Cricket failed to match the tempo of the Swinging Sixties. The vitality of the Coxon-Nayudu era turned to tedium. Newcastle Journal cricket correspondent Alf Greenley damned 1962 the dullest season since the war. Outstanding individuals still shone, of course, but in the year of Miss Monroe’s death the game’s future seemed as fragile as a candle in the wind. Greenley was no sensationalist; his words a cry from the heart. Four years later he was seized by acute pessimism : “League cricket as a major spectator sport is dying.” Alf had done his sums. In ten years Westoe’s annual ‘gate’ receipts fell from £1,000 to £100; Ashbrooke’s weekly ‘gate’ from £100 to £30. While government and sports’ bodies considered a relaxation of Lord’s Day observance laws, Greenley advocated that leagues of 20 be formed in two divisions with promotion and relegation and matches be played on Sundays.
League committees ignored Greenley’s ideas. Ideals rooted firmly in the past, they lamely concluded that “rapid social change had created difficulties”. True, life had changed. The film Get Carter is considered a faithful picture of the racketeering and feuding of the time. There were more night clubs and betting shops per head in the two northern counties than elsewhere. Unemployment in south-west Durham reached 6.8% when the national average was 2.4%. At the end of the decade Durham had only thirty collieries. When it needed action proportionate to Dr Christiaan Barnard’s heart-transplant surgery myopic league committees could hardly see the optician. They were blind to a contracting coal industry that was losing 1,000 miners a week and whose voluntary levies were lost to colliery sides. Players found work elsewhere and a dozen clubs folded. With five of 16 clubs in 1960 now defunct, D.Coast was reduced to twelve. Blackhall went 48 league matches without a win from August 1964, a decline partly attributable to Coal Nationalisation. Deprived of his autocracy, Ernie Chicken no longer could ‘acquire’ cricketers to work at the pit.
Pros commented on the dearth of good players. Successive NWD annual reports listed other problems, notably the cancellation of matches owing to shortage of umpires and players. Chairman Matty Selway was further concerned by an old spectre. “During the past three seasons I have heard whispers and suggestions that illegal payments were made to certain players. I advise all clubs to stamp it out otherwise the rich clubs will flourish and the financially weak will go to the wall.” Surprisingly, NWD announced plans to increase to 20 clubs with promotion and relegation “to eliminate the apathy which creeps in with the season two parts over”. As in 1934 and 1962, the scheme miscarried.
Support dwindled. Lack of funds meant the virtual disappearance of big-name pros, Lance Gibbs and Nasim-ul-Ghani excepted. That Whitburn engaged both simply magnified the scarcity of money elsewhere. Harold Macmillan, who in earlier days turned out occasionally for Thornaby, donated a cup for clubs in his Stockton constituency. Macmillan’s 1959 general election victory owed much to the votes of the young and more affluent. Now, ironically, the affluent young took up pursuits other than cricket. The vocabulary of the Permissive Society spoke of mini-skirts, Beatles and drugs. Austin was alert to that particular wind of change. “Don’t neglect your cricket,” Arthur pleaded. “Go all out to keep the game alive.”
Change was inevitable. Controversially, clubs installed bar facilities. Old timers were quick to cite time spent bending the elbow, instead of keeping it up when batting in the nets, as further reason for decline. Realists said “Brown Ale and bandits were the best hopes for a more prosperous cricketing future”. Some leagues introduced overs cricket. Older organisations continued with time cricket but introduced a bonus point to the side scoring faster in a drawn match. Even that system was abused by NYSD title aspirants in a tense finale to 1967. Thirty overs had to be bowled before a bonus point could be awarded. When leading clubs met the side batting first prolonged its innings well beyond three hours then contrived to bowl less than 30 overs to deprive rivals a chance of a bonus point. This shabby state of affairs, plus the financial flop of a once-successful Kerridge Cup, prompted NYSD to hold crisis meetings to consider how to woo back spectators. DSL secretary Colin Orr accused clubs of petulance, petty niggling and lack of adventure. “Too many adopt a you-put-us-in-you-get-us-out attitude.” All were symptoms of modern pragmatism. TSL ruled that either side could claim five extra overs after ‘time’ if they thought victory possible. This system considerably reduced the number of draws but was abandoned in 1969 in favour of 45-over matches. NYSD tried overs cricket the same year. DSL introduced Sunday league cricket in 1966 as did NWD, TSL and NYSD by 1969.
One team scorned Sunday cricket. Having lost the previous year’s final, Durham Clergy won the Church Times Cup in 1965. Rev T.E.Simpson hit a vigorous 74. Eric played for Chopwell where he was vicar for 29 years and where his understanding flock never asked to be married on Saturday afternoon in summer. Same with Clergy skipper, Rev F.S.M.Chase. Greenside brides thought Frank dressed in keeping with a white wedding when they knelt before him on Saturday mornings and spied white trousers peeping below his surplice. Frank was ready for the afternoon match. As the Church Times final was held in London, Eric left his children at his parents. The Reverend arrived in the big city to discover his case contained nappies not cricket whites. Eric liked his football. He staggered to the ground with cricket bag and portable ‘telly’ to watch the 1966 World Cup Final. He fielded all afternoon! More north-east clubs turned out short that memorable day than ever before.
Ashbrooke deserters missed Sunderland’s four successive DSL titles in 1965-68 during which skipper Mike Westcott formed part of a quintet with a combined average of 32. Sheet-anchor Gordon Fairley forged a productive opening partnership with stylish left-hander Frank Greenshields. Brilliant close catcher P.C.Birtwisle showed maturity beyond his years. Peter could handle the best even on difficult wickets; drives of pedigree proclaimed an emergent talent. Alan Burridge resumed as amateur to score 6,213 league runs (av 42) in 1959-71. The left-hander enthralled with scintillating shots, scandalised with outrageous pulls. ‘Budgie’ could spoil a good game, witness a murderous 182 not out when pro at Horden. He reached 100 in 45 minutes while adding 253 for the second wicket with Ed Corfield. Burridge later smashed 112 not out off 49 balls. Birtwisle contributed 4 to a century stand. Peter was less passive in a cup-tie when the pair added 162 in 56 minutes. Ken Biddulph, ex-Somerset fast-medium, was pro; John Beresford, Chris Storey and H.B.McLaren his chief allies. Sunderland’s lead eroded in 1967 when Biddulph went down with mumps. Temporary replacement Alex Johnson (ex-Nottinghamshire) soon had the ship back on course. Ashbrooke’s run machine ensured an eighteenth outright senior title in 1971, more than any DSL club.
Frankie Forster trundled tirelessly during Sunderland’s triumphs, twice topping DSL bowling. Forster began as a fast out-swing bowler but reverted to in-swing “because that’s what the pro’s game demanded”. In 17 years as pro he won a lone championship medal at Wearmouth in 1960. Even then he endured ten harrowing matches until Moffat’s last stand at South Shields. Frank should have been canonised for unremitting accuracy and stoicism in adversity. He had the first nine Whitburn wickets when Tommy Milton skied him to mid-off. Philip Raine dropped it. Philosophical Frank simply said “Hard luck, son” as he passed the blushing youth on his way back to his mark. For once Fate smiled. Forster got the tenth, the last seven in 31 balls.
Off-spinner Gibbs was nearing world-class standard when signed by Whitburn. With turn and subtle change of pace Lance pocketed wickets as easily as taking pennies from a blind man’s tin, claimed 271 (av 9.3) in three nail-biting seasons. Whitburn led the table but slumped when Lance fractured his right hand in July 1962. They lost ten of their last 12. Gibbs returned in 1964 to smash the DSL record with 126 wickets and Whitburn were champions. Leading by a point next year they lost the penultimate match to Sunderland who took over as leaders. It was Sunderland’s last game so Whitburn had to win their final match to win the title. Rain washed out the final Saturday.
Chester-le-Street won handsomely in 1969. They reached top spot as man set foot on the moon then rocketed to seven successive victories. It proved to be a lone championship for Russell Inglis (qv), one of Durham’s greats. Inglis played at Shotley Bridge when 13, Durham City at 17. A man of sense and sensitivity, humour and humility, he credited City coach Tom Collin and Benfieldside schoolmaster Hilary Beck as major influences upon his career. Inglis scored 603 league runs in his first full City season, a total he improved consistently until 1971 when he set a new DSL record of 1,200 runs (av 80). Russell was a fitter and turner at Consett ironworks and, in days when it was allowed, turned out for Consett before the DSL season started. City were without a match on the first two Saturdays of 1960. Inglis got his eye in with undefeated innings of 145 and 126. He returned for the last match, made 14 and finished with a TSL average of 285.
Flamboyant dashers live long in the memory but top sides need the grit personified in Tommy Moffat. Tommy kept wicket and his histrionics behind the sticks put pressure on batsmen. “I’ve no delusions about being an unpopular cricketer. I play to win and enjoy a bit of needle in a game,” he once admitted. Much of it was play-acting to uphold a diabolical reputation. Moffat’s meaningful memories are more touching. Take his match-winning 87 in front of hostile, opposing supporters. “I remember hitting a four. There was a lot of barracking but above the jeering I heard a voice shouting ‘Good shot, dad’ ”. Dedication is Moffat’s middle name. He was D.Coast treasurer, won DSL titles at three clubs and played his part in Durham’s elevation to First-class. He rose from colliery electrician to chief engineer and awarded MBE for services to small businesses. ‘Cestrians’ had contrasting left-handers in aggressive Norman Allison and studious Freddie Allen. Plus George Bull, fast bowler and eternal pessimist. George got on his high-horse one day when an umpire turned down every appeal. Bull constantly badgered him about the Laws. George went in to bat, demanded ‘two legs’. “Why ask me?” replied the ump. “You seem to know everything!” Billy Wake wore ‘sand shoes’ all his career. Never short of sardonic comment, his leg-breaks and googlies snared over 1,200 league victims. Billy was a fine bat and the all-round form of Wake, Inglis and Allen were key to Chester’s success.
Greenside reigned longer than any club in Durham history. Including a share with Shotley Bridge in 1967, Greenside won eight TSL titles on the trot, in fact ten between 1966-76. Jim Watson captained a side that won 188 and drew 44 of 272 league encounters. Bill Jones spearheaded a five-pronged pace attack. At point of delivery Jones glanced ominously at the non-striker, heels clicking like a prairie rattler. Fast, late swing tickled many a batsman’s ribs. Length of an innings against Jones could be gauged next day by the number of bruises on a batsman’s cadaver. Some were intimidated by his reign of terror. In fact Bill was fairly shy but he did speak his mind in company of those he knew. When Ryton were champions in 1965 Jones scored a quarter of their runs, took half their wickets. It was Ryton’s misfortune Jones should take 9 for 35 and 6 for 16 against Greenside. Next year he was Greenside’s pro. When an amateur he spent many summer Saturdays shooting yet still bagged some 900 wickets and 13,000 runs (av 36) in the league. Tall, wiry and broad-shouldered, Jones cleared the line with ease. One hit at Carlton, Edinburgh, was stepped out at 140 paces. Bill could change a game dramatically, most memorably when he blasted 96 off 42 balls (8 sixes and 7 fours) in a cup-tie at Durham City.
PRO-FILE (No. 18)
(b. Blackhill, Consett, 13 Jun 1936; d. Gosforth, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 28 April 1982)
Modest, popular pro at Chester-le-Street (1962-73). A most destructive batsman. Wonderful timing, brilliant cutter, compulsive hooker. Rejected contract with Leicestershire. Minor Counties regular against tourists. Topped DSL batting four times. 19 league hundreds. Became genuine all-rounder and topped DSL batting and bowling in 1968. Taken ill in last match of 1973 and forced to retire.
League record : Durham City 127 inns 11 not 3,652 runs (av 31.5)
Chester-le-Street 254 inns 46 not 9,880 runs (av 47.8)
Cup and league at Durham City and Chester-le-Street : 19,329 runs (av 39.5)
Greenside pace was unrelenting. If Jones didn’t get you others did. There was Alan Smith, all cut and swing and butcher Ian Wishart heaving the ball from oxen shoulders. With Tommy Johnson and Ernie Bewick to follow, Peter Carroll had to look elsewhere for glory. Ronnie Platford and Allan Murray, each technically sure, were contrasting opening partners for John Stevenson who cut and pulled with all the subtlety of an axe-man at the block. Stevenson was nick-named ‘Coffee Johnny’ because his throaty ‘a-hem’ deposited spittle on the pitch. While Alan Clark provided stability, Jim Watson’s regal strokes told of time spent batting at Fenner’s. Jim set out as a vengeful quickie delivering off the ‘wrong’ foot. In one day’s carnage 16-year-old Watson claimed 9 for 30, caught the tenth and broke wicket-keeper Hammond’s finger. Gentle, soulful Bill was a devout churchman who metamorphosed into a rat-catcher with gloves on. Victims would stare incredulously at the fallen bail that betrayed his sleight-of-hand. Hammond’s career coincided with distinguished stumpers so he was neither fortunate enough (nor fashionable enough?) to gain county recognition.
J.D. Robson, leader of Durham County Council, cut his cricketing administration teeth at Greenside. Don didn’t nibble. Each project he bit large. Time was when Greenside’s field was fairly mountainous. That is to say a cover boundary fielder, ten feet above the wicket table, could just about see long-leg’s head in a hollow. Don sliced it flat, designated the 1923 wood pavilion Critics’ Corner, and raised a two-storey club-house. The ex-teacher was a builder in business and metaphor. Chairman of Greenside, TSL, National Cricket Association and Durham CCC he steered each on a tide of progress. The Don Robson pavilion at Riverside is magnificent tribute to the man who led Durham to First-class cricket.
Consett, twice champions before Greenside’s reign, relied on fine bats Bert Steward, Tommy Nichol, Joe McCabe and brilliant slip Barry Bromley. When Ryton won the title their captain was 61-year-old Albert Elsdon. It was the fifth club at which he won a league medal. Still able to turn the googly, Albert sidetracked questions about aging with twinkling eye and mock-serious “My action is now mechanical, of course”. He had fine lieutenants in Jones, pallid Don Scott and wicket-keeper-batsman Tommy Thompson whose strong butcher’s forearms pulled powerfully through mid-wicket. Including ten seasons as Tynemouth’s pro Elsdon took some 3,500 wickets in all.
Shotley Bridge posed most threat to Greenside supremacy, even had the temerity to share the title in 1967. J.S.Wilkinson, who topped TSL bowling, Neville Telford and Jim Smith made most of a sporty wicket that Shotley batsmen overcame in various ways. David Collingwood relied on placement and fleet running; brothers Bill and ‘Boxer’ Stokoe favoured the long handle, the latter’s bat encased in gaudy, yellow electrician’s tape; and Barry Hicks hoisted high over the Derwent into Northumberland. Dr Renton sowed seeds of cricket in the neighbourhood in 1863. Shotley Bridge formed six years later at a meeting in Leybourne Urwin’s workshop, a building used by seventeenth century German sword-makers who settled on the banks of the Derwent. (Hence crossed swords on the club badge.) Re-formed in 1888, Shotley were galvanised by sometime poet Joshua Lax who was not averse to giving players “a dreadful wigging” if they did not follow his precepts. In 1910 they moved to The Spa, a heavenly hollow where ailing Charles Dickens took the waters of Hally Well. Sylvan isolation was barrier to league status until railway and Derwent Valley League provided a lifeline.
Stuart Wilkinson ranks with Durham’s greats. Good enough to dismiss Geoff Boycott twice, good enough at 38 for Lancashire to propose a contract. Educated at Newcastle Royal Grammar, Stuart did The Times crossword in five overs. Fearsome, raw-boned pace surged from immediate, long strides; a whirl of arms arrowed ball and body towards batsmen. One sensed scarred turf but finely-tuned rhythm and balance left the pitch unmarked. Wilkinson got steep bounce. One ball to Ken Land pitched between crease and stumps and reared over middle. After uprooting 500 TSL batsmen he joined Durham City. Jagging, late away-swing was honed to perfection at Philly where he took 10 for 43 against Horden. Jones’ hostility was gauged by bruises; Wilkinson’s recorded by nurses at a nearby hospital. Stuart maintained his peak long after genuine fast bowlers are a spent force. During one week-end of carnage at 37 he ripped out fourteen batsmen for 19 runs, including Jones and Watson for nought. He destroyed both sides in the return, too, taking 29 for 61 in the four matches. A freak fall and fractured skull in 1992 left Stuart at Heaven’s gate for forty-eight hours. Happily, St. Peter did not fancy facing him so ‘Wilk’ returned to cricket, not too worse for wear, to astonish younger generations with speed and swing until he was 55.
Barry Hicks was promptly styled “Hurricane Hicks” after a breath-taking, undefeated 152 in 51 minutes in a cup-tie when pro at Beamish and East Tanfield in 1967. He hit 14 sixes and 13 fours in a display worthy of Jack Carr who died seven months earlier. Rain washed out six early matches that year yet Hicks had 952 runs and four hundreds by July 8. He then lost interest and totalled ‘just’ 1,073. Deep down, Barry missed playing at Shotley. Not one for personal records, the trophy that Beamish presented was the only one he kept. Hicks plundered in swashbuckling style. Like Carr he planted left leg down the pitch and launched the ball far. The subsequent sheepish grin from bowed head and ruddy cheeks was pure Breughel. Deceptive image. Barry was an astute cricketer, a captain with uncanny, sixth-sense ability to gamble successfully. Hicks was Shotley’s heart. Rumbustious, fun-loving, candidly honest and never lost for a pertinent quip. Hicks’ wisdom was once questioned by a veteran who suggested he should bat before a young pup. The revolt was quickly quelled by that disarming grin : “Look, owt the lad gets above a ‘duck’ is a bonus”. Barry will be remembered long as one of the great characters of north-east cricket.
Measured in NYSD championships this was Durham clubs’ least-successful decade. Having won 38 of the first fifty-three, they gained only three in the Sixties. Darlington remained a force and with Camburn compiling relentlessly were in the top three 16 times in 1950-69. They were champions in 1962 when Stuart Young (qv) gained one of only two league medals in 17 distinguished years as pro. Great club fast bowlers do not guarantee titles, of course. They lack the support of top-class catchers and their best deliveries are often too good for batsmen to get a ‘nick’. This was true of Young, one of the finest English fast bowlers not signed by a First-class county – although eight tried. Tom Graveney rated him one of the best he faced. At 6 feet, 3½ inches, Young posed untold problems. He had a smooth, almost floating, approach and was ‘onto’ batsmen very quickly. He could also belt a ball in the opposite direction and his hitting turned many a match. S.H.Young’s initials spell out his nature. Mild-mannered, well-mannered Stuart was ever willing to help develop others.
Young’s new ball partner was strongly-built Alan Johnson, three inches taller with an ungainly action. The press said : “He advanced in a series of diagonal runs, the progress of an agitated crab”. Brian Dobson’s leg-breaks and googlies added variation. Each benefited from the brilliant wicket-keeping of sprightly Bobby Cole. Small in the mould of classic ’keepers, he stood up to the fastest. Cole set new standards at Feethams, stumped half of his 319 victims. Dobson was adamant that “If Bobby hadn’t had such a good job, Alan Knott would never have played for England”.
P.J. Kippax, lovely left-handed stroke-maker and aggressive leg-break and googly bowler, was pro in West Hartlepool’s 1964 championship side. ‘Kippy’ left Yorkshire when 22 yet when he was 45 leg-spinners were so rare that Test Match Special commentators voted him the best in England. Peter was weaned onto cricket by Yorkshire legends. Coxon lugged him in a carry-cot round the streets of Huddersfield; Herbert Sutcliffe gave later encouragement. Kippax is now a successful bat manufacturer and wanders the countryside in search of willow. His tendency to worry is still evident in his concern for cricket’s future. “I’ve got thousands of trees on my books but whether all get used is another matter.” Kippax was not the only West player with pedigree. Harry Bailey was their batting mainstay 30 years either side of the war. He could also keep wicket, did not concede an extra in one total of 266. Harry laid a concrete wicket in his garden to coach sons John and David. Both were educated at Malvern, both followed father into the county side. All-rounder John won a Gillette Cup man-of-the-match award in 1967. David played less for West because Lancashire claimed his batting and athletic fielding. The title was a wonderful 32nd birthday present for skipper Jim Kennedy and spurred his batting to greater authority.
PRO-FILE (No. 19)
STUART HARRISON YOUNG
(b. Blackhall, 6 Jul 1938)
At Horden (1957-58), Chester-le-Street (1959-60), Blackhall (1961), Darlington (1962-69), South Shields (1970), Philadelphia (1971-72) and Bishop Auckland (1973). Gentle giant who was extremely fast. Had little use for the bouncer. Attacked the stumps and 65% of his wkts were bowled or lbw; 65% of his victims were in the first five of the order. Forcing left-hand bat who hit a hundred for Durham as well as winning two Gillette Cup ‘Man of the Match’ awards for his bowling.
League record as professional : 850 wkts for 9859 runs (av 11.6)
Bishop Auckland inched past Middlesbrough by a point in 1966. The clubs were level after 19 matches when they met in a rain-affected match. Neil Riddell and Keith Hopper rescued ‘Bishops’ from 54 for 5 and they battled to 167 in three hours. ‘Boro’ slumped to 32 for 5 and defied a ring of carrion close-catchers to gain a draw but the bonus point effectively gave Bishop Auckland the title. ‘Gus’ Williamson and Barrie Clark earned plaudits for their batting but Alan Campbell delivered the coup de grâce with 26 of their last 38 wickets.
Lintz and Annfield Plain rose to prominence and secured first major titles. Formed in 1906, Lintz were elected to NWD in 1921. They won Division II three times and in 1928 were promoted to Division I. Their stay was brief. Things looked rosy while the footballing Hickmans twice helped them exceed 300 (Joe 151, George 147). NWD reduced from four to two divisions in 1931 so Lintz joined Stanley & District League for its six-year existence. They then won Northern Combination three times, were re-elected to NWD and four times champions in 1958-62. Bob Cromarty deserted the sea breezes of Holy Island in 1907 for Friarside pit, the chapel and cricket club where he cut the wicket with hand-shears. Sixty years on he supervised Bill Carradice’s plans to renovate the ground and erect the present pavilion. It was Bob’s belief that, unless to better himself, a player should remain loyal to the club that nurtured him. His ideal formed the basis of Lintz’s philosophy never to employ a pro.
John Cromarty took on his father’s mantle. Successful coach and batsman, Cromarty hit 164 not out in the thirty-third of 38 seasons. Maurice Kemp and Brian Little were leading wicket-takers. The club’s football links continued through Frank Clark, David Elliott (Newcastle United) and Joe Jacques (Darlington). Clark won a European Cup medal with, and was later manager of, Notts Forest. Fred and Ralph Nevin, brothers with disparate batting styles, were descendants of another Lintz dynasty that stretched back to the club’s early days.
Annfield Plain began at the turn of the century on the Store Field, upon which the Co-op’s dray horses grazed, and spent a few years in NWD (Division II) before World War I. The club re-formed in 1944, were elected to NWD in 1946 and, with Roxby as pro, were champions in 1963-64. They were champions again in 1966 without a pro then engaged Joe McCabe and won three more titles in four years. Annfield Plain were one of many to build a new clubhouse in the Sixties. Most were of brick but South Shields and Preston opted for Scandinavian-style ‘log cabins’.
There was cricket at Ryhope in 1832 and a club established by 1876. Ryhope won North East Durham League in 1922 in days when they paid a shilling annual ground rent to Ryhope Coal Company. Founder members of D.Coast, Ryhope were champions in 1958 largely through the bowling of Fred Fagan and Bill Wolfendale. Ryhope, Marsden and Chilton Moor were involved in a gripping climax to 1962. Ryhope made a sluggish start but Fagan hit a purple patch and they led with two to play. They lost the first and needed 122 to win the second but collapsed to 22 for 8. Fagan and Wolfendale staged a recovery but only one was added after they were separated at 113. Uniquely, all three clubs shared the title for no rule existed to decide the outright winners. Ryhope were champions in 1963 and 1965.
Ushaw Moor enjoyed phenomenal success throughout the Sixties, winning 155 of 222 league matches. Opponents rarely reached three figures against George Delap, Brian Walker and pro Jimmy Dodds. Only crucial defeats by 1966 champions Shildon BR prevented Ushaw winning six D.Co titles between 1965-70. Formed in 1850, Etherley had an unparalleled record as Mid-D champions in 1960. They won all 24 matches, dismissed all 240 opposing batsmen. Harry Allen’s medium pace claimed a major share, Fred Thompson’s slows not far behind. Harry, who played for 47 years, is the club’s most successful all-rounder with 1,560 wickets and 12,960 runs. Fred almost matched Harry’s longevity and captured 942 wickets.
The incidence of hundreds began to rise again in the Sixties. Of those not mentioned, Norman Jones, Clive Lumley, Maurice Wilkinson and George Crawford regularly savoured the magic moment. Bill Brown’s fierce hitting lost little in comparison with Milburn, his friend and team-mate, and Neil Hewison was a third who belted the ball out of Burnopfield’s small ground. Tommy Clish drove so powerfully the ball ricocheted off boundary fences as if fired from a gun. Tom was pro at Easington where he hit 50 and did the ‘hat-trick’ twice while taking 10 for 18 in a cup match.
Pros were nearly all local men. Two born in Gateshead were among the fastest in living memory. Ken Earl, engaged by Gateshead Fell on election to DSL in 1961, was at his peak in the immediate post-war years at Jesmond. A long glissando run-up generated pace that thrilled. The England selectors were impressed. A dearth of fast men forced them to consider Earl for the 1950-51 tour of Australia. Tom Angus, explosively quick with a new ball, had an exceptionally high strike-rate at Philadelphia and Horden after days at Middlesex. Three had remarkably long careers. Footballer Keith Hopper, who hit hundreds to help Shildon BR win D.Co in 1962 and was successful at Craghead and Crook, returned to ‘Bishops’ and played until 69. Jack Watson (qv), another golden oldie, did the ‘hat-trick’ for Bearpark II when 70. No pro travelled farther to further cricket than Doug Ferguson. Once in a while a cliché is accurate. Ferguson did have more clubs than Jack Nicklaus. In one seven-year period he was pro in every senior league except NWD. Left-hand bat, right-arm medium and later off-breaks, Ferguson’s game was a study in correctness. Playing days over, Doug trod a metaphorical road to Damascus spreading the gospel. He was National Cricket Association coach, then coach to Denmark, Bermuda and Italy. He scouted for Northamptonshire with Peter Willey, George Sharp and Simon Brown among his choicest fruit. Ferguson is a latter-day Clarke but where Old Clarke used green-fingers, Ferguson eventually embraced modern technology : Andrea Corbellari, a South African of Italian descent, joined Bishop Auckland via the internet.
PRO-FILE (No. 20)
JOHN MARTIN WATSON
(b. High Spen, 17 April 1921)
Powerfully-built all-rounder, fine catcher at Shildon BR (1955-7), Blackhall (1958-60, 1970), Swalwell (1961-2) and Burnmoor (1968). Also pro at 1963 champions Normanby Hall and in Northumberland. Made 4,528 runs and took 613 wkts in 128 appearances for Durham; 67 matches for Northumberland. Began at Blackhall Mill then others before gaining prominence with 67 wkts at Durham City in 1947. Dominant at Blackhall with masterly control of off-cutters and powerful batting, never better than his aggressive 159* (6 sixes, 21 fours) out of 229-2 dec in 1959. Taciturn and generous in turn, his indomitable resolve was illustrated at Swalwell when, having scored 40, was hit above eye. Had five stitches and a headache yet rushed from hospital to take a ‘hat-trick’ in 6-51. Transformed Swalwell from a side in bottom four in previous four years to 4th then champions. Celebrated 50th birthday by helping Shildon BR win D.Co in 1971.