Almondbury Casuals is a social cricket club that is asleep. It may wake up one day, but the current membership was worried that it might not, leaving thousands of unused pounds in its bank account. At the mercy of the bank.
So what was the money best used for? Enabling youth cricket in some way was probably the most thoughtful suggestion. Eating and drinking at a cricket match however was the most popular. So thanks to Marc Davies, we pitched up at Clifton in York to watch Yorkshire play Warwickshire. And coffee with biscuits, a four course lunch, afternoon tea alongside beer and wine or whatever.
Lovely setting in unexpected bright sunshine. I didn't feel the need for cream so I got burnt.
When I said 'we', I meant senior surviving and interested Casuals of which originally there were 21. Less on the day accompanied by a few friends to make up two tables. The Casuals started playing in the early 1950s, the brainchild of four Friday Almondbury Woolpack happy hour pals. In no time it became part of Huddersfield textile and supporting businesses at play, alongside rugby, hockey, golf and amateur soccer. So popular they needed a set of rules to allow everyone a chance of selection. Not too successful to start with. Following some judicious recruitment, by the 1960s, they won more than they lost.
There is no one left from those early days, but we did have Robert Haigh with us, son of one of those happy pals. That early culture ensured a steady influx of players. Family, friends and fellow sports nuts turned out every Sunday well into the noughties. Three or four are still playing and Bill is mostly an umpire. Ken has shed a stone or two and walks a lot. Greg enjoys his garden. Burge kindly takes a drink with our Andrew from time to time. Rupert was concerned at the demise of the glottal stop. Rod was unimpressed by the cricket - none of us were. We wanted something spectacular but we got a damp squib.
The York team on the Casuals' fixture list was the Retreat. We were about the same strength. There is one surviving match report.
Michael Henderson of the Times (Sat 22nd June) wrote 'York put on a show after 129-year wait'. In 1890, Yorkshire beat Kent, thanks to a nine wicket haul from Bobby Peel, a left-arm spinner. Lord Hawke was skipper. 1n 1897, he dismissed Peel from the field for being drunk. 'And so began the celebrated cricket tradition of Yorkshire contrariness'. Mmm, really?
Whilst we were eating, we were asked to be quiet because we were upsetting the cricketers. The previous day 'the man in charge of entertainment' had given a 'blast' of Walk on the Wild Side on the PA system. Whilst Michael appreciates his Lou Reed, the cricketers did not. Apparently Lord Hawke would not have done either. For me, the man on the mic in our marquee made the most noise.
Warwickshire won despite the best efforts of 'James Logan, Peel's latest successor as a purveyor of slow left-arm spinners' who took four wickets. I must have missed that, or was it the following day?
So the cricket wasn't uppermost in our minds. We were there to meet 'old' friends and celebrate the traditions of social cricket where the result doesn't matter - much. 1890-1914 is the period said to be The Golden Age of Cricket - the days of the dashing amateur. Maybe not as dashing, but social cricket preserves the non-professional spirit of the game, fostered in public schools and Oxbridge colleges. The apparent gap was bridged by Len Hutton, Yorkshireman and the first professional England captain (1937-55). In 1990, his memorial service was held in York Minster, 'a suitable place to honour the greatest servant to represent the White Rose'.
Rupert, can I recommend Oliver Kamm's Accidence Will Happen: The Non-Pedantic Guide to English Usage?
I suspect the Casuals are in for a long sleep. Sadly, since 2014/5 they have not played regularly. The decline began well before then when playing membership decreased precipitously. The various connections outlined above are now tenuous, apart from the rugby club. Today, youngsters have many other calls on their time. The Holme Valley league clubs may have an answer - why not cultivate a social third team to accommodate juniors who won't make first and second teams?
For those who enjoy a bit of history, there is an on-line Casuals presence, alongside several pieces of writing in journals, and a talk. Simply clic on the links in the left hand column..
website a casuals history
ageing cricketer The Examiner (2010)
wandering cricket In Gentlemen, Gypsies and Jesters. (2013)
What's the point? Journal of the cricket society (2009)
Cricket in Perpective 2. random notes about the casuals (2005)
on publishing it can get very difficult (2011)
presentation. part of Peter Davies cricket society meet held at University of Huddersfield (2009)
Then there are
cricket in the Bahamas. Louise, my daughter got married here (2006)
We spent a lot of time at the Lara Oval in Nassau - in Journal of Yorkshire cricket society
all in a days cricket Cricket on the beach and Upperthong (2014)
and don't forget
It's Not Lords An anthology of W Yorkshire cricket (2011)