Dickie Bird pays tribute to ‘outstanding man’ Ray Illingworth at his funeral

Illingworth, who won 61 caps for England, was one of the country’s most successful captains.

Ian Laybourn
Wednesday 26 January 2022 15:21
Pallbearers carry the coffin of Ray Illingworth (Danny Lawson/PA)
Pallbearers carry the coffin of Ray Illingworth (Danny Lawson/PA)

Past and present Yorkshire and England cricketers were among the mourners at the funeral of Ray Illingworth.

Former umpire Dickie Bird was one of those to pay tribute to the former Yorkshire, Leicestershire and England all-rounder, who died on Christmas Day aged 89.

“It’s a very very sad day,” said Bird. “I’ve lost a great friend.

“He was a great cricketer and, if I had any problems in cricket, I used to give Ray a ring and he used to have a long chat with me.

Retired England umpire Harold “Dickie” Bird led the tributes to Ray Illingworth (PA Images/Danny Lawson)

“Obviously I umpired many matches when he was captain of England and he was the finest captain England ever had. He was an outstanding man and an outstanding captain.”

Richard Hutton, David Byas, Martyn Moxon, Geoff Cope and Craig White were among the former Yorkshire cricketers present at the service at St John’s Church in Farsley, near Leeds, while Steven Paterson represented the current team.

Illingworth’s son-in-law Ashley Metcalfe, a former opening batsman with Yorkshire, said: “The turn-out makes you realise how special he was, he touched a lot of people’s hearts.”

Illingworth, who won 61 caps for England, was one of the country’s most successful captains, leading his side to a series victory in Australia in 1970-71 and then retaining the Ashes at home in 1972.

Ray Illingworth led England to Ashes glory in Australia (PA Images)

A tough Yorkshireman and an all-rounder, he won three consecutive championship titles with his home county before going on to spend a decade with Leicestershire.

He returned to Yorkshire as manager in 1979 and came out of retirement to lead them to the Sunday League title in 1983 at the age of 51.

“Anybody who plays nearly 800 games and scores more than 24,000 runs and takes 2,000 wickets is just phenomenal,” Metcalfe added.

“He did the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets five times in his career which is almost unheard of these days.

Former Yorkshire director of cricket Martyn Moxon (centre) was among the mourners at the funeral of Ray Illingworth (PA Images/Danny Lawson)

“Only eight players have played more games for Yorkshire yet he was very modest. He didn’t really speak about it but, if you asked him, he was happy to reminisce.

“His legacy is huge. He was a phenomenal cricketer but, more than that, he was a phenomenal person.

“His roots were very much at home, he was a fantastic family man, so supportive and generous, he shaped and touched so many lives.

“I just feel we as a family were so lucky to have such a special person around us on a day-to-day basis.”

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