The Thurstonland Years 2

The 1960s: Casuals win more than they lose

The main factor explaining the improvement in playing standards seems to have been an influx of current or ex-league men who fancied a run out on a Sunday. Jack Taylor, a pace bowler, played for Kirkburton. A master at King James Grammar School, he was politely informed by the head, Harry Taylor, that he would play for the Casuals, or so the story goes. No one can recall how Billy Bolt arrived. As he was a Funeral Director with Bolt and Shuttleworth, the assumption is through social and business contacts. He played for Bradley Mills, now sadly defunct, and later took on the role of Chairman of the Huddersfield League. Apparently he was an all-rounder who could bat through a whole innings and Michael Hallas described Boycott as a real racer in comparison. Bolt Junior also played. Alan Priestley was recruited by Jim Netherwood and Paul Wood, who enjoyed afternoons watching league cricket at Thurstonland. ‘Come and play when we’re short,’ they said, according to Alan. Alan moved from Otley to work at David Brown’s as a test driver where one of his work colleagues invited him to play for Thurstonland. Another younster, who first played when he was 14 (strictly speaking in the 1950s), was Richard Taylor, son of headmaster Harry. He went on to be a league cricketer with Almondbury and Old Almondburians. Tony Hirst also remembers Bruce Jakeman, but cannot say just when he played, so we await verification (others of note include Aspinall and Mel Ryan, and how many others? please let us know).

1960s Hall of Fame

   Jack Taylor

Richard Taylor    

These fixtures are representative of the opposition in the 1960s (see also the 1967 fixture card). Hunstanton was the tour during this era, captained by Jim Abbey. Note that there are separate sections on fixtures and touring. No one can remember exactly how these fixtures came to be arranged. The Hunstanton tour came from one of Phillip Haigh’s brothers-in-law (the Windsor tour to Dorney Reaches in the 1950s was connected with another brother-in-law). Michael Hallas was a hockey man who worked for the Yorkshire Electricity Board (hence Ben Rhydding, Huddersfield Hockey and the YEB Sports Club). Mirfield Occasionals came with Ralph Sutcliffe, Wheatley and Sons with John Bell. The contacts were already in place with West Riding CC, the amateurs, the old boys and Thurstonland. So a fixture list could develop quite quickly and without a lot of effort. Was there an ex-RAF Casual? Where did the other fixtures come from?

Casuals v Thurstonland. Scorecard for 14 June, 1964.
       Alan Priestley

WH Bolt’s 76 was the Casuals highest score in the 9 games recorded against Thurstonland. Thurstonland may have won by 7 wickets, but note the wicket of Alan Priestley, out for a duck, bowled WH Bolt. Bill Crossland’s statistics show that Alan is the Casuals’ most valuable player (and as of 2010 an Honorary Life Member). He was still turning out well after 2000.

The early Casuals sometimes give the impression that they were amiable duffers; the emphasis was on turning out for the fun of it and being good at cricket was not a requirement. Alan refers to them as a ‘Sunday Cricketers’ and ‘mill-owners who couldn’t get off on a Saturday’. Despite staying with this primary intent, however, the Casuals performance improved, largely due to an influx of league cricketers. Some might say the early Casuals did not take the game seriously enough. Perhaps a touch of middle class shyness about growing professionalism in sport. Others might say this was a smokescreen behind which there was serious intent if not always the talent. Anyone watching the Casuals play would have recognised a formal game of cricket – whites, umpires, scorer. Winter nets were provided, weaker cricketers were put down the batting order and league players appeared, all suggesting performance and a result were also relatively important.

At a time when there was a tug-of-war between the elite amateurs at the MCC, who were trying to limit access to the upper flights of the game, and the commercial counties, leagues and top professionals, the Casuals provided widened access to the game for those who couldn’t or didn’t want to play league cricket, league cricketers who enjoyed social cricket and youngsters.

Toward the end of the 1960s, concern was expressed by some of the Casuals’ opposition about the quality of the Thurstonland wickets. Arrangements were made to move home games to Shepley CC. This link to Shepley CC website contains a note about the Casuals using their ground for Sunday games.

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