- Born 19 May 1929 Wallington, Surrey
- Died 9 September 1996 Chiddingfold Surrey
- Educated Ampleforth College Yorkshire, Cambridge University
- Occupation Advertising and Marketing Executive
- Debut 6 September 1952 v MCC at College Park, Dublin
- Cap Number 456
- Style Right-hand bat, Right-arm fast medium
Charles Kenny is generally seen as having been Ireland's best post war opening bowler until the advent of Alec O'Riordan. In the early ears of his career he operated at well over medium pace and, besides making the ball lift awkwardly on helpful wickets, possessed the ability to make it swing both ways. He also preferred to have his wicket keeper stand up, taking a number of wickets through stumpings. Injury later forced him to lower his pace and change his action, but he was still a very effective and very accurate bowler, mostly of off cutters at medium pace. He was, however, a negligible batsman, though he sometimes hit to good effect frustrating bowlers in unlikely 9th and 10th wicket partnerships.
At the Benedictine Order run Ampleforth College, set amid the Yorkshire moorlands, he formed a lethal opening bowling partnership with George Robertson, an all-rounder who later played one match for Oxford. For the three years that Charles was in the XI (1945 - 47) they proved far too much for other school sides and also caused many problems for adult ones, notably MCC against whom the College recorded a remarkable victory in 1947, under Charles' captaincy. In his three seasons he took 96 wickets at 9.44. His value to his side in the final year was well seen in a match against arch rivals St Peter's, York which was lost. Batting first St Peter's were bowled out for 137, Charles taking 6 wickets. Then he was an unlikely top scorer with 21 as Ampleforth collapsed for 59.
In each of their three seasons together in the XI the Ampleforth report in Wisden singled Charles and Robertson out for praise. They would have been the first to admit that they owed much to the report's writer the master in charge of cricket, the remarkable Father Peter Utley, surely the only Monk - Benedictine or otherwise - to have been both an RAF pilot and a county cricketer, both -it should be said - before he took holy orders! Uttley was a fast bowler who took 59 wickets for Hampshire in the 1928 having played for Gentlemen v Players the previous year. He ran the cricket at Ampleforth for 19 years from 1935 and was also awarded the OBE for his work with the College Cadet Force. Another former Hampshire cricketer, the all-rounder Stewart Boyes, recruited by Utley, was the professional at the College during Charles' time there.
Entering Cambridge in the autumn of 1949Charles played in the Freshmen's' Trial in 1950 and the Seniors' and Final Trials the following season without getting into the XI though he made his first class debut for Essex in 1950 and played regularly for the County 2nd XI in the Minor Counties Championship in both 1950 and 51, taking in all 35 wickets at 20.88. His best performances came against Norfolk, taking 5-39 and 3-23 at Colchester in the former year and 5-78, as Norfolk piled up 357-8 at Lakenham the following season. However his most significant effort was for Free Foresters against the University at Fenners in 1951, the visitors having turned up one man short. After being mauled in the first innings by Peter May (83) he struck back in the second when Cambridge needed 247 to win, returning figures of 14-5-24-5, including the wickets not only of May but also of David Sheppard. The hosts just held out on 96-7.
1952 was Charles only full season in first class cricket. He forced his way into the Cambridge side, played half a season for Essex after the University Match and made a highly successful debut for Ireland.
The Cambridge side was a very strong one including four who had already played Test cricket in May, Sheppard, John Warr, who had opened the bowling for England in two Tests in Australia in 1950/51 with figures of 1-281, and the South African Cuan McCarthy, who delivered the ball - for not many thought he actually bowled it - at a fearsome pace, Len Hutton and Denis Compton both decided that the best way to play him was from the other end! Two future Test players were also in the side England batsman Raman Subba-Row, though he was then seen more as a leg spinning all-rounder, and FCM "Gerry" Alexander, a brilliant wicket keeper who was to become the last white man to captain West Indies. Charles usually came on first change taking 32 wickets at 32.96. His best return was 38-8-75-5 against Lancashire on a perfect Fenners wicket, when Test batsman Winston Place and prolific Australian run getter Ken Grieves were among his haul. In a high scoring draw he took the only 2 wickets to fall in the second innings, including another former Test batsman, doughty left hander Alan Wharton.
In the University Match he removed a precocious 19 year old, who had made a first innings half century, for 7 in the second thanks to a stumping by Alexander, the ball rebounding off the keeper's pads. In his first autobiography "Time For Reflection" Colin Cowdery appears to have been distinctly unimpressed by his dismissal! Wisden's Essex report noted that Charles was "a useful addition to the attack who did much excellent work." He took 35 wickets in 14 matches at 30.62 with a 5 wicket haul against Gloucestershire at Bristol. In their second innings the hosts needed 279 to win but fell short by 30 runs. According to Wisden, "They made a confident start but the medium pace bowling of Kenny decided the issue." He took 5-80 in 26 overs including former England batsman Jack Crapp whom he also dismissed in the return match at Chelmsford as part of a 4-68 haul. For the county he had 35 wickets at 30.62.His debut for Ireland was a most impressive one, though the match itself, against MCC at College Park in early September was a rain affected draw to the bitter disappointment, may I add, of an eight year old boy whose first experience of major cricket was ruined by the cold and unpleasant conditions.
Charles, however, was Ireland's success story in what play was possible, Derek Scott reporting that he "proved a god send as a user of the new ball and as a fast medium stock bowler." His figures of 20-3-65-5 bear out Derek's comments, his wickets included former England captains Freddie Brown and George Mann, the latter always seeming ill at ease against him. Three of his five fell to smart catches by Donald Shearer, belying his 42 years to field unflinchingly at short leg as discomforted batsmen tried to fend off rising balls. Rain intervened finally as Ireland, trailing by four runs began their second innings. The eight year old, however, had seen enough to ensnare him for life!
Injury and other commitments, including a four year sojourn in Australia, meant that Charles only played another 10 matches for Ireland. He took 49 wickets at 18.04 and, when available, was always an automatic selection.
He had three further "5 fors" besides two other notable performances. In the opening match of the following, 1953, season Ireland took on Glamorgan in a first class match at Magram, a ground that the county hoped to use for some out matches. Alas the weather was poor and the wicket even worse, Ireland, who at one stage looked like winning the match, ended it just hanging on for a draw. The wicket was such that a medium pacer had only to drop the ball short to see batsmen in all sorts of difficulties. Ireland began by bowling the hosts out for 81, the attack spearheaded by Charles with figures of 11-4-14-4, including Test opener Gilbert Parkhouse and the legendary captain Wilf Wooller. However Ireland found conditions equally difficult and though Lloyd Armstrong enjoyed the conditions when Glamorgan batting again, Ireland ended on 81-9, 19 short of their target.
The long hot summer of 1955 saw two more good bowling performances from Charles. Against Scotland in College Park, Ireland collapsed twice, their 153 all out being headed by 99 runs when the visitors batted. However the Scottish score had stood at 188-8, Charles having taken five wickets with some accurate and testing swing bowling. Then, according to Derek Scott, "He seemed to tire" and the Scots built a winning lead, Ireland collapsing again for 91. Charles had, by the way, again disposed of the opposition's leading batsman, in this case the Presbyterian Minister James Aitchison.
In a two day match at Lord's Ireland were outclassed by an average MCC side, the bowling of the former Middlesex leg spinner Ian Bedford proving too much for them in both innings. Charles' bowling was one of the few bright spots in Ireland's performance. With figures of 20-4-57-5, he was always hostile, his wickets including left handed batsman/wicket keeper, David Blake, an almost permanent fixture in these matches throughout the 50s, and opening bowler AWH Mallett, no batsman but destined to emigrate to South Africa and become the father of Nick Mallett, the rugby coach. In their second innings MCC lost only 4wickets before declaring, three of them having fallen to Charles. His match figures of 8-89 were impressive but Bedford had 11-108.
Injury, the knee which was to trouble him for the rest of his career, meant that Charles had to pull out of the side just before the first match of the 1956 season for which the selectors, having dropped Stuart Pollock, had appointed him captain. On the face of it, this does seem to have been a rather a strange appointment as Charles' knowledge of domestic Irish cricket was very limited - he was now playing for top London club Hampstead- as was his experience of captaincy. Larry Warke took over the reins instead and retained his post when Charles returned the following year.
Apart from two matches for Essex in 1953 his English first class cricket was now played for the Free Foresters against the Universities. Returning to Cambridge in early June 1957, by now bowling mainly fastish off cutters because of the knee injury, he had match figures of 10-96 as the visitors won a closely fought match by 15 runs. A century from the newly appointed Australian captain Ian Craig took the spectators' eyes but without Charles devastating second innings final spell the visitors would have lost. Disposing of a certain ER Dexter among others in an early spell, he returned as defeat loomed for the Foresters to reduce Cambridge from 182-5 to 186 all out. He finished with 7-45 from 14.5 overs.
For Ireland against the West indies at Ormeau in July he had figures of 24-5-68-4 as the tourists, in a two day match, replied to Ireland's 119 with 198 before rain intervened. On a soft and worsening wicket he took the wicket of the great Clyde Walcott, hitting across the line, and also of an elegant looking left hander seen as having high potential. The 21 year old Garry Sobers was yet another wicket for Charles to treasure in the years to come. He had one wicket in the one day game in Dublin which followed, again a scalp he must have remembered with pleasure Rohan Kanhai. At the end of the season a very weak Forester side were overwhelmed by Ireland at Rathmines. Charles and Frank Fee took 19 wickets between them, the other being a run out. Charles destroyed the visitors first innings with figures of 6-56, all being clean bowled. He had a further three wickets in the second innings as the visitors, who had only one batsman and one bowler of the required ability, crumbled to an innings defeat. Charles had match figures of 9-102.
Having toured East Africa with an MCC side, led by Brown, in 1957/58 work took him to Australia where - apart from spending some time in New Zealand - he remained until 1962. Though he played some first grade cricket in both countries, he much preferred to play for sides such as Australian I Zingari, telling this writer in a letter of more than 30 years ago, that he found the intense competition in Australian grade matches robbed the game of any enjoyment. Australian IZ, incidentally, shows him as having played for Cambridge and Essex, but not for Ireland.
Back home in 1962 he played his final matches for Ireland against Pakistan in College park and against MCC at Lord's. Rain destroyed the Pakistan match, but not before Charles had, in the second innings, added the name of Mushtaq Mohammed to his bag of Test players. The MCC match proved to be his last for Ireland. In the hosts' first innings he was, for the only time in his Irish career, mastered as Mike Brearley, then a Cambridge undergraduate, and the former South African batsman Russell Endean, dominated the Irish attack, Charles finishing with 0-88. However in the second innings, as MCC looked for quick runs, he dismissed their captain MP Murray and then finished his Irish career with the wicket of Endean, no bad one to go out on.
A back injury in 1963 ended his Irish career, but he was able to continue playing for Hampstead and, occasionally, for MCC, Free Foresters and Old Amplefordians. For Hampstead against Bickley Park on 8 June 1963 he had a remarkable match, returning the figures of 15.1-7-16-9. Some time later Bickley held a function at which Cowdrey, the stumping incident perhaps forgotten, presented Charles with the ball, which remains to this day "nice and shiny" in the possession of the Kenny family. A further injury in 1966 forced him to give up the game altogether. It remained his first love but he turned to golf at whch he was very keen, but never as good as he wanted to be. Away from cricket he had graduated MA (Hons) in Law from Cambridge in 1952 but, after a short spell as a trainee oil company executive entered the world of advertising and marketing, which, in the employment of SH Benson, was what took him to Australia. After returning to England in 1961, he worked for several other companies, finishing as managing Director for one of the Reedprint companies, based in Windsor.
Though always a fit and active man, he suffered a heart attck in 1988 and problems remained after a quadruple bypass in 1990 as he had a faulty mitral valve. He died after a further attack while playing golf at Hankley Common Golf Club in Tilford, Surrey.
He had met his future wife, Gillian, on his return from Australia in 1961, they were married the following year and had two sons, both of whom followed Charles to Ampleforth and MCC membership. I am much indebted to Mr Michael Kenny, and, in particular, to his mother Mrs Gillian Kenny, for their help with much of the information in this article.
Charles John Michael Kenny was undoubtedly one of the outstanding Irish cricketers of the 1950s, whose Irish cap and tie remained among his proudest posessions. It is muuch to be regretted that he was unable to play more often.
Perhaps it is best, as with so many other matters in our cricket, to leave the last word to Derek Scott, whose comment in Wisden 1958 that Charles was "an indispensable member of the Irish attack" would have applied to any generation.
Edward Liddle, October 2013