Doug Keeble (1925-1995)
Many will be sorry at the death of Doug Keeble at the age of seventy, after a long illness. He was one of Eton Fives' great characters and was also a strong link with the history of the game immediately after the War, when he played no small part in the revival of Eton Fives in the ensuing years.
It was from 1951, when he became Honorary Secretary of the Old Olavians' Eton Fives Club for several years, that he built up a large fixture list and became an important figure in helping the club to reach status whereby they could challenge the best in the country. He was particularly good at inspiring young talent at school to continue playing after leaving.
For a number of years Doug served on the EFA Committee where his clear-sighted contributions to discussion were invaluable. He was resolute about fairness and had no hesitation in sharply reprimanding anyone, in or out of committee, sometimes with an acerbic wit, if he felt it appropriate. Both before and after serving on the Committee he did much work for the game behind the scenes. In the days before much of the secretarial load was delegated, his help and advice were frequently sought. In particular, in the 1960's, when the supply of balls had become almost critical, he investigated tirelessly possible new sources of supply until he was able to point the Committee in the right direction.
As a player, Doug was of good average ability and in fact reached the Kinnaird semi-finals in 1959 with fellow Olavian, D R Williamson. where they lost to Salopians, M L Y Ainsworth and D R S Saunders, 1-3. In 1980 he won the Ipswich Tournament with M R Fenn. He had the unorthodox, but effective, back-hand shot and he was always a steadying influence when he had a young partner, being able to coax the best from him. In his prime, he was always available for matches and was constantly on the look-out for additional games with other clubs, which probably gave him some seventy matches a year. On court, he was a stickler for the rules and etiquette.
Many in Eton Fives owe a debt of gratitude to Doug Keeble. There are those who have since achieved eminence in the game and who at some stage could have been lost to Eton Fives for one reason or another but for his quiet words of encouragement at a negative time. Somehow, the various competition finals, which he supported loyally for years, will not be the same without him. Hopefully, the numerous anecdotes about him will survive for many years to come but, thankfully, his name will live on with the Douglas Keeble Cup, which he donated for the League Competition, being pleased that R T Spooner had proposed the League as an Olavian initiative.
Doug was also devoted to cricket and he frequently opened the batting for the Old Olavians 3rd XI. He always bathed his eyes with cold water before batting and watched the ball with exaggerated care. In 1955, he decided to start his own cricket club - Horsleydown, near St Olave's when it was at Tower Bridge. It was to be a nursery for the Old Olavians Cricket Club which he saw as having shortcomings in the development of young cricketers. He gathered a group of young players and quickly developed a full list of fixtures on Sundays, plus a Kent tour, running the club single-handedly for many years. Although he attracted some very good players it was always the Old Olavians in whom he took the greatest interest and pride. He was very proud of his one and only century around 1970 but he also achieved some fifties. As his fitness began to go, his own contribution on the field became less and Horsleydown Cricket Club finished in 1985.
In his career, Doug was a scientific civil servant, being an Experimental Officer in the Ministry of Defence. Apart from Fives and cricket, one of his other great loves was music, in particular Beecham.
Those of us who saw him in his last days were shocked and saddened at the state of his health and would wish to remember him in happier times - a tall but slightly stooped, shambling figure to be seen in places as diverse as Orpington, Shrewsbury, Highgate, Eton, Birmingham. Blackfriars, Ipswich and Westminster, half carrying, half dragging an outsize red cricket holdall, frequently out of which would be hanging a sleeve of an old cricketing sweater limply, yet defiantly, waving at the passing world.
To Doug's devoted family we offer our sincere condolences.