Cricketing stars turn out in force for funeral of one of England's greatest captains

Cricketing stars turned out to pay their respects at the funeral of Ray Illingworth, one of England's greatest ever captains.

By Alex Grant
Thursday, 27th January 2022, 11:04 am

Illingworth, who led England to a 2-0 Ashes series victory in Australia in 1970-71, died on Christmas Day aged 89.

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Pallbearers carry the coffin of Ray Illingworth following the funeral at St John's Church in Farsley. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA.

Legendary umpire Dickie Bird and Martyn Moxon, ex-Director of Cricket at Yorkshire CCC, were amongst those in attendance.

Mourners lined the streets as the funeral cortège left Ray's house and took him on a final journey through his home village of Farsley in Leeds.

A cricket bat with the word 'Grandad' was amongst the flowers that adorned the hearse.

A service at St John's Church was followed by a wake at Farsley Cricket Club, where he first took up the sport and was president at the time of his death.

In a touching eulogy, his son-in-law Ashley Metcalfe said that although his sporting career that took him all around the world, Ray never forgot his roots.

He told mourners: "He was hugely proud to have spent so much of his life in the village he knew as his home.

"Raymond knew life was precious and he didn’t take a single day for granted – he had no regrets and achieved a huge amount.

"We know Raymond leaves the world of cricket much richer for the part he played but we also were lucky enough to know him as a wonderful, caring and hugely supportive husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather to his family. 

"He was far more than a cricketer, he was the most caring, generous and supportive person you could ever meet.

"We will never forget either Raymond or his late wife, Shirley who sadly passed away 10 months ago.

"It is hugely comforting to know that they will be both now back together after such a short time apart.

"I recently got told that no-one is actually dead until their memories live no longer - Let us keep these memories of Raymond and Shirley well and truly alive now and with future generations to come."

Ashley also praised Ray's winning mentalty, adding: "In those days cricket was not for the faint hearted – it was tough mentally and physically with no quarter given.

"Tours were six months not six weeks and summers a long tough slog of endless thee day and one day matches.

"Winning to Raymond was something he expected of himself and demanded of every team he was associated with – England, Yorkshire, Leicester or Farsley.

"But his winning mentality was something he was immensely proud of and it did n’t matter what sport he was playing or who he was playing against.

"Although modestly he rarely admitted it, he was naturally gifted at sport but he also knew that you only got to the top by working hard – a lesson he has always shared openly with every member of his family.

"It did not matter what he was playing – cricket, football, golf, snooker, billiards, darts, bridge or cards with the grandchildren – he practiced hard and hated to lose."

A prolific all-arounder, he enjoyed a glittering domestic career that spanned a remarkable 32 years from his debut at just 19 in 1951 to his retirement in 1983.

But it was his record for England as player, captain and coach that earned him status as cricketing royalty.

He played 61 Tests between 1958 and 1973, scoring 1,836 runs at an average of 23.24 and claiming 122 wickets at 31.20.

Ray won 12 of the matches as captain, leading England to the dazzling Ashes victory in Australia in 1970-71.

He then later served as chairman of selectors between 1993 and 1996 and coached the national team in 1995-96.

He finished with a final total of 24,134 first-class runs and 2,072 wickets and was named a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1960.

He played for Yorkshire from 1951 to 1968, leading them to three successive County Championship victories in those final three years, before joining Leicestershire in 1969, remaining at Grace Road until 1978.

He returned to Yorkshire initially as team manager but made his playing comeback at the age of 50 in 1982.

A spokeman for Farsley Cricket Club, where Ray played for the first team at just 13, said: "Ray was a Farsley man through and through and was perhaps the most famous sportsman the village has produced . He will be sadly missed at Farsley Cricket Club."

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