The Thurstonland Years 1

 

1940s: The Occasionals

We have to go back to the 1940s to pick up the actual beginnings. Both Ralph Sutcliffe and Derek Bamforth think they played in the middle 1940s when rumour has it a Casuals team (known as The Occasionals) were playing informally. Derek, in his 90s, recalled that most of the players knew each other from before the war and, after demobilisation, it was only natural to get together again. His particular connection came through The Old Boys, otherwise known as Huddersfield RUFC. He wasn’t a good cricket player he said, but enjoyed the sense of fun that went with the Casuals. Results were of minor importance. He remembered once, coming in at six and missing every shot under the sun, whereupon the keeper suggested he might be a good bowler. In good time, Derek ‘had to disillusion him.’

King James Grammar School

In Cricket in Perspective 1, Tony Sykes’ wrote that Harry Taylor, headmaster of King James Grammar School, Almondbury, allowed the use of a ground around 1948. Tony contributed some kit and skippered. He referred to the club as the Occasuals.

1950s: Casuals’ Beginnings

The First Minutes

David Hinchliffe, now in his 80s, remembers that four members of that early cricket team; Phillip Haigh, Noel Wimpenny, Bill Johnson and Tony Dawson, businessmen in textiles and building were in the Friday evening habit of calling at The Masons’ Arms, Lowerhouses or The Conservative Club, Almondbury, on their way home from work. It sounds like a forerunner to the happy hour. There was a fifth, Gerry Shires, Andy Shires’ cousin, who played league cricket with Huddersfield, but it seems he preferred a higher standard of social cricket with the Craven Gentlemen. Records show he was a Casual in 1952, resigning two years later. The original four, on 23rd October 1951, convened a meeting at The Woolpack, next door to the Conservative Club, Almondbury, to discuss the proposal ‘that next Summer the Almondbury Casuals should become a small cricket club and should be put on a more organised basis’. This took place on November 21 with further sessions on January 15 and February 12, 1952, to iron out the practical detail of fixtures, venue, nets and the rules of the club. A final meeting prior to the first season took place on April 24 to confirm their banking arrangements with Lloyds of Westgate, Huddersfield.

Conservative Club and Blacksmiths Arms

The heart and soul of Almondbury Casuals were determined by these meetings and the club has tried to keep the faith ever since. It has rarely failed and it is worth stressing the main points. The four founders took turns to be skipper and were the nucleus ot the committee, under the chairmanship of Phillip Haigh. Getting a full side was identified as a possible problem. Whilst membership was restricted to 25, an increase to 30 and an additional invitation list were proposed for 1952. The numbers limit was intended as a tactic to allow everyone to ‘have plenty of opportunity to play’. An invitation was not the same as joining a waiting list for membership, and it wasn’t to be used before all the current members had been asked to play. Better still, members shouldn’t wait to be asked. A register of appearances ensured everyone would have an equal chance to turn out. The register would also help selection, along with assessing the strength of the opposition, when the captain had more than eleven. There was no desire to play against strong sides. Fixture lists were printed and arrangements were made to attend Mr Henshaw’s winter net on the five Sundays from March 29th to April 26th inclusive. The secretary was instructed to make the necessary arrangements with Mr Henshaw and inform members accordingly.

Thurstonland CC

The first Sunday fixtures, home games to be played at Thurstonland, were against WR Wanderers, which Andy Shires recalls as West Riding CC, a nomadic team that included B Snoop and B Sellers, Staffs Arms, which Andy thinks was the pub at Stainborough, The Old Boys and The Amateurs, the nickname of Huddersfield Amateur Association Football Club. Evening games were arranged with Midland Bank, where Harold Radcliffe worked (one of the Casuals’ Treasurers), and Round Table. As evening games would have probably made a loss at Thurstonland, Harry Taylor was approached about a school pitch and maybe an outdoor net, because it was thought they would be free. It’s not clear whether Harry was invited or he invited himself, but the records show he became a Casual in 1953 at the same time as Ken McGill (brother Ray joined in 1959). The evening fixtures were dropped after the 1953 season.

1950s Hall of fame

David Hinchliffe thinks Woodsome golf club was probably the Casuals’ focus with regards to the early invitations and fixtures, bringing guys together from The Amateurs and the local hockey and rugby clubs. Other, non-sports clubs, would have contributed as well.

The first season was reviewed at the 1952 September committee meeting when a surplus of £1.5s.3d was noted. Membership was increased to 30, which ‘did not imply that vacancies had to be filled’. L Archibold was made an honorary member in recognition of his services as an umpire.

Most people agree that the standard, to begin with, was poor. The tale that, when batting, most of the team were padded up in readiness for a collapse wasn’t so far from the truth. But, as the Casuals moved into the swinging sixties, this was about to change.

 

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