There is no talk to equal cricket talk, 1979

The cricket society movement

By RON YEOMANS
Chairman, The Council of Cricket Societies

There is no talk to equal cricket talk. That is not a new statement, of course. But it is a fact. You seldom find footballers talking football, tennis players talking tennis, or golfers talking golf to the same extent. So why the cricket talk? Probably because a game of cricket takes a considerable time. Three days, or even longer, in the first-class game. And a club or village match takes at the minimum half a day.

It is that established fact that really led to the formation of the cricket society movement. Its origins came from cricket lovers, fanatics if you like, who saw an obvious need to be able to talk about cricket in an organised way, particularly out of season.

If the Northern Cricket Society came first, founded as it was in January 1948, the Cricket Society, based in London, was but nine months behind. It was formed out of the Society of Cricket Statisticians, which had already been in existence for some three years. To come up to date, there are now nearly 30 cricket societies embracing about 7,000 members - boys and girls, men and women. They all have the same object in mind - to further cricket interest. Talks and film shows, quizzes and panels, dinners, high teas, and receptions for visiting cricketers are just some of the functions that societies stage.

Many societies have their own elaborate coaching schemes for youngsters and a few run their own team, although not many, because most playing cricketers owe allegiance to their own clubs. However, the Northern runs its own cricket match on Boxing Day, and it has never once been cancelled since becoming an annual fixture in 1949. The match of 1950, played at the village of Collingham, near Leeds, produced an amusing story.

One of the society players was the late Arthur Booth, the Yorkshire left-arm slow bowler. At that time he was living near Manchester and, complete with cricket bag, he was one of the first to board the train from Manchester to Leeds on Boxing Day morning. He put his cricket bag on the rack and was soon joined by a middle-aged couple. During the journey the conversation between the couple and Arthur Booth turned to the news of the day, as all three glanced at a newspaper. Suddenly one of the couple commented: "Oh, I see some silly fools are actually playing cricket today!" Booth made no comment, but thrust his head deep into his newspaper. On arrival at Leeds, Booth reached for his cricket bag and tried to slink away unseen. But it was not to be. "So you're off to play cricket," was the couple's comment as Booth marched along the platform.

After the Northern and London, the next societies to be formed were Scotland and Wombwell, the latter in 1951, chiefly through the initiative of Jack Sokell, whose frequent letter-writing - hand-written letters, not typed - often brings several speakers to Wombwell on one night, instead of the one speaker, or at the most two, with whom other societies seem satisfied.

The Lancashire and Cheshire Society was next in the field and in 1963 came a society at Chesterfield. From about then until the present time, societies have sprung up with regularity.

With so many societies formed, it seemed a natural step forward for there to be a Council of Cricket Societies, and at the instigation of the Northern, a joint meeting of societies was held at York in April, 1969. As early as 1949, there had been joint meetings between the Northern and London, held at Leicester, but these were to discuss problems and ideas common and ideas common to each of the two societies rather than to form a council.

At York, twelve societies were represented and greeted by Mr Brian Snook, former Baildon cricketer in the Bradford League and chairman of the Northern. Most important of all, the idea of a council had the blessing of the National Cricket Association, and so, in October 1969, a properly constituted council was formed at a further meeting in Leeds. The council was accepted into membership of the National Cricket Association and has remained a member since.

Of the existing societies - among them societies in Rhodesia and Australia - more than half are situated north of the Trent. Thinking of Australia reminds me that there is no limit to what can go wrong when arranging a function. The great Australian batsman Jack Fingleton should have been the speaker (and indeed eventually was) at the Northern's lunch in Bradford in July 1956. But there was no sign of him minutes before the lunch was due to start. Frantic phone calls were sent out and eventually Fingleton, who was accompanying the Australian team to England as a journalist, was located at Headingley, surveying the arena where the Test match was due to start the next day.

Another Australian speaker, the commentator Bernard Kerr, had been the Northern's speaker at a luncheon three years earlier and somehow had gone off, in error, with the society's autograph book, which contained the signatures of all the speakers who had addressed the society. The book travelled halfway round the world in Bernard's luggage before it eventually found its way back to the Northern. It is now safe and sound for ever, I hope!

One of Freddie Trueman's first talks in public was to the Northern, more than twenty years ago. I well remember he spoke without a note of any sort and for over an hour held the attention of a huge audience that filled the ballroom of one of the largest hotels in Leeds. A magnificent performance.

Then there was Trevor Bailey, who opened his talk with a song! He parodied the tune of 'Mighty like a rose' with words about the former Yorkshire and England bowler, Bill Bowes making the rhymes in the obvious places and bringing the house down into the bargain.

Wombwell can remember their amusing interludes too. There was a visit from the late George Duckworth, with a cricket film, but a power-cut meant that the film could not be shown. Instead there was a talk by candlelight.

The late Desmond Eagar travelled by train from London to Doncaster en route for Wombwell. After his talk, he stayed the night with the society's president, Dr Leslie Taylor, brother-in-law of the late Roy Kilner. During the night, a tremendous gale uprooted several trees in Dr Taylor's garden, making an exit impossible. Only after climbing over several tree trunks was Desmond able to get away and catch his train at Doncaster station.

Fortunately for most societies, the speakers seldom charge fees, only their expenses, which must be a reason why so far no society has become bankrupt by its own enterprise. It is the council's policy to leave the question of fees and expenses to the individual society. The council never dictates; only guides. Its bi-annual meetings have been a great success and provide a swapping place for ideas between societies. Delegates from the newer societies benefit from the experience of the older societies. But then again, the newer societies in their turn provide lots of ideas that the older societies might never have thought of.

There is no doubt that the society movement, guided by council, fulfils a real need for cricket lovers and is of inestimable value to the game. Now, in 1979, still more cricket societies, at home and abroad, are knocking at the door of the council.


MEMBER SOCIETIES

BlackleyD. Butterfield7 Bayswater Terrace, Halifax.
BestonL. A. Brooks7 Tawney Street, Boston, Lincs.
Cambridge UniversityJ. Reeve, Gonville and Caius CollegeCambridge
ChesterfieldB. Holling24 Woodland Way, Old Tupton, Chesterfield.
DoncasterK. J. Avis64 Harrowden Road, Wheatley, Doncaster.
Dulwich CollegeA. R. Haynes7 Malmains Way, Beckenham, Kent.
EssexP. T. Roberts22 Hawfinch Road, Layer-de-la-Haye, Colchester.
Flyde CoastS. Kennedy36 Torquay Avenue, Marton, Blackpool.
Hampshire P. M. Bichard9 Arle Close, Alresford.
Heavy WoollenN. Crone32 Oxford Road, Dewsbury.
Lancashire and CheshireH. W. Pardoe117A Barlow Moor Road, Manchester, 20.
LincolnshireC. Kennedy26 Eastwood Avenue, Grimsby.
London E. C. Rice67 Leithcote Gardens, London, SW 16.
NorthernC. R. Yeomans88 Church Lane, Cross Gates, Leeds 15.
NottonghamshireP. M. Wood2 Mosscroft Avenue, Clifton, Nottongham.
RotherhamJ. A. R. Atkin15 Gallow Tree Road, Rotherham.
Scotland A. J. Robertson19 Barlae Avenue, Eaglesham, Glasgow.
Somerset WyvernsP. H. Daly 81 Howard Road, Upminster, Essex.
StaffordshireJ. D. Scholfield331 Turnhurst Road, Palkmoor, Stoke-on-Trent.
StourbridgeW. V. Cox80 New Farm Road, Stourbridge.
SussexA. Dumbrell6 Southdown Avenue, Brighton.
TodmordenJ. E. Clayton76 Oak Avenue, Todmorden.
Uppingham SchoolE. J. R. BostonThe Common Room, Uppingham School, Rutland, Leics.
WalesT. Cook7 Ffordd Derdinan, Tonteg, Pontypridd, Mid-Glamorgan.
West LancashireD. H. Stringfellow40 Pilkington Road, Southport.
White HorseJ. F. Hill3 South Drive, Harwell, Nr. Didcot, Berks.
WombwellJ. Sokell42 Woodstock Road, Barnsley.
OVERSEAS
AustraliaA. G. Moore7 Aintree Avenue, East Doncaster, Victoria, 3109.
RhodesiaL. G. Morgenrood10 Elsworth Avenue, Belgravia, Salisbury, N12, Rhodesia.
OFFICALS
ChairmanC. R. Yeomans (Northern)88 Church Lane, Cross Gates, Leeds 15.
Hon. SecretaryJ. D. Welch (Doncaster)12 Moorgate Chase, Rotherham.
Hon. TreasurerE. C. Rice (London)67 Leithcote Gardens, London, SW 16.
Minute SecretaryMiss S. J. Robinson (Northern)5 Batcliffe Drive, Leeds 6.

© John Wisden & Co