PETER Eele, who played cricket for Somerset CCC between 1958 and 1965, recently passed away at his home in Wellington at the age of 83, writes Richard Walsh.

Born and bred in Taunton, within a mile of the County Ground, Eele was a wicketkeeper and middle order left-handed batsman.

He won a scholarship to Taunton School, where he played for the 1st XI for four years.

From a young age, Eele caught the eye of Somerset and he joined the playing staff straight from school, making his Second XI debut in 1955, finishing fourth in the batting averages.

Harold Stephenson was already well-established as the regular Somerset keeper at that time, but when he sustained an injury in 1958, Eele deputised and played in 17 matches, during which he claimed 35 victims – 29 catches and six stumpings.

His debut appearance was against Sussex at Taunton, when he let only three byes in a combined innings total of 402.

In the match against Northamptonshire at Glastonbury that season he claimed eight catches and scored 39, before being bowled by Frank Tyson – a feat Eele was proud of.

During the 1963 season Eele scored the only century of his career when he made an unbeaten 103 against the Pakistan Eaglets at Taunton.

First team appearances continued to be limited for the young keeper, but when Stephenson retired he stepped up and in 1964 played in all the First XI games, claiming 43 catches and five stumpings.

Despite his success, Somerset engaged Geoff Clayton to keep wicket for the 1965 season, at the end of which Eele left the club and went to play Minor Counties cricket for Devon.

Outside of cricket, Eele worked for a time for Whiteway’s Cider and briefly for the brewers Hall and Woodhouse, before eventually pursuing a career in banking.

He always had an interest in umpiring and in 1976 he was put on the Minor Counties list.

Three years later, he officiated in one First Class match at Portsmouth, before being added to the list in 1981, where he remained until 1984.

In 1987, he was back on the reserve list but, in 1989-90, he served on the First Class umpires list.

In addition to his interest in cricket, Eele was also a keen golfer and was the assistant secretary at the former Taunton Vale Golf Club (near Creech St Michael) for a number of years.

Latterly, he enjoyed playing bowls and played his golf at Oake Manor Golf Club.

Former Somerset president Roy Kerslake, who played alongside Eele on a number of occasions, said: “Peter was a very fine keeper and a more-than-useful left-hand bat.

“He was unfortunate that his career coincided with Harold Stephenson, so that Peter did not get as many first team calls as he deserved, but he was an extremely good reserve.”

Between 1958 and 1965, Eele played 54 First Class matches for Somerset, scoring 612 runs and claiming 106 dismissals (87 catches and 19 stumpings).