The 80's were, for me, the decade.1980 saw my debut for the club and in 1989, I finished the decade captaining the 2nd XI in the Kent League.
I first wandered up to The Rectory Field as a very skinny 14 year old in late April 1980. Actually I had been there before. It was some years earlier to watch a charity cricket match. It was Sun Life of Canada bash and the late Brian Moore made 50 odd. This however was my first visit as a prospective cricketer.
At that time my school were not playing cricket as the teachers were on an overtime ban, and so there were no matches arranged. My mother's friend was secretary to club cricket stalwart Chris Brown, son of the former England captain Freddie, he suggested Blackheath was a good club to join in the area and gave the name of Chris Swadkin to contact. He told me colt's nets were on Thursday nights and so I hopped on a 108 bus from Eltham to Blackheath Standard.
I arrived early and there were just two other boys there. There was a net set up where the scoreboard is these days. It had a concrete base of about 12 yards covered in a green mat full of holes. At the bowling end there was no grass at all, just a dusty crater. The smaller of the two boys was bowling gentle lobs to the older looking boy. I enquired after Mr. Swadkin and the batsman told he wasn't there yet but he invited me to join in and asked me if I was a batsmen or bowler. I told him I was a fast bowler, measured out my run and bowled at him. The first delivery was so wide that it missed the mat and disappeared into the overgrown grass that covered the surrounding ground. The two boys looked at each other and sniggered, I went back to my mark rather embarrassed. I came into bowl again; got everything right and cleaned up the batsman, stumps everywhere!
Just for the record, the bowlers name was Colin Isaacs and the batsmen? Well his name was Omar Khan.
Thursday night nets were good fun. Swaddy oversaw things but the main man who ran the show was a very enthusiastic young wicketkeeper/batsman/leg spinner called Iain Nunn, or Blue as he was known.
We played in the North Kent U15 League. Matches were played on Sunday mornings or weekday evenings. They were 24 over matches and much to my annoyance bowlers were limited to a maximum of 4 overs each.
I remember my debut well. It was the first league match of the season against RACS. We turned up at their ground and I suppose the situation I found set the tone for the lack of organisation that blighted the club in the 80's. We had turned up with 12 boys who had all been told that they were playing. After some discussion amongst the parents and Swaddy, it was decided to leave out the youngest member. I think he was only 11, very small and quiet and from what I'd seen of him at nets could neither bat nor bowl. He did however have brand new kit and broke down in tears when he was told he wouldn't be playing. His name was Darrel Carter.
We got hammered that day. I opened the bowling and bowled out my 4 overs only conceding 2 runs, which I was rather pleased with but not managing to get any wickets.
The opening batsmen for RACS were David "Carlos" Fox and Trevor Ward. Ward was considerably younger than the rest of us but obviously possessed quite a talent. I think he made 96* and they rattled up 170 odd. I don't think Carlos got many, but then he never did. Also playing for them was a tiny Andy Tutt and his big brother John. Not only did they have a future Kent opening bat, but also their opening bowler I'm sure would have gone into first class cricket too but for tragic circumstances. He was called Colin Ingles; he was huge and extremely quick. I thought I was fairly sharp in those days but this boy was something else. Sadly Colin died a few years later.
Like my great cricketing hero, David Gower, I also hit my first ball for four and even managed to deflect an Ingles thunderbolt for another before departing for 10. I think I batted at six that day but I was soon occupying a double figured position on the scorecard!
We had some very good players in those days. Omar of course, plus chunky Martin Wilson, Chris Mackintosh, Lee O'Brien, Lee Morton, Colin Isaacs to name but a few.
For some reason, which I never worked out, we were captained by a boy called Roger Wade, when it was obvious that Omar should be doing it. We even had a player's coup one day and presented Swaddy with a petition saying as much but somehow we didn't get our way. Of course that was not the first time such action had been taken at Blackheath, nor indeed the last.
As I said we had some good players but we didn't seem to win as many matches as we should have done.
The better colts like Martin Wilson and Omar would sometimes get a late call in the week to make up the numbers in the Saturday 3rd XI or the Sunday 2's. These teams were captained by Geoff Hurrell and Alistair Munro respectively. Both these men were characters in their own right. Geoff was a delightfully eccentric middle aged, middle class chap, who quite obviously had been more than a decent player in his day. He loved to play in his MCC sweater and what I presume was his university cap. His calling was legendary: " Can you…?" would come the polite request as he skilfully placed the ball between mid-off and cover point. With his lack of mobility between the wickets it surely should have been his partner asking that question!
Alistair, a slow bowler full of guile and experience only had one leg, and never asked for a runner!
The next season, '81 we were strengthened by more players such as Dave Whiting and notably Phil Ashendon. Phil was an exceptional player, a true all-rounder. He bowled a lively medium pace with a lot of swing, and batted with a true straight blade. Phil played for a few years but like so many promising youngsters disappeared.
It was this year that I played my first proper cricket, i.e. an afternoon game. In the summer holidays we played U17 matches against local clubs, which seemed to be just Sidcup and Orpington. It was in these games that I first met the older colts, namely, Stuart "FP" Mullins, Big Hearted Terry McLean and Richard Calland-The Judge.
As I mentioned earlier, in those days, things were not greatly organised at the club, and on more than one occasion we turned up at the Rectum for one of these matches only to find no pitch prepared, no Tea, or no opposition. Sometimes all three! This was in no part the fault of Swaddy or Blue, but just a general lack of communication that existed between the various parts of the club in those days.
One of these U17 matches is now the subject of folklore and legend and when us old chaps get together at a social occasion such as Lords or at one of Omar's weddings, we love to relive it.
We were captained by Richard Calland, who was a delightful chap. Slightly posh, intelligent, arrogant, and possessed a wickedly controversial streak. He reminded me of a cross between David Bowie and Tony Greig. The match was at Sidcup and they were captained by the equally arrogant Andy Wren-no relation. Andy would say things like "….I think we should bat first as you're not very good etc etc.." I can't recall whether he said such things that day, they did bat first, but something had got Richard going and he decided we were going to bowl Bodyline! Well that was perfect for me; I loved to bowl as quickly as possible and invariably bowled short anyway. So I opened the bowling with Mick Brazil, who bowled like a loony all the time. He would steam in with a mile wide grin on his face, bowl a succession of beamers and bouncers, get smashed all over the place, and just stand on the pitch, hands on hips-grinning!
So with two forward short legs and two backward ones as well, we set about our task. Unfortunately this was not The Gabba or The MCG; this was Crescent Farm, Sydney Road. This was Sidcup's 2nd pitch. It was soft, wet and slow and Andy Wren and Co. helped themselves.
Stuart and Terry opened for us. They batted, and batted, and batted. They didn't score particularly quickly, in fact rather slowly and definitely too slow for our captain. Richard had had enough and decided to do something I had never seen before in any form of cricket, or indeed since. He walked out towards the middle at the end of an over and informed his openers that he was "retiring" them.
Terry sort of accepted it in his big-hearted way, and with a shrug of the shoulders tried to get FP to come off with him. Stuart was having none of it though, and after an extraordinary scene of tears and expletives got Terry to carry on and Richard to abandon his tactic. I think we drew the match.
It was around this time that I first encountered one of Club Cricket's most "endearing" characters: John Carter AKA Superump! A slightly odd fellow with the most wonderful No-ball shout. It basically went: "..Baaaa." Sadly he modified it in later years. You couldn't keep him out of the game, always had to do a "Dead Ball" or a "One Short etc". You couldn't keep him out of the bar either but as for the shower, well……..
Superump would turn up all over the place. Other club's Cricket Weeks, or London Schools games.
People would moan about his decisions, but when I was captain I felt I'd rather have him than no Umpire at all. However, I did change my mind.
It was in the '81 season that I played my first senior cricket. I made my debut in the Saturday third team. Dennis Lingard was looking after the team as Geoff Hurrell was on some extended Eastern Europe tour.
I cannot recall who the match was against but it was down in Maidstone somewhere. Others in the team were fellow colts Dave Whiting and FP, along with senior players like Duncan Birss and Blue Nunn. Dennis had obviously had good reports about me as he let me open the bowling. At the other end was a young Anglo/Aussie named Grant Davidson. He had a run up from the sightscreen and an action that was a mix of Max Walker, Barry Wood and Magnus Pyke. He was quite rapid though, but extremely erratic. Also, he knew how throw a good "Paddy". I'd not seen anyone go quite so ballistic before on the field, however I seen a few since over the last 20 odd years. I bowled about a 12 over spell, something that would not be allowed for a 15 year old these days! I ask you, it's PC gone mad isn't it? Anyway I picked 4-13. Dennis apologised for taking me off when a 5-for was on the cards, but I was a bit knackered by then, and maybe he thought he, as captain would have to buy my jug for me!
It was good to play cricket with Dennis, because when you had Dennis, you also had Joanna, his girlfriend. To a 15-year-old boy, and in fact, to all the blokes in the team she was a pleasure to spend your summer afternoons with.
I played a few more 3rd XI games that season and met some more of the clubs huge playing staff. Jim Fleming, who I struck up an immediate rapport and friendship with. Mark "Ralph" Brice, a talented cricketer who was always just a few runs and a few wickets away from his double for any given season. Chris Shokoya, Richard Searle, Harold Shrimpton jnr, Trevor " Never Turned a Ball in My Life" Dimmock, Dave "Flap Doodle" Wilson, John Shepard and Simon "Nuke" Haw, and the legendary Doug Keeble.
These nicknames, I believe originated from the Saturday Kent League 2nd XI. This team, as told by some of the above was a closed shop. It had some fine cricketers; a well-balanced side but just never won that many games. It seemed that only rarely did the team fire on all cylinders.
The nucleus of the side was Jim "Macayber" Murray, Graham "Sir Ogden" Deroy, Mark "Spam" Symmons and Robert "Kermit" Smith.
Kent League cricket in those days was far more prestigious than today, after all there were only 17 Clubs in the elite division then and there was no promotion or relegation. The first team at that time were very strong and indeed successful, winning the League twice in three years and also making it to the Lords final of The National Club Knockout Cup.
Blackheath was the club to play for and many players came and soon went when they found it difficult to break into the league side. The 3rd team only played friendlies then, and for some this was not enough.
I have mentioned a couple of times that the Club in those days was not greatly organised; this was really in the lower teams I suppose. The main reason being, in my opinion, because the 1st's were so successful. It is rather ironic that at the time of writing the Club must be one of the best run in Kent, but our fortunes on the field, in the top team are disappointing. However I have high hopes for this season.
Things were so different, there was no Cricket Week, no Winter Nets, there was no league cricket for the thirds, and a fourth or indeed a 5th XI were not even a twinkle in JT's eye!
The success did of course attract some very good cricketers to Blackheath, good players but a touch of the cricketing mercenary about them. Fine players none the less, and to have played along side the like of John Kilbee, Grahame Clinton and Arvin Panchasara, all 1st Class cricketers, to name but a few, was an experience that I doubt our young colts these days will ever enjoy.
Then there was the regular first team players like, Mike Olton(Kent player in the 60's), Rupert Hill(One 1st Class appearance for Glamorgan-yes just ONE!, Tony Clinton, Buster Price, Swaddy and of course AJM Hooper, but more of him later. The early 80's oozed class up the Rectum!
The standard of cricket attracted the crowds too. We had our own Barmy Army in those days. Led by Swaddy Snr. Dear old AEF, Sir John Mills stunt double, he was a tireless treasurer, and I'm sure I drove him mad by not paying in my match fees until the night before the AGM on more than one occasion! (They had been drunk!) Mrs Swadkin Snr too, Frank Staddon, Mickey Price, Peter Isgar, Frank and Ivy Carter, they could all be found watching cricket on Saturdays and Sundays, blazers, club ties et al.
Other officials were Harold Shrimpton jnr as Fixture Secretary, he was usually only seen once or twice a year, a trend I continued when I took on the post in the 90's! Our Club Secretary was Pastry, who must have thought he'd done his bit for the club. He gave up his role; I think due to work commitments, but very kindly stepped in as temporary Treasurer when Swaddy Snr sadly passed away- as I'm sure you are aware- He's still at it!! He also scored for the Sat 2nd XI too!
The first team had a fantastic double act, Bob and Gillian, the 1st Teams Umpire and scorer. I'm sure there is room for a sitcom somewhere! They would travel to and from matches together; drink together after play, but….during a game, would love to bitch about each other!! We all have experienced one of Gillian's "Wobblies" or a least heard about them. If you did happen to be with her for a bit during a game she would curse Bob for his casual and undemonstrative signals and calls, and equally if you were quietly standing at Mid-Off, you could have a chuckle with Bob as the scoreboard numbers started to fly around the boundary. "Ohhh! She is a silly cow," He would say, in his best Charles Hawtrey voice.
They were both wonderful characters and are both sadly missed.
Then of course there was the 2nd XI umpire, a young freshed face boy named Glenn Snashall. He's come on well hasn't he? Kent Premier League and Elsid Umpire.
AGM's in those days were an event in themselves. The seemed to last for about three days, smoked filled rooms with beer and sandwiches brought in at regular intervals. Everyone had their say, through the Chair, and some would go for ages about absolutely nothing. Who could ever forget Mike Taylor's wonderful passionate speeches? Blackheath's finest bookbinder certainly foresaw the coming "Winds of Change"
Sunday Cricket in the early '80s was also very strong. It was not unusual for 75% of Saturday's league players to turn out on Sunday too. Many 1st XI games were all dayers. 11.30am start, lunch etc. The fixture list would consist of other counties premier teams. From Essex we would play Ilford, Wanstead, Romford, and Woodford Wells. Bronsbury, Hampstead, and Southgate from Middlesex.
In late '81 I made my debut for the team that I would play most of my Cricket for, the Sunday 2's.
Spam was captain and we played Dulwich Wanderers. It was August Bank Holiday, the third match for the 2nd XI that weekend and so a couple of berths were available. They were filled by Peter Isgar and myself. Both ends of the cricket chronological scale!
I didn't really distinguish myself. I ran Peter out, not realising that quick singles were no longer his forte. I opened the bowling, bowled 7 or 8 overs for single figures and picked up a couple of wickets. I was however accused later in the bar for ruining the game by bowling far too well for someone of my tender years, and also could have won the game if I'd held on to a dolly in the last over at Mid-On when they were 9 down. I was awarded The Bugle by the team's committee- Murray, Deroy and Symmons!
In 1982 my mentor Blue took over the captaining of the Sunday 2's and I became his opening bowler from the start of the season. All I wanted to do was to bowl fast. I didn't realise then that I was just about at my peak for speed. I was very fit, very skinny but had a quick arm.
My greatest achievement so far in cricket, for my part anyway,
was to be warned for intimadtory bowling in a colts match at Orpington. I wanted more. I enjoyed putting the wind up batsmen and did sometimes when the wickets suited. However I still would try on slow wickets and would get punished sometimes.
I had little control at times and was always likely to bowl one or two beamers. I broke Blue's fingers on more than one occasion as he tried to keep to me, and was pleased as Punch when after brisk wild spell was told by an opposition player in the bar that I had scared him.
That year was a watershed for Sunday cricket, Sir Ogden had been made Vice-Captain of the Sunday 1st XI under Buster-can you imagine such appointments today? Also with a young captain of the 2's, inevetabily, the old guard, Spam, Kermit and Murray etc were less available for Sundays. They were dropping sprogs all over the place and cricket both days was becoming difficult to justify. Indeed at one of the first matches of the season, at Old Dunstonians, although Spam and Murray played, Kermit had made himself unavailable, only to turn up with kids, and stay all afternoon watching and umpiring! He was later awarded the Bugle!
I took 3-10 that day, all bowled and Dave Whiting and I both had our trainers stolen from the dressing rooms.
We had a pleasant team in those days, Blue, myself, FP, Jon Shepard, Terry McLean, Omar, Jim Fleming, Nuke, Ralph, Cliff Atkins, Trevor Dimmock and Dennis Lingard would be the regulars.
I did fairly well and inevitably came the inevitable. The dreaded early Sunday morning phone call.
About 8am, mum would get up to answer it, come and drag me out of bed, I was 16 remember so had been out all night and was not expecting to get up till midday in time for 2pm start at the Club. I'd pick up the receiver to hear, " My name's Buster Price and I have had good reports about you. It's time you played for the 1st team. Be at the club in half an hour-click". Thanks Blue!!!
So off I went, all day game at Romford. A cold and wet Romford. We fielded. I stood around for what seemed like 5 hours until Buster chucked me the ball just before lunch. Maybe he thought I was a spinner! So slow wet pitch, what do you bowl? Indeed, Long-hops and lots of them. 2-0-21-0. "Take a blow Mike, I'll give you another go after lunch." He didn't!
We batted lost wickets scored few runs and I went in at 11 with one or two overs to go. I looked at Buster for words of encouragement on the way out, " I don't want to lose to these wan***s" was his offering. Ogden was at the other end, facing a very large West Indian fast bowler with an Essex sweater on. He actually looked like Wayne Daniel. We survived and drew. So that was first team cricket. No thanks.
I played a few more that year, one memorable one at Dartford, where Pro-Wig (GS Clinton) and Panchasara scored heavily. The latter made about 140 including a number of big sixes. Funnily enough he had started in the Sunday 2's that year-remarkable!
FP, Terry and Omar played more Sunday 1's and we would meet up later to see who had dropped a catch of Hooper's bowling. It was your worse nightmare, field at mid-on or mid-off while he tortured batsman, and he really did. Of course they would give him the charge, completely miss-time it and send a gentle lob your way, and of course you'd drop it!
"YOU F***ING USELESS *"**!" was the usual type of sympathy he would give you!
Fortunately I never dropped one off him, and in fact caught a couple. He was a great bowler and if it hadn't been for Derek Underwood, he may have played a lot more for Kent.
Denzil Winsborrow, another great character, loved to tell Hooper stories, like the league match where the captain, Swaddy I think, didn't bowl Andy. He apparently stood swearing and cursing in the field as the overs ticked away. We won and he informed the captain that if we hadn't, he would never have played for Blackheath again.
I think when he was captain Andy had a coup against him, well that's what Denzil told me. What a shame Denzil is not still around, he was fun, a bugger to his captains-as I was to find out-but fun!
After the heady years of the early 80's things started to slide on the pitch. I guess the watershed was Andy Hooper moving down to Hampshire at the end of the 1984 season. Rob Rice, our opening bowler went around the same time, Kilbee had gone, chasing more league winning medals around Kent.
Despite new names like the stylish Roger Moulding, Sri Lankan Ossie Wierersinger and the return of players like Glynn Gunning the 1st team didn't manage to challenge for the league.
There were some good cup runs though, who could forget Swaddy's catch, or the disgraceful umpiring at Folkestone.
Buster carried on as captain for a few more years eventually giving way to John Fowler.
It was about 1986 that a very strange character turned up at the club, Patrick Whistler Neate. A real toff guv and no mistake!
Had all the trappings of the upper classes, tall, gangly, silly tash ,awful awful dress sense; filthy old kit and drove an old banger.
Neatey had been Oxbridge educated-can't remember which and had his own ground in Berkshire somewhere. I guess he was about 45/46 when he joined us, and what a cricketer! Economical run up of about 7 paces he put the ball exactly where he wanted it. He cut it both ways and was almost impossible to play on a wet one. He could bat and caught everything in buckets, which he had on the end of his arms where most of us have hands. One can only imagine what he must have been like in his prime.
He was most of the time a lovely bloke but he could be infuriatingly annoying sometimes, I had the odd run in with him, but his place in Blackheath history is assured. It was Pat's drive along with Jim Fleming, Omar and latterly JT that dragged the Club out of the financial mire it had found it self in the mid 80's.
Preceding Neatey was another Hooray Henry- David Henry in fact. A local property man, he tried to awake the tired old dinosaur that was Blackheath Cricket Club but he came too early, his ideas of fund raising, Car Boot Sales and the like were not received well by the N.I.M.B.Y Whiteman, Cox and Co. Although he had a MCC sweater he wasn't a good cricketer, bowled slow crap.
As the 1st XI went through its 20 year transitional period so did the 2's. Ogden moved away and Jim Murray and Spam decided to leave the club and try their hand at Bromley. It must be remembered that in the mid 1980's The Rectory Field was not the most pleasant place in the world. All the facilities were run down. There were only two sightscreens, no nets, rotten old scoreboard. Almost derelict changing rooms, crap pitches, atrocious outfield.
The pavilion was run down and lacked atmosphere as the tennis and squash members used their own bars in those days. We had a small playing membership and not many people stayed around after matches for long. It was not user friendly for wives, girlfriends kids etc. There was no way we could compete with the Briggsy funded smart Bromley CC, we lost more and more players to there over the years. It's nice to see now what a wonderful social club we have now; it's up to everyone to keep it that way.
Igtham deserves it's own mention. I have always loved playing there. A beautiful little village ground in the heart of Kent. The perfect cricket match, pub lunch, 2.30 start, bat first, score 220 by 4.40pm and either win or lose of the last ball.
I had some of my best performances there including my highest ever score, 76, in 1987. A shame we no longer play there, I might be tempted to make a comeback if we did.
In1985, and somewhat reluctantly, John Shepard, younger brother of Jerry the first teams leading alrounder-whatever Hingewig may have told you in the bar after 6 pints of IPA and a couple of Castellas- took over what was to become the Club "Poison Challis" - Captain of the Saturday 2's.
John was a far more pleasant bloke than his brother but not in the same league as a cricketer. A big fella, more built for rugby than cricket. As an aspiring fast bowler, although past my prime, he infuriated me as he was about six foot four and looked menacing from the top of his run but bowled very military medium, or maybe not even that quick! With a bat in his hand looking like a kids, he stroll to the wicket with the air of a Botham, who was dispatching a dispirited bunch of Aussies around on his way 96 odd sixes that season, and nudge the ball around before getting out for not many.
Anyway John did his best, and we won a few games. That season a recently retired Bob Willis had started a campaign-sound familiar? A little less ambitious than these days, just sorting out England's lack of fast bowlers as opposed to England's lack of everything Cricket as is his want today.
Bhuna's brother (Bhuna = David Willis, former Blackheath player and alleged suitor of scorers-home and away) along with Ted Dexter decided that the best thing to do was recruit 14, 15 and 16 year old boys who were tall and athletic. It didn't matter if they were cricketers or not. They would be made into fast bowlers.
Anyway one of the regional elite decided to come and play for us. His name was Max Knight. Already at the Club as a young promising rugby player, he was well known for his downright cheek and arrogance, and his father also known to us-as the quiet bloke in the bar.
So for most of that season Max and I opened the bowling, him coming in off about 40 yards and then exploding into a very extravagant delivery stride while the ball just about went anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes it all went right, and when it did it was impressive. Stumps cart wheeling at Ashford one such occasion. That incidentally was the first and only time I have encountered "Bees Stop Play" as a large swarm flew across the pitch. Sadly for Max he lost an eye a couple of years later, which put an end to his rugby. He still turns out for Elsid though.
I had cut down my run by then, bowled ok sometimes and crap other times. I also suffered from a stutter for a few weeks and my approach could become very stop and go. The skipper did a very good impression in the bar at The Vine of my run-up, pint in hand and didn't spill a drop!
Another new player that year was Steve Biden. Full of Yorkshire grit, played the game hard, a very good bat and excellent fielder. Steve played his first game in the Saturday 3's at the start of the season, I was playing too that day and so was David Henry- Captain and the legendary Doug Keeble.
Doug must have been 70 odd at least and just didn't move all day. That along with David Henry bowling slow pooh in a MCC sweater and Jim Fleming picking up 7 wickets bowling slow left arm pooh, Steve really did wonder what he'd let himself in for. We weren't even playing a league game on a Saturday, that was hard enough for him to get his head round. He didn't get many.
The next day he played in the Sunday 2's got a ton, and a star was born. I can still picture him now, sitting on the steps of the old dressing room, having just got out, biting the skin down the side of his thumbnails, informing everyone that the opposition were just a bunch of C***S, always c****, never anything else. Steve like myself loved his beer and became known as Bidenberg after his favourite French tipple. We also lost Steve to Bromley along with John Fowler by the end of the 80's.
The most memorable match that year was against St Lawrence at Highland Court. John Shepard was away so Spam, in his last year at the Club captained. Can't remember too much about the game itself. We batted first, inbetween showers, didn't get loads. Carlos and FP opened as they had been. Now Dave and Stuart go back a long way. At school together but never really pals, they did seem to wind each other up. FP in those days was a provocative f***er, for example, one Sunday we were on our way back from an away game at Roehampton, long drive back, South Circular and all that. We were in with Ralph, who must have had at least 6 pints. Coming round the Catford one way system, Ralph decided to overtake a Police car on the inside lane. We were pulled over, Ralph apologised etc and the police asked us all our names, we all answered but Stu, wearing his donkey jacket with Socialist Workers Party "Support The Miners" sticker refused to give his name, stating that the Police had no right to know and all that Fascist Pig stuff. Thanks FP! Somehow we got away with it and Mark wasn't even breathalysed. Doesn't quite beat Jim Murray's Drink/Driving story, he got a blow out on the A20, just by the Dutch House on his way back from the Club/Curry House. He was pissed, spent ages trying to get the spare on only for the Police to come along and tell him he had it on the wrong way round. They sorted it out and bid him a safe journey home! Not funny to laugh at Drink Driving I know but things were just different in those days. God that is an old man's comment!
Back to St Lawrence, as I said, Carlos and FP had been opening but not been too successful, there had been run outs and today there was another. Well when they were both back in the hut of a changing room everything came to a head and it all went off. Proper fisty cuffs, till Spam and a few others broke them up, much to mine and Bidenbergs annoyance. They both now turn out for Elsid.
At tea it really started peeing down and did so for about an hour. We just assumed the game was off, Biden and one or two others had showered changed and packed their kit. Then we were told we were going to play we couldn't believe it! There was only about ½ hour till the last 20 would have to start and us opening bowlers were told to really drag it out. I came of a 150 yard run, and dried and cleaned the ball for 5 mins between deliveries, most of which went for four. I think we bowled about 6 overs in that half hour but still lost comfortably.
Also that season when we were due to play at The Mote, Kent were there so we used their ground, The St. Lawrence Ground Canterbury, " From the Knackington Road end….MIKE WREN" that was Live Aid day I seem to remember. Don't remember doing much that day but it was nice to say you've played there.
Towards the end of 1985 at Heskith Park against Dartford, Blackheath's own Frank Sinatra made the first of his many many comebacks. Dave Wilson or Flap as he hates to be known, made himself available after a Boycott like self-imposed exile from the Club. He ended up behind the stumps for some reason, the probable reason being we didn't have a keeper. A young Min Patel played too, and got carted about everywhere. At the time of writing Min, of Kent & England, is just starting his benefit season. A top man, no airs and graces, I hope he has a good season on and off the field.
That match had two funny incidents, one when FP at his belligerent best refused to go after being caught at cover point. He insisted it was a bump-ball. The other was one of those strange ones when the ball comes out of the back of the bowlers hand goes straight up in the air and lands somewhere mid-wicket. Snash told the Dartford batsman he could come and hit the ball. As he was about to, one of our fielders started running towards the boundary, the batsman hit the ball and we cut off the boundary. Well what happened next was amazing. Anyone who knows Snash knows him as a mild mannered efficient undemonstrative umpire. Not today, he went spare! " Give me the ball" he bellowed. " You can't do that, you can't move!" He put the ball back where it had landed originally, told all the fielders to go to their places and not move until the batsman had hit the ball.
As the '85 season drew to a close, John made it clear that he didn't want to carry on as captain and the next year the new man in charge was Iain Nunn, well for about a week. Blue stepped down due to outside pressures and then the Club made its strangest and most ridiculous appointment. I'm still not sure how it happened. I was on the committee at the time as Sunday 2's skipper but don't remember it being discussed, voted on or anything. At the start of the season this rather strange, nay very strange person appeared, boasting of a glittering career in club cricket and constantly dropping onto conversation that Grahame Clinton was his cousin, and Tony and Neil too. How any of this made him suitable for such a prestigious position is still a mystery to me. He was in fact a very below average wicket keeper, a useless bat and in my opinion a burke.
1986-1988 were the "Wilderness Years" for Blackheath, particularly the 2nd XI. I played a couple of times under Ian Quniton but was concentrating on resurrecting the 3rd XI . The teams he managed to put out were appalling, one game I remember his brother in law or nephew or some distant relative was drafted in, and his name was Richard Head "Dickhead" some wag pointed out as he was introduced.
One plus point was the re-emergence of Darrell Carter in 1986, goodness know where he'd been, in a Grow-Bag by the look of him! He turned up, last seen as a small boy, as 8ft tall athletic young man, and he could bowl-FAST! He was raw and Buster was tempted to play him in the one's but he wasn't quite ready. He learnt his trade in the 2's and upset his captain by joining Elsid for their inaugural tour to Somerset in July. He didn't tell anyone he'd gone and actually got a ban!
In 1987 Flap took over the reigns from Quinton, but things didn't get any better. Flap is without doubt the slowest batsman there has ever been, well that's what we thought until he got his older brother John Wilson to play for the club. John, no relation really, was just about the worst man you can have opening the batting in a league game and Flap came a close second, so when they both opened it was a bloody nightmare. Flap realised this and dropped himself down the order, where he was about useful as a chocolate teapot.
I must admit to having something to do with John Wilson coming to the club, he toured with Elsid and was a great tourist. He was full of stories of his days as a Surrey 2nd XI bowler and I told Flap this and he gave him a bowl one week….oopps! Don't think he hit the strip! I also introduced Rob Crisp that year as well. He was a big strong allrounder but not a reliable one to turn up. Shame, because he could have been a contender. Someone I didn't introduce to the Club was David Morley-Clarke, I'm glad to say.
What can you say about this man that has not already been said? He was a complete and utter nutter.
John Shepard christened him Chorley Wood. However he was not the worst bowler in the world and played a lot of league cricket including some 1st XI games.
They are two main stories on the field I remember about Chorley, one was a Sunday 1's game at Mitchum and he opened the bowling to one of club crickets "All Time Greats" - John Fry. John was on fire that day. From ball one he ran up the pitch and drove Chorley perfectly for 4 through the off-side, he then did it ball 2,3, 4,5 etc. That is when Chorley came out with his famous quote: "He's only got one bl**dy shot!"
The other great Chorley tale is from after he left us and was playing at Gravesend. They were hanging out for a draw against Bromley and David was last man, thrusting his pad down the pitch to everything. In the last over a huge shout goes up after another lunge only for Chorley to laugh it off, "That can't be out, I hit it!"
"Well you're out caught then" said the umpire as short leg stood there grinning holding the ball that had ballooned up!
One year at the helm was enough for Flap, well in this spell at the club, so in 1988 Pat Neate after a few years in the wings grasped the nettle and took over. He seemed to try and win each game by himself and I guess when he bowled out Hayes for 30-odd he did, however as for organising a team to turn up on a Saturday he was bloody awful. Surely there has never been a season before or after where a Blackheath league team turned out on so many occasions with either 9 or ten players or with so many non-cricketers. He'd pull people in on a Saturday from the bar or off the tennis courts or just stop at a bus stop, wind down his window and ask a young chap if he fancied a game of cricket!
In those days, half way through the season we had a blank fixture on a Saturday. We had been playing Kent University on that for a few years. Pat decided that he'd give it a miss and left the team to be organised by well…. no one!
About 6 of us were up the club at midday on the Saturday and just decided not to bother. Gilfillan went in the bar and at about 3ish took a call from the Canterbury campus enquiring to our whereabouts. Alistair in his own inimitable way said, "…Oh haven't you heard? They've all crashed on the A2"
It was 1988 that I finally made my debut for the Saturday League 1st XI. Sadly 6 years and 3 stone too late for me to make any impact. It summed up the state of the club at the time; even the 1's couldn't get a full team out. John Fowler was captain and he asked me to help him out by coming down to Highland Court to field against St.Lawrence. A non eventful game really, although Chorley had a " John Fry" moment with Paul Farbrace, only four cover driven 4's in a row though. "I'm bowling for run-outs" Chorley informed me at mid-on as he walked back to his mark.
However there was one significant incident that day. It was in the bar after the game that Swaddy talked me into captaining the Sat 2's the next season. Spin Doctor, troubleshooter? Call him what you like, he knew the club was in serious trouble. There was a lot of talk of a number of players leaving and going to Sidcup. I had been doing a great job as Sunday 2's captain; I had resurrected the Sat 3's as well. The Saturday 2nd XI was far and away the worst team in the club and it needed sorting.
I was flattered, I knew I could recruit some players, I knew some people who had fallen away would play for me. I was going to get fit in the winter and play a major role in the 1989 season. I was a strong captain, not afraid of making tough decisions. Maybe not the greatest tactician, but I had often led by example by bowling long and effective spells on Sundays. I was popular with my peers and also had been around long enough to have some respect from the senior players. Well that's what I thought at least.
So on November 2nd 1988, three men met in the Princess of Wales and plotted a map for the future of Blackheath Cricket Club. They were Pat Neate, Jim Fleming and myself.
It was agreed by us that Pat would captain the Saturday 1st team; me the 2nd's and Jim would take over the best team in the club- The Sunday 2's.
Before the clocks had even gone forward in Spring I already knew my line up for first league match at Tunbridge Wells on the May Bank Holiday. I recruited an old friend of mine Rob Ody to join us. Rob was a good batsman playing rubbish park cricket and I knew he could do a job in our league. He didn't let me down.
It was time for tough decisions. There were three names that I wanted out of the team, two of them for purely cricketing reasons, and one for both personality and ability- he lacked either. Ian Quinton had no part to play in my New World Order and I dropped him, I gave the gloves to Alistair Gilfillain.
The other two were the Wilson brothers. In my opinion they were the worst opening pair any team could have. The previous season they had opened together and were a nightmare. One match we were 20 for 0 off 20 overs! They were both mates and both of them blanked me for a number of years. I happy to say that Flap Wilson is still a good friend of mine. He still doesn't agree with my decision 16 years later though. It's something he's had to learn to live with though as others have followed my lead.
As we got to the first match I was not fit. I had hardly bowled and considered not playing. Denzil talked me into playing though and I'm glad he did as if I hadn't I'd have probably not played at all that year.
Denzil was one of two senior players in the side. The other was Mike Olton. I knew there was snipping against me, I did end up as a non-playing captain for most of the season. However neither gave me any grief during the season. Pepsi's blast at me at the 1989 AGM however was something else.
I may have made only one significant contribution in a match, but what a match- more of that later though- but I organised the side well, I got us a scorer, we always had 11 proper cricketers, and I captained quite well. I was never afraid to take Pepsi off when he was getting tap, on more than one occasion I resisted FP's requests, which would then deteriorate to curses and insults, when he thought he should be bowling. I had Rupert Hill in my side on a couple of occasions. He was just getting fit to go back in the 1's he informed me. He turned up at Hayes, " I'll bat 6" he informed me. "You won't"
I replied " You'll bat 9"
" I've got to bat 6. I'm in the ones next week"
He batted 9.
After a bad start- we were thrashed at The Neville, drew with lowly Dover and lost to Bromley- things started to pick up. I was very fortunate, I did have an influx of new and old players. I had Omar for four or five games. I had John Fowler for a few too. I also had Andy Mason a new allrounder. He was excellent and won a few games for us. Good contributions from Simon Fowler, Alistair and Rob Ody was magnificent with over 500 runs.
I think in all we won 6 games and only lost 3. We finished about 6th, which was the highest for a long long time. Everyone who played in that team enjoyed the season, Snash always tells me that it was his favourite season at the club, and everyone who played at The Mote that year will never forget the re-writing of history.
This was the team:-
It was a hot July day, B&H Cup Final. The week started badly as my leading run scorer had dislocated his finger. I still believe that Rob Ody having a ticket for Lords that day is a coincidence.
We lost the toss and they batted. The pitch was a belter. Malcolm Bristow was their groundsman and opening bat and he helped himself to plenty.
We toiled in the sun and chased leather all afternoon. No one wanted to bowl and I bowled my longest spell that season, the last 10 overs from one end. It was tough but someone had to do it.
Now in the League handbooks it says that The Mote declared. They didn't. They batted the full fifty overs and finished on 300-3.
As we came of the pitch at tea, they greeted us with a sarcastic "Guard of Honour". It was not appreciated and although none of us said anything, it was sort of a "you guys are history" type moment that Malcolm Devon (sic) experienced once!
It was basically shit or bust, and it looked like bust as Terry McLean was out in the first over. However there then followed superb knocks from Mason, Winsborrow, Fowler, Olton and more than useful contributions from FP and yours truly. I scored my highest ever league score of 23 at the death.
I was ninth man out and we were about 10 short with two overs to go. Somehow Greg Clarke and Jud did it and we got to 301-9 with two balls to spare. As you can imagine we went mad! They were speechless and their captain resigned. I was on such a high, buzzing all night. I drove home up the M20 on another planet and recorded my second PB of the day, 135MPH.
So as the 80's ended so did my serious commitment to cricket. I carried on for a few years, played in the Sat 3's and captained it for a couple of years too. Things were moving on. The 3's were finally playing league cricket. Jon Taylor had taken over Pat Neate's role as chairman and was really getting the club moving. What he and his team have achieved over the last few years is remarkable. Along with those two other stalwarts Swad and Omar, they have made Blackheath the biggest cricket cub in South East London.
I can still be spotted now and then up the club, and as a member for over 25 years (Where's my Gold Watch?) still love it. I have made so many friends over the years and have so many memories, many more than I have recorded here. Save some for the sequel my agent told me.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this and it has jogged your memory on a few old names. Or if you are a new member maybe it has given you an insight into what your club was like all those years ago.
(Mike Wren is a current Vice President. He played at the Club in the 1980's)