Geoffrey Byass was the son of steel magnate Sir Sidney Byass, and served with the 24th Battalion Welsh Regiment during the Great War before making one appearance for Glamorgan in their friendly with Carmarthenshire at Swansea during 1920.
Born at Craigafon, Port Talbot in September 1895, Geoffrey had been educated at Winchester where he showed great promise as a sportsman. After attending Sandhurst he joined the Glamorgan Yeomanry and swiftly rose to the rank of Lieutenant in April 1915 before being promoted to the rank of Captain in February 1917. This followed a successful campaign with the Yeomanry in Palestine, before the regiment was redeployed to France for the Hundred Days Offensive. Geoffrey and his colleagues arrived at Marseilles in May 1918 before heading north and taking part in the Second Battle of the Somme as well as the advance on the Hindenburg Line. Captain Byass subsequently took part in a final advance into Flanders and was at the small town of Ath in Belgium when hostilities finally ceased on November 11th, 1918.
He subsequently returned to South Wales and to his family’s new home at Llandough Castle – a rebuilt and fortified manor house, dating back to the 14th century which in the early 1800s 1803 had several castellated effects added to the main building. The house had a great cricketing pedigree as during the second half of the 19th century it was the home of the Stacey family who were highly influential in cricket in South Wales, whilst from the 1890s onwards it had been the home of Harry Ebsworth, a wealthy businessman and cricket fanatic who oversaw the creation of a ground for Cowbridge and personally financed the acquisition of a professional.
Given the Byass family’s social standing and great cricketing interest, Llandough Castle was a fitting new home. In September 1919 Geoffrey married Marian Bruce, the daughter of Sir Gerald Trevor Bruce of St.Hilary and sister of Clarence Bruce, the Middlesex and Wales cricketer. Indeed, it may well have been at a match staged by the MCC, of which both gentlemen were playing members, that Geoffrey first met Marian.
Geoffrey was a very talented all-rounder, playing with distinction for Bridgend Town CC, as well as for the South Wales Hunts and for Glamorgan in 1920 against Carmarthenshire at Swansea. Had the Great War not taken place, Geoffrey might well have played for Glamorgan on a regular basis. As it was, the match at the St. Helen’s ground was his sole game in the county’s colours, with Geoffrey opening the bowling. He went wicket-less in the first innings, but did claim one wicket a second time around, whilst at the other end Frank Pinch took nine wickets. 1920 also saw Geoffrey play for the MCC against Glamorgan, again at Swansea, where he made 0 and 15 against the county professionals.
Geoffrey’s cricketing credentials as well as his social contacts saw him subsequently play against Glamorgan during the mid-1920s for JHP Brain’s XI in their annual pre-season matches at Cardiff Arms Park as the county players prepared for the new season. Several other members of the South Wales Hunts also played for Captain Brain’s side and in 1926 his younger brother Rupert also appeared in the side which met Glamorgan.
His father Sidney was also a fervent supporter of Glamorgan CCC and for a short while acted as the Club’s Chairman besides providing them with a £1000 loan in 1921 to assist with their arrangements as they made their bow as a first-class county. Geoffrey maintained his military links by serving with the Territorial Army during the 1920s and commended the 323 Battery. In 1924 Geoffrey also went into local politics, serving on the local council in Port Talbot as well as learning about the management of his father’s business.
Sidney died in February 1929 and Geoffrey, as the eldest son, duly became Second Baronet Byass and inherited his late father’s steel and tinplate business. During the 1930s he oversaw the operation of the Margam and Port Talbot works, besides serving as Mayor of Port Talbot in 1937/38. The following year however, he sold the Margam complex to Richard Thomas and Baldwins.
Geoffrey had five children, and in 1949, on the marriage of his daughter Daphne, he became father-in-law of Guy Mathews, an Army captain who like Geoffrey was a talented cricketer and member of the South Wales Hunts, who played for Glamorgan in friendly matches during their Championship-winning summer of 1948. Geoffrey Byass died in Surrey in November 1976 after a busy life in the military, business and cricketing world.
BYASS, Geoffrey Robert Sidney.
Born: Port Talbot, 30 September 1895.
Died: Tilford, Surrey, 4 November 1976.
Batting and Fielding Record
Minor County Friendlies – 21 and 1/25 v Carmarthenshire at St. Helen’s, Swansea, 1920.