Charles Frederick Grieve


The following obituary appeared in The Telegraph on 8th July 2000

MAJOR CHARLES GRIEVE, who died on 1st June 2000 aged 86, was a superb all-round games player; he represented Scotland at golf, Guernsey at cricket, and Oxford and the British Lions at rugby, and might have gained still further recognition of his talents but for the the Second World War.

In 1933, Grieve went up to read History at Christ Church, Oxford, with a formidable sporting record at Ampleforth behind him; he had played for the First XV for five years, and for the Cricket XI for six. At Oxford, he concentrated on rugby, winning a Blue in 1934, 1935 and 1936; another member of the side was the scintillating winger Prince Alexander Obolensky.

Grieve himself was the ideal build for a fly-half – small, stocky and nimble. His popularity at Oxford made him in 1935 the subject of an “Isis Idol” profile which saluted “his courage, his skill and his neatness, and his beautiful kicking”.

He won his first cap for Scotland in 1935, when he was picked for a match against Wales. The letter informing him of his selection enjoined him to ensure that his boots were in order since the ground at Cardiff was usually heavy, and stated that on no account was he to exchange jerseys at the end of the game since his remained the property of the Scottish Rugby Union.

Unhappily for Grieve, he was severely concussed during the match and it was initially feared that he would never play again; but after a convalescence of nine months he was allowed back on the pitch. The next year he took the field against England, and in 1937 also won a Blue at golf, winning his singles match 6 & 5. He played cricket, too, for the Authentics (Oxford’s Second XI), for Hampshire Seconds and for I Zingari.

In the late 1930s, Grieve turned out at cricket and rugby for Guernsey, to where his parents had retired, and in 1938, having joined the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, won two caps at rugby for the Army. That same year, he was picked for the Lions tour of South Africa, and played at full-back in two of the three Tests.

In the final Test, at Newlands, the Springboks (led by Danie Craven in his last match), were leading 16-14 with five minutes of the match remaining. But the momentum was with the Lions, who had recovered from 10-3 down, and now came Grieve’s hour.

The South African Harris just failed to find touch and Grieve, arriving at full speed, gathered it a foot from touch, pivoted while still running and hammered over a drop-goal to give the Lions the lead. A further late try gave the tourists a record points victory over South Africa, and Grieve was pronounced man of the match.

Charles Frederick Grieve was born on October 1 1913 in Manila, where his father (an ardent golfer and native of St Andrews who had helped to found Manila Golf Club) worked for the family firm, Warner, Barnes and Co, exporters of rubber. This had been set up by Charles’s grandfather after he had sold his controlling interest in the Hong Kong Bank.

At the age of six, Charlie was sent back to prep school in Kent. He spent his holidays with an aunt at St Andrews and by the age of 16 was recording scores of 75 on the Old Course, and driving the Swilcan Burn from the first tee. In 1931, he was a member of the Scottish Boys’ golf team which beat England at Killermont, Glasgow.

When war came, Grieve went with his regiment to France as part of the BEF but had to be evacuated early with peritonitis. Once recovered, he volunteered for the King’s African Rifles, with whom he served in Abyssinia and the Far East. After the war, he returned to the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment and in 1952 went as a company commander to Korea, where the regiment took part in hard fighting at The Hook.

Grieve was then posted to Gibraltar, where he was voted the colony’s Sportsman of the Year and won the Southern Spain Golf Championship by 12 strokes. Once, while playing cricket, he was called from the pitch while on 99 to be told that his wife had given birth to a son. On returning to the wicket, he was out next ball. He blamed the messenger for disturbing his concentration, and made 165 in the next innings.

He spent most of the remainder of his Army career looking after the physical training of soldiers. He became Army golf champion and even at the age of 80 went round a course in 78. In retirement he was an active member of the York and Ludlow clubs. Charlie Grieve was a cheerful, humble and religious man of whom nothing derogatory was ever said. Isis wrote of him in 1935 that “his modesty is almost shattering and has hidden from us many of his achievements.”

Charles Frederick Grieve

He married, in 1946, Joy “Toddles” Ellis; she died in 1997. They had two sons and three daughters.

At cricket he represented Oxford University in a single first-class match against Derbyshire in 1936 when he scored 6 runs before being dismissed by George Pope in the first innings, and for 2 runs in the second. In 1934 he played his only match for Guernsey, against the MCC. Opening the batting he scored a century in the first innings and 6 in the second.

He was included as one of the ‘Island Sporting Celebrities’ cigarette cards by Gallaher Ltd in the 1930’s.

“[Charles Grieve] has played many fine games for the GICC as an opening batsman; was educated at Ampleforth and Christ Church, Oxford, where he appeared for the Authentics. Gained Rugger Blue in 1934 and was capped for Scotland v Wales in 1935 and v England in 1936 as stand-off half. In 1937 crowned his university career by gaining his golf blue.”