By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE
GEOFF Folland, who was Exmouth Cricket Club’s man of many parts on and off the field, has died at the age of 88.
During a 45-year association with the club, Geoff was a player, captain and groundsman in his younger days before graduating to committee posts. He served as Exmouth CC secretary, section chairman in the days when the cricketers shared the ground with tennis and hockey clubs and was a Devon County Cricket Club committeeman for six years.
Sons Neil and Nick both played for Exmouth and went on to represent Devon. Nick, the younger of the brothers, went on to become Devon’s all-time leading run scorer as well as playing for the England Amateur XI and spending two years as a professional with Somerset.
Ashton Collinge, a former Exmouth player and chairman, was an aspiring young cricketer just starting out in adult cricket when he first played with Geoff Folland.
“We had a third team – the Nomads – that played games on borrowed pitches before we set-up home at the old grammar school for two or three seasons,” said Collinge.
“Once we started playing at the school Geoff and other senior players would be up there on the morning of the game getting the ground and the wicket ready.
“Geoff was in his late 40s then and saw his role as captaining the side and giving the youngsters the chance to play.
“Generally he batted down the order, but if the bowling was a bit lively he did not mind going in higher up and trying to settle things down.
“Lots of young players got their first chance in adult cricket with Geoff Folland.”
Peter Langford, another former Exmouth chairman, said Geoff is remembered by team-mates of the time for an amusing mishap during one third-team game.
“Exmouth had been fielding in the first innings and Geoff decided instead of collecting tea money at the end of the game he would do it during tea,” said Langford.
“When Geoff counted the money he found he had too much. It was only then he realised we had been fielding with 12 players for half of the game!”
Geoff and wife Maureen both served Exmouth CC as committee members: Geoff as secretary (1999-2004) and Maureen as fixture secretary.
For part of Geoff Folland’s time on the Devon CCC committee between 1990-2004, son Nick was county captain. Neil Gamble, the current county club chairman, said Geoff did not allow his family ties to complicate things.
“Despite Geoff’s direct connection he was always objective and desirous to support what was best for the county,” said Gamble.
Between 1991 and 2005 Exmouth’s Maer Ground was the go-to venue for Devon when professional sides such as Lancashire, Yorkshire, Surrey and others were visitors in the NatWest and C&G Trophy, which was the cricket equivalent of the FA Cup.
Gamble said Geoff rolled his sleeves up with other volunteers at the club to make the matches days to remember.
“Geoff worked very hard to ensure the big matches at Exmouth were a success and was part of a very slick operation that delivered games against First-Class counties with panache to big crowds,” said Gamble.
Geoffrey George Folland was born in Bristol to parents Arthur and Fanila in 1933 and educated at Cotham Grammar School, where future Gloucestershire and England cricketers John Mortimore and David Allen were contemporaries.
By 16 Geoff was working for the Port of Bristol Authority before he enlisted in the RAF for two years’ of National Service.
Most of Geoff’s National Service was spent close to home in Bath, although he did have a role in the procession that formed part of the London funeral of King George VI in 1952.
Back in Civvy Street Geoff tried a variety of jobs before deciding he wanted to become a social worker. He qualified from Bristol Polytechnic aged 28 and spent the next 30 years helping other people and climbing the promotion ladder.
The Follands lived in Gloucester for six years then moved to Exmouth in 1976 when Geoff transferred to the social services department of Devon County Council.
When Geoff retired in 1992 he was the area manager for social services in and around Exmouth and worked for East Devon Council.
Retirement brought more time for watching cricket and voluntary work in a number of areas.
Geoff Folland went back to County Hall in Exeter as the Liberal Democrat councillor for Littleham in Exmouth between 1993-98. Fittingly, he was vice-chairman of the social services committee.
Other interests included the provision of community housing and a seat on the Dartmoor Prison parole board.
“Dad was not one to sit at home all day,” said son Nick.
Sport had been a passion from an early age for Geoff, who played rugby for Horfield Athletic and cricket for Cotham Grammar School Old Boys. It was at a cricket match that he met wife-to-be Maureen.
“Mum wanted a seat to sit on, dad went to get one and the rest is family history,” said Nick.
Geoff and Maureen were married at St Matthew’s Church in Bristol in 1956 and celebrated their 65thanniversary earlier this year.
Geoff is survived by Maureen, sons Neil and Nick and four grandchildren. His funeral has already taken place.