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One Shot More...Part 12

Friday 1st May 2020

One Shot More...Part 12


1936 Double Winners

Back: W Smith (Scorer), DGR McKibbin, N Petts,J Dearden, W Shields, R Patton, J Shields

Front: F Mills, W Miller, J Macdonald, W Andrews, V Metcalfe, P Clarke, G Spence

In 1932 the 1st XI played 37 matches, with James and TJ Macdonald coming top of the batting averages. Other major run makers were HC Graham, Jackie Shields, Albert Anderson, Teddy Bebe, Stanley Morgan and Harry Morgan.  Tom Pearson, the ‘pro’, topped the bowling averages with 76 wickets but James Macdonald took 90, Harry Morgan 52, Jackie Shields 39 and TJ Macdonald 28.

North Down entertained the team from HMS Rodney at The Green on the 28th June, 1933, unaware of the historic part the ship would play eight years later in the sinking of the German Battleship ‘Bismarck’, and the following year the annual pre-season’s ‘newsletter’ indicated that Victor Metcalfe (ex North of Ireland) and D Wolseley (ex Rossall School) had joined the club and it was hoped that Donald (EDR) Shearer, who had joined a year earlier, would be available to play.

It was the custom at this time that every batsman should have an innings during a game and it caused quite a stir within the NCU when a side batting first and finishing with a low total, refused to continue the match after the team batting second had passed their score. The North Down representatives at this time, namely William Andrews and Albert Anderson, had definite views on the situation and it was left to the great upholder of the status quo, North Down chairman and powerhouse of the NCU, Mr. Willie, to make his and North Down’s view clear in a reply to Mr. Loughrey who had raised the issue at an NCU meeting:

“Our view is, that not only should a team be willing and pleased to give, if possible, all their opponents an innings, but the best test possible of the esprit-de-corps and sportsmanship of a side is how they play after they have been defeated.  Everyone can play a winning game, but a man is seen at his true value, both in sport and in life by how he takes his defeat.”

Our Supporters’ Club epitomised the enthusiasm at this time and by 1935 it had 80 members who organised functions and filled the buses for the away matches.

There was always a constant lookout for new recruits to join the club and in 1938, under a little pressure from Mr. Willie, Captain Miller of the Royal Ulster Constabulary ensured that a list was drawn up at the Commissioner’s Office, and sent to North Down, listing members within the Belfast area who had played cricket.

The list included personnel based in Musgrave Street, Brown Square, York Street, Cullingtree Road and Glenravel Street, amongst others.  All, with the exception of Sergeant JV McFadden who had played in Downpatrick and Dundonald, were Constables, including G McLean who had played at Regent House School, V Jones at Bangor and a bowler, appropriately named SA Over, who played for Ophir based in Newtownards.

As the decade moved on, the club went from strength to strength.  It would appear that regular practice was taken for granted and the Boots ‘Scribbling Diary’ of 1939 confirms that players booked their practice slots well in advance.  Frank Andrews and Raymond Crosby, Jim and Bob Montgomery and Harry Donnan all braved the elements in the first week in May – Raymond Crosby on three occasions!  James Macdonald, Willie Dempster, Victor Houston and Willie Andrews joined the first group in the second week and it was a full net the following Thursday in preparation for the visit of Pembroke to The Green on the Saturday.

The end of the decade warned of some difficulties ahead, although the 1st XI did well to reach the Senior Challenge Cup final in 1939, albeit soundly defeated by Woodvale.  The low league position, seventh, due to only five wins from the 13 games played, highlighted the need for change, even though James Macdonald was again the leading bowler in the NCU.

Perhaps it was inevitable, given that Jack Dearden, TJ Macdonald and Jackie Shields had all retired and illness and age, respectively, were beginning to take their toll on the wonderful cricketing careers of James Macdonald and Willie Andrews.

By 1939 the purchase of the ground had been completed and a circular for funds was sent to members and others interested in the game at North Down.  Unfortunately this appeal for financial assistance came shortly before the outbreak of war and the response, looking to raise approximately £1,336, could only muster £294.

But in fairness to everyone around the club, it was impossible to concentrate on cricket as the dark clouds of war had once again descended on Europe and many of the North Down members were already joining the services once again to answer the call of King and Country.

Our little cricket club would never be the same again.


The Senior Challenge Cup between the wars

The two decades between the wars were probably the greatest playing years at North Down with Willie Andrews’s team regularly collecting trophies and our best players regularly representing the province and playing for The Gentlemen of Ireland.  Indeed James Macdonald and brother Tom (TJ), wicket-keeper Jack Dearden, William Millar, Albert Anderson, David Taylor, David (DGR) McKibbin and the legendary captain himself were all honoured with international recognition.

On the fringe of international selection were Jackie Shields and Tommy Maxwell who both played with distinction for Ulster and were regular match winners with their fine bowling. Jackie was also a very capable bat who produced many a cameo innings on important occasions.

Jack Shields and Tommy Maxwell - successful Ulster fast bowlers

There is no doubt the North Down players developed a deep affinity with the Senior Challenge Cup, which might explain why it kept coming back to The Green on a regular basis, even when league performances didn’t reflect the obvious talent within the team. These were halcyon years at the club as far as the Senior League and Challenge Cup were concerned. From 1919 to 1939 the 1st XI won 19 of a possible 42 trophies and contested 16 of the 21 Senior Challenge Cup finals. All this was achieved at a time when Cliftonville, Waringstown, North of Ireland and, later, Woodvale had strong teams.


The senior cup performances during this period are worthy of special recognition as they are up there with the best in the history of this very special NCU competition.

For example, the first round of the cup in 1919 was almost a disaster but, on what was obviously a bowler’s wicket, Woodvale’s modest total of 58 was passed with only one wicket to spare. Ironically, barely a few weeks later, the cup was won by 69 runs on the back of Tommy Maxwell’s bowling against the mighty North of Ireland, Oscar Andrews, Willie Pollock et al.

Such are the fickle fortunes of knock-out competition.

Walter Lea took seven for 55 to beat Armagh in the long drawn-out 1920 semi-final and in a low scoring final added another ten wickets in an easy victory over Cliftonville. Tommy Maxell took nine wickets in that match and, just to show that cricket is a great leveller, both were out for ‘ducks’. Ironically the same two teams were drawn against each other in the first round in 1921 when North Down won by only five runs. The bowling of Hiatt, Lea, Maxwell and Hill was the strongest in the NCU at the time and it was the batsmen who failed to fire in the final that year when  Waringstown lost eight wickets needing only 51 runs to win.

Cliftonville got their revenge in the 1922 semi-final shooting out North Down for an all-time low of 26 runs.

A rare first round exit followed against Holywood in 1923, but James Macdonald had entered the scene by 1924 and fortunes were about to turn. Waringstown had a strong team at the time and it was almost inevitable that they would meet in the final but nobody could have predicted such a thrilling and close game at Ormeau, packed full of controversy and excitement. In a rain affected match North Down eventually needed 75 runs to win, six wickets remaining and Willie Andrews and Albert Anderson at the wicket. After only three overs, heavy rain again caused the game to stop for another half hour.  On resumption, and without the privilege of covered pitches, wickets fell at regular intervals until James Macdonald, who had been dropped at slip before he had scored, and Teddy Bebe added a vital 13 runs. Tom McKenzie was rampant, but eventually North Down’s last pair, Jackie Shields and Bert Hill, found themselves at the wicket with seven runs required to win the cup for the 14th time.  Attempting their fourth ‘single’ both batsmen were completely stranded in the middle of the wicket, but the Waringstown fielder slipped and they scrambled home. The drama and tension increased, but the winning runs came when Hill lofted the ball over mid-off to scenes of wild celebration from the Comber supporters. Such was the tension that a recount was required before North Down was adjudged winners by a single wicket.

Bert Hill and Jack Dearden 

Unfortunately, 1925 was an anti-climax in comparison as Cliftonville made it another first round exit, but 1926 produced an epic cup encounter against an up and coming Lisburn side. The finish to this match has remained part of the folklore of both clubs down the years, and centred on the club ‘pros’ who were standing as umpires.  With 266 needed for victory, North Down, the hot favourites, were 178 for nine and looked well beaten, but Jackie Shields had other ideas and proceeded to aggressively attack the Lisburn bowling.  Swashbuckling Jackie brought North Down to the brink of victory and then, dramatically, in the dying minutes North Down’s ‘home’ umpire, Mabbott, called a ‘no ball’ as the Lisburn wicket-keeper took a catch! Unbelievably North Down scraped home and went on to beat cup holders North of Ireland in the final with James Macdonald scoring two half-centuries and taking seven wickets. The inimitable Jackie was not to be denied either, as he scored 51 not out in the second innings.

“There’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip,

And the Lisburn team nearly gave North Down the slip,

But just when we thought that our number was up,

Bert Hill and young Shields put their mark on the cup.”

When Lord Justice Andrews two bats did present,

Jack Dearden was there and on good business bent,

He tried to swop Bert a brush for his bat,

For he says you can’t paper the kitchen with that.

Tra la la.  Tra la lee,

The best team in Ireland is North Down CC”

The 1926 cup win was celebrated in style with a 6.45pm dinner, (Morning Dress), on the 14th October at the Carnival Cabaret in the Andrews Memorial Hall in Comber.

 During this time James Macdonald produced some remarkable performances. 

In 1927 he took 12 for 45 in the final against Holywood including eight for 18 in the second innings. With either bat or ball he was a match-winner and, without doubt, he was the jewel in the North Down crown. Perhaps in any cricket crown, given his exceptional talents.

The 1928 cup story was notable for the first round centuries against Waringstown from William Andrews (170) and TJ Macdonald (115) and the second round game against Cliftonville, which started on the 30th June with North Down ‘posting’ 414 for nine wickets and continued on 2nd, 19th and 20th of July.  Gerry Spence’s 92 was outstanding in the 231 runs victory, and this win was followed by a four wickets semi-final  success over Armagh when the Macdonald brothers took nine wickets between them. Old adversaries North of Ireland were waiting in the wings but nine wickets from Jackie Shields were decisive in a seven wickets cup final win. A large crowd followed Comber Amateur Prize Flute Band round the town to the houses of the members of the victorious team, and ended up at Ardara where Mr Willie gave his third winning speech in succession. The proceedings ended with a round of applause and three hearty cheers for Mr Willie, followed by the National Anthem.

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