A WARWICKSHIRE cricketer-turned-shopkeeper who ran sports stores in Solihull for more than 30 years has died aged 89.
New Zealand-born batsman Ray Hitchcock scored more than 12,000 runs for Warwickshire County Cricket Club – The Bears – in 320 matches over 15 years.
He was the last survivor of Edgbaston’s 1951 county championship-winning team.
Ray grew up in Christchurch and came over to the Midlands in 1949 for a two-week trial at The Bears where he went on to raise funds for improvement of Edgbaston cricket ground at a time when the club was struggling financially.
In 1956 he opened a sports outfitter shop on Poplar Road in Solihull then moved it around the corner to Station Road before opening a second shop in Drury Lane in the town centre.
Ray, who died peacefully in his sleep on September 8, ran Solihull Sports Service until his partial-retirement in 1990.
Ray married his sweetheart Ann in 1959, the year the couple moved to Solihull, and they had three children Amanda, Sandra and Allan.
The family lived in Solihull until the early 1970s before moving to Hockley Heath where Ray and Ann lived ever since.
Paying tribute, son Allan said: “Although I never told him, I was so proud of his achievements.
“He was a great role model, genuine, honest with very strict values and I was proud to be his son.”
Allan said that, out of the cricketing season, Ray could be spotted on the rugby pitch in his early years then he took up golf and swimming later on in life.
From 1978, Ray could also been seen in the paddocks.
Allan said his passion for horses started with a partial share in a horse called Fear Naught when she won the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot.
He added: “From this success, Ray and Anne formed Messinger Stud, where they bred many winners until final retirement.”
Once he finally retired in 2017 the grandfather-of-five would spend his time looking after race horses in retirement and watching the race channel.