21 March 2012
Two hundred friends, colleagues and admirers gathered at Mortlake Crematorium on 15th March to pay tribute and remember Peter Ray, the doyen of both after dinner speakers and left arm spin bowlers in equal measure.
Peter was the finest spin bowler ever to play in the Middlesex County Cricket League and took over 600 1st XI wickets in a league career which lasted from 1972 until 1998 – minus a few weeks off for bad behaviour! He remains the only bowler ever to take all ten wickets in an MCCL match: 10-57 against Winchmore Hill in 1976; and he followed that up with 9-45 against Enfield the following season.
His playing life was split almost exactly evenly between Wembley and, from 1979, Richmond with whom he spent the vast bulk of his league career winning two league titles with them
He retired from 1st XI cricket following his and Richmond’s second league title in 1998 giving his view that, “Nobody should be playing 1st XI league cricket with their bus pass in their pocket”. He had intended to play on for a few years in the 2nd team but he damaged his right knee and was forced to give altogether. Nothing daunted, he crossed the floor of the House and became, much to the amusement of the players and the trepidation of many of his new colleagues, an umpire on the MCCL Panel.
He was too old when he started to make much of an impact although he did make his mark. His debut Premier League match as an official, between Stanmore v Eastcote, saw him probably add another league wicket-taking record when he gave nine players LBW. According to Peter’s version of events, the only player who queried his decision was Umesh Valjee, captain of the England Deaf XI, who evinced surprise that Peter didn’t hear the nick!
Sadly, the onset of ill-health and emphysema meant he could no longer continue but that did not end his involvement in cricket. He also waged a campaign to protect the Association of Cricket Umpires & Scorers who were under threat of being eclipsed and replaced by a rival organisation. Although, sadly, Peter did not live long enough to see final victory, he did at least have the satisfaction of knowing he had ended any hopes of an alternative association emerging.
Paying tribute to him, former England and Stanmore fast bowler Angus Fraser asked what it was about Middlesex left arm spinners? He bracketed Peter in the same category as England’s Phil Edmonds and Phil Tufnell – in more ways than one – and suggested that, had Peter been born 25 years later, he would probably have had a successful first class cricketing career.
Gus then went on to talk about Peter’s wonderful speaking skills. He quoted Michael Henderson, a writer with the Times, Telegraph, Guardian and Mail, who had heard him speaking at a dinner and considered it to be the best speech he had ever heard. His style was amazing: he did not tell jokes and rarely used one-liners and, amazingly for anybody who had ever stood at the other end to him on the field, never, ever swore (any speech he gave to the cricket club on Saturday night could have been read out in its entirety from the pulpit the following morning); the speeches were littered with biblical quotes (a confirmed unbeliever, he could out-quote any Archbishop of Canterbury) and both well-known and obscure Greek, Roman and Chinese philosophers and writers.
As Angus said, ‘cricket has been a richer and more colourful sport because of Peter’s involvement and we should all be extremely thankful for that. The personality may have gone but the memories will last a long, long time’.
His long-time friend and Richmond captain Chris Goldie spoke about him on behalf of both his club and club cricket generally and quoted from a litany of players who had texted him with their own stories. Jonathan Ray, his son, had opened the batting and spoke movingly on behalf of Peter’s family.
After the service, further tribute was paid by his former team-mate David Tune before, fittingly, the last word was left to Peter himself and 150 friends and family listened at Richmond Cricket Club as a recording of one of his finest speeches, at the Forty Club Dinner in 1998, was played. It would be fair to say that, for various reasons, there was hardly a dry eye in the house.