At 5.30pm on 28th January 2008 at the Royal North Shore Hospital Felix Tavener passed away aged 92 young years and Lindfield District Cricket Club lost its most iconic figure in the Club’s history since its foundation on 18 September 1923.
Felix William Tavener was born on the 5th July 1915 at Toowooba Queensland and came to live at Lightcliffe Avenue Lindfield with his family when he was 11 years of age. Felix was a student at Shore Grammar School from the opening of the Prep School in 1926 until he passed the Leaving Certificate in 1932.His early talent at cricket was such that he played in the first Eleven at Shore in 1931 and 1933. As the then Secretary of the Club Clyde Kirkwood lived opposite to Felix ,he encouraged him to join the Club in September 1933 when Felix had left school and was starting his Architectural Diploma at Sydney Technical College. That moment was to be the start of a wonderful relationship which lasted over 75 years!
Felix’s first season with the Club could not have started better. Lindfield was an inaugural member of the Sydney Shires Competition when it began in 1923 and had already won its first “A” grade premiership in 1928-29. Felix’s first performances with the Club were also etched in history as Lindfield won its second “A” grade premiership in1933-34 .The Club’s Annual Report for that season stated “We were pleased to have the services of three promising juniors in Messrs Tavener, Jones and Carson who each did his part well in his particular department and we hope that we will continue to receive their support for some years to come.”
In that amazing prophecy over those “some years “ playing for Lindfield in the Shires Competition, Felix’s elegant batsmanship accrued 10,651 runs (second only to his great friend Ross Smith) and 124 wickets with his deft leg spinners!
In the years leading up to 1938 Felix quickly established himself as a leading Lindfield “A” grade cricketer. He had the remarkable experience in a pre-season match of opening the batting facing Jack Gregory at one end, Kellaway at the other, Charlie Macartney fielding at cover point and Bert Oldfield behind the stumps! Despite this daunting challenge Felix still scored 20 odd.
In 1938 Felix decided to see the world and set sail for Europe. After visiting Germany he was in England when the Second World War was declared. In July 1940 whilst walking along the white cliffs of Dover with his mate they decided to enlist in the British Army where he was sent to Officer’s Training School. Following the completion of his course he was posted as a Lieutenant to an Anti Tank Regiment. After several months training he embarked on a ship destined for the Middle East but after rounding the Cape he heard that Japan had entered the war and his destination was changed to India. Subsequently he was involved in many battles in Burma where the British Army in deplorable conditions
successfully prevented the Japanese from reaching India. During this campaign Felix was promoted to the rank of Captain. On one occasion a battle raged all night and Felix being literally yards from the enemy sustained a gunshot wound through his right hand which in years to come made it difficult for him to spin his “toppie” and “wrong-un”. As a result of his outstanding bravery Felix became a highly decorated Soldier but never forgot the ultimate sacrifices of his colleagues and I recall regularly seeing him marching with his mates on Anzac Day in Sydney. Apparently on one occasion he came home from the March and proudly declared to his family that he had “just met the man who shot him” and that “he was actually a jolly nice fellow.”
After the war Felix spent a year with the Occupation Force in Germany. He was discharged in England in 1946 when he met and married Enid Franklin. Later that year he embarked for Australia on the ship carrying the English Cricket Team bound for an Ashes Test Series. He engaged with them so well that his new great mate Dennis Compton invited him to stay with them at their hotel in Perth upon arrival.
Back in Australia Felix quickly began civilian life again and designed and constructed his beloved home in Elgin Street Gordon where his two daughters Sue and Ann were born. He also joined an eminent firm of Architects in Sydney where his talents earned him the “Australian Architect of the Year Award “for his design of the Quantas building in Chifley Square.
He was also soon back playing with Lindfield District Cricket Club scoring runs and taking wickets. His career statistics show that except for the war years he played Shires cricket for Lindfield from 1933 until 1982 when he retired from playing aged 67 yrs. He still holds the record bowling average of 5.8 set in 1973-74 for the club in 3rd grade. In the 1960-61 Annual Report it was noted that he had a batting average in first grade of 51.5 (when aged 46) and since 1933 “ At no time has he batted better than this season”. He was Captain of the first grade for several seasons. After serving many years on the LDCC Committee he was President of the Club from 1973 until 1988. He was made a life member in 1961 and a Legend of Shires Cricket at its inception in May 2004. On 3rd March 1991 we dedicated the new Clubhouse at Acron Oval as the Felix Tavener Pavilion in a match between Ku ring gai Council Mayor’s XL vs. Lindfield District Cricket Club XL when aged 75 he scored 33 mostly with delicate late cuts past slips, elegant cover drives and sweetly timed leg glances. He also captured 2-10 with his mercurial leggies helping Lindfield to victory.
Felix lived life in the fast lane. You could never doubt his commitment to the cause. He attacked everything at the highest level whether it was cricket, golf, tennis, skiing, bowls, cards or dessert. Similarly on a social level he was a great raconteur who could be seen enjoying life to its fullest on a Friday night with his friends at the Wentworth Bar. Wonderful stories were regaled of him by Roger Gyles QC, Michael Baume, Mick Browne, Ian Moffatt and his other great friends when he and Enid were presented with a pristine Cotswold garden seat made by Life member John Jessop at a special club Dinner in his honour at the Killara Golf Club in 1988 when he stepped down as President after 15 years.
However, despite all of the accolades Felix was an extremely humble and modest man who was always reticent to divulge his accomplishments. As a devoted family man Felix always said that he was happy with his lot in life and he never expressed jealousy or envy about others. He was one the most respected and admired persons in the Australian community. I had known him since I first joined the Club in 1977 and I was honoured to have his friendship, support, advice and encouragement on all Club matters and initiatives. Together with his family his great love, passion and enjoyment was Lindfield District Cricket Club and he would always sparkle when he talked about the Club’s fortunes and performances. It was a great honour and delight when we brought him to Lindfield Oval to watch our first grade play just two weeks before his passing.
The Club has been truly blessed to have a great Australian in Felix Tavener engaged with us for so long and contribute so much to our rich tapestry. Simply he was the very best and greatest member of the Lindfield District Cricket Club and is now immortalised in Lindfield's proud history which he did more than anyone to create.
Our deepest sympathies are extended to his daughters Sue and Ann and their families. Stirling Hamman