Harry Makepeace is arguably the greatest top class sporting all-rounder England has ever seen. Like Jack Sharp, his team mate for Everton and Lancashire, he belongs to a select band of dual internationals – numbering just a dozen – who represented England at both cricket and football.
His career for Everton lasted more than a decade, and for Lancashire a quarter of a century and his achievements for both football club and county outstrip even Sharp’s. Not only did he lift the 1906 FA Cup with Sharp, but he went on to be the first man to claim both First Division championship and county cricket championship. Throw in a maiden test century against Australia at the age of forty, and the magnitude of Makepeace’s sporting achievements become clearer.
Born in Teesside, Makepeace moved to Liverpool with his family aged 10. He signed for Everton as a forward in 1901, but it was as a wing half that he made his name. After making his debut in an FA Cup tie against Manchester United in February 1903 he established himself in the team during the 1904/05 season while still an amateur. The following season he was persuaded to give up employment and devote himself to Everton full time through the winter months.
Football’s first historians Alfred Gibson and William Pickford recorded in their 1906 history of the game, Association Football and the Men Who Made It: ‘[Makepeace] came into prominence last season, when he swiftly gained a regular place on the side. Cannot now be left out: plays too well. Has already gained honours with the league, and will yet do so for country unless his critics and friends are sadly out in their reckoning.’
Indeed by the time of publication he had already fulfilled the authors’ prophesy, making the first of four international appearances for England, against Scotland at Hampden on 7 April 1906. It would be a golden month for Makepeace and just a fortnight later he was at Crystal Palace, facing Newcastle in the FA Cup Final.
Before that match Will Cuff gave a revealing insight into where he believed Everton’s true strength lay – namely the back line Makepeace formed with Walter Abbott and Jack Taylor.
‘I was fairly confident that we would beat Liverpool in the semi-final, and I feel just as confident that we shall defeat Newcastle United,’ said Cuff ‘Mind you, I do not wish in any way to underrate the ability of our opponents, but I rather fancy out half-backs, will not allow the United to settle down to their proper game. That is my feeling. Their ten men may be better than out ten men in the field, but as for the eleventh man –the goalkeeper – I am quite confident we have the advantage.’ His words were prophetic indeed, and Everton lifted their first FA Cup after a 1-0 win.
Makepeace was now one of the most important members of an Everton squad of which longevity and regularity were hallmarks of its members. They reached another FA Cup Final in 1907, losing to Sheffield Wednesday and also fell away in the league that year, finishing third when a better run in would have brought them another league title. Again in 1908/09 and 1911/12 Everton came tantalisingly close to the championship, on both occasions finishing runners up.
By now the team that had won the FA Cup had been broken up, with the likes of Jack Sharp and Jack Taylor retiring, but Makepeace remained. In the veteran stage of his football career, his crowning moment came in 1914/15 when he was part of the Everton team that defied all odds and won the First Division Championship. It was the final action of a one-club footballing career and a glorious conclusion to it as well.
As a cricketer Makepeace’s career was equally distinguished. He made his Lancashire debut in 1906, when he was 24, and played until he was aged nearly 50. In 487 matches he scored 25,207 runs, averaging 36.37.
It was said that his cricketing philosophy was that to show respect to bowlers before lunch was no sign of weakness but merely a necessary prelude to a successful onslaught afterwards. He was ‘solid and staid’ according to the Lancashire historian, John Kay. But he was also one of the cornerstones of a team that won three consecutive county championships in the late-1920s.
‘Makepeace gave great service to Lancashire, first as an obdurate opening batsman with strong defence, who relied on pushes, nudges and good placement for most of his runs. He was also a good cover fieldsman and occasionally a useful leg spinner,’ Robert Brooke and David Goodyear wrote in their history of Lancashire. He was appointed coach in 1931, not retiring until 1951 when he was made an honorary life member.
With England he toured Australia in 1920-21, when England lost the Ashes series 5-0. Despite the grim results, Makepeace was a rare bright light, becoming the oldest player to score a maiden test century in the fourth test in Melbourne. The umpire said of it: ‘He was typical of the proverbial bull dog pluck, a stern, determined batter, giving no points away and losing none. Watching the ball right up to the handle, Makepeace clipped everything that came along loosely.’
He was, wrote the cricket historian Brian Bradshaw, ‘a highly respected, well-loved man. Everybody who came into contact with him spoke fondly about his courtesy, understanding and willingness to help.’
When he died in 1952, the Liverpool Echo’s ‘Ranger’ recorded: ‘His death removes one of the finest sportsmen it has been my good fortune to know. The name of Harry Makepeace was always synonymous with the highest standards of skill and clean sportsmanship at both cricket and football.’