Geoff Cope epitomises the best of what we have come to associate with a long line of dedicated Yorkshire cricketers, unfolding a playing career of 14 years (even more with local clubs), and periods of vital leadership and management which began at a time when the county needed saving from itself. When he joined the Yorkshire Board he came to be seen as a key figure in staving off likely bankruptcy.

Leeds born, Geoff played for his county from 1966 to 1980, having made his mark as a youngster, with England Schools, and Yorkshire 2nd XI. Once in the senior XI he played variously in the company of Close, Trueman, Illingworth, Binks, Old, Hampshire and David Bairstow. Fred Trueman was reputedly the first to welcome the 19 year old to the dressing room, with his own peculiar mix of grumpiness and fatherliness. When Geoff had to remodel his bowling action, Trueman led him to no less than Johnny Wardle, who contrary to legend perhaps, proved to be a caring mentor, and according to Trueman, a technical genius. Geoff was cleared by Lord’s (who had banned him without any formal explanation or suggested remedy, we are told) and selected for England within a year. Moreover, notable contemporary players from beyond the county, Barrington and Parfitt among them, went on record vowing that Geoff was the best off spinner in the land.

Geoff’s haul of 686 wickets at 24 apiece amply indicated his talent; though not a massive spinner of the ball, consistent nagging accuracy and guile were his hallmarks, and only Illingworth’s (perhaps unwelcome) presence limited Geoff’s appearances.

Geoff’s best bowling (8-73) came at Bristol in 1975, and in the following season he was just short of 100 wickets, with a handy 5 haul in a Test trial, followed by selection to tour India, Sri Lanka and Australia, though without gaining a Test place. That came in 1977-78 with 3 matches in Pakistan, all but snaring a hat-trick on debut – a mini saga in itself.

Geoff had worn spectacles from the outset, and did have to counter vision problems long term, caused by a form of retinitis, and he is technically registered blind. To his great credit, and typical of the man, he and his wife have worked tirelessly to raise money for the Guide Dogs Association.

So, it was no surprise when he teamed up with the esteemed author Stephen Chalke to write "In Sunshine and in Shadow" in 2017, which was at once acknowledged as a telling and compelling story, recording the peaks and troughs of a man who had been a pivotal figure in Yorkshire cricket for fifty years. The late Christopher Martin- Jenkins went into print in the 1980s to describe Geoff as "an exceptional professional cricketer, and a man of immense character and determination".

It’s no wonder then, that the Society relished the chance to bring Geoff to Cheltenham, to enable us to meet and hear this remarkable man.

Paddy Murphy

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