George Harris, 4th Baron Harris

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Lord Harris
George Harris, 4th Baron Harris.jpg
Personal information
Full name George Robert Canning Harris
Born (1851-02-03)3 February 1851
St Ann's, Trinidad
Died 24 March 1932(1932-03-24) (aged 81)
Throwley, Kent
Nickname Lord Harris
Batting style righthanded
Bowling style right arm roundarm fast
Role batsman
International information
National side
Test debut (cap 13) 2 January 1879 v Australia
Last Test 11 August 1884 v Australia
Domestic team information
Years Team
1870–1911 Kent
1871–1895 Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC)
1871–1874 Oxford University
Career statistics
Competition Tests FC
Matches 4 224
Runs scored 145 9990
Batting average 29.00 26.85
100s/50s 0/1 11/55
Top score 52 176
Balls bowled 32 3446
Wickets 0 75
Bowling average 23.44
5 wickets in innings 1
10 wickets in match 0
Best bowling 5/57
Catches/stumpings 2/– 190/–
Source: CricketArchive, 8 February 2015

George Robert Canning Harris, 4th Baron Harris, GCSI, GCIE (3 February 1851 – 24 March 1932), generally known as Lord Harris, was an English amateur cricketer, mainly active from 1870 to 1889, who played for Kent and England as captain of both teams. He had a political career from 1885 to 1900 and was for much of his life a highly influential figure in cricket administration through the offices he held with Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).

The full span of Harris' first-class cricket career was from 1870 to 1911, at 42 seasons one of the longest on record, though he made only seven appearances after 1889 when he relinquished the Kent captaincy so his essential playing career was from 1870 to 1889. He appeared in 224 first-class matches, including four Test matches, as a righthanded batsman who bowled right arm fast with a roundarm action. He scored 9,990 runs in first-class cricket with a highest score of 176 among eleven centuries and held 190 catches. He took 75 wickets with a best analysis of five for 57.[1]

Harris was born in St Ann's, Trinidad, and died in Throwley, Kent. Initially called The Honourable George Harris, he was the son of George Harris, 3rd Baron Harris. He was educated at Eton College, where he was captain of the cricket team in 1870, and then went up to Christ Church, Oxford. He had made his first-class debut for Kent in August 1870 and played for the Oxford University team from 1871 to 1874. In 1871, Harris captained Kent for the first time, in succession to South Norton, and led the team when available until 1889. He inherited the Harris barony following the death of his father on 23 November 1872, a few weeks after Harris had toured North America with R. A. Fitzgerald's XI. This team included W. G. Grace with whom Harris formed a close friendship. After he left Oxford, Harris became actively involved in cricket administration when elected Kent's club president for 1875; he had already been on the committee since 1870. He was the club secretary from 1875 to 1880 and retained long-term committee membership. Harris played in four Tests between January 1879 and August 1884, all as captain. He led the English cricket team in Australia and New Zealand in 1878–79 and was a central figure in the events of 8 February 1879 when a crowd riot erupted at a match in Sydney.

From 1885 to 1900, Harris had a career in politics, including a much-criticised tenure as Governor of the Presidency of Bombay. His political posts were Under-Secretary of State for India from 25 June 1885; Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for War from 4 August 1886 to 1890; Governor of the Presidency of Bombay from 1890 to 1895; and Lord in Waiting to Queen Victoria from 16 July 1895 to 4 December 1900.

On his return from India, Harris was elected president of MCC for 1895. He became a significant figure in cricket administration, wielding considerable influence, through his MCC offices; following his presidential year, he was a trustee of the club from 1906 to 1916 and treasurer from 1916 until his death in 1932. He was closely associated with Lord Hawke, whom many considered to be Harris' "disciple", and the two effectively controlled English cricket from the 1890s to the 1930s. Harris had very strong principles based on a profound respect for the Laws of cricket which he defended utterly. He was especially keen to impose rules about illegal bowling actions and, in county cricket, residential qualifications.[2] Harris was a controversial figure, revered by cricket's MCC-based establishment[3] and heavily criticised elsewhere.[4]

Personal and family life[edit]

The Honourable George Harris was born in St Ann's, Trinidad on 3 February 1851 when his father, George Harris, 3rd Baron Harris, was serving as Governor of Trinidad (1846–1854). Harris barely knew his mother who died when he was two years old. In 1854, the family moved to Madras when his father was posted to the governorship there. Harris senior retired in March 1859 and returned to England where he became involved with Kent County Cricket Club as a committee member and, in 1870, club president. He died in November 1872, whereupon Harris junior succeeded to the barony as 4th Baron Harris. He was already a first-class cricketer by then and was henceforward universally known in the sport as Lord Harris.

In 1864, at the age of 13, Harris was sent to Eton College to further his education. His first important cricket match was the 1868 Eton versus Harrow fixture at Lord's, when he was seventeen; he scored 23 and 6. In the same fixture the following year, when Cuthbert Ottaway scored 108 to seal victory for Eton by an innings and nineteen runs, Harris was out for 0. In 1870, his last year at Eton, he scored 12 and 7 against Harrow.

Harris married the Honourable Lucy Ada Jervis, daughter of Carnegie Robert John Jervis, 3rd Viscount St Vincent, in 1874. He died in March 1932, aged 82, and was succeeded in the barony by his son George Harris, 5th Baron Harris.

Cricket career[edit]

Summary of playing career[edit]

Harris made his first-class debut for Kent in 1870 after he left Eton. Owing to his position in society, he was immediately elected to the club committee and was associated with Kent cricket for the rest of his life. He went up to Christ Church, Oxford in September 1870 and played for the Oxford University team from 1871 to 1874. He was available to play for Kent in the latter half of each of these seasons and became county captain in succession to South Norton in 1871, although his appointment was not made official until after he left Oxford. Harris held the Kent captaincy until 1889.

He led the English cricket team in Australia and New Zealand in 1878–79 and was a central figure in the events of 8 February 1879 when a crowd riot erupted at a match in Sydney. The team had previously played a match against an All-Australia XI at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and this was later designated Test status as the third-ever Test match. Harris was therefore the second England Test captain after James Lillywhite. Australia, led by Dave Gregory, won the match by 10 wickets.

Harris captained England against Australia on three further occasions. In 1880 at The Oval, in what was later recognised as the inaugural Test match in England, England won by 5 wickets. Harris captained England in two of the Tests played in 1884, his team winning by an innings and 5 runs at Lord's and drawing the final match in the series at The Oval.

Throwing issue[edit]

In the early 1880s there were a number of bowlers who were widely considered to have unfair actions, with the Lancashire pair of Jack Crossland and George Nash coming in for particular criticism. After playing for Kent against Lancashire in 1885, when he faced the bowling of Crossland and Nash, Harris decided to take action. He persuaded the Kent committee to cancel the return fixture. Later that season, Crossland was found to have broken his residential qualification for Lancashire by living in Nottinghamshire, and Nash dropped out of the side. The two counties resumed playing each other the following season. Harris's Wisden obituarist wrote: "...there can be no doubt the action of Lord Harris, even if it did not entirely remove the throwing evil, had a very healthy effect on the game."[5]

Administration[edit]

Harris had a long association with Lord's and MCC as both player and administrator. In 1862, aged eleven, he was practising at Lord's. It was not till 1929, at the age of 78, that he played there for the last time, representing MCC v Indian Gymkhana.[6] He was president of MCC in 1895, a trustee from 1906 to 1916 and treasurer from 1916 to 1932. Additionally, he was at various times chairman of both the MCC finance and cricket sub-committees. Through these offices, Harris wielded considerable power in the world of cricket and it was written of him: "No man has exercised so strong an influence on the cricket world so long..."[7]

In July 1909, Harris chaired a meeting of representatives of England, Australia and South Africa which launched the Imperial Cricket Conference and agreed rules to control Test cricket between the three nations. In 1926, he presided at a meeting at The Oval, when it was agreed that "governing bodies of cricket in countries within the Empire to which cricket teams are sent, or which send teams to England" should be eligible for ICC membership. The meeting had the effect of creating three new Test-playing nations: West Indies, New Zealand and India.[8]

Not all thought that Harris used his power well. Alan Gibson once wrote that he was "an antediluvian old tyrant", though he later retracted this, saying that Harris was a more complex figure than that.[6] But, complex or not, Harris was never accused by contemporaries of being an intellectual.[citation needed] He might have robbed England of the services of one of its greatest batsmen, Walter Hammond, who had been born in Kent but chose to play for Gloucestershire, where he had gone to school. Hammond had not fulfilled the required period of residence to qualify for Gloucestershire and, once Harris became aware of this, Hammond was barred from playing for them until the necessary time had elapsed. The affair resulted in Harris complaining about what he called "bolshevism" influencing cricket.[citation needed]

Political career[edit]

Lord Harris

Harris was politically active as a member of the Conservative Party, serving in the House of Lords as Under-Secretary of State for India from 25 June 1885, then as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for War from 4 August 1886 to 1890. He was appointed Governor of the Presidency of Bombay in British India from 1890 to 1895. On his return to England, Harris again served in the Conservative Government as a Lord in Waiting to Queen Victoria from 16 July 1895 to 4 December 1900. He held a commission as Assistant Adjutant-General for the Imperial Yeomanry and resigned in April 1901.[citation needed]

Bombay[edit]

His governorship of Bombay was not without extensive criticism, with one anonymous writer penning a poem expressing the hope that Bombay would not suffer too greatly from Harris' political inexperience.[9] He was mainly notable for his enthusiastic pursuit of cricket amongst his fellow Europeans in the colony, at the expense of connecting with the native population. When the interracial Bombay riots of 1893 broke out, Harris was out of the city at Poona enjoying cricket matches. He returned to Bombay only on the ninth day of rioting, and then primarily to attend a cricket match there.[9] Many later writers credited Harris with almost single-handedly introducing and developing the sport in India. The game was, however, well established among the natives before his arrival. Furthermore, in 1890, he rejected a petition signed by over 1,000 locals to relocate European polo players to another ground so that the locals could use the area for cricket matches. It was only in 1892 that he granted a parcel of land to the newly formed Muslim Gymkhana for a cricket field, adjacent to land already used by the Parsee Gymkhana. His reluctance to do so is evident in his written comment:[9]

I don't see how we can refuse these applicants; but I will steadfastly refuse any more grants once a Gymkhana has been established under respectable auspices by each nationality, and tell applicants that ground having been set apart for their nationality they are free to take advantage of it by joining that particular club.

When Harris left India, having virtually ignored famine, riots and sectarian unrest, a publisher circulated a collection of newspaper extracts from his time as governor. The introduction stated:[9]

Never during the last hundred years has a Governor of Bombay been so sternly criticised and never has he met with such widespread unpopularity on account of his administration as Lord Harris.

Notes[edit]

This memorial stone to Lord Harris is in the Harris Garden at Lord's
  1. ^ "Lord Harris profile". CricketArchive. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  2. ^ "Lord Harris profile". ESPNcricinfo. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  3. ^ "Lord Harris obituary". Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. 1933. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  4. ^ Birley, pp.115, 128–129, 140–141, 145, 164, 166, 177, 185, 218–220.
  5. ^ Wisden Cricketer's Almanack, 1933 edition.
  6. ^ a b Gibson, p.14.
  7. ^ Barclay's World of Cricket, p.170.
  8. ^ "ICC History 1909–1963". ICC. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c d Guha, pp.56–75.

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
South Norton
Kent County Cricket Club captain
1871–1889
Succeeded by
Frank Marchant and William Patterson
Preceded by
James Lillywhite
English national cricket captain
1878/79–1880
Succeeded by
Alfred Shaw
Preceded by
Hon. Ivo Bligh
English national cricket captain
1884
Succeeded by
Arthur Shrewsbury
Political offices
Preceded by
John Kynaston Cross
Under-Secretary of State for India
1885–1886
Succeeded by
Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth, Bt
Preceded by
The Lord Sandhurst
Under-Secretary of State for War
1886–1890
Succeeded by
The Earl Brownlow
Preceded by
The Lord Reay
Governor of Bombay
1890–1895
Succeeded by
The Lord Sandhurst
Preceded by
The Lord Hawkesbury
Lord-in-Waiting
1895–1900
Succeeded by
The Lord Kenyon
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
George Harris
Baron Harris
1872–1932
Succeeded by
George Harris