- Born 29 October 1912 Kingston upon Thames
- Died 3 July 1995 Poole, Dorset
- Educated Harrow School; Cambridge University
- Debut 31 July 1930 v MCC at The Mardyke
- Cap Number 377
- Style Left-hand bat, slow left arm
- Teams NICC; Cambridge University; Middlesex; MCC; Sir Theodore Brinkman's XI
Fred Covington was a talented schoolboy cricketer, who, later, never quite realised his potential in the first class game. He is also somewhat of a mystery in the annals of Irish cricket, as, apart from a few matches for NICC, and his two international appearances, there is no other record of his having been involve in the domestic game in the country, nor is there any evidence of an Irish qualification. He was three years in the Harrow XI from 1929, benefiting from the tuition of the great Wilfred Rhodes and Wilfred's predecessor as head coach JT Hearne. Fred led the side in his last two years, having in his first season played under the captaincy of NM - later Lord - Rothschild, who went on to captain Northamptonshire on a few occasions, but became better known as a top adviser to Edward Heath during the latter's sojourn in Downing Street. Fred was the leading Harrow batsman in his last two seasons but was never on the winning side against Eton. He did, however, make a half century in each of those last two years, with 55 in the drawn match of 1931, his highest against the old enemy. He also played in the annual trial for the Public Schools XI in both seasons, being selected for the representative side in 1930.
His two matches for Ireland came in 1930 also. At the Mardyke, he played against MCC, under the captaincy of fellow Harrovian Sir George Colthurst. As has already been mentioned, it has proved impossible to establish Fred's Irish qualification, thus it is possible that Colthurst and the old school tie had something to do with it. It was a somewhat strange Irish side which took the field, including five new caps, the other four, selected to represent local interest rather than a full strength team, never played again, nor had it been intended that Fred should do so. In this match, Ireland were heavily outclassed, the inexperienced batting struggling against the bowling of the South African paceman DPP Morkel and RHJ Brooke, a medium pacer who won an Oxford blue the following season, before entering the Church of England. Fred, who had held a good slip catch to get rid of Morkel in the visitors' innings, batted at 10. He should possibly have been higher in the order, as he made 16, Ireland's second top score, before Brooke had him caught by the Nawab of Pataudi, later to play for both England and India, captaining the latter in 1946. Ireland were bowled out for 118 but rain, which denied Fred a second knock, also prevented an innings defeat.
He had not been included in the side for the match in College Park, a more normal looking side having been selected. However there were no fewer than six withdrawals and Fred found himself an international cricketer once more. MCC won this match by 10 wickets, with Morkel twice sweeping through the batting order. Fred at No 8 this time was bowled by the South African for 4 in the first innings. In the second he came at 8 again, and was undefeated on 0 at the finish, Morkel having demolished the tail.
Between 1935 and 1937/38, Fred played 12 first class matches scoring 301 runs at an average of 17.70. His bowling, never his strongest suit, was almost completely ignored. On his first class debut, for Cambridge University v The Army at Fenner's in 1935 - the Military then being able to turn out a side of undoubted first class strength - he made an auspicious start, making a crisply struck 70 at No 6, adding 57 for the 5th wicket with his captain Hugh Bartlett, a big hitting middle order batsman who went on to captain Sussex. Fred made only 5 in the second innings. On both occasions he fell to the Army's pacemen, his vanquisher in the second being JWA Stephenson, later to be Assistant Secretary of MCC. Fred also played in the next match against Somerset, but was out for a first innings duck. He was caught by Frank Lee, later a very good umpire, off the bowling of pace bowler Bill Andrews, who in 1938 dismissed "The Don" when the Australian came to Taunton. Thereafter he invariably introduced himself to new acquaintances by extending his hand proclaiming, "Shake the hand that bowled Bradman."
For the record the scorecard reads DG Bradman b Andrews 202 Though Fred made 26* in the second innings he did not play for Cambridge again. The following summer he played a handful of matches for Middlesex, again doing well on debut. Against Warwickshire at Lord's, he failed in the first innings, but, demoted to 8 in the batting order in the second made the top score of the match, 83. He put on 57 for the 7th wicket with Walter Robins, before adding 97 for the 9th with six hitting fast bowler Jim Smith. He did little else of note in first class matches, however, several times getting a start but being unable to progress beyond the twenties.
Between 1935 and 1937 he played a number of matches for Middlesex 2nd XI having some not inconsiderable success. His best match was against Kent at Osterly in 1935. Batting at No 3, he made 101 while his team-mates mostly failed, including an aspiring 17 year old on the Lord's groundstaff who made a mere 12. He was later to do rather better for his county and country, though whether Fred spotted the talent in Dennis Compton is not known. Fred also hit three fifties at this level, his best being again v Kent, at Lord's in 1936. In a drawn match he made 70 and 46, the former the highest score of the match. He was, incidentally, a member of the Middlesex side that had won the Minor Counties Championship in 1935, though he was run out for 1 in the Challenge Match against Hertfordshire. It should be mentioned that Compton was not playing this time!
Fred's finale in major cricket was in 1937/38 when he was one of Sir Theodore Brinkman's side that toured Argentina. The opposition was almost all made up from the British community, and despite the inclusion of several well known players in the touring party, gave a very good account of itself in the three representative first class matches. Fred did little in these games but came into his own in the match v Concordia XV. The tourists recorded an innings victory, their innings of 358 including 117 from Fred, who shared a big stand with former England captain Bob Wyatt (146).
Frederick Ernest Covingtons served in the Royal Navy during the war. A Lieutenant in the RNVR, he was twice mentioned in Despatches. Later he lived in South Africa and the Canaries, before returning to England. It has proved impossible to trace his occupation, apart from his war service. Any details of this or of his Irish qualification would be gratefully received.
His obituary, which makes no mention of his Irish career, is in Wisden 1996.
NB I am indebted to Ms Rita Boswell Harrow School Archivist for considerable assistance.
Edward Liddle, December 2009