Stragglers from the senior generation will be saddened to hear the news that Lieutenant Commander Neil MacLeay passed away recently at the age of 87. Neil’s Straggler career lasted more than two decades, from debut at Saltwood as an opening bat in 1953 to a final outing against Challock and Molash in 1976. The records show that Neil did not bowl, that he held 3 outfield catches and batted modestly for a career total of 225 runs in 35 innings, averaging 7.76. His high score with the bat stood at 27 for almost all of his career, scored in a victory at Sheldwich in 1954, but he bettered that by one run to score 28 in his penultimate innings at Mersham-le-Hatch in 1973.
However, he was a wicket keeper of considerable accomplishment, and it was behind the stumps that he was a most effective cricketer. Neil stands in fifth place on the all-time list of Straggler keepers, with a total of 45 victims (19 stumped and 26 caught). For many years the high-water mark for Straggler keepers in a season was a total of 14 victims; Neil was up there with the best. His glory years were in the early ‘60s, when he took 7 stumpings in 1961 and 7 catches in 1963. Neil sent a total of 12 batters back to the pavilion in 1961 and his record of 7 stumpings in a season stands to this day, only equalled very early in Straggler history by David Walters in 1949. Al Smallwood may have shattered virtually Straggler keeping records in his glory season behind the stumps in 2017, but this one has eluded him.