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Grimmett, Clarence Victor (Clarrie) (1891–1980)

by John A. Daly

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Clarence Victor Grimmett (1891-1980), by Lenare Studio

Clarence Victor Grimmett (1891-1980), by Lenare Studio

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an14134872

Clarence Victor (Clarrie) Grimmett (1891-1980), cricketer, was born on 25 December 1891 at Caversham, Dunedin, New Zealand, son of Richard James Grimmett, bricklayer, and his wife Mary, née McDermott. They moved to Wellington where Grimmett was educated at the Mount Cook Boys' School; at 15 he was apprenticed to a signwriter. He began playing senior district cricket for Wellington East and, later, for Wellington Province in Plunket Shield matches. In 1914 he moved to Sydney where as a wily leg-break bowler he played for Leichhardt, Paddington and the Sydney Districts clubs. Three years later he settled in Melbourne and played for South Melbourne and Prahran. He practised assiduously in his backyard with a fox-terrier that he trained to retrieve balls. On 1 November 1919 at Prahran, with Catholic rites, he married Elizabeth Annie Egan (d.1968).

Playing for Victoria in Adelaide in the 1923-24 season, 'Clarrie' Grimmett was spotted by a South Australian who found him work in Adelaide. He also became a cricket writer for the South Australian Register. In 1925 he was chosen to play in the fifth Test against England in Sydney, and proved a match-winner, taking 5 wickets for 45 and 6 for 37. In 1926 in England he captured 5 for 88 runs and 2 for 59 in the third Test at Leeds.

Completely dedicated, he became renowned for his accuracy and nagging persistency—'a master of length, able to spin and flight the ball with infinite variation'—especially in England. Grimmett's age, almost frail stature, and determined, enthusiastic personality excited the press: they nick-named him 'the gnome', 'the fox', and 'Scarlet' (after the heroic 'Pimpernel'). Neville Cardus described him as 'an unobtrusive little man … a master of surreptitious arts'.

Overall, Grimmett took 1424 first-class wickets at 22 runs apiece and was the first bowler of any country to capture 200 Test wickets. In 1924-36 he played in 37 Tests for Australia, taking a record 216 wickets at 24 runs; he was a useful late-order batsman. In 1936-37 and 1938 he was omitted from the Test sides against England. Grimmett never overcame his chagrin. In 1938 he was a guest of the Maharajah of Jath in India; and in the Australian season of 1938-39 he took a record total of 73 wickets.

In 1941 Grimmett played his last big match. After that he coached at many schools and worked as an insurance salesman. He published three books: Getting Wickets (1930), Tricking the Batsman (1932) and Grimmett on Cricket (1948). He described how he got his 'sympathy with the ball': before bowling he would interlock 'the fingers on both hands, then pull and stretch the fingers as hard as I could'. Then when he took hold of the ball, 'it nestled in my hand and felt so much smaller'.

Grimmett played tennis and golf as he grew older. On 28 May 1971 with Anglican rites he married Gwenyth Montgomerie Beeton. Survived by her and a son from his first marriage, he died on 2 May 1980 and was buried in Centennial Park cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Tebbutt, With the 1930 Australians (Lond, 1930)
  • A. G. Moyes, Australian Cricket (Syd, 1959)
  • S. Downer, 100 Not Out (Adel, 1972)
  • C. Martin-Jenkins, The Complete Who's Who of Test Cricketers (Adel, 1980)
  • News (Adelaide), 30 Dec 1961
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 30 Nov, 16, 23 Dec 1938, 19 Sept 1963, 23 Dec 1965
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 17 Feb 1980
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 4 May 1980.

Citation details

John A. Daly, 'Grimmett, Clarence Victor (Clarrie) (1891–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/grimmett-clarence-victor-clarrie-6493/text11133, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 20 April 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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