Stepney, London born Charles Percy McGahey was better known as a cricketer but was also a footballer of note. He played football as a full back for City Ramblers, Clapton, The Corinthians and Middlesex. He played once for Tottenham Hotspur in 1898-99, and represented The London Association. He also had spells on the books of Woolwich Arsenal and Sheffield United without appearing for their first elevens.
As a cricketer he played 437 matches for Essex, London County and England, including two Test matches on England’s 1901-02 tour of Australia, between 1894 and his retirement in 1921. McGahey also played cricket for London County between 1901 and 1904 and was named as one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 1902. His cricket career is closely associated with that of Percy Perrin, his Essex team mate, and they were known as “The Essex Twins”.
McGahey first appeared for Essex in 1893 when the county had second class status before it joined the County Championship in 1895. During his long career he scored 20,723 runs with an average of 30.20 in first class cricket and as a slow right-hand leg-break bowler he took 328 wickets at 31 runs each.
Usually going in second wicket down McGahey shared in three very prolific stands for Essex. In 1900 against Kent at Leyton he and Perrin scored 323 together, setting up what at that time was a record for the third wicket. Four years later at The Oval he and Herbert Carpenter took 328 off the Surrey bowlers and at Leyton in 1912 he and Perrin added 312 against Derbyshire. McGahey’s highest innings was 277 against Derbyshire at Leyton in 1905, but probably the best display of batting he ever gave was at Old Trafford in July 1898. Essex wanted 336 in the last innings and the previous best total of the match was 254, but thanks to McGahey, who scored 145, they won by four wickets. McGahey’s partnership of 191 with Perrin for the third wicket practically decided the result of a memorable game. In 1908 at Leyton he drove a ball from Hallam, the Nottinghamshire bowler, over the Pavilion and into the road.
McGahey reached the height of his form in 1901 when he headed the Essex batting with an aggregate of 1,627 runs and an average of 47. His five centuries included one for London County against Warwickshire at the Crystal Palace and two in the match against Gloucestershire at Leyton with 114 and 145 not out. Altogether that summer he scored 1,838 runs with an average of 48.36, and took 52 wickets at 28.50 each. Such was his play that season that he was chosen as one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Year for the Almanack and he went out to Australia with the team which A. C. MacLaren captained. However his two Test match appearances for England at Sydney and Melbourne in February 1902 were not a great success, McGahey scoring 38 runs in 4 innings with a highest score of 18.
In minor cricket he played many big innings. In 1901 he and Perrin made 309 for Tottenham’s first wicket at Clapton without being separated. In 1896 he made 205 for Leyton against Clapton and in 1906 at Llanelly for an Essex eleven he played the highest innings of his career – 305 not out.
After his death in January 1935 the following was published:
Mr. Percy Perrin, the best batsman in England who never played Test Cricket, and still well known as one of the present Selection Committee, gives this appreciation of his old colleague: “Charles McGahey, in my view, was one of the most popular and kindest hearted players ever seen in first class cricket; certainly he was most encouraging to any young player. I have known him on many occasions go out of his way to give a youngster good advice. Dry humour was an outstanding feature of his attractive characteristics. Having played with him more or less for 25 years I consider McGahey one of the very best cricketers Essex ever had. Really a magnificent cricketer he was undoubtedly the hardest hitter I ever faced. The opposite batsman had to keep his eyes open, as McGahey used to jump to the ball and drive back very straight. On one occasion he drove the ball back so hard that he broke his partner’s arm!
“I well remember one instance of his quick thinking wit when I was in at the other end. McGahey was 99, he played at the next ball, said come one but failed in his stroke and was bowled. As he passed by on the way to the pavilion he said to the bowler “Lucky for you I wanted a drink”.
“I think one of his greatest innings was 277 against Derbyshire in 1905. He and I had many long stands together. Two come to mind readily. Kent, having fielded out 270 runs at the Oval without taking a Surrey wicket in the last stage of a drawn match, came to Leyton, and lost the toss; they got two men out before lunch, then McGahey and I batted the rest of the day and altogether added 323. The other was 312 against Derbyshire seven years later. McGahey was then 41 and I, 36. We made the runs in about three hours, his share was 150.
“A very useful change bowler McGahey got us out of many a difficulty. He was a self made cricketer without any tuition whatever. We were dubbed Essex Twins by Joe Armour, the Essex scorer for 44 years – a living volume of Essex cricket history. When I started Joe Armour, in his quaint way, complained that he could not distinguish one from the other. McGahey’s height was 6 feet 2 inches, mine 6 feet 3 inches. He suggested that one of the twins should wear a scarf round his waist so that he could get the runs down to the right man.
NB From a Tottenham Hotspur historical website:
“McGahey was associated with Spurs for much of the 1890’s, initially as a player and later as a committee member. A native of Bethnal Green, he played for the amateur club City Ramblers, represented the London FA and turned out on occasion for Millwall and Woolwich Arsenal. There are 19 recorded instances of him featuring in our first XI but it was behind the scenes that much of his best work for the club was done. He later played for Clapton.
His cricket career started as a 19-year-old at Romford in 1890 and two years later he joined Leyton CC. From 1893 until 1921 he served Essex CCC, playing in 437 first class matches. The highlight of his career was touring Australia with the MCC in 1902 when he featured in the fourth and fifth tests at Sydney and Melbourne.
Charlie was official scorer to Essex CCC, based at Leyton until 1933, up to his death in January 1935.”
Wisden also mentions McGahey’s footballing activities as follows:
“Charles McGahey was a splendid full-back at Association Football. He played for City Ramblers, Tottenham, Hotspur, Clapton, Woolwich Arsenal and Sheffield United besides captaining both London and Middlesex when representative elevens often included famous Corinthians.”