Yabba: Cricket's legendary barracker


by Mayukh Ghosh

Jack Fingleton divided barrackers into three types ( of course he was lucky not to encounter the worst type that do their bit on social media).
First, "the 'blah' type that always repeats hackneyed comments".
Next is the "baiter who rags any person susceptible to barracking. Once again being unoriginal and monotonous".

The third is the barracking genius. "He saves his 'flash of humour' for the right moment, sums up a situation, causes people to 'rock with merriment' and help many survive the grim and slow passages of play".
Stephen Harold Gascoigne belonged to the third category.

He impressed one and all. Even someone as erudite as Ray Robinson wrote about him: " Yabba was the only one who stepped forward from the rank of the chorus, so to say, and established himself as an identity. This colloquial wit had a true sense of timing. He had an old soldier's vocabulary, dating back to the South African war, for which he enlisted while on a visit to that country, in his early twenties."

Yabba was a cartoonist’s delight

Yabba was a cartoonist’s delight

The cricketers loved him. 
C.B. Fry stated that the reason for a trip to Australia was "to see Australia and hear Yabba".
Patsy Hendern carried a little red book onto the field of play so that he could note down the comments of Yabba. 
When Jack Hobbs played his final match at the SCG, he asked for Yabba and the master batsman shook hands with the master barracker.

Alan McGilvray once estimated that his comments could be heard once in every fifteen minutes.

Yabba knew how famous he was and he clearly did not regard modesty as a virtue. 
In November 1936, he was the subject of a two-minute movie script. In that he said, " I am the one and only Yabba".
He once told Arthur Mailey that he was " the greatest barracker in the world".

He was present during most matches played in the SCG over a span of forty-odd years. 
His great granddaughter Lee Feltham had a nice story to share:
Yabba went blind in later life ( sometime after 1937).He could not watch cricket anymore and had to be content with hearing the radio commentary.
His grandson was deputed to be his eyes at the cricket. 
When Stephen Jr. returned in the evening Yabba always questioned him about every ball and events during the day's play.
Stephen Jr. usually found himself in trouble if he had missed some major event during the day's play!

Yabba, though, always arrived early and watched every ball in the day's play.

Stephen Harold Gascoigne was born on March 19, 1878.