January 21 will represent the 90th anniversary of the death of one of the most important people in Worcestershire CCC’s long and proud history.
Paul Henry Foley was responsible for Worcestershire becoming a first class County in 1899 and it is after him that the Foley’s coffee house and eatery – which opened last April – was named.
Here Andrew Thomas – author of Pears 150 – has written the second part of an appreciation article on Paul Foley for the Worcestershire CCC website.
Today, some might call all that change a rebranding; others might call it a coup.
Paul Foley’s plan to turn Worcestershire CCC into a First Class county was not popular with many of the amateur players and local families who were happy with the status quo, of schools, regiments, touring clubs, a sprinkling of friendly county matches, and an early August Cricket Week at Boughton.
The old guard did not like the changing fixture list, the distances and duration of matches, the professionals paid (by Foley) to take their places in the XI, while the mushrooming expense alarmed the bank.
On 9th February 1904, Paul Foley,46, married Dora Langley,21, at St Mary’s Church on his Stoke Edith estate, and so began his understandable change of priorities, spending less time and money at WCCC but concentrating more on his family responsibilities.
When he stepped down as Secretary in 1908, opponents said he should pay off the massive overdraft as the bank was threatening (again) to wind-up the club.
Eventually, six benefactors paid off most of the £4,800 debt (Paul Foley, Lord Cobham, Lord Plymouth, Sir Charles Holcroft, and his nephews, George Holcroft, and Rowland Hill of Kidderminster).
Foley remained sufficiently involved to help prevent several winding up orders before and during the Great War, and the threatened expulsion of Worcestershire CCC from the County Championship, as one of the “Despised Five“ counties in 1913.
Paul Foley was deeply affected by the deaths of 10 former Worcestershire CCC players and many friends killed or injured during the 1914-18 War.
Speaking at the 1916 WCCC AGM, only four months after Arthur Isaac and Billy Burns had been killed in action together in France, Foley said that if county cricket continued after the war, it should be less expensive, include more amateurs, and have some of the old-time friendly rivalry.
“The Father of the Club”, as the press called him, added that the best system for WCCC would be if counties went back to the days before the official Championship and occasionally challenged each other with less concern for averages.
During the night of 16th December 1927, Stoke Edith mansion was destroyed by accidental fire.
Barely a month later, on 21st January 1928, Paul Foley JP DL, died aged 70.
It was said he contracted pneumonia in the freezing air while trying to save his family and possessions. Paul is buried at St Mary’s Church, beside his demolished home.
Paul Foley worked tirelessly for Worcestershire CCC for 30 years.
It is thanks to his vision, tenacity and money that Worcestershire became a First Class county and play on a ground known throughout the cricket world.
Paul H Foley died when WCCC was at its lowest ebb, financially and in the County Championship.
Fortunately, others, such as Judge Amphlett and Lord Doverdale, had accepted the challenge to make Worcestershire CCC rise again.
*Andrew Thomas’s more detailed appreciation of Paul Henry Foley will be published in the Journal of the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians.