George Chesterton: Cricketer and schoolmaster

 

Authoritative and urbane, George Chesterton was not one to be defined chiefly by his profession. While a distinguished schoolmaster of long standing, for more than half a century he also made a vital and definitive contribution to cricket at all levels. As a young pilot in the Second World War he famously danced the night away with Katharine Hepburn.

Hailing from rural Shropshire, Chesterton was educated at St Michael's College, Tenbury and Malvern College. However, like so many of his generation, his seemingly effortless progress was interrupted by war. Within a week of leaving school in July, 1941, he had joined the RAF.

Following training in Devon, he found himself in Canada being schooled in the difficult art of flying Stirling Bombers. Leave took him to New York and a brief opportunity to savour its night life in the company of such superstars as Katherine Hepburn and Gipsy Rose Lee. He was eventually posted to 190 Squadron, based at Fairford in Gloucestershire.

In addition to regular night sorties supporting SOE missions, he took part in the D-Day landings and Operation Market Garden, the ill-fated assault on Arnhem. Such daily brushes with death shaped the rest of his life. Later service with 242 Squadron Transport Command allowed welcome opportunities to represent the RAF in inter-services cricket. Demobbed in 1946, he went up to Brasenose College, Oxford to read Geography. He won a cricket Blue in 1949. In January 1950, his teaching career began in earnest with a return to Malvern College.

For eight years, each July and August found him at New Road, playing county cricket as an amateur for Worcestershire. A gifted and remarkably accurate right-arm medium pace swing bowler, Chesterton made his mark as an economical wicket-taker. Capped at the outset of his career, in an era dominated by batsmen, he was one of the few bowlers who denied them complete mastery.

A compact and competent lower-order batsman, he played many delightful cameo innings. He played 72 first class matches, taking 263 wickets, his best return being 7-14 for MCC against Ireland in Dublin in 1956. A whole-hearted and committed team player, he also took 37 catches.

He found a happy and expressive outlet teaching at his old school, the breadth of his intellect and warmth of his personality making him an inspiration for generations of students. Equally at home in the classroom or on the cricket field, he influenced all aspects of school life. Having coached the 1st XI, served as an officer in the Combined Cadet Corps and become a housemaster, for one memorable term before his retirement in December 1982 he was acting headmaster.

Always aware of his distinguished forebears, not least an illustrious literary namesake, Chesterton proved equally dextrous with the pen. Alongside articles for specialist periodicals came regular match reports for the national press. On a more expansive canvas he produced A History of Malvern College Chapel 1899-1999, together with Also Flew, a wartime memoir. Two collaborations, Oxford and Cambridge Cricket with Hubert Doggart and Your Book of Cricket with his Malvern colleague, Alan Duff, proved no less precise and literate.

A founder member of Malvern Civic Society, he was later chairman and president, also serving as Secretary of The Malvernian Society. In 1991, while President of The Cricketer Cup, keen to encourage local youth cricket, he launched The Chesterton Cup. Twelve months earlier, having played a pivotal role in the development of its old players' association, Chesterton was given the difficult task of succeeding former team-mate, Don Kenyon, as President of Worcestershire CCC.It was yet another in a long list of roles he fulfilled with great distinction.

Kenneth Shenton

George Herbert Chesterton, schoolmaster and cricketer: born Chirbury, Shropshire 15 July 1922; MBE 2012; twice married (one son, one daughter); died Malvern, Worcestershire 3 November 2012.

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