By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE
THE wife of former Tavistock and Cornwall cricketer Geoff Husband has been overwhelmed by the number of tributes paid to him following his death at the age of 84.
Husband died at his home in Metherell near Callington after a brief illness with his wife by his side on May 13.
In a career that spanned seven decades, Husband played cricket wherever and whenever he could up until September 2019. His last match was for Cornwall Over-50s against a touring side at Bude CC.
Generous tributes to one of Cornwall’s veteran cricketers, who opened the batting and kept wicket, started to appear on social media within hours of his death.
Wife Pauline said the number of messages sent since her husband had died had astonished her.
“I have had so many cards from people who knew Geoff on top of all the tributes on Facebook and the Internet,” said Pauline.
“I only wish Geoff could see them all and know how much people thought of him.”
Husband took up cricket while a pupil at Cheltenham Grammar School in 1948 and, apart from a two-year break when tennis was his preferred game, played on and on.
Club cricket replaced school games from 1953 onwards and continued as a university student in Bristol (1955-57) then as trainee teacher in Exeter (1958).
Husband taught for two years in Bristol at Merrywood Grammar School, and then moved to Devon in 1960 to teach maths at Tavistock Comprehensive School.
Husband joined Tavistock for the 1960 season and clocked up more than 20 years with the club in three different spells. Even after leaving the Ring in 1993, he remained a regular guest player for friendly matches and President’s Days.
Among the other clubs Husband played for were Callington (1973-74), Lanhydrock (1978-84), United Services (1994-97), Menheniot, Gunnislake and Callington (all between1998-2009) and finally Gunnislake (2009-19).
Husband hit the local headlines during the 2019 season when Gunnislake loaned him to Devon sides Yelverton 3rd XI and Kenn 2nd XI when they were short of players. The then 83-year-old kept wicket for 80 overs during both games.
School holidays and early retirement presented the opportunity to play almost every day during late summer and Husband took full advantage by assisting clubs as diverse as The Mount (Plymouth), Cornish Crusaders, Devon Dumplings, Paignton, North Devon and the touring sides Tavistock Ramblers and Mendip Acorns.
Former Gloucestershire seamer Jack Davey, who played with Husband at Tavistock before and after his professional career, said he would play every day of the week if he could.
“There is one well-told story about Geoff going to guest for Paignton against a touring side, who were not very good and got bowled out cheaply,” said Davey, who was one of Husband’s students in maths lessons.
“As it was all over before teatime, Geoff got on the phone to Gunnislake, who were one short for an evening game, and he dashed down there to play.
“Not only did Geoff manage to play two games in a day, which I am sure was an ambition of his, he played eight games in a week. He did like his cricket.”
Davey, who played more than 300 games in Gloucestershire’s first team, said Husband’s wicket-keeping skills came out of the top draw.
“He stood up to every one and was very agile behind the stumps,” said Davey. “If a bowler sent a ball down the leg-side, Geoff would almost always save the byes.”
Husband played cricket for so long a number of Tavistock’s current senior players have memories of him
David Manning, the Tavistock chairman and a first-team regular behind the stumps, remembers admiring Husband’s keeping skills before taking the gloves himself.
“Having played with Geoff in the twilight of his career it was easy to see why he was regarded as one of the best keepers outside the professional game as his hands always seemed to be in the right place,” said Manning.
“He was always a believer in nurturing young talent and would never be afraid to offer his wisdom with a tap on the shoulder and a young man, sometimes with a well done and sometimes with a not so well done.
“Geoff was a true gentleman, with an immense knowledge of the game and he will be sadly missed.”
John McGahey, another former team-mate, said simply: “Geoff was a magnificent keeper who stood up to everyone.”
Andrew Gauler, a former Tavistock captain, said Husband was ‘the best amateur keeper this side of Bristol in the 60s and 70s’.
Husband appeared in three successive Devon Cup finals at Paignton, winning two of them and losing the other. He played in Tavvy’s 1971 win over Paignton and was captain the following year when Exeter took the spoils.
Husband was back at Paignton in August 1973 and a winner in the Callington side that defeated Torquay.
More than 40 years later Husband still had a vivid memory of the game, which Callington won by nine wickets chasing Torquay’s 142 all out.
“Callington were an associate member of the Devon Cricket Association and could enter their cup competition,” said Husband.
“The win over Torquay in the final must rank as one of the finest performances ever by a Cornish club side.”
For the record, Neville Helme took five Torquay wickets for 26 runs as the Seasiders were dismissed for 142. Barrie Matthews top scored on 39. The late Ron Gill whacked 74 not out as Callington raced to victory with more than four overs to spare.
Helme and Gill were both teaching contemporaries of Husband’s. Helme was head of Callington Primary School and Gill taught physics at the former Callington Grammar School.
As Geoff along with wife Pauline and children Geoff junior and Sarah, lived on the other side of the Tamar, when Devon overlooked him for Minor Counties cricket the Cornish selectors moved in.
Cornwall needed a wicketkeeper in the early 1970s to cover for Jesse Lawry when he was absent and Geoff, who had been topping 1,000 runs a season for Tavistock, was the man they went for.
In a 2016 interview with Michael Weeks, the Cornwall Cricket Board’s media officer, Husband looked back fondly on his Minor Counties career.
“I played ten games for Cornwall and so realised a long-standing ambition to get my name in the Wisden Almanack,” said Husband.
In those few games I came up against Ian Botham (Somerset and England), Derek Shackleton (Hampshire and England), Vic Marks (Somerset and England), Peter Roebuck (Somerset) and one or two others.”
Husband went on to have a long career in competitive and friendly cricket with the Cornwall Over-50s, for whom he played more than 80 times and acted as team manager for 30-plus years.
Cornwall CCC recognised Husband’s dedication to county cricket in 2016 when they presented him with the Arthur Lugg Cup for services to the club.
Geoffrey Ernest Husband was born in Cheltenham in August 1935 and completed his secondary education at the town’s grammar school.
He met wife to be Pauline at a Methodist youth club in Cheltenham in 1952. The couple married in 1955 while Husband was studying at Bristol University.
“We celebrated our 65th wedding anniversary on April 2 and were delighted to get a card from The Queen,” said Pauline.
“When we married I was the main breadwinner and we bought a caravan to live in. It was our home for the next six and a half years.”
Son Geoffrey junior was born in 1960 and sister Sarah arrived in 1964, by when the Husbands had exchanged the caravan for a house.
Geoffrey Senior started refereeing rugby matches while at Tavistock Comprehensive School and in 1968 was accepted into the Devon Rugby Referees’ Society. He blew the whistle for 37 seasons up to 2004 and was society chairman in 1986-87.
Husband carried on teaching at Tavistock Comprehensive School until the mid-1980s, which he combined with cricket in the summer, rugby in the winter and running a camping site in Metherell.
“Geoff became a supply teacher after leaving the school in Tavistock, although he spent most of 1986 as a builder’s labourer working on a house we were having built.”
Away from the cricket pitch Geoff Husband was a keen table-tennis player and an avid classical music listener.
“But cricket was his over-riding passion and if had been playing he would want to talk cricket after the match with team-mates or the opposition,” said Pauline.
Andrew Jarman, the Tavistock treasurer, was another of Husband’s maths pupils back in the early 1970s.
He dropped in on Husband’s last game at Bude and recalled a poignant conversation with his old friend afterwards.
“Geoff had kept wicket and when he came off he said to me that would probably be his final game as his knees were shot,” said Jarman. “Sadly it proved to be true.”
The on-going Covid-19 crisis means Geoff Husband’s funeral at Bodmin will be a strictly family affair, but Pauline hopes his friends will have a proper chance to say goodbye at a late date.
“Only seven members of the family are going to the funeral and, of course, there is no wake afterwards,” said Pauline.
“Callington have already offered to stage a memorial game for Geoff and players have already said they want to be part of it.
“When the time is right a game would be the right thing to do.”