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Writer in bid to restore graves of Fostershire’s cricket legend

27 September 2013

Hulton Archive/ Getty Images

At the crease: Reginald "Tip" Foster,c. 1910

At the crease: Reginald "Tip" Foster,c. 1910

A CAMPAIGN has been launched to restore the family grave of one of England's forgotten sporting heroes.

Reginald "Tip" Foster, a clergyman's son from Malvern, is still the only man to have captained both the English cricket and soccer teams, and his innings of 287 against Australia in 1903 remains the highest score on Test debut by any batsman.

He played football for the Corinthians, and was capped five times in the English soccer side between 1900 and 1902, leading the team against Wales in 1902.

But his sporting life was cut short by diabetes, and he died aged 36 in 1914. His ashes were scattered on the family grave in Malvern, in Worcestershire, and today the site, like his career, is largely forgotten.

Now the author and cricket enthusiast Anthony Collis is leading a campaign to have the graves restored in time for the centenary of his death. "Tip was a remarkable character," he said. "He was part of a great sporting family - one of seven brothers who all played for Worcestershire in the early 20th Century. They earned the county side the nickname 'Fostershire'. Two of his sisters, Mabel and Cecily, played golf for England, and were also excellent tennis players."

His parents came to Malvern in 1867, when his father, the Revd Henry Foster, himself an accomplished cricketer, was appointed housemaster at the newly established Malvern College. All seven boys played in the school first team. On occasions, the entire family turned out as a cricket XI.

"They are so little known or remembered, even in Malvern, which I am aghast about," Mr Collis said. "When I ask people if they know anything about the Foster family, they say: 'Who?' There is a series of individual graves in Great Malvern Cemetery, grouped together. They are all overgrown. They are tended as best as possible by the graveyard authorities, but they cannot do everything. They need a bit of TLC and restoration."

He has enlisted the aid of Malvern Civic Society to raise funds for the restoration. The Society chairman, Roger Sutton, said: "Like most graves in a Victorian cemetery, they have not been looked after particularly well. We are gently trying to raise £5000 to renovate them. They are very spectacular, and well worth preserving."

They have already received donations from Worcestershire County Cricket Club, Malvern College, and Foster's living descendants.

Tip Foster - his nickname is believed to have come from playing "Tip and run" as a child - always featured as R. E. Foster in the scorebook. The cricketing annualWisdenmade him Player of the Year in 1901, and in its 1915 obituary described him as "one of the pre-eminently great batsmen of his day". His early career had shown stellar potential. Playing for Oxford in 1900, he set the record for the highest score - 171 - in a Varsity match, and days later scored a century in each innings in the Gentlemen v. Players game at Lord's.

But his work as a London stockbroker meant that he completed only one full season of country cricket, in 1901, scoring 2128 runs at an average of 50.66, It also meant that he played in just eight Test matches: five in Australia in 1903/04, and three in South Africa in 1907, when he made a surprise return as captain. He was due to lead the tour of Australia that winter, but, again, work prevented it.

Mr Collis, who is working on Foster's biography, said: "To come back in 1907 after playing only a handful of games, and to be awarded the captaincy was a mark of his ability. That was the golden age of cricket, and there were so many great batsmen. One can only go by contemporary accounts, but had he played more who knows what might have happened."

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