

— Words and Pictures: David Warner