Mid Ar­gyll Cricket Club pulls up the stumps

The Oban Times - - SPORT -

THE SOUND of leather on wil­low could be heard re­cently in the rain at the foot of Du­nadd Hill for pos­si­bly the very last time. It marked the end of a 25-year in­nings for Mid Ar­gyll Cricket Club.

It may be a sur­prise to know that cricket was not only a fea­ture in Mid Ar­gyll for 25 years, but that cricket in Ar­gyll has a long and an­cient tra­di­tion.

Records from the 19th cen­tury show that cricket teams ex­isted in Kil­martin, Lochgilp­head, In­ver­aray and other Ar­gyll towns. How­ever World War One had a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on the for­tunes of the game.

Land recla­ma­tion, World War Two and the surge in pop­u­lar­ity of foot­ball fur­ther im­pacted on the game, leav­ing lo­cal teams strug­gling.

In the 1980s a Lochgilp­head cricket team was started by Neil MacLeod, a for­mer Scot­tish na­tional cricket player. Robin Fin­lay, one of the early players in the team, re­calls some of the fix­tures.

He said: ‘Most of the games we played were against groups like the rugby club, var­i­ous vil­lage teams and RAF Machri­han­ish. They ac­tu­ally had an ar­ti­fi­cial cricket strip which was far su­pe­rior to the var­i­ous fields that we played in.’

This team sur­vived only a few sea­sons and dis­banded when Neil moved to Ding­wall.

In 1991/92 un­der the charge of Peter Cromp­ton, a mu­sic in­struc­tor at Lochgilp­head High School, the Mid Ar­gyll Cricket Club was founded. Within a short time there was huge in­ter­est and the club had up to 30 will­ing par­tic­i­pants rang­ing from 11 to 60 years of age ready to play. The emer­gence of the club co­in­cided with a rise in pop­u­lar­ity of cricket through­out Ar­gyll. Other teams formed in­cluded Cairn­dow, Camp­bel­town, Dunoon (In­nel­lan), Oban and later Car­radale and San­nox in Ar­ran.

An Ar­gyll league was formed, com­pris­ing Mid Ar­gyll and four or five of the strong­est other Ar­gyll teams.

Mid Ar­gyll had no per­ma­nent home ground in the be­gin­ning, in­stead play­ing their early matches on any avail­able field. In 1992 one of the founder mem­bers Tim Lis­ter made land from his farm avail­able and so the Du­nadd ‘Oval’ was cre­ated.

It was at the Oval that, for the next 20 years, Mid Ar­gyll Cricket Club played all their home matches. Many tourists stared in amaze­ment as they climbed Du­nadd Hill and saw mod­ern day Scots play­ing some­thing that looked vaguely like cricket. In ad­di­tion to play­ing against other Ar­gyll teams, Mid Ar­gyll trav­elled reg­u­larly to play against teams from Com­rie in Perthshire and Gar­gun­nock in Stir­ling­shire.

The team also hosted matches against vis­it­ing teams from Ed­in­burgh, Glas­gow, York­shire and even Aus­tralia.

Play­ing cricket in Ar­gyll was not with­out its prob­lems. No­tably the weather had a huge in­flu­ence, with many games over the years can­celled, post­poned or aban­doned mid-play. The foot and mouth out­break in 2001 re­sulted in no home games be­ing played that year.

Young­sters in­tro­duced into the world of cricket soon grew into teenagers and tended to head away from Mid Ar­gyll, con­se­quently the age pro­file of the mem­bers was con­stantly ris­ing.

Cricket de­mands a huge amount of time and com­mit­ment, an av­er­age game lasts around four to five hours and an away match could mean a player was away from home and fam­ily for any­thing be­tween six to eight hours, and fewer players were will­ing to make this sac­ri­fice.

It be­came ap­par­ent four or five years ago that the writ­ing was on the wall for the club.

Mem­bers were re­tir­ing from play and were no longer avail­able to make up the team, and so with great re­luc­tance the club had to with­draw from the Ar­gyll League and cut back on the amount of fix­tures.

A ‘for­mal’ end of the club was con­sid­ered ap­pro­pri­ate with a fi­nal match be­ing played at the ‘Du­nadd Oval’. Two teams were brought to­gether to bid farewell to two and a half decades of cricket from Mid Ar­gyll Cricket Club. The first team, un­der the cap­taincy of Tim Lis­ter, com­prised the ‘old guard’ - some, like Matt Lewis, who had trav­elled from Bridge of Al­lan and Gor­don Ly­burn who had come from Dum­fries to cel­e­brate the day. Oth­ers such as Ste­wart Turner, Phil Hem­mings, the fa­ther and son duo of Peter and An­gus Shack­le­ton joined in.

Robin Fin­lay from Mid Ar­gyll braved the weather and faced the team of Stan­ley Lis­ter, Tim’s son who had in­vited friends from Ar­gyll and univer­sity to make up the op­po­si­tion.

The re­sult of the match was sec­ond only to the en­joy­ment of the day, and the ‘old guard’ were able to show the young ones a thing or two with a com­fort­able win.

Just be­fore the game a minute’s si­lence was held in mem­ory of David Dun­lop who died ear­lier this year. David had been an en­thu­si­as­tic and loyal sup­porter of the club. Born with se­vere dis­abil­i­ties, his pas­sion for sport never waned and his courage, sto­icism and in­fec­tious sense of hu­mour af­fected all who knew him.

The fi­nal act of the club was to re­dis­tribute the funds held by the club and in mem­ory of David. Fol­low­ing sug­ges­tions by his par­ents, the club made dona­tions to the Tar­tan Army Chil­dren’s Char­ity and to Macmil­lan Can­cer Care.

The stumps were then fi­nally pulled on 25 years of cricket played by Mid Ar­gyll Cricket Club at the Du­nadd ‘Oval’.

Mid Ar­gyll CC’s fi­nal game last month. This in­cluded three found­ing mem­bers: Robin Fin­lay, cen­tre; Gor­don Ly­burn, far left and Tim Lis­ter, sec­ond right. From left, Ste­wart Turner, An­gus Shack­le­ton, Phil Hem­mings, Peter Shack­le­ton and Matt Lewis.

Mid Ar­gyll CC’s first game at Du­nadd ‘Oval’ in July 1992.

Mid Ar­gyll Cricket Club logo with the stand­ings stones of Kil­martin val­ley de­pict­ing the wick­ets and the sun rep­re­sent­ing the cricket ball.

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