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Recounting Blessings

Chapter 20


1950 – 1957

 

Cambusbarron / Bannockburn / Stirling

Some Cricket and Tennis Recollections

 

My summer sporting life – and life generally – from 1952 through to the time that I went up to Glasgow to University and College in 1957 was dominated by cricket and, only to a slightly lesser extent, tennis and its associated social activities. There was just no time available for extending my tendency to have crushes on many a ‘bonnie lass’ into anything more ‘serious’ than some wee flirtatious ‘danders aroon’ the King’s Park in the afterglow gloaming of knock-about mixed-doubles at our Stirling Municipal LT.C.! (Not actually Lawn Tennis as LTC implies, but filthy, dusty red blaes to keep our mothers’ washing machines constantly on the go!). I recall some of these fun and games here in Doric verse:-

Daffin wi' Quines

 

The tryst o' ma teens wis oor teennis club,

Makin' freens o' mony kines,

Espeeshully wi'-soarts fa weert shoart fite froaks,

Cause a shairly loo'd tae daff wi' quines.

The yins I prefarr'd syne wur thon fa aye play'd,

Wi'oot aft ony worry oar care,

Sae fan we wis a' din, fidder she'd loast oar wan,

She wid wint tae ging 'play' sim mair.

 

The club lay int neuk,

O' the auld sae-green King's Pairk,

An' a ayewyes felt thit a,

Wi' feen roy'lty's bat an' ba',

Wis a-playin' i' a Coort,

O' sim Duchess oar a Duke,

Fa's fell gowfers syne-a-sweengin' wi' ony club thit they took, 

Wur ont course gaen a' roon-boot oor neuk.

 

Ma lass an' a wid gae waaks haun i' haun,

Fan gloamin' shades cam doon.

Fin quait-lik bunker it wis oor inteent,

Faur fae twinklin' lichts i' toon.

We'd huddle, cuddle, coory richt doon,

As wid a gleg-quine wi' her loon

Seely thit sich bittie o' coortin' wis sportin',

Unner fant sheen o' the moon.

 

Aye tryst o' ma teens wis oor teennis club,

Makin' freens o' mony kines,

Espeeshully wi' soarts fa weert shoart fite froaks,

Cause a shairly loo'd tae daff wi' quines.

The yins I prefarr'd syne wur thon fa aye play'd,

Wi'oot aft ony a baither oar care,

Sae fan we'd hid bit fun, oan thon weet oar ull grun,

She wid wint tae ging 'play' sim mair.

 

Mair thon fun - mair - aft - 'gin - mair!

 

 

 

SMLTC Ladies and Gents’ Teams – 1955

(My best ‘pal’ Charla Petrie from 1952-1957 is sitting just in front of me)

 

But to more serious matters than mere tennis .…. CRICKET ! …

As school sport commitments permitted – school selection taking precedence over outside club picks – I turned out fairly regularly from 1954 onwards in the 1st County team, but only as wicket-keeper after the doyen Willie Clark retired in the aftermath of his disapproval of the advent of Sunday cricket at Williamfield.

 

The greatest influence on my prowess, from 1955 - 1959, if not totally my attitude to the game, gradually evolved from my having the privilege of being a team-mate of our SCCC professional Irvin Iffla from Jamaica, who, incidentally was still playing with me for Gargunnock up until 1995, in his seventies, after I had started GVCC in 1983.

 

However, until 1957, school cricket in May and June took a chunk out of the short adult Scottish cricket season for me as the impossibility of getting back from morning away school matches in time for a 2pm start for County games. This indeed proved to be very frustrating. Nonetheless, the school games were good fun, especially as our sides were always buttressed with about another six boys with similar adult experience to my own – a veritably unbeatable combination in the less challenging atmosphere of the youth game.

 

 

Annual High School of Stirling Staff v Pupils Match

At Williamfield, Stirling, June, 1955

 

 

However, during the 1952/53/54 seasons I was mainly a Saturday afternoon programme seller, score-box assistant and stand-by ground helper. This kind of volunteer work was essential as such was the charisma and match-winning ability of Irvin Iffla that crowds numbered over 500 on a regular basis at Williamfield for Championship matches. …. And of course we youthful adherents dreamed of the days coming when we might, if we worked hard at the game, experience the thrills of playing in such cauldrons of noise and partisanship.

 

Such days came my way in due course and have remained with vivid clarity in my mind’s-eye. Every mis-field would be greeted with groans from our spectators and occasionally ribald abuse from our opponents’ supporters. The applause for doing something well however was often provided in concert from both camps!

 

Some extracts from Club minutes give a bit of the flavour of these halcyon days:-

 

 

1952 - This was the year that the club won the County Championship.

On July 2nd a crowd of 3000 attended at Williamfield for Iffla's benefit match against Perthshire. The success of the season was in no small measure due to the efforts of Iffla. He scored 506 at an average of 24.09 and took 114 wickets at 8.38 apiece. In the Championship he took 42 wickets at an average of 9.85, supported by George Yorston who took 23 wickets for 11.22 apiece. On Saturday October 25th a dinner was held in the Golden Lion Hotel to celebrate winning the Scottish Counties Championship. On November 26th there was a Civic Reception and Dinner at the Golden Lion Hotel with Provost Watters in the Chair. The Town Council decided to present the club with a flagpole and to present Irvin Iffla with a cricket ball mounted on a silver plate.

 

1953 - Mr Walter Bain presented the club with a new flag to be unfurled on the flagpole presented by Stirling Town Council. This took place on the 15th May, when Mrs Forbes, wife of Lt-Col Wm.C.Forbes of Callendar, Patron of the club, officiated. The flag was presented in recognition of the club's success in 1952.

On Saturday 5th June there was an unusual climax to the match between Stirling and West Lothian. "Stumps were drawn and everyone was back in the pavilion, thankful to get out of the torrential rain which fell in the closing minutes, when skipper W.CIark discovered that a mistake had been made in the scoring and Stirling had finished one run short of the visitor's total of 108 instead of 109 as had been shown on the scoreboard. The mistake had occurred through one of the umpires earlier in the game signalling a drive by Willie MacArthur first as a six and then as a boundary hit. The scorers had failed to catch the second signal and MacArthur was credited with a six, knocking the total out by two runs. The skippers of the two sides consulted with the umpires and it was agreed to resume the game in order to keep everything above board. By this time the players had changed and took the field in civilian clothes. A.Paris even wearing a soft hat, while wicket keeper Watson was minus pads and gloves. Willie Drysdale faced the bowling and put the score beyond doubt by collecting a 4 and a 2."

 

Report from the Stirling Sentinel of 21.7.53. - Six hundred spectators watched the exciting clash between Stirling County and the "Big County" (Perthshire) but when it was clear that professional Iffla was going through the home side (Perthshire) like water through a sieve, he (Iffla) became the target for the worst and most foul mouthed opprobrium ever heard on the cricket field. The obscenity hurled at him by cowards round the boundary line, who referred to the professional's colour was nauseating in the extreme. After the game the umpires were escorted off the field by Perthshire officials."

 

1954 - At a General meeting on September 29th, reference was made to :-

 

Irvin Iffla's record over the last four seasons. Batting Average 24.0, 24.0, 38.93, and 31.08. Bowling Average 7.86, 8.38, 9,03, and 9.06.

 

George Yorston's Bowling Average : 10.15,14.84,10.63 and 11.59. Of the overs bowled it was recorded that a third were ‘maidens’.

 

A Daily Express report on 14th July 1954.  –

"Irvin Iffla of Jamaica, one of the most colourful of cricket professionals in Scotland, has been paid a remarkable tribute by his club. Stirling County. They have asked him to stay with them until 1960. So Iffla, who is now thirty, has signed a five year contract which will not come into effect till the end of the next season, which is when his current engagement ends. Iffla has had his biggest success as a bowler - slow medium, leg and off breaks with full command of flight. As a batsman he is most entertaining, fast between the wickets and full of enterprise and strokes. He also fields brilliantly.”

 

1955 - The club was runner up in the County Championship.

 

In a match against Perth on 19th May, Perth batted first and scored 147/6 in 187 minutes. lt then rained for 78 minutes leaving Stirling 68 minutes in which they scored 39 72.

 

Playing against Grange on 20th June, Iffla scored 105 and took 7 wickets for 24 runs. Match scores were Stirling 209/6 and Grange 72.

 

The match against Perth at Williamfield on 26th June was taken as the benefit game for Irvin Iffla. The Stirling Journal’ in it's Notes and Comments section referring to Iffla commented "He has brought new life to cricket in the district and by his performances has brought Stirling more prominence than would normally be accorded to the town. Iffla's cricket is of the type which attracts the crowds. His recent performances mark him down as having no superior in Scotland and not so many elsewhere. Match Scores : Perth 225/5 Stirling 124/9. Match drawn. In the game W.CIark scored 52 and won a bat offered by Vice President Douglas Palmer to any player scoring 50 against Perth.

 

1956 - In a match against West Lothian the absence of the eleventh man foiled a bowling feat. Stirling took first use of the pitch and scored 171 runs. When West Lothian batted, Iffla was in sparkling form and took 9 wickets for 17 runs out of a total of 56. Unfortunately one West Lothian player left the ground at the end of Stirling's innings to travel to Abington to attend a school holiday camp. As a result Iffla did not have the opportunity to take the full ten wickets in one innings. This took place on 19th July.

 

Recently I recorded my memories of this match in verse, and it should be noted that at Irvin and Lucille Iffla’s Golden Wedding Anniversary Dinner in Bannockburn, in true cricketing camaraderie, the ‘maligned’ Peter Reid spoke very highly of Irvin and gave HIS explanation of his unfortunate departure!

 

‘Peter Reid – Awa’ fishin’?

 

 The ‘Beeb’s’ Heather the Weather’s Dad Peter

Claims fame oan a quite different stage.

Meebee  not’riety wid better describe it,

Fur his action then caused unco rage.

 Efter he and George Strachan had skittled

The Williamfield lads oot fur nae much,

Roon’ hundred-seeventy as a recall it

Nae a worryin’ tairget as such.

 Wi’ left handed demons like Shanksy

And wee J.M.C. Ford nae i’ fu’ tune

Nae milkin’ the bowlin’ o’ Iffla,

Mony wickets they tumilt fest doon

 Tho’ seemed  it wid be a graun battle

Tae last oot the time fur a draw,

Oor Peter pack’d up a’ his clobber

Sayin’, “A’ll hiv tae ip an awa’.”

 Some thocht he’d an appointment on’t river

Where fishes awaited his hook,

An’ as his wee motor departed,

Some grinned … bit ither heads shook.

 In a maiter o’ meenits ther’efter,

Yie widnae believe whit transpired.

Iffla made mair inroads on’t order,

An  man efter man wis retired.

 Still hingin’ sae faur shoart o’ tairget,

Doon wickets suin they cam doon tae nine,

An’ oor Pro’ quite richtly wis thinkin’,

‘Ane’ mair an’ a’ ten’ll be mine.’

 Bit nae yin appeared oot o’ pavilion,

Sae’ t’umpires awarded the game.

When thon last wicket jist couldnae be ta’en,

Tae gie’ Iffy his rare chance o’ fame.

 

 

Another Great Victory

 

Rather than merely spectate, I had the pleasure to take part in another memorable match which took place during the following season at Williamfield. I honour the win that day in verse below:-

 

(Scottish ‘Coonty’ cricket thrived in the 1950s in the Shires along the banks of the Forth, Tay, Dee and Don and this was in no small measure a real crowd-pulling sport because of the presence in these sides of charismatic professionals like Rohan Kanhai of Aberdeenshire, Clairemonte Depeiza of Forfarshire, Tom Lodge of Perthshire, Aston Powe of Fifeshire, Fred Benham of West Lothian, Adzil Holder of Clackmannan County and Irvin Iffla of Stirling County. In particular, the Caribbean influence was magical and the rivalry intense.

 

Doon and Oot !

 

Cricket in the Fifties,

Oan Scotia’s Coonty grun’s

Hid richt West Indian flavour,

As they piled oan the runs.

Kanhai’s flair wis legend

Fae Mannofield tae t’Inch.

His flashin’ blade tormentin’

Made fielders cow’r an’ flinch.

But Iffla doon at Williamfield

Wis jist as muckle kent,

An’ Stirlin’ fans aft thanked the Lord

Fur’t talent HE had sent.

As stumper tae his bowlin’ guile,

A suir could vouch fur that.

Faur less the brilliance ‘Zacchy’ showed

In’t field an’ wi’ the bat.

Yin day on’t back a thumpin’

Up North frae Kanhai’s crew,

We hosted them at Stirlin’

Where crowds jist grew and grew.

In sich lik’ bull ring atmosphere

George Youngson wis oan sang.

Oor lowly total gaither’d, sayin’,

‘That’ll nae delay ‘em lang.’

When early tea’d been slowly ta’en,

And Rohan cam’ tae crease,

It looked a stane cauld certainty

Proceedin’s suin wid cease.

Nae cause tae chinge that prophesy

Cam efter six ba’s bowled,

As Kanhai thrashed fu’ nineteen runs

In ‘Yin-Day Cricket’ mould.

Bit, unlike us oor Iffla man

Wis calm and resolute,

‘I’ll set my trap for Rohan boy,

An’ get the b-gger oot.’

True tae his word oor wily pro

Suin hid his ‘oppo’ fazed,

Till when on’t pad he struck him plumb

Ump’s finger it was raised.

Fae that p’int oan the loons collapsed

In total disarrays.

The pare wee score they managed then

Bein’ shoart by some lang ways!


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