In the Beginning . . . . De La Salle Cricket (Kevin Tradewell)

In The Beginning

For ever in my mind Hugh Molloy is associated with Old Boy’s Cricket, though he never played in or even attended a single match. What he did do was deliver a message from Ron Chapman that the Old Boys were to play their first match on the coming Saturday.

It was early summer, 1947. As usual , the team was a man short and I was invited to play.

The real beginning, of course, was earlier than this, when Ted Noon and friends - with Ted the secretary and driving force - brought the Club into being.

Memory fades but Little London Works spring to mind as our opponents in that first game. Our team included John Artindale, Bernard Pickin, Ron Chapman, Leo Horrax, Terry Clarke, Stan Noon, Ray Leslie and K. Tradewell. Ted Noon was present but unable to play owing to a football injury. Pat o’ Grady was also unavailable. Whether Lol Kidman played I can’t remember but he certainly took over the captaincy at some stage that year and became our first recognised captain. Peter Chisholm also played in 1947, but was he in that first game?

That first match was lost, despite a good innings from John Artindale. The match against the Gas Board at Wadsley Bridge was notable because it was Jack Howe’s first game for the team. In one game Stan Noon and K Tradewell, as the tallest men in the side, opened both bowling and batting. Their ability was quickly assessed and the experiment was not repeated.

A New Captain

The long, hot summer of 1948 saw the side become established, with new players and a greatly extended fixture list. Harry Thompson, Mick Heffernan, Graham Frost, Hugh Hand and Bill Gallagher joined the side.

Lol Kidman, our captain till early 1948, had always made it clear that the arrangement was only temporary. One evening as we came off after a 20 overs match v Sheffield Transport at Four Lane Ends we were told in the changing room that a certain Jim Cleary was to join the side and become captain. Few of us recognised the name, but being good Catholic lads we recognised an ex cathedra pronouncement when we heard one and acquiesced without question. How that decision was arrived at we neither knew nor cared. We assumed Jim was the choice of the great and the good - which in Old Boys’ terms meant Hugh Morton, Cricket Club chairman and Chairman of the Old Boys’ Association. We were told that our new skipper had played for the RAF, was a stylish bat, useful off-spinner and expert fielder. As things turned out the choice was inspired: Jim was our captain for ten years and became a legend in Old Boys’ cricket.

The 1945 Stanton match was memorable. There were no cars in those days, so we caught the bus to Bakewell, then a bus for Rowsley, disembarking at the foot of a long, steep and winding hill. Laden with our own gear and the Club bag, we set off on the interminable climb. It was a hot day. We arrived half an hour late and exhausted. Needless to say, we lost. Stanton had eight left-handers playing for them! We had our photograph taken. The team was Jim Cleary, Harry Thompson, Jack Howe, Mick Heffernan, Hugh Hand, Bill Gallagher, Ron Cox, Graham Gould, Graham Frost, Charlie Mulrennan and K. Tradewell. Margaret Cox and Eleanor Thompson came along to cheer. Later we sampled the Mansfield Ale at the Flying Childers for the first of what were to be many happy times.

(Editor’s Note: Peter Chisholm has a different recollection of this match. He recalls the team arriving back at Grindleford Station and calling for a drink at the Maynard Arms, where a gang of autograph-hunting small boys mistook them for Bradman’s Australians, currently playing at the Lane and staying at the Maynard. As Peter tells it, Bill Gallagher, perhaps the slowest bowler of all time, wrote Bill Lindwall for several slightly mystified fans. Perhaps it was a different match.)

In 1949 John Kennedy joined us. He came to watch us at Old Firparnians. We were a man short (as usual). He went home for some boots and was an ever-present for the next ten years. He and Brother Christopher were a perfect opening partnership, John all power and aggression, Chris the classical stroke-maker.

Our opponents that summer included Youlgreave, Old Dronfieldians, Darnall Wellington, Longstone, Stanton, Eyam, Inland Revenue, Old Firparnians, St Cuthbert’s and Middlewood Hospital.

Ted Riordan was our scorer, earning the title “Very Meritorious” for his performance on a bitterly cold day at Youlgreave, wearing four sweaters, two coats and a yellow and black cap.

It was in 1949 that Oswald Charlier became our permanent umpire. He became well-known in Derbyshire for his white sun-hat (not as common in those days), his profound knowledge of the game and an imperious manner which brooked no question. He travelled with us for many years and was greatly missed when ill health forced him to retire.

In that year, too, I think, Dick Hespe joined us and became a stalwart of the side. Always in demand because of his car, he developed into a stylish middle order batsman and remained a constant link between past and present. In the early fifties he introduced his brothers, George and Peter, fine cricketers both, into the team and on many occasions his father George acted as umpire. Later, his son, John, a batsman of real quality, played for the Old Boys.

Hollow Meadows

Until well into the Sixties the Old Boys’ CC were a peripatetic side, apart from the odd match the school ground at Crabtree. But towards the end of 1950 Jack Howe struck up a friendship with a Mr Hammond and Mr Pickard and they offered the Old Boys a field at Hollow Meadows asa home ground. It was a large field, miles from anywhere, with a pronounced slope. It had been used for grazing. There was an old farm building, which Jack said could be turned into a pavilion. A small group spent many winter Sunday mornings attempting to bring the transformation about. While John Kennedy worked with his trowel on the “pavilion” the rest of us jumped up and down on a large sheet of metal in the middle of the field,hoping thus to produce a level square. At that time Hollow Meadows was a well known institution. Visitors observing Tess Cleary, Kit Howe, Margaret Cox and assorted Old Boys jumping up and down in the field nearby could have been excused for thinking we belonged inside.

The task was hopeless and one by one the volunteers drifted away and so ended our first attempt at obtaining a home ground.

Our cricket, however, went from strength to strength. New fixtures included Stannington, YMCA, PWD, Old Edwardians, Rowsley, Grindleford, Calver and many others. The “grudge” matches with Ashford were firmly established. We played several colliery team: Langwith, who invariably thrashed us, Harthill, Cresswell and Oxcroft - the last renowned for its sandwiches and Beryl Scott’s post-match entertainment in the Colliery Club.

Into the team in the early 50’s came Dennis Murray, Hugh Morton, Peter Pathe, Pat Hopkins, Hugh O’ Grady, Arnold Wilson, Chris Flint, Joe Uren, Mick Pring, Dave Burdett, Alan Harrigan, Terry Green, John Wall, George Hespe and Jim Conroy. With Brother Wilfrid in charge of cricket at the College we were assured of a regular supply of class cricketers. Neil Staniland, Brian Snalune, Ticker McLoughlin, Jack McCarren, Des Wilson and “Snogger” Smith were fairly regular players and Pat Flaherty and Graham Burdett, top class batsmen, guested for us when not on duty with Shiregreen. Brothers Alphonsus and Robert, John Thelwell, Brian (Hooker) Hosty, Mick Shepherd and Tex Heaney were also among our numbers in those halcyon days.

Caps and Tankards

Jack Howe scored 25 in a match at Longstone and elated by the occasion decided that the Club should award caps. At first we could afford only a badge, green in colour, matching a few caps owned by the team. Jack, however, bought a green cap, sewed his badge on and wore it at a jaunty angle for the rest of his cricketing days.

Eventually we decided to have a Club cap. It necessitated many and lengthy meeting at the South Seas - Jim Cleary’s local. Many designs resulted but no decisions. Decision making not being a Club strength. Things got even worse when Jack Howe decided the ladies should join the discussions, which in consequence became lengthier and more animated, but no more decisive. Only on match days did the Club become a unit, forged into a team by Jim’s leadership and our respect for him.

During the 50’s John Kennedy scored a century and K. Tradewell took a hundred wickets in a season. They repeated their feats and others players eventually matched them. The award of silver tankards was suggested. Thus was born another tradition: the Presentation Evening at a winter venue with much merry-making and we decided that even those not qualifying in the normal way should have a tankard too, marked For Meritorious Service, after Ted Riordan of Youlgreave fame.

Umpires, Supporters, Scorers, Entertainers

Oswald Charlier was our first regular umpire. His cricketing knowledge, neutrality and - above all - presence helped the team to a reputation perhaps greater than it deserved. In the later 50’s when we sought a replacement we were again fortunate. Five fond fathers were available to fill the gap, even when their sons were not playing. Mr Snalune (Brian’s father), Bert Griffiths (Ralph and David’s father), Jim Finnigan (Jim Junior’s dad), Mr Hespe and Frank Cunningham all stood for us at times. Frank’s son was that superb batsman, Peter, whom the RAF snatched away from us all too soon.

Nor did we lack supporters. Early fans like Margaret Cox, Kit Howe, Harry Thompson’s wife and Tess Cleary were later joined by Margaret Kennedy, Eileen Harrigan, Barbara Pathe, Mary Hespe (Dick’s wife) and family, George Hespe’s wife, Mary, Katri Tradewell, Imedla Gallagher and Sylvia Hopkins - and the list would go on if memory permitted. In those simple days people out by bus and train to watch us play. A snap taken on a lovely sunny day at Grindleford in the early 50’s shows quite a crowd in attendance. Jim Green (Terry’s dad) can be seen quite clearly, as can Ralph Griffiths, Gerard Conlon, Dennis Kennedy et all. Alex Havenhand was another loyal supporter, always cheerful and pleasant in manner, ready to help out when we were short, sharing the amusement his innovative methods in the field sometimes produced.

Keith Coddington followed us faithfully for many years and took it upon himself to look after the ladies who came with us. Barbara Pathe, Eileen Harrigan, Katri Tradewell and Imedla Moorhouse have fond memories of paddling with him at Ashford in the Water in happy summer days of long ago.

We were lucky with scorers. Ted Riordan could puncture any player of inflated ego but limited success. Margaret Cox, who took on the role when Ted was unavailable, soon had her opposite number deferring to her knowledge. Michael Simpson did the job while still a youngster, later turning out a few times for the team. A galaxy of ladies followed, led by Margaret Kennedy, with Barbara Pathe and Eileen Harrigan taking over when Margaret was missing or wanted a break.

Why did the ladies perform the scoring so willinghly and deveotedly? The answer lay in Jim Cleary’s combination of old world charm and the look of a little boy lost. Later in the 50’s the spell worked on Janet Burdett and she took on the duties of regular scorer.

After the match we would gather round the piano in our favourite local hostelries in the villages we visited. Dennis and Jack Howe would entertain us in the manner of the Western Brothers, with Denis on the piano. Jack was a good pianist too and his “Sam, Pick Up Thy Musket”, “Now You’ve All Been to Lords” and “Bill Gallagher Joined the Old Boys Cricket Club” will long remain in the memory.

Bill’s handkerchief trick and his rendition of Edith Piaf’s “Je Ne Regrette Rien” were appreciated by the pub’s entire clientele.

The Rose and Crown at Eyam, with mine hosts Norman and Florrie Purseglove, was the regular venue for years after our traditional August Bank Holiday match. The tiny room, with piano, entertainers, team and supported might have been the Black Hole of Calcutta, but was invariably the setting for a great evening. It was there that John Kennedy first sang “Bye Bye Blackbird”, Jim Cleary gave us “ Big Horse” and - rare treat - “Trees” and Denis Kennedy performed “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette.”.

These “turns” were our staple diet in every other hostelry we visited - but there were others. “The Last of the Texas Rangers” comes to mind, as K Tradewell usually started the evening off and Bill Gallagher would periodically stand up and do his imitation of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Others did their bit: Dick Hespe with “How Far is it to Great Longstone?” and “Buttercup Joe”. Pat Hopkins with the enchanting “Spinning Wheel”, Jim Conroy with “Coortin’ in the Kitchen” reinforced by “Slattery’s Mounted Foot” and Gerard Conlon of the sublime tenor voice with “Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes.”

We were particularly blessed with the talents of a trio of classical singers: Martin Higgins, Tony Limb and his wife, Maureen. Tony and Martin gave us “Old Man River”, “Lindy Lou”, “She Moved Through the Fair” and many others. Maureen will always be remembered for her sweet soprano singing of “The Jaunting Car”

Those evenings we enjoyed together were as memorably as the cricket we played - and may times of considerably greater excellence.

Good Club Men

Jim Cleary, his wife Bunty, his charming daughters and his dog Bradman will forever live in Old Boys’ cricketing lore. Those who played under Jim admired him, respected him and - yes, I’ll say it - loved him. In the truest sense, he was the Club’s first captain.

Brother Alphonsus could savage the best bowling but one remembers best his grin - or was it a grimace? -  as he tried to look happy at being given out lbw.

Dave Burdettwas the Botham of Old Boys’ cricket, a dynamic batsman, aggressive bowler, fast or with off-spin and a spectacular fielder with a deadly throw. And after 1958, what a good captain he became.

Bill Burtoft, Desforges, Jim Hurd, Brian Hosty, David Young, Graham Hutton, Pat Hartley, Connaughton and Govan all responsed to the call when in 1953 we decided to run two teams. Bill had been a legendary cricketer at school and later played for English Universities as a leg-spinner/. Pat Hartley had captain the School XI. David Young had followed us as a youngster. The experiment did not last long but the introduction of new and gifted cricketers permanently enriched the Club.

In this respect the Club’s debt to Brother Wilfrid was incalculable, not only because of his outstanding batsmanship, but also on account of the many fine young cricketers he produced during his time at the College. His contribution was undoubtedly the greatest single reason for the Old Boys’ development as a cricket Club. Pat Flaherty and Keith Herring were two fine cricketers who were products of Brother Wilfrid’s nursery, as was Mick Furniss, whose career was all too short.

Bill Gallagher, besides being a wonderful entertainer and the best of companions was no mean cricketer. His leg-breaks bemused batsmen and amused spectators. His strike rate was quite exceptional. In 1952 and 1954 he took a wicket every two overs. When he bowled with Terry Green - a more orthodox leg-spinner - their contrasting styles were a joy to behold.

Alan Harrigan was the leading wicket-taker in 1958 and always figured high in batting and bowling averages, an outstanding all-rounder.

In its early days the Club was blessed with three devastating bowlers in Hugh Hand, Graham Frost and Harry Thompson, sadly members of the team for only a few seasons (Editors note - the modesty of K. Tradewell prevents him from naming himself as one of the finest of all Club fast bowlers).

Jack McCarren was a thoroughly nice man, quiet and modest. He was more than this, however. He was also a great player, not only a classical batsman of great power but a wicket-keeper, in the view of many, of county standard. His legside stumpings, not only off the spinners, but even off our fastest bowlers, were legendary.

Hugh Morton, as everyone knows, was the Chairman of the cricket Club for forty years and the mainspring of the Old Boys Association. Not so many are aware of his performances as a fast medium bowler in the early 50’s - a career of all too short duration.

Ted Noon was a fine wicket-keeper as well as being our first secretary and the man who got the Club off the ground. Dick Hespe, K Tradewell, Alan Harrigan, Peter Chisholm and John Kennedy, who all did two year stints as secretary, built on Ted’s good work.

Alec Reeve played for us on a few occasions. He was a better bowler than this son, Dermot, of Warwickshire.

John Thelwell, Peter Chisholm, John Wall and Graham Gould loved to play and we enjoyed their company in many a match. Hugh O’ Grady, Peter Pathe, Tex Heaney, Peter Cunningham, Brian Snaulune, along with Mick Pring and Joe Uren, performed many a valiant deed on the field of play. Jim Conroy guested for us many time - a very good batsman and useful bowler. Ron Cox was another who scored many runs and bowled in miserly fashion during his four years with the Club.

postscript

 

Nostalgia cannot be subjected to rigid chronology. Many vivid memories have escaped the previous pages. Here are a few:

·         Jack and Paddy Howe were the first father and son to play in the annual Old Boys v School match

·         John Kennedy scored the Club’s first centuries: at Tideswell in 1952 (122) and Longstone in 1954 (112). Jim Cleary scored his first century in 1953. Many hundreds have followed but these were the sweetest of all.

·         In 1952 Ashford were skittled for 26: Murray 5 for 5. Tradewell 5 for 8.

·         Jack Howe hit six sixes against United Hospitals in 1954.

·         In 1953 Pat Hopkins won the match at Ashford with his half-century.

·         Peter Hespe routed Hallam in 1953 with a Carmody field setting

·         Jack Howe had his tooth knocked out keeping wicket at Eyam. Doc Shannon - remember his visits from Scotland? - took him to hospital to have it replaced.

·         How Tess Cleary was tormented about Arthur’s Seat!

·         Brian Maloney kept wicket for us in the early days. Sadly his life was cut short by a heart attack. Mick Shepherd, a fine cricketer and footballer too, suffered a similar fate.

·         Jack Howe bought a car to consolidate his place in the team. It broke down regularly at Fox House and Dick Hespe had to come to the rescue.

·         Brother Leonard was deeply disappointed when he let us play the BBC at Crabtree: there were no household names in the team - not even Kenneth Wolstenholme.

·         Who remembers being well beaten at Castleton, even though one of our bowlers took 6 for 1?

·         Brother Christopher so impressed Harthill Miners’ Welfare CC that they invited the Reverend to play for them - and conduct their occasional services.