Brian Shirley

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BRIAN Shirley, who has died at the age of 66 after a long illness, was a well-known club cricketer with Sheriff Hutton Bridge, York, in the Yorkshire League and with Idle and Eccleshill in the Bradford League.

He had am unique sense of humour which sometimes touched on inoffensive irreverence and was delivered with total innocence in a highly amusing manner. This ability to communicate served him well in his business life where he was affectionately known as “The Fishman” in reference to his fresh fish stall in York Market and then his extensive mobile fish round which took into most of the villages in a wide area around York.

In his younger days he was a star performer in the impromptu and lengthy sessions that followed cricket matches. His mimicry of Tommy Cooper’s “hat” sketch in the Saltersgate pub on the way home from a game at Whitby is well remembered.

He began his cricketing career at Sheriff Hutton, where he also played soccer before moving to Strensall Football club as a bustling centre forward and sometime goalkeeper. Cricket-wise he quickly made the short and somewhat controversial switch to deadly rivals Sheriff Hutton Bridge, initially playing as a batsman since the wicketkeeping slot was then filled with distinction by Gerry Grinham, the club skipper.

Brian Shirley is considered by some to be the best ‘Yorkshire’ wicket keeper to have not played county cricket over the past four decades. Certainly his reputation as a gloveman within the York Senior League is second to none with his leg-side work being exceptional – although, it has to be said, that he could have off-days.

Nevertheless his undoubted ability enabled him to lift the Yorkshire League wicket keeping trophy ahead of the then Yorkshire County reserve keeper when he made a successful step up to play at York. He then moved into the Bradford League where a successful spell at Eccleshill saw him maintain his record of winning the wicket-keeping award in each league when he lifted the Milton Watmough Wicketkeeping Trophy in 1981 and figure in the winning Priestley Cup Final team a year later.

He played on three occasions for a Sam Whitbread XI against an England XI where his opponents included John Snow, Jim Parks, Fred Titmus and John Edrich amongst others.

Unfortunately records in respect of wicketkeeping and fielding are only available within the York Senior League from season 1988 onwards, thus at least 16 seasons are missing, but available statistics show thathe was the leading first division keeper in each of the four seasons up to his somewhat premature retirement when, after captaining Sheriff Hutton Bridge for the first time in 1991, he decided to hang up his boots, although he did later assist Yapham on a few occasions.

During the four recorded years he claimed 80 catches and made 62 stumpings to average 35 and a half victims a season which has never been matched by any other keeper over a four year period.

After his retirement, Mr Shirley was away from the cricket arena for just one season before he joined the York Umpires’ panel in 1993 and embarked on a very successful umpiring career which is still continuing to this day. His down to earth approach and repartee with the players saw him maintain a high mark rating throughout his lengthy period as a white coat man.

A year after starting umpiring, he was elected to the League Committee and remained involved in this way for 17 years. He was elected to the York ACU & S committee in 1999 and thus represented a useful link between the League and the Umpires’ Association.

He is survived by his wife Elizabeth, son Michael and grandchildren Matthew and Rebecca. His funeral will be held at York Crematorium on Monday at 2.20pm.