Almost exactly a week after attending the funeral of a Gateshead Fell cricket club (GFCC) legend***, a club I represented for a decade between 1977-1987, this morning I was further saddened to hear of a former junior & senior team colleague Brian Gray’s passing.
*** – Last week’s melancholic events more extensively detailed in my narrative Respecting A Club Icon.
Today’s bereavement news coming via text from John Hutchison, another member of the treble winning Under-18 junior team we represented in 1980. A band of brothers who reigned victorious in a trinity of junior cricket trophies in the inaugural summer of that decade; events more extensively detailed in my narrative GFCC Juniors – Class of ’80. A whimsical essay incorporating spoof biographies of my then youthful colleagues, including this predominantly fictional insight into Brian:-
Brian Gray (Off-Spin Bowler) – Useful bowler, nicknamed Kipper. who was my spin partner in crime. No relation to Tim Gray, he’s the only junior cricketer I played with who mentioned concerns about getting bingo wings in later life. Brian was an affable guy who, during a rain-induced break in play at Horden, taught me how to whistle the Bulgarian national anthem.
Although the bingo wings and mention of his part in my whistling mentoring are unsurprisingly wide of the mark, the prose highlighting Kipper as my spin bowling partner in crime, an affable guy and a useful bowler are factual cricketing and behavioural observations.
Like my old man’s love of watching cricket and supporting his sons (Ian and my) match day participation, Brian’s dad was a frequent spectator at Gateshead Fell’s Eastwood Gardens home ground over a number years.
Shamefully, time hasn’t been kind to my memory in the three decades since last seeing Brian and his father, consequently I’m currently unable to recollect Mr Gray senior’s christian name.
During an earlier conversation about Brian’s premature passing, my mum, who like the rest of my brood spent many hours at GFCC during that era, seems to think that Brian’s dad was called Dennis. Not convinced he bore that moniker, along with the fact my ageing mother struggles to even remember my name, I’m going to err on the side of caution and omit this particular manifestation of her erratic memory.
Despite yours truly’s recollections of my old, recently passed, teammate Brian Gray being patchy, I can recall with a certainty he was a capable exponent of the game with both bat and ball. An important member of a multi trophy winning Gateshead Fell junior side over 3-4 years, he was an integral component in the overall team synergy.
This contribution not just exhibited upon the cricketing battle fields of the Durham Senior League, but also in the dressing room where his dry whimsical quips enhanced the groups overall banter as we waited to bat, or for match delaying precipitation to abate.
A year younger than me, Brian’s passing at 55 is clearly far too early. Hearing a former junior team teammate’s death can’t fail to raise awareness of your own mortality….. Not that I really needed it with the one year anniversary of my heart attack a mere three days away.
At this juncture, I’m unaware of the cause of Brian’s premature passing. However, despite not having had his acquaintance for over three decades, he was a character whose memory does and will continue to evoke fond memories of being part of that great junior GFCC side of 1980.
RIP Brian Gray!
Gateshead Fell Juniors 1980……….. Back Row (L-R) Neil Fraser, Brian Gray, Tim Gray, Godfrey Keefe, Michael Healy, Des Johnson, Gary Strachan ……. Front Row (L-R) Gavin Healy, Peter Clark, John Hutchison, Ian Strachan, Shaun Dodds, David Nunn