Sporting bygones: The man who discovered Yorkshire cricket colossus Lord Hawke

Cricketing royalty: Yorkshire players with Lord Hawke at Wighill Park, Hawke's family home, published in The Tatler in 1901. Hawke, standing, is fourth from the right and Carter, seated, is directly in front of him.
Cricketing royalty: Yorkshire players with Lord Hawke at Wighill Park, Hawke's family home, published in The Tatler in 1901. Hawke, standing, is fourth from the right and Carter, seated, is directly in front of him.
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BUT for the Reverend Edmund Sardinson Carter, ‘Teddy’ to his friends, the story of Yorkshire County Cricket Club might have been appreciably different.

Carter was the man who “discovered” Lord Hawke, the greatest figure in Yorkshire’s history.

Hawke played 510 first-class matches for the club between 1881-1911, captained them to eight County Championship titles – including three in a row – and also served as club president from 1898 until his death in 1938, aged 78.

He led England in four Tests, was MCC president from 1914-1919 and its treasurer and a trustee between 1932-1938, and served as a national selector from 1899-1909 and then again in 1933.

In short, Hawke bestrode the cricketing world like a colossus for the best part of 60 years, playing a major role in the modernisation of the sport and doing much to champion the lot of professional players at a time when they were looked down upon in the amateur era, introducing such concepts as winter pay and a scheme whereby a proportion of benefit income was invested on their behalf.

None of it would have happened, perhaps, without the intervention of Carter, whose story is told in the latest book from the Lives In Cricket series published by the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians, one which shines gratifying light on many of the more obscure and/or long-forgotten figures of the game’s history.

Carter, No 51 on a list to which the author Anthony Bradbury has already contributed an equally splendid biography of the former Yorkshire, England and South Africa batsman Frank Mitchell, actually played for Yorkshire himself, scoring 210 runs and taking eight wickets in 14 first-class games for the club between 1876-1881.

But his real claim to fame was that he championed the cause of Hawke (having earlier advanced that of Ted Peate, the first in the long line of Yorkshire’s legendary left-arm spin bowlers), effectively handing Hawke his county debut at the Scarborough Festival in 1881.

Carter, born in Malton in 1845, and 15 years Hawke’s senior, had first come across Hawke when they played together for the Yorkshire Gentlemen’s Club in York, while Hawke was on holiday from Eton.

One of the Yorkshire Gentlemen’s Club’s biggest sponsors and supporters was Lord Londesborough, a prominent landowner in the East Riding and a close friend of the Prince of Wales, as well as a prime mover behind the earliest Scarborough Festivals.

So much so, the traditional end-of-season games at North Marine Road actually took place during what were then known as Lord Londesborough’s Cricket Weeks.

Through their association, Lord Londesborough allowed Carter to “get up the Yorkshire Eleven for the Scarboro’ Carnival”, as Carter put it, hence Hawke’s selection for his first-class debut in September 1881.

As Hawke recalled in his 1924 autobiography: “I have always regarded the Rev ES Carter as my father in Yorkshire cricket.

“He watched me score at York and it was he who brought me into the county side when he arranged the teams for the Scarborough Festival.

“My debut was against MCC… It cannot be said that I was inordinately successful for I only contributed 4 and 0, each time bowled by Barnes.”

Hawke fared a tad better in the subsequent match against I Zingari, top-scoring with 32 in the Yorkshire second innings.

“Each innings I was at the wicket with Parson Carter. He had been a double Blue (at Oxford) – and a genuine one. The good old double Blue meant you had played for the Eleven (at cricket) and rowed in the Eight.

“Canon Carter never forgot he had introduced me into the Yorkshire Eleven and was very proud of the fact.

“Even in my day he still retained his brilliant cutting, and was a most active field.”

The word “active”, indeed, seems to sum up Carter perfectly.

While serving the church in York from 1875, he was involved in an astonishing number of local organisations and community projects, which must have made him one of the most recognisable figures in Yorkshire at that time.

In addition to his talent for batting (he was also a skilled fast bowler and wicketkeeper), Carter was an accomplished musician.

He played the piano, wrote hymn tunes and was a solo bass vocalist in the York Amateur Choral Society, his energy matched only by his innate good cheer.

While at Oxford, Carter suffered an attack of pleurisy (inflammation of the tissue between the lungs and ribcage) after being soaked during a thunderstorm while rowing, and, as part of his convalescence, he travelled to Australia, where he played one first-class match for Victoria in 1869.

On his death in 1923, aged 78, one anonymous letter appeared in The Australasian newspaper which provided a rare personal recollection.

“Carter was an uncommonly good looking man; tall, very upright, rather slim, but when I knew him powerful, and with a well trimmed curly beard, fair moustache, and curling auburn hair.

“Everyone liked him and he was utterly ‘imparsonish’. You would never have suspected from his voice that he was a clergyman.

“He was a pretty batsman, and a forceful (one), with excellent style and making full use of his reach.

“He had one particularly charming stroke, pushing, very powerfully and gracefully a good length ball on his leg stump for three or four.”

Hawke, who among myriad credits is famous for devising the Yorkshire players’ white rose badge, remembered that Carter occasionally had to make dexterous arrangements when his church duties clashed with those of his cricket.

“When we were engaged in Yorkshire Gentlemen matches at York, he and the Rev EB Firth (who also played for Yorkshire) were often on the side.

“At that time, they were both Minor Canons in the Cathedral, and perhaps in the middle of their innings one would retire to conduct afternoon service, and then come back to resume his place at the wicket.”

Carter, who always denied that he was the cricketing cleric who supposedly announced, one Sunday morning from the pulpit, “Here endeth the first innings”, moved to the rural parish of Thwing, Driffield, in later life.

At his funeral, the Bishop of Hull, the Right Reverend Francis Gurdon, spoke warmly of a man whose place in Yorkshire’s cricketing history is assured by his “gift”, in Lord Hawke, of its greatest representative.

“Teddy Carter lived a life of self-abasement, sinking his own ambitions in order that he might get the very best out of others.

“Whether Teddy Carter was at cricket or in the pulpit he lived the same life – a life of helpfulness, and in this he was an example to those people who are always considering themselves.”

Reverend ES Carter: A Yorkshire Cricketing Cleric by Anthony Bradbury is published by the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians, priced £15.