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One Shot More...Part 14

Thursday 14th May 2020

One Shot More...Part 14

Pictured North Down's Jack (JLO) Andrews

 The Junior Teams

In the early Twenties optimism was also rife within the 2nd XI ranks with the captaincy taken over by SJ Munn, a popular Knock rugby player and Willie Galbraith, of hockey fame, who also acted as secretary for the side.

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N Bourke, a capable cricketer from Bangor, joined in 1923 and was part of the team that reached the semi-final of the Junior Cup in 1923 and won through to the final in the following year. The 2nd XI success continued into 1925, the side winning 16 of the 19 matches played, drawing one and losing only two. The young players were coming good. Two of them, Jack Shields and James Macdonald, were already recognised by making the grade at the higher level, but neither was needed in 1926 when the Junior Cup was brought to The Green.  They celebrated in style with a November dinner in the Princeton Hotel in Bangor.  The squad was made up of the following players:

JLO Andrews (Capt), Joe Boyd, JMB Brown, N Burke, David Kirk, DC Lindsay, George Macdonald, TJ Macdonald Jnr., HN Magrath, DJ Murray, W Milliken, Jackie O’Prey, Andy Patton, Bobby Todd and Willie Wishart.

The 1926 Junior Cup Winners

They had played 23 games with Jack (JLO) Andrews averaging 55.4 but it was DGR McKibbin, a player destined for 1st XI and international honours, who shone with 504 runs and 44 wickets.

“I hear Jackie Andrews is engaged to be wed,

So he can’t be as shy as the people all said,

And I think that his uncle will be next on the list,

Now that Jackie has told him all the nice things he’s missed!”

Tra la la.  Tra la lee,

The best team in Ireland is North Down CC”

Gerry Spence, Reggie Morgan, Neville Petts, Harry Donnan, George Macdonald, S McAvoy, Billy Shields, A Murphy and Willie Watt made the runs, with McKibbin, Morgan, and Macdonald the main wicket- takers.

 The fledgling 3rd XI was created just after the war under the guidance of WT Graham, who acted as an adviser to FJ Boyd, the captain. In 1926, when four games were won, three drawn and seven lost, Victor Houston excelled with both bat and ball, with the other big runs coming from Jim Montgomery, Bobby Rowan and David Shields, with D McNish, Rowan, J Watt and W Allen taking the wickets.

 The 2nd XI began the Thirties well, competing for the Junior Cup and the Second Division of the Senior League, under the experienced David Taylor with Jack O’Prey, David Kirk, Willie Cannavan, R Donnan and Neville Petts top run makers and David (DGR) McKibbin, Tommy Maxwell, W McKibbin and especially D McQuade playing major bowling roles.

The 3rd XI played in the Minor Cup under Milton Coulter of New Comber House, and had a lot of Saturday and evening friendlies on their fixture cards.  Tom Savage was the top all rounder while Neville Petts and Willie Watt in batting and Joe Watt and Billy Shields were the bowling heroes.

According to William Andrews, young Harry Donnan ‘made a most gratifying advance’ with the bat.  He was later to become a recipient of the unofficial William Andrews-sponsored trip to Lord’s for a week’s coaching.  J Savage was a mainstay in the bowling and Leonard Ward had a promising season as wicket keeper.

The under 15s, under the guidance of James Macdonald, usually passed the first round of the Graham Cup, but came unstuck against Lurgan and Sydenham in consecutive years. Raymond Crosby, Bob Patton, David Cannavan, John Shields, Bobby Cooke and Drew Hogg all showed great promise.  Having won a Graham Cup game by 200 runs in 1932 with Tom Wilson, Raymond Crosby, Hugh McKnight and Frank Andrews outstanding all rounders and Jim Magowan keeping a good wicket, the boys were disqualified through playing an over-age player!


The Professionals


It was the practice for many years to recruit a professional player, with a ‘boy’ to assist from late in April and this continued between the wars.  Basically the position was advertised, contacts used and a detailed application form, that asked for all the necessary background information, issued on request.  The lengths to which the club went to ascertain an applicant’s suitability for the position, was reflected in the many references asked for, the number of letters written by the much travelled Mr Willie and the advertisements that were placed in ‘The Athletic News’ and local press.

The ‘pro’ was able to choose the ‘boy’, who assisted him in all the menial duties associated with the ground and acted as gatekeeper and vigilante. He informed ‘the powers that be’ when there was illegal admission to the ground during games or trespass into the pavilion area and for such services received a nominal sum and had free entry into the club dinner and entertainments.

The new spring-locked gate erected in 1922 to assist in ‘preventing the destruction of the club’s property’ required that members provide themselves with a key from Sam Davidson at the refundable price of one shilling and sixpence. Under no circumstances were the professional or his ‘boy’ to leave their work to open the gate.

The appointment of suitable professionals was not easy, as it was difficult to get reliable information. At North Down it generally worked well, with Arthur Clay from Nottingham, who had been ‘pro’ from 1884 to 1886 and Charles Lowings (1906- 1910), supplying candidates and references during this time. Clay had contacts with ‘Gunn & Moore’ the sports equipment suppliers and, along with Lowings, also supplied cricket balls to the club.  In 1919, Clay referred to the applicant Mr Coates as: ‘a good free bat’ and ‘a most respectable man who is absolutely steady and sober’ and quoted averages of 27.29 and 88 wickets at 9.4. He earned his stipend more as a groundsman and coach rather than as a player with his duties carrying a weekly wage of three pounds five shillings and, in this case, a substantial £27 ‘Benefit’ at the end of the season.

In 1920, having secured a dozen county cricket balls from Clay, Mr Willie informed him that Watmore would be pro for the year. Watmore had been ‘pro’ in 1915 and spent 1919 with Edgeware CC in Middlesex when he showed that his service at the front in the Army had not interfered with his ability as a cricketer. 

In a letter to Watmore in April, having sorted out his crossing arrangements from London, Mr. Willie wrote:

“As you will have noticed by my last letter, I thought the Sinn Feiners might cause some trouble at Easter, but it was very slight, and no one about here saw any of them, nor is there any chance of them molesting us in any way.”

It proved to be an excellent engagement as he subsequently remarked:

“As a groundsman he could not be excelled, having a thorough knowledge of the work in every detail.  I have never known our ground to be in better order than he has now left it.”

J Harris

Case, Kingston, Mabbott and Harris had two seasons apiece, Kingston being particularly favoured by Mr. Willie for his all round cricketing ability and was asked back for the 1925 season but declared himself unavailable as a ‘pro’ but willing to be registered as an amateur. The prospect of Kingston, a former player with Nottinghamshire County 2nd XI, playing as an amateur, underlined the thinking behind the committee’s announcement:

 ‘That when the best amateur side was available, the experiment should be tried next season of doing without a professional in league matches’. 

 In short the ‘pro’ would coach, act as groundsman, go on tour and play in the ‘friendly’ games.

In 1925 two boys’ teams, the Under-11s and the Under-15s were started under ‘pro’ Leslie Mabbott. George J Harris coached both age groups at the club and at RBAI and his work on the wickets was excellent. Being ‘honest, sober, civil and obliging and good on tour’ he fitted in well with the club’s perception of the ideal North Down ‘Pro’.

After Albert Dodson and Walter Lea, who at that time reputedly held a world record of having taken 14 wickets for no runs, the highly recommended Tom Pearson became ‘pro’ for the next three years and made an immediate impression by delivering the best bowling figures of any professional since Charles Lowing’s first season in 1906.  His 77 wickets cost 8.64 and his coaching skills and groundwork convinced the committee that he could be employed for longer than the traditional two years, but the acceptance of a full time post in England brought his association with the club to an end in 1933.

GR Preece, who had been a professional with Liverpool, Birkenhead and County Wicklow cricket clubs was a slow left arm bowler who had taken over 100 wickets in each of the previous three seasons. He excelled as a coach, especially on the fine practice wickets which were top dressed with Daft’s famous Nottinghamshire marl. Preece was given notification that he would have ‘a boy’ at ten shillings a week to help him and it was pointed out that he would have to choose from applicants, some of whom might meet him on the platform at Comber railway station. Mr Willie recommended Willie Wishart or, failing that, Jim Barry.

Later on, evidence of Preece supposedly slacking in his duties did not go down well with the committee. He was reprimanded regarding time spent in Belfast after his duties at Dungannon Royal School when he should have been coaching at The Green.

In 1936, the seasoned North Down player Tommy Maxwell wrote to the committee for the Pro/Groundsman position:

Dear Sir

     Having seen by Ireland’s Saturday Night that North Down Cricket Club require Groundsman, able to bowl at nets, play in matches or umpire if required I apply for same.  As regards experience any that I have has been with the North Down Club.  I have been about the ground all my life & know how to prepare wickets for matches also practice & repair wickets & ground work in general.  Hoping sir you & the North Down Committee will consider my application, wages expected 40 shillings per week

Yours Obedient

T Maxwell

Unfortunately for Tommy, his application was unsuccessful and another local player Robert Patton, was appointed, even though in the words of  Mr Willie:


 ‘He is not as well trained, and consequently we are not paying him as high a wage as we usually give our professional.’ 

Patton accepted £2 per week although the basic wage remained at £3 for the 22 weeks, plus travelling expenses and a benefit, usually raising about £20. Included in his coaching duties for that season was one visit each week to Dungannon Royal School where he earned ten shillings and had his return train fare paid.

Tommy Maxwell was not to be denied and his application in 1943 was successful and he was the key groundsman and coach through the war years, his last season in charge being 1947.

Not all the ‘pros’ were a great success in dealing with Mr Willie. In 1937 the negotiating was protracted and it wasn’t until the 7th May that Riddington was offered the position.  He was asked to pay his £1 three shillings for steerage, crossing via Leicester on the Heysham steamer, catch the 8.30am train to Comber, meet with Albert Anderson, see the ground and start work the next morning. It was an ominous start and things obviously got worse in the opinion of Mr. Willie:

Anthony Riddington

 “He is the laziest man I have ever known as a professional cricketer, but is undoubtedly a good coach and player.”

Riddington was a stylish left-hand batsman and useful spin bowler who made a good impression on the field of play but after a few weeks he had fallen foul of the one person who carried the most influence at The Green. Almost inevitably he resigned, and returned to Leicestershire.

 Robert Patton and Albert Dodson finished the 1930s as professionals at The Green, and the workload was much reduced in the six years that followed.

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