Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Turner, Charles Thomas Biass (1862–1944)

by B. G. Andrews

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

Charles Thomas Biass Turner (1862-1944), cricketer, was born on 16 November 1862 at Bathurst, New South Wales, son of Charles Biass Turner, innkeeper, and his wife Mary Ann, née Pye. Educated at the Bathurst Grammar and Commercial School, where he failed to get into the cricket team, he worked for Cobb & Co. and practised bowling on a variety of prepared wickets after dispatching the morning coaches. In December 1881 playing for the Bathurst 22 against A. Shaw's England XI, he took 17 wickets for 69 runs, including 10 for 36 in the second innings. In 1882-83 he made his début for New South Wales against Ivo Bligh's Englishmen and at the end of that season moved to Sydney, where he played for the Carlton Cricket Club. On 19 July 1882 at Christ Church, Enmore, he married Sarah Emily Matthews.

In January 1887 at Sydney, playing for a combined New South Wales and Victorian XI, Turner took 6 for 15 against Shaw's English XI, which was dismissed for the record low score of 45. In 1887-88, when two English sides visited the colonies he took 8 for 39 and 8 for 40 in the same match for New South Wales against A. Shrewsbury's XI; 5 for 44 and 7 for 43 in the only Test played against the combined sides, and became the first and only bowler to amass 100 wickets in an Australian season.

An automatic choice for the 1888 tour of England, he formed, during a summer of 'indescribable' conditions, a formidable partnership with J. J. Ferris (1867-1900). The left-arm spin of the 'Fiend' Ferris was a perfect foil for the right-arm medium pace of the 'Terror' Turner. Bowling virtually unchanged throughout the tour, they exploited each other's footmarks, took 534 of the 663 wickets to fall to the Australians and were named among Wisden's cricketers of the year. Turner's share in all matches was 314 wickets at 11, including 9 for 15, 8 for 13 and 9 for 37 in the same match at Hastings, and 5 wickets in each of the Test innings in which he bowled. The partnership was resumed on the 1890 tour of England, when they each took 215 wickets. Turner toured England again in 1893 and although his opportunities were limited by influenza and the presence of George Giffen and Hugh Trumble, he headed the bowling averages with 149 wickets at 14 in the eleven-a-side matches. In his last series in 1894-95 in Australia, he was dropped from the team that narrowly lost the deciding Test. He refused a last minute invitation to tour England in 1896.

Quiet, gentle and dignified, Turner stood just under 5 ft 9 ins (175 cm) and was sturdily built. His appearance, demeanour and action belied his nickname; 'with a sudden swing around', wrote the English captain A. C. Maclaren, 'he would come tripping up to the wicket in the most cheery and at the same time graceful manner imaginable'. He stood squarer to the batsman at the moment of delivery than most classical bowlers, relying on accuracy and change of pace. His stock ball was a medium-paced sharply turning off-break which he mixed with yorkers, leg-cutters and top-spinners; his lift and pace from the pitch were renowned. A courageous and tireless mainstay of the Australian attack at a time when the batting was weak, he was the first of the great modern medium-pacers, and one of the best bowlers of all time on helpful wickets. In 17 Test matches against England he took 101 wickets at 16, including 5 or more wickets in an innings 11 times; in all first-class matches he took 992 wickets at 14. His average of 7.68 in 1886-87 and aggregate of 106 in 1887-88 are Australian records that have seldom been approached. A free-hitting batsman, he scored a century against Surrey in 1888 that lived in the memory of Ranjitsinhji, and twice opened the innings in the 1890 Tests.

A bank manager in 1891, Turner worked briefly for some English merchants and as editor of a cricket magazine in the 1890s. His first-class career ended in 1897 when he moved to Gympie, Queensland, although in 1910 he returned to the Sydney Cricket Ground to open the bowling in his testimonial match which raised over £534. By 1917 he was a teller in the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, and in 1926 the loss of the Ashes led him to publish an instruction manual, The Quest for Bowlers (Sydney). Turner died of senile decay on 1 January 1944 and was cremated at the Northern Suburbs crematorium. He was survived by a daughter of his second wife Harriett Emily, née Goldman, whom he had married at the Registrar-General's Department, Sydney, on 28 October 1891, and by his third wife Edith Rebecca Susan, née Sargent, who inherited his estate valued for probate at £202. In 1972 his ashes were returned to Bathurst.

Select Bibliography

  • J. N. Pentelow, England v. Australia (Bristol, 1904)
  • F. Lillywhite, M.C.C. Cricket Scores and Biographies, vol 15 (Lond, 1925)
  • B. Frindall, The Kaye Book of Cricket Records (Lond, 1968)
  • Cricket (London), 5 May 1887, 20 Apr 1893, 24 Feb 1910
  • Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, 1889, 1891, 1893, 1911, 1944, 1945, 1974
  • World of Cricket, 21 Mar 1914
  • Advocate (Melbourne), 31 Oct 1963
  • Western Advocate (Bathurst), 10, 15 Mar, 7, 8 Dec 1972
  • private information.

Citation details

B. G. Andrews, 'Turner, Charles Thomas Biass (1862–1944)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/turner-charles-thomas-biass-4759/text7907, published in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 1 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

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