BACK in 1953, as a swashbuckling, fresh-faced opening batsman, Geoffrey Gillow made his mark on history at Darlington Cricket Club.

Geoffrey contributed 107 runs against Guisborough, while partner John Camburn racked up 114. With extras, the stand at the Feethams ground reached 233 and stood as a second team record for years to come.

At 1pm next Monday, 66 years on from that record-breaking opening, Geoffrey’s remarkable innings will come to a close when his funeral takes place back at his beloved cricket club.

Cricketing feats aside, Geoffrey, who has been finally given out for 103, will be remembered as the debonair entrepreneur, and engaging character, who brought style to the menfolk of Darlington by opening a fashion store that still bears his name.

His son Bill, who continues to run the Grange Road shop, says: “He had such a strong connection to the cricket club – it meant a lot to him – so we thought it would be the perfect place for his funeral.”

The humanist service, along with the wake, will be staged there, with Geoffrey making a final entrance in his coffin, before a private family farewell at Darlington Crematorium.

As a reflection of his fun-loving personality, it will not be a morbid affair but a celebration.

“He loved people, and he loved life, so we didn’t want it to be depressing,” says Bill.

“It will be sad, of course, but we also want to remember him with smiles and he’d have loved the thought of going out from the cricket club.”

It was my pleasure to interview Geoffrey for this column three years ago, to mark him reaching his own personal century, and it emerged that he’d just voluntarily re-taken his driving test and passed with flying colours.

The only criticism made by the examiner was that he was only doing 40mph on a country road, near Sedgefield, where the speed limit was 60.

“The chap said I should have been going faster but it was a bendy road, so I think I was right to go steady,” Geoffrey told me with the confidence of a man who’d survived long enough to feel justified in his opinion.

“The examiner also wanted to know when I’d last read the Highway Code and I said ‘yesterday’. Well, I was going to be taking my test so, of course, I read it. I’m not daft, am I?”

Geoffrey finally stopped driving when he was 101 and spent the last year of his life at North Park Care Home, in Darlington, where he toasted his 103rd birthday with a few glasses of red wine shortly before he passed away.

The column about the driving test was picked up nationally, and Geoffrey’s fame spread way beyond Darlington when he was featured in ITV’s “100-year-old Driving School” series.

For as long as he retained his licence, Geoffrey’s silver Mercedes A-Class would often be pointed in the direction of the Stadium of Light, so he could  continue his lifelong love affair with Sunderland Football Club.

“I was there when they played in the Cup Final,” he told me, proudly.

“In 1973?” I asked.

“No, 1937 when they beat Preston North End,” he replied. “We didn’t get home that night because we got well and truly p***** up in London and caught the train the next morning.”

Geoffrey also remained an active member of Darlington Golf Club, as well as Brass Castle, in Middlesbrough, until he was 88.

When I asked him for the secret to a long life, he replied without hesitation: “Being a coward – you just keep your head down and dodge trouble.”

That was how he managed to get through the war while serving in the 8th Armoured Brigade with Field Marshall Montgomery.

Geoffrey had originally joined the Northumberland Fusiliers, and was billeted at a disused holiday camp on the Isle of Wight, “waiting for the invasion”, when the call went up for a trained typist.

“I’d messed about the odd time with two fingers on my father’s old typewriter, so I volunteered for the job,” he recalled. “Sometime later, I found myself at El Alamein with Monty, but I was only ever behind the lines because I was a clerical worker, even though I couldn’t type to save my life.”

When the fighting stopped, Geoffrey proposed to Minna, the Middlesbrough lass he’d sent letters to throughout the war. They were married on July 20, 1945, and their first child, Pamela, was born nine months later, with Bill soon to follow.

Geoffrey began his retail career at Blacketts carpet shop in his native Sunderland, going on to gain further experience with Sam’s Furniture in Middlesbrough, before moving to Bainbridge Barkers department store in Darlington.

From there, he launched his own business in 1966 and – just like him – the shop has stood the test of time.

Successful entrepreneur, record-breaking sportsman, dodgy typist, evergreen driver, loving family man, and colourful character – long may the name of Geoffrey Gillow grace Darlington town centre.

Yes, the dapper old gentleman may have finally been bowled out for 103 – but didn’t he bat with style?