by Diane Webb
Born in 1935 in Manchester, in 1950 Jeff became one of the first ever junior internationals, before gaining his first senior cap against Yugoslavia in 1957 in Norwich, the first of nearly 60 caps.
He played in three World Championships just missing out on a medal in 1961 when the England men’s team finished fourth, his best individual result was with Elsie Carrington in the mixed doubles when they reached the last 16 in 1959 and beat the strong United States pair of Dick Miles and Leah Neuberger. Jeff also played in the European Championships and many international matches. In the Home Nations Quadrangular Tournament he was part of the squad which won the team event in 1960, 1961 and 1962 never losing a singles or doubles match.
Jeff also captained England and was an England selector.
Notably, Jeff played in his first English Open in 1947, significantly in Manchester, at the tender age of 12 years; later in 1961 partnering Kathy Best, he was the mixed doubles runner up, losing Hungary’s Zoltan Berczik and Eva Foldi.
Meanwhile in the English National Championships in 1960, the inaugural edition, Jeff won silver in the mixed doubles with Jean McCree and bronze in the men’s singles. Later in 1962 he also secured men’s singles bronze as well men’s doubles bronze in 1963 partnering Kevin Forshaw.
As a junior, Jeff undertook a tour of Sweden and Norway in 1951 with John Hunt and Cliff Booth, Tommy Sears was the captain. The tour lasted 29 days during which time 21 matches were played plus an invitation tournament and an exhibition match. Of the 21 matches, England won 20 and Jeff won 43 of his 53 encounters. He distinguished himself by beating Bo Malmquist.
The team travelled extensively sometimes undertaking 12 hour train journeys. Coming from an austere post war Britain, where much was still rationed, Jeff recalled the food was amazing. His eyes were watering at all the goodies that he hadn’t seen before or were very restricted in England. Chocolate and steak were items which unheard of at home, certainly for teenage boys.
A true sportsman in the best meaning of the word, Jeff described his proudest moment winning a gold medal in the Maccabiah Games in Israel in 1957 and 1961, in the latter year he beat fellow England international Stan Jacobson, a match which was umpired by Michel Haguenauer of France before a crowd of 3,000 in the Hilton Hotel.
Throughout his career, Jeff was as interested in the happenings of the table tennis world today as he was in the history and kept up to date with the progress of the up and coming youngsters.
My condolences go to Jeff’s daughters and all the family who were so important to him.
A memorial service will be held in a few months’ time and information regarding this will be published when known.
Read: Swaything No.106