Arthur Gilligan


Arthur Gilligan : biography

23 December 1894 – 5 September 1976

Gilligan also extensively coached and lectured around the county, spending time in the English winters raising the team’s profile. He encouraged the search for promising young cricketers, and most of the club’s professional cricketers during its successful years in the 1930s were discovered during Gilligan’s drive for new talent.Lee, p. 161. Percy Fender believed that Gilligan allowed the team’s professionals a greater say in Sussex’s affairs than previously permitted. Fender wrote that Gilligan’s teams enjoyed playing under him and that Gilligan was one of the most popular captains in county cricket. Cricket writer R. C. Robertson-Glasgow said: "With him there was no sharpnesses, no petty restraints, no mathematical cricket. He won or lost plumb straight". Swanton wrote that "Gilligan was essentially a friendly man, hail-fellow-well-met, and it is hard to think that in the world of sport he ever made an enemy."Swanton, pp. 141–42.

Personal life

Gilligan married his first wife, Cecilia Mary Matthews, in April 1921, but she successfully filed for divorce in October 1933 on the grounds of her husband’s infidelity. He married again in 1934; he met his second wife, Katharine Margaret Fox, on a skiing trip.

Following his retirement from cricket, Gilligan began to work in journalism. He wrote several cricket books, including a history of Sussex cricket in 1932. He became one of the first radio cricket commentators, broadcasting in Australia on the 1932–33 Ashes series and covering subsequent visits of MCC teams to Australia for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. A popular and respected commentator, he established an on-air partnership with former Australian batman Vic Richardson. In Gilligan’s obituary, Wisden observed "Gilligan was, as may be imagined, a master of the diplomatic comment if any tiresome incident occurred". He was also a member of the BBC radio commentary team for Tests between 1947 and 1954. In 1955, he wrote a book, The Urn Returns, about the 1954–55 Ashes series, won by England. In England, he wrote about cricket for the News Chronicle. During the Second World War, Gilligan served in the Royal Air Force as a welfare officer; he was commissioned a pilot officer and rose to the rank of squadron leader.Lee, p. 185.

When his cricket career ended, Gilligan maintained his connection with Sussex,Swanton, p. 141. of which he was later made an Honorary Life Member. He served as chairman, patron and president of the county, and assisted many local clubs in the area. He gained a good reputation as a speaker and lecturer, and also developed an interest in golf in later years: he was president of the English golf union in 1959, captain of the County Cricketers’ Golfing Society from 1952 until 1972, and president of the latter organisation until his death.

An Honorary Life Member of the MCC, Gilligan served as MCC president from 1967 to 1968. During his tenure, the MCC was involved in controversy over the non-selection of Basil D’Oliveira to tour South Africa. The South African government did not want D’Oliveira in the England team on the grounds of his colour.Oborne, pp. 145–46. Gilligan, in his capacity as MCC president, was aware of this having seen a private letter which communicated the explicit threat from the South African prime minister B. J. Vorster that the forthcoming tour would be cancelled if D’Oliveira were selected. However, he and the others who saw the letter, G. O. B. Allen and Billy Griffith, respectively the MCC treasurer and secretary, kept this information to themselves.Oborne, pp. 151–55. When the English selectors met to choose the team, Gilligan, Allen and Griffith were present to represent the MCC. A BBC programme in 2004 claimed that Gilligan pressured the selectors to leave out D’Oliveira, but D’Oliveira’s biographer Peter Oborne suggests that Allen carried far more influence at the meeting. He writes of Gilligan’s part in the affair: "It would be wrong to make too much of Gilligan’s embarrassing past. Given that presidents are appointed for only a year, it was a very strong president indeed who could impose his personality on the permanent MCC secretariat of Griffith and Allen, and Gilligan was not a strong president."Oborne, p. 194. Initially D’Oliveira was left out of the team, but when a player withdrew with an injury, the selectors added him as a replacement; the South African government barred D’Oliveira from taking part and the MCC cancelled the tour.Oborne, pp. 222–26.