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Hele, George Alfred (1892–1982)

by John A. Daly

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

George Alfred Hele (1892-1982), cricket umpire, was born on 16 July 1892 at Hindmarsh, Adelaide, second of six surviving children of Andrew William Hele (1868-1938), storeman, and his wife Elizabeth Ann, née Patterson. An enthusiastic sportsman, Andrew played for the Bowden Cricket Club in the Adelaide and Suburban Cricket Association and was, according to George, `an excellent wicketkeeper’. He encouraged his sons to play cricket and Australian Rules football. George left school at 13 and began work as a labourer in a soft-drink factory. Like his father, he kept wickets for the Brompton Methodists and eventually played for the West Torrens Cricket Club.

Having turned to umpiring, again like his father, Hele stood for his first district cricket game at the Adelaide Oval in 1918 and made his first-class début at the same ground in 1921. He had been umpiring for ten seasons in Adelaide club cricket and for seven in first-class games when he was named for his first Test match in Brisbane in 1928. Hele umpired all ten Tests during the Marylebone Cricket Club’s (England) tours led by Percy Chapman in 1928-29 and Douglas Jardine in the `bodyline’ series of 1932-33. He also stood in the five Tests against South Africa in 1931-32 and in one against the West Indies in 1930. In all, he umpired fifty-six first-class matches between 1921 and 1935.

Best remembered as `the bodyline umpire’, Hele wrote a `behind-the-wicket eyewitness account’ of the games, Bodyline Umpire (1974), with R. S. Whitington. He condemned the tactics of the English captain Jardine `unequivocally’ and suggested that he had `never seen more vicious bowling’ than that of Harold Larwood to a packed leg-side field. As in all his matches he had adhered resolutely to the rules of the game, but he admitted that he had been `horrified’ and had wondered about the outcome for Anglo-Australian cricket.

Despite the controversy, Jardine rated Hele the equal of England’s umpire Frank Chester. In a letter to the Australian cricket official Bill Kelly in 1932 he wrote: `As you know, we in England bracket Hele and Chester as the two best umpires in the world’. In his book Farewell to Cricket (1950), Sir Donald Bradman agreed with Jardine: `I think the Englishmen who played under Hele would agree that he was the best Australian umpire between the two wars’. Writing in 1959, Alban (Johnny) Moyes contended that Hele `was perhaps the finest umpire Australia has produced’ and that players held him in high esteem. He was `a great communicator’ with players on the field. In 1970 a journalist described him as a `gentle’ man, still tall and erect with a `keen eye’.

Hele had married Matilda Jane Hann (d.1969), a telephonist, on 12 March 1918 at the Baptist Church, Flinders Street, Adelaide. In 1933 they moved to Melbourne, where Hele worked as a salesman and mains recorder. They had one son, Raymond George Hele (1920-1983), who followed his father as a player and umpire, thus creating a cricketing record of three generations umpiring the game. Ray stood for thirty-one first-class matches but, unlike his father, was not named for any Tests. George Hele died on 28 August 1982 at Preston, Melbourne, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Bradman, Farewell to Cricket (1950)
  • A. G. Moyes, Australian Cricket (1959)
  • S. Downer, 100 Not Out (1972)
  • R. Cashman et al (eds), The Oxford Companion to Australian Cricket (1996)
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 10 Feb 1970, p 14.

Citation details

John A. Daly, 'Hele, George Alfred (1892–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 24 June 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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