At home with the Boycotts
PUBLISHED: 10:47 11 September 2015 | UPDATED: 16:38 30 August 2018
The wife and daughter of Geoffrey Boycott talk about life with the Yorkshire and England cricketing legend. Words by Paul Mackenzie. Photographs by Andy Bulmer
He is one of Yorkshire’s most recognisable faces and voices. He captained his county and played more than 100 Test Matches for England before embarking on a successful media career. But Geoffrey Boycott’s career has been littered with controversy – stories of friction between him and fellow players or the game’s hierarchy are legion – and his private life has been pretty eventful too.
But in spite of the headlines, Rachael has been a part of his life for more than 40 years. She has spent much of that time hiding from the public gaze but invited Yorkshire Life into their beautiful home to talk about charity fundraising, her on-off-on again love affair with Geoffrey, and how proud the couple are of their daughter who Geoffrey didn’t meet until she was eight years old.
Emma, who celebrates her 27th birthday this month, has recently turned her back on a career in the law to become an event organiser. One of her biggest jobs to date was organising, with mum Rachael, a fundraising dinner for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance which was held in the Boycotts’ garden in July.
‘I used to go to Emma’s flat in Leeds next to Nuffield Hospital and I’d watch the air ambulance helicopter,’ Rachael said. ‘She was on the top floor and you could hear and see the helicopter and it made me realise what a great service it is. Any of us could need it at any time and after Geoffrey’s cancer we always like to be supporting a charity so I volunteer him for things.
‘We’re trying to give them a higher profile. Last year they needed £10,000 a day to maintain the service and this year it’s £12,000 a day to keep the two helicopters in the air.
‘The lunch was about raising money and awareness. I come up with ideas but I wouldn’t have been able to organise it all. I don’t think I would have done it or thought to do it if Emma hadn’t embarked on her second career.’
Rachael’s pride in her daughter is obvious and her father too has spoken of his feelings towards the girl he didn’t meet for the first eight years of her life. ‘He has said he should have married me a lot earlier and had three like her,’ Rachael said. ‘But if we had married in the 1970s I don’t know if we would still be together.’
The couple eventually married in February 2003 in a low key ceremony at Wakefield register office and now live in a large and impressive Grade II listed Georgian house in Boston Spa which they converted from a block of flats.
Staff patrol the house with vacuums and dusters as we sit and chat in Rachael’s lounge overlooking the immaculate circular lawn reminiscent of a cricket pitch, with a gravel path for a boundary.
Geoffrey has his own lounge across the hallway, complete with Versace furniture and shelves of books (mainly cricket related, but the autobiography of his good friend Michael Parkinson is also obvious). ‘We have a lounge each so he can watch CSI and I can watch the Kardashians,’ Rachael said. The décor and position of ornaments in the lounges and elsewhere in the house is partly dictated by feng shui which Geoffrey became interested in during his treatment for throat cancer. At that time he took advice on which way he should face in his sleep and since then, Emma said, their feng shui master has had some more ideas. ‘He’s had them doing all sorts of things. He had dad release live fish into the sea in Cape Town. He had to go and get two live fish from a restaurant and walk across the road and put them in the sea.’
Geoffrey and Rachael Swinglehurst first met in 1974, his first benefit year with Yorkshire. It was September 6th, six weeks before Geoffrey’s 34th birthday and an occasion Rachael, who was 22 at the time, remembers clearly.
‘It was at the Lamb Inn in Rainton,’ she said. ‘We went back there last year for the 40th anniversary of our first meeting and I joked with the landlord that I thought they still had the same carpet down. The food was good though.
‘I had grown up at Masham and my father had played cricket for the village side. I was about 11 or 12 when I was volunteered to score for them, so I understood the game. It was different then, there wasn’t the same level of coverage. I knew Geoffrey Boycott was a batsman for Yorkshire and England but I didn’t know what he looked like or anything about him.
‘The landlord at the pub pestered me to help out that night and that’s how I met him. There was a raffle and someone said what I might win. I said I’d rather win Geoffrey and it turned out I did. We went out for five or six years but I finished it.’
They were back together in 1986 and Emma was born two years later. ‘That caused another parting,’ Rachael added. ‘The press found out about me and the baby and they wouldn’t leave me alone – the News of the World offered me a six figure sum for my story and that was a huge amount back then.
‘I took Emma to live in Tenerife and she was six when we came back to live in Whitby. I had always been in contact with Geoffrey and we both wanted Emma to go to school in England.
‘When we came back to England, Geoffrey came back into my life. She always knew who her father was, there was never any acrimony.’
The Yorkshire and England star first met his daughter when she was eight – ‘We went for lunch at Oulton Hall. He was late,’ Rachael said – but Emma added: ‘I always knew who he was and that he wasn’t there but it wasn’t odd for me because that was the norm. I remember him arriving that day we first met and he’d brought some weird presents for me.
‘We had a different relationship from the start to that my friends had with their fathers but he adores me now, so why worry about what happened in the past? I didn’t want for love. I had three parents, my mum and my grandparents. He and mum are happy now and that’s what matters.’
Rachael admits to not being particularly maternal – ‘I think children should be about eight when you get them. By that age you can bribe them and speak to them properly. I like her so much more now she’s grown up’ – but adds that Emma was like a parent to Geoffrey. ‘She changed him a lot. He had never had to put himself out for anyone. He was the oldest and he was totally spoilt by his mother,’ she said.
‘He just didn’t know how to parent. I’d tell him he had to let her win at games sometimes but he just said “why?” He could be very brusque at times and you could see how people could become offended but if I pointed it out he’d be mortified. They are very similar and neither would ever knowingly do a bad thing.’
Geoffrey is now considered an elder statesman of English cricket, broadcasting for television and radio where his commentary is full of blunt Yorkshire commonsense and he writes in typical no-nonsense style for the Daily Telegraph. ‘He has a reputation for being grumpy,’ Emma said. ‘But he’s not, he’s very soft except when he’s angry.’