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Gascoigne, Stephen Harold (Yabba) (1878–1942)

by W. G. McMinn

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Stephen Gascoigne, c.1935

Stephen Gascoigne, c.1935

National Library of Australia, 46721482

Stephen Harold Gascoigne (1878-1942), 'rabbito' and barracker, was born on 19 March 1878 at Redfern, Sydney, son of Amos Gascoigne, a dealer from Oxfordshire, England, and his native-born wife Catherine, née Bingham. As a child he was nicknamed 'Yabba' because he 'was a bit of a talker'. He described himself as a groom when he married Ada Florence Rogers at 471 Pitt Street in 1899. He later claimed to have fought in the South African War. However for the greater part of his life he was a 'rabbito', selling dressed rabbits door-to-door in Balmain and adjacent suburbs.

It was as 'Yabba', 'the world's greatest barracker', that Gascoigne became first a local, then a national figure. He seldom missed a Sheffield Shield or Test Match at the Sydney Cricket Ground. A big man, with close cropped hair, a cap and pipe, always wearing dark trousers and a white shirt, he habitually arrived early and took a seat on the 'hill' in front of the scoreboard. He watched the game intently, making comments with a wit which became legendary and in a voice that could be heard outside the ground. He was genuinely interested in the game, and very knowledgeable about it. He rarely drank more than the two bottles of beer he brought with his lunch, and never shouted irrelevant advice or abuse. Some of his expressions, such as his comment on a spell of wild bowling, 'Your length's lousy but you bowl a good width!' passed into the vernacular of the game. Others were too appropriately tailored to the circumstances to be pirated. Gascoigne was particularly hard on slow batsmen—when Charles Kellaway, after a long period of stodgy defence, opened his score by stealing a single, he shouted: 'Whoa there! he's bolted'; and in 1932 when the Nawab of Pataudi (whom he called 'Pat O'Dea') batted for half an hour without scoring, he advised the umpire, a gas-meter inspector, to 'Put a penny in him George, he's stopped registering'.

For over a generation, Gascoigne was an attraction in his own right for those who watched cricket in Sydney, and also a favourite with players, especially visitors. When (Sir) Jack Hobbs, on his last appearance in Sydney, was presented with a testimonial, he walked around the ground, asked for 'Yabba' and shook hands with him. In 1937 he commented on the Fifth Test for radio station 2SM.

Gascoigne died of heart disease in the State Hospital, Lidcombe, on 8 January 1942, and was buried in the Anglican section of Rookwood cemetery. He was survived by his wife, a son and two daughters. The members of the New South Wales Cricket Association stood in silence before their first meeting after his death. Inevitably legends became current about his generosity during the Depression but nothing is known of his business or private life.  In 2008, a statue was erected at the Sydney Cricket Ground in his memory.

Select Bibliography

  • Wireless Weekly, 26 Feb 1937
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 9, 20 Jan 1942, 26 Feb 1955, 31 July 1969
  • Sun (Sydney), 30 Jan 1976.

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Citation details

W. G. McMinn, 'Gascoigne, Stephen Harold (Yabba) (1878–1942)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/gascoigne-stephen-harold-yabba-6286/text10837, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 14 November 2018.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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