Peter Eele, second from the left, in a Sidmouth CC team group from the 1978 season

FORMER Somerset wicketkeeper Peter Eele, who played cricket for Devon once his professional career ended, has died aged 83.

Eele was largely the second-choice keeper for Somerset between 1958-1965 when he was the understudy to Harold Stephenson and latterly Geoff Clayton.

His 54 First Class appearances for Somerset largely depended on the fitness (or otherwise) of Stephenson.

During the 1963 season Eele scored the only century of his career when he made an unbeaten 103 against the Pakistan Eaglets at Taunton. It was his only score of more than 40 for the county.

Eele made 77 Minor Counties appearances for Somerset (1955-65) and was a member of the side that won the championship title in 1961 and 1965. The play-off win over Northants 2nd XI in 1965 was his last appearance in any game for the county of his birth.

The former Taunton School pupil made a further 80 appearances (1959-65) in the old two-day format Second Eleven Championship.

There was a hint of things to come in 1965 when Eele made a guest appearance for Sidmouth 1st XI.

Eele was freed by Somerset at the end of the 1965 season and made his debut for Devon the following summer.

Between 1966-1972 Eele featured 41 times for Devon. He scored 777 runs at an average of 17 and claimed 39 catches and eight stumpings between his debut against Cornwall at Falmouth and his final match versus Oxfordshire at Exeter St Thomas.

Eele continued to play for Sidmouth on a casual basis until 1979.

Eele worked for a time for Whiteway’s Cider and briefly for the brewers Hall and Woodhouse, before eventually pursuing a career in banking.

He always had an interest in umpiring and in 1976 he was put on the Minor Counties list.

Three years later, he officiated in one First Class match at Portsmouth, before being added to the list in 1981, where he remained until 1984.

In 1987, he was back on the reserve list but, in 1989-90, he served on the First Class umpires list.

Roy Kerslake, the former Paignton all-rounder who played alongside Eele for Somerset, said: “Peter was a very fine keeper and a more-than-useful left-hand bat.

“He was unfortunate his career coincided with Harold Stephenson, so that Peter did not get as many first team calls as he deserved, but he was an extremely good reserve.”

 Devon as they lined up at Queen's Park to face Dorset in 1971: Back (left to right): Laurie Price, Ian Murray, Brian Lambert, Mike Goodrich, Paul Dunkels, Terry Friend, Bob Whitburn, Ralph Haly. Front: John Tolliday, Alan Sibley, Doug Yeabsley, Gerald Trump, Pete Eele, Dave Traylor.