John Lindsay Guise Middlesex Oxford Europeans
John Lindsay Guise (courtesy: Knight Sports, Sporting Memorabilia)

The early threads of the present saga lie scattered in Calcutta, the capital city of colonial British India at the turn of the 19th century, with one John Dougal Guise, born in Calcutta on October 31, 1872, and his wife Laura Lilian, nee Buckland, whom he married on February 27, 1902 at Bankipore, in undivided Bengal. Their progeny, in chronological order, were John Lindsay, Charles Alexander Leonard, and James Louis Theodore.

The father, John Dougal, has only two documented First-Class matches to his credit, for Gentlemen of India against Oxford Authentics in Delhi in 1902-03, and for MC Bird’s XI against Maharajah of Cooch-Behar’s XI, at Eden Gardens, Calcutta, in 1918-19.

His documented cricket career, however, had begun long before that, with him playing 2 games for his alma mater, Merchiston Castle School in 1892, followed by similar games for Grange, Bengal Presidency, Calcutta Cricket Club, and for Calcutta against the Europeans in the 1913-14 Calcutta Triangular Tournament.

The date of birth of his eldest son, born, like the father, in Calcutta, is given variously in the archives and media reports as November 21, 25, and 29, 1903, but the archives agree that the child was christened John Lindsay in Calcutta on December 22, 1903.

For the next step of the chronicle,we turn the clock back and move considerably back in time to 1323, when one William of Wykeham (later to become the Bishop of Winchester and Prime Minister of England) was born at Wickham, Hampshire. A sagacious visionary of his times, Wykeham was aware that the key to a holistic flowering of native talent in the youth of the day lay in a sound education.

With this idea in mind, he obtained a charter to begin a school for boys in 1387. He also turned his attention to Oxford, and founded the New College, otherwise known as Saint Marie College of Winchester, under the auspices of Oxford University, in 1386. Although the buildings were, to an extent, still unfinished at the time, Winchester College began to function by 1394.

Cricket has always been a favourite pastime of the students of Winchester, as evident from the celebrated Latin poem by Robert Matthew, written in 1647, and carrying references to students of Winchester playing cricket on St Catherine’s Hill. When it was time for John Dougal, an ardent cricket enthusiast himself, to select a school for John Lindsay, Winchester would have been a natural choice, given the excellence of its academic reputation and its ancient association with cricket.

Guise played cricket for Winchester from 1920 to 1922, mainly as a right-hand batsman who could also turn his arm over as a medium-paced bowler when circumstances demanded it. Commenting on the cricketing career of Guise, Wisden says that he “belonged to the select few who have achieved fame through one big performance,” referring to one Public Schools match in particular.

With Warwick Armstrong’s Australian team occupying the bulk of the media headlines in the year, Winchester embarked on a game against Eton at Agar’s Plough, from June 24, 1921.Taking first strike and batting on a rain-affected wicket, Winchester, led by Thomas Raikes,were dismissed for 57. Opener Ralph Ruband top-scored with 15. Guise, the other opener, scored 8, as a young “Gubby” Allen routed the visitors with figures of 5/20 from his 8 overs.

Benefiting from a wicket that had dried out to some extent, Eton, under David Brand, responded with 255, Percy Lawrie scoring 92 and Graham Cox 64. Skipper Raikes captured 7 for 92 for Winchester. At stumps on Day One, Winchester had reached 130 for 3, with opener Guise batting on a solid 87.

On the second day of the game, Guise was the last Winchester man dismissed, run out for 278 (with 45 fours), in a team total of 381, having accounted for almost 73% of the team’s runs from his own bat. This remains the highest individual score in any Public School match in England. In their summing-up, Wisden remarks: “Next day he took complete charge, farming the bowling ‘like a veteran’ before being run out with the score 381. He had batted throughout the innings, had hit 45 fours, and given one possible chance.”

Cricket being in the blood, as it were, Guise made his First-Class debut shortly after his last game for Winchester in 1922, and represented the Public Schools against the Army almost immediately after his First-Class debut.

Guise was in Middlesex colours in his debut match, against Essex at Leyton the same season, and scored 5 and 13*. He went on to play 57 matches for Middlesex, scoring 1,840 runs at 22.43 with a highest of 127, 2 centuries, and 6 fifties. He held 33 catches for his county team and took 25 wickets at 28.

It is believed that when Brasenose College, otherwise known as The King’s Hall and College of Brasenose, had been founded in 1509 by Sir Richard Sutton, a lawyer of Prestbury and William Smyth, the Bishop of Lincoln, the name had been derived from the prominent proboscis of a brass door-knocker that can now be seen adorning the door of the College dining hall. John Lindsay Guise was a scholar of this college, under Oxford jurisdiction, from 1923 to 1925. At a later date, Colin Cowdrey was to be a celebrated alumnus of this college.

From the academic point of view, Guise had gone up to Oxford to gain a degree in History, with possible plans of taking up an academic career in later life. Cricket, however, held a strong attraction for the 20-year-old. By the time he arrived at Oxford, Guise had already played 4 First-Class matches for Middlesex, and one for MCC, against the visiting West Indians under Karl Nunes. It came as no surprise, therefore, that he was selected in the Oxford 1st XI in his Freshman year.

His first match for Oxford was against the Army at The Parks, in 1923. The Oxford squad, under Reggie Bettington, was a strong one, with Douglas Jardine opening the batting, and Greville Stevens, later to play Test cricket for England,batting at 4, and almost all the other players in the team later going on to have rewarding First-Class careers.

Despite conceding a 68-run first-innings lead, the Army won the match by 122 runs. Guise had scores of 16 and 2 in the game and took a wicket.

Guise achieved his first century for Oxford (120) against the West Indians in his second match, sharing a fourth-wicket stand of 196 with Stevens (182). His highest individual score for his university was his 154* against Surrey at The Oval in 1924, the Surrey team comprising players of the stature of Jack Hobbs, Andy Sandham, Jardine, Bill Hitch, and Herbert Strudwick.

Surprisingly, Guise played only 2 matches against the “old enemy” Cambridge, in 1924, and 1925, his last match for his university. He scored a fifty in each game (he also had 4 for 19 in the first), and won his two Blues in cricket in his last two years at Oxford.

In all, Guise played 27 matches for Oxford, scoring 1,390 runs at a creditable average of 29.57, and held 27 catches. His 34 wickets came at 26.17. The Cornishman of July 9, 1964 reports that, having completed his History studies at Oxford, Guise made his way back to India, and accepted a job as a tea-broker in Calcutta till his contract expired in 1927. Before going back to England in early 1927, John Guise married Dorothy Joan Pauline nee Thomas on January 5, 1927 at Calcutta, taking her to England with him.

Back in England in 1927, Guise began his teaching career at Winchester until the outbreak of World War II, by which time, he was almost 36. During the War years, the Guise family were residing at Corringham Road, Hendon, Middlesex. He served in the London Fire Brigade through the eventful blitzkrieg of the War until 1944, when he was able to secure a position as a teacher at Adams Grammar School in Newport, Shropshire, in 1945. He left Newport in 1953 to take up the responsibility of being Headmaster of Helston Grammar School in Cornwall.

During the last decade of the 19th century, there was growing realisation in England that Indian cricket was slowly coming of age. In partial recognition of the fact, the first ever team of English cricketers, led by GF Vernon, and comprising only amateur cricketers, visited India late in 1889-90, after playing 2 games at Ceylon. They played several games in India, beginning with the one at Calcutta from December 23 and ending at Lahore on March 1. None of these 11 games, however, were of First-Class status.

Writing in The Telegraph of December 3, 2016, former Bengal skipper and cricket columnist Raju Mukherjee says: “India did not have a cricket board in the summer of 1926, when Reginald Lagden, a former cricketer himself, of Calcutta Cricket Club, had sent an invitation to Lord Harris of Marylebone Cricket Club through his emissaries — William Currie and Murray Robertson — to send a team to India the following winter.”

Under the commanding, yet benign, influence of Lord Harris, MCC agreed to send a team to tour India and Ceylon in the English winter of 1926.

The second tour by an English team to India and Ceylon was, therefore, the MCC campaign led by Arthur Gilligan. This was a relatively long tour, actual play beginning from October 19 at Karachi against a combined team of Muslims and Parsees, and ending at Patiala on February 26 with a game against a local team. The tour comprised a total of 33 matches, only 4 of the games not being of First-Class status. Two of these matches were played at Rangoon, then part of British India, and 4 in Ceylon.

There was a tsunami of sorts in the match between the Hindus and MCC at Bombay Gymkhana from November 30. CK Nayudu played an innings of 153 in 100 minutes, with 13 fours and 11 sixes out of a total of 356. In admiration for this innings, MCC presented Nayudu a silver-coated cricket bat weighing almost 4 kg, on which was etched a fulsome appreciation of CK’s batting skills during his remarkable innings. This bat was later donated to the Cricket Club of India at Bombay by CK’s daughter, Chandra Nayudu.

In mid-December, for the first time, a representative India team took on the might of a fairly strong MCC at the same venue. Although the match was drawn, there were two interesting features of the game. Bhupinder Singh, The Maharaja of Patiala, played for MCC, scoring 20 in his only innings, whilst Prof. DB Deodhar stamped his authority on the game with an innings of 148.

The MCC team then moved on to Calcutta from Bombay, and played against a team called Europeans in the East at Eden Gardens from Boxing Day of 1926. MCC won the match by an innings and 55 runs, with Guise opening batting for Europeans in both innings. Though run out for only 3 in the first innings, he top-scored with a gritty 49 against the bowling of George Geary, Maurice Tate, Stuart Boyes of Hampshire (7 for 52 in the second innings), and Ewart Astill.

The next match at the Eden Gardens was the second match by a representative India line-up against MCC from the last day of 1926. The visitors won this match by 4 wickets. Guise again opened the batting for the home side in both innings, scoring 10 and top-scoring with 91, sharing an opening stand of 166 with wicketkeeper Francis Brooke (72). Bob Wyatt settled the issue for the MCC with a fourth-innings unbeaten 97.

Guise’s First-Class career in India spanned 1926-27 to 1927-28, and comprised only 4 matches, the two mentioned above, and two more for the Europeans in the Bombay Quadrangular Tournament of 1927-28, against Hindus and Muslims.

In all, he played 94 First-Class matches from 1922 to 1934, scoring 3,775 runs at 26.21, with a highest of 154*, with 4 centuries and 15 fifties, and held 53 catches. His 63 First-Class wickets came at an average of 28.11. He played his last first First-Class game at Lord’s in 1934, representing Middlesex against Kent, the home team winning the match by 266 runs. His contributions at the top of the innings were 23 and 0.

As we have seen earlier, once he was back in England, the teaching career of Guise began to evolve gradually over time. Soon after he was in charge of the coeducational Helston Grammar School in 1953, the 50-year old Guise began living at Dolphin Cottage, Porthleven with his family. It was on July 2, 1964 that Daily Mirror and other contemporary local and national newspapers broke a rather disturbing story in connection with Helston Grammar School.

The report raised the rather contentious issue of corporal punishment being meted out to two girl students, both in their middle teens, by the Headmaster of the school and one senior Mistress. It seems that the actual incident had taken place on April 29, 1964 in the office of Guise, the Headmaster, with the senior Mistress, who had been called in, also joining in. During the subsequent court hearing, publicised at a national level, both pleaded guilty to the charges, and Guise was fined £50 for his part in the incident, the monetary penalty for the senior Mistress being £30.

The upshot of the regrettable incident was that John Lindsay Guise felt it his moral duty to tender his resignation as the Headmaster, doing so in a letter dated May 5, and addressed to Mr JL Harries, Secretary of Education for Cornwall. He also sold his house, Dolphin Cottage, in Loe Bar, notorious for the number of maritime mishaps that had occurred there during the time of sailing ships. The irony of the whole incident was that Guise, who had not been keeping very good health of late, had been due to retire at the end of July.

By this time, Guise had lost all connections with cricket, having played his last documented game for the Civil Defence Service against a Birmingham XI in 1944, during the War years. Guise had scored 40 in his only innings before he had to take a train to reach his duty post.

Guise passed away on June 29, 1991, at Eastbourne, Sussex, aged 87 years, thus ending the family’s long connection with Calcutta and India.