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Oldest living Royal captain, Pat McCarthy, no more

The former All Ceylon, NCC and the oldest living Royal College cricket captain, Pat McCarthy, at 88 slipped through life peacefully to move over for rest, in that Elysian abode, a preserve for only the virtuous.

Pat, as he was affectionately spoken of was a Ceylonese by descent and passed away in Australia, his home by adoption. Time and distance however, has in no way erased from the minds of many a Royalist, especially the elderly who recall with fond memories of his extraordinary brilliance as a cricketer in the mid and late thirties for Royal under the principalship of L. H. W. Sampson.

The young, born too late to remember him at his peak, but old enough to learn of his heroic deeds for Royal as a rare sportsman. Pat McCarthy spent his childhood, formative years and adulthood in Ceylon (as the country was then known) spanning a period from 1916 to 1948 from whence he migrated to Australia, at the probable age of 32.

Those were the glorious years of this paradise isle, where every prospect pleased and, man as well, wasn’t vile. Influenced by the prevailing healthy environment, he led a life given to sober disciplined ways, to be unassuming and modest in all his ways. He was a prefect at Royal and proved to be a meticulous student with a penchant for sports.

C. Ivers Gunesekera, endowed with a fine physique and all round cricketing ability, a glamorous ideal gift to the game of cricket, was a classmate of Pat McCarthy, who was his senior, played cricketer for Royal.

Ivers speaking of Pat, said that he was a very sociable friendly person and, that in his long association with Pat until he left for Australia, he never found him saying anything derogatory of another - truly the hallmark of an exemplary human being.

He was a versatile sportsman at Royal, where he excelled as an athlete in events like the pole vault, long jump and sprints. At tennis he was adjudged the National Juvenile Tennis Champ and was as well a swimmer of repute. But by far his strength lay in cricket, he was very inch a cricketer. Evidence of this was seen in his mannerism and approach, that was suggestive of one oozing with talent for the game. Pat McCarthy represented Royal College at cricket from 1935 to 1938.

Those were the glamorous years of cricket, where each school had star studded sides to be very competitive - with a good crop of fair complexioned cricketers, who with the red cherry (cricket ball) in their hands against the green sward, made things look ever so colourful to be picturesque and drew large crowds to witness matches.

Pat was a prodigious right hand bat, was a prolific run getter, scoring freely against most schools, to become a household name. He figures in 4 Royal-Thomian cricket encounters, where on his debut in 1935 under A. N. Dharmaratne he made 54. S. Thomas’ captained by Donald Fairweather won by 153 runs.

In 1936 Royal was led by Ryle de Soysa with S. Thomas’ skippered by Fairweather, the match was left drawn, with Pat making 98 and Thomian Norman Siebel establishing a record, scoring an unbeaten 151 - M. Sivanathan led Royal in 1937 while Willie Jayatilleke captained S. Thomas’.

Pat didn’t do much in both innings and S. Thomas’ won by 3 wickets. In his final year in 1938 he led Royal with Bertie Wijesinghe captaining S. Thomas’. Royal did well to make 351 for 7 with pat making a parting 81. S. Thomas’ made 112 and 152 and lost by an innings and 87 runs.

The Royal College cricket team of 1936 under Ryle de Soysa of which pat was a member, created history when for the first time a school team left the shores of the country on a tour to Australia.

The most eventful match of the tour was against Melbourne High School where the Australian cricket captain W. M. (Bill) Woodful was the headmaster. Woodful was highly impressed with Pat McCarthy’s fielding and batting and that of Keith Miller of his school, which made him say, that they were future prospects for their respective countries.

Pat while in school, played against the Aussies for All-Ceylon in 1938. He did so for his club NCC, where he was a star batsman and a brilliant fielder.

During World War II he enlisted in the Ceylon Garrison Artillery in 1940 and was demobilised in 1946 with the rank of major and thereafter served as a surveyor for awhile and left for Australia.

Pat played cricket for Western Australia under the captaincy of Ken Meulman and did well to hold his own against the Aussie cricketing greats.

Pat McCarthy and his contemporaries with their brand of enterprising cricket here in those earlier years, did much to sustain and foster the cause of cricket in the island - a very valid contribution indeed.

It could be said of Pat that he belonged to that all too rare, almost extinct breed called the cultured Ceylonese - on whom Cardinal Newman’s definition of a gentleman that “he is one who does not inflict pain on another” is almost tailor-made. How true, only remembered by the things you’ve done.

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