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The First Fifty

Although Aberdeenshire Cricket Association was not formed until October 1884, the game of cricket had been played within the city as far back as 1852. In one of his books, Reporting Reminiscences, David Carnie quotes the words of a song by George Davidson, himself an acclaimed devotee of cricket, entitled “Lay of the Links”.

“Where the brisk and hardy golfer still
pursues the flying ball
and merry Cricketers’ ringing shout
Proclaims the wickets fall.”


In a later book, Further Aberdeen Reminiscences, volume 2, Mr. Carnie further writes on the subject of cricket.

“Cricket was again holding its own alike on the fine ground at Albyn Place and on the wide green Links, regarding which we have heard George Davidson, bookseller, singing so healthily – a most hopeful feature in the game being the increasing readiness with which respectable young fellows of all ranks, so far as occupations were concerned and who could really play, got places in the leading matches”

With forty-six teams presently competing in the four grades run by the Association, cricket would still appear to be holding its own in somewhat less wide Links that Mr. Carnie knew is still very much to the fore as a home of cricket at this level. Since that time, however, “the fine ground at Albyn Place” no longer exists, but other grounds have come into use, and, over the years, become synonymous with Grade Cricket in Aberdeen. The “hopeful feature” he had seen in those far off times is no less evident today with all the counter attractions presently on offer and the readiness to participate in the game is no longer restricted to “young fellows” with young ladies showing some enthusiasm for cricket. As for the final part of Mr. Carnie’s observations, cricket has continued to attract people from all ranks and walks of life.

One must suppose that in the years prior to the formation of the Association, cricket in Aberdeen had been played without much of a competitive edge to it, but a glance through the Press and Journal during the 1884 cricket season would confirm the extent to which competitiveness had grown in the game, not only within the city, but outwith its boundaries as well. On 2nd June of that year, for instance, no less than twenty-eight teams played cricket. Presumably the games had been organised between the two respective sides and venues arranged in the same way since no Association existed then to coordinate these details. Although most of the teams which later that year became founder members of the association competed that day, many other teams took part whose names were never to reappear among the list of teams joining the association in later years. Wether these teams continued to exist would seem difficult to discover, but it is perhaps appropriate that their names be recorded at this point since the association was by now six months away from formation. These teams were:

Chamberlain, Daisy, Gazette, Laurencekirk, Middle Grammar, North British, Oak, A. Ogston & Sons, Springbank, Temperance (Woodside), Walker Academy.

Other side competing that day, but destined to join the Association in later years were:

Royal Lunatic Asylum, Kittybrewster Mechanics, Stonehaven Thistle, Stoneywood, Jute Works, Sailsbury, Northern Advertiser, Old Aberdeen, Kintore, Inverurie Union, Grammar (Old Aberdeen).

The suburban and county sides mentioned in the second group were to join the association by the end of the decade when membership became open to them. With some 300 individuals clearly intent on playing cricket on the 2nd June, 1884, it is understandable that the seeds might have been sown, if not germinated on that particular day, for the Association to be formed soon after.

Aberdeenshire Cricket Association, as it was originally named, came into being on 4th October, 1884. Of the fifteen clubs represented at that meeting, only St. Ronald survives; Crescent, who were not represented at the meeting, competed in the inaugural cricket season and are the more senior of these two surviving city sides. Also represented at the meeting were three clubs with names similar to those of the sides presently competing in the Association, though not connected. These clubs were Bon-Accord, Caledonian and Westbourne; the present P.O. Bon-Accord and Caledonian were formed in more recent times, while Westburn came into being just after the turn of the century.

In season 1885 neither Bon-Accord nor Caledonian competed, but in addition to Crescent, two more sides, Graphic and Orion became members of the Association and took part in the first competitive season. The sixteen clubs competing 1885 were:

Britannia, Carlton, Crescent, Crown, H.M. Theatre (Her Majesty’s, not His Majesty’s – the latter not built until 1906), North Guild, Old Aberdeen, Orion, Rosevale, St. Ronald, Telegraphists, University Press, Westbourne, White Star and Woodside.

White Star emerged at the end of the season as the first winners of the Challenge Trophy or Aberdeenshire Cup, the name which the trophy in now better known.

It is clear that the birth of the Aberdeenshire Cricket Association was not without incident. Bon-Accord and Caledonian did not take part in the first season principally due to the resignation as late as mid-March 1885 of the two clubs’ respective representatives, who had been elected Joint-Secretary and President of the Association and these two gentlemen withdrawing their teams from the competition. There is, however, no explanation given for their resignations.

Joseph Ross (Caledonian), although technically the Association’s first President, held office from 15th November, 1884, until his resignation on 15th April, 1885. He was succeeded on 24th April by Norman Moir (Britannia), who had been elected Vice-President the previous November. Effectively, therefore, the latter was in essence the first President. There is no reference of a successor having been elected to replace David Wood (Bon-Accord), who had been appointed Joint-Secretary, so it must be assumed that equally essentially, James Sherriffs (Telegrasphists) was the Associations first Secretary. The office of Treasurer was held be William Jaffray (University Press), A. Dunn (White Star) took over from Norman Moir as Vice-President of the Association.

Yet another set-back was to be suffered in the ensuing cricket season when Carlton, Crescent, H.M. Theatre and Woodside all withdrew from membership. By the end of that season membership was down to a mere six clubs.

The Association, despite its reduced membership, continued as it had done since it had formed, to hold very regular meetings throughout the year, and at one of these in September 1886 the suggestion that membership be extended to embrace suburban and country clubs was first mooted. In January 1887 the suggestion was taken a step forward when it was decided that clubs in the counties of Aberdeen and Kincardine should be asked if they would be prepared to join. Town clubs were also written to on the subject. The outcome of this exercise was a firm commitment by the beginning of March from five country clubs – Alford, Aboyne, Culter, Kemnay and Kintore. In acknowledging their response the Association swiftly responded and, by the end of the same month, altered its title from Aberdeen Cricket Association to the Aberdeenshire Cricket Association.

Caledonian, the team which won the Challenge Trophy in 1887 were, therefore the first winners of that trophy under the Association’s new title. From the list of country clubs which responded negatively to the Association’s overtures, it is clear that cricket enjoyed popularity in areas no longer associated with the game and that the game outwith the bounds of the city was in a fairly healthy state.

With the admission of the five country clubs, the emergence of two second elevens in the shape of 2nd Orion and 2nd St. Ronald and some new clubs joining the Association, twently-three clubs in all completed in season 1889. For the first time the Association’s record detail that Seniors competing for the Challenge Trophy comprised:

Ashley, Britannia, Caledonian, Crescent, H.M. Theatre, Kintore, Inverurie, Kittybrewster Mechanics, Orion, St. Ronald, St. Crispin, Stoneywood, Thistle and Victoria (Peterhead).

Juniors consisted of:

Ermine, Ferryhill, Garfield, Old Aberdeen, 2nd Orion, Ruby, 2nd St. Ronald, Woodside and, later in the season, Queen’s Cross.

The Challenge Trophy was won that year by Orion. Queen’s Cross were the winners of the Junior Trophy.

The Junior Competition appears to have been introduced in 1888, with the promotion to the seniors the ultimate goal. The first winners were Ashley. Rules for this competition were devised in May 1888 and, it is interesting to note, that reserves for 1st elevens were ineligible to play in the Junior competition.

In March 1890 Bon-Accord indicated its intention of providing a cup for the Junior Competition. This trophy survives today like the Aberdeenshire Cup, and is competed for by teams in Grade 2. The first winners acknowledged on the trophy as Kittybrewster Mechanics, winners in 1890. In October the Association not only decided upon a revision of the Association’s rules, but also suggested that play in future should be on league principles. By March 1891, however, the suggestion was turned down and thirteen clubs completed in the Senior and Junior Competitions respectively.

Over the next few years there was a steady increase in the number of teams competing. In season 1895 twelve clubs took part in the Senior Competition and nineteen in the Junior. This upsurge in interest in the game no doubt led to the town giving assurances to improve the pitches at the Links and granting three pitches at Duthie Park on Saturdays and one pitch per evening on five evenings of the week.

Whether it was for the first time that the final of the Challenge Trophy was played for at Mannofield, the ground to which Aberdeenshire had moved in 1890 from their Holburn ground is not clear, but it is referred to for the first time when Caledonian defeated Alford there in 1896. In season 1889, Aberdeenshire’s final season at the Holburn ground, Orion played and won the final of the Challenge Trophy at the county ground.

Towards the century’s end, the number of teams competing in the Senior section remained constant at twelve; whereas the Junior section had been reduced to twelve. However, in 1899, the former had increased to thirteen and the latter had leapt to sixteen. The same year saw the Association put on record its appreciation of the pavilion just erected at Duthie Park.

The early years of the twentieth century saw an increase in the number of clubs competing, particularly for the Bon-Accord Cup, which by 1901 had attracted twenty-two competitors, while the Seniors stayed reasonably steady at ten clubs. The same year saw another league, independent of the Association, spring into being when teams competed in the Aberdeen and District League, a league which continued until 1905.

In 1903, since the Challenge Trophy was to be played under the old cup-tie system, the Association decided to introduce under its own auspices, a City and Suburban League for clubs within a radius of twenty miles of the city. A district Junior League also came into being for a brief two-year period after the Aberdeen and District League for there is record of St. Clements winning this league in 1906 and Inverurie Butchers the following year.

Yet another independent league, the Granite City League blossomed in 1905 and existed until 1910. John Reid of Regent Quay presented a trophy for an award to the winner of this league; a trophy which survives today for competition by Grade 3 teams.

Although C.R. Davidson had presented a trophy for the winner of the Aberdeen and District league, the unfortunate officials who undertook to have the cup engraved had the good fortune in one respect to have another cup presented for award when H. Ross donated the Ross Cup award to the winners of the Bon-Accord League. The same officials had the misfortune to get the arrangements for engraving totally wrong, with the result that the Ross Cup was designated for award to the winners of the Aberdeen and District League and the Davidson Cup for the winners of the Bon-Accord League. Whether they wished to register disapproval of what the officials had done, Imperial, winners of Aberdeen and District League in 1901, refused to accept the Ross Cup. The Davidson Cup followed the Bon-Accord League teams when they became the Grade 3 of 1912, when Grade Cricket was introduced and remained for award to the winner of that Grade until 1953; thereafter the Ross Cup was the trophy fought for by the Grade 3 teams.

The Association’s records during the seasons 1907 – 1910 were sufficiently details to give some insight not only into the number of clubs taking part in both competitions, but, for the first time, the total number of players registered in these seasons. In 1907, with a total of thirty-one clubs competing, no less than 2,348 players took part or at least were registered to take part; 2,326 were registered in 1908 when three fewer clubs competed. By 1910, however, the number of competing clubs had fallen to twenty-five but there was still no less than 2,188 players registered. Such detailed records did not appear to be maintained in 1911, but, by then, three more clubs had disappeared from the scene and eleven clubs were taking part in each competition. As it was, 1911 saw competition in Senior and Junior Leagues come to an end and the present system of competing in Grades was just about to be introduced.

When Grade Cricket was decided upon on 15th March 1912, it was agreed that, although there would be three Grades each comprising of nine clubs, there would be only two knock-out competitions. Grade 1 teams and any other club which might wish to compete, would play for the Aberdeenshire Cup, Grade 2 and Grade 3 clubs, and any other clubs wishing to compete, would play for the Bon-Accord Cup. The teams which had been competing in the Bon-Accord League became the new Grade 3. As winners of the City and Suburban League, Ellon Gordon went directly into Grade 2, as did Galfac, winners of the Bon-Accord league in 1911.

The first season of competition under the Grade system saw clubs competing as follows in 1912:

Grade 1

Crescent, Huntly, Inverurie Locos, Kintore, Mannofield, St. Ronald, Stewart park, Stoneywood.

Grade 2

Balmoral, Balnagask, 2nd Crescent, Ellon Gordon, Gaflac, Irvine, 2nd St Ronald, St. Clements, Shinnies

Grade 3

2nd Balmoral, 2nd Balnagask, Bannermill, Greyfriar Press, John Knox, Kemnay, St. Andrews, 2nd Stoneywood, Whitehall.

This system of competition was quite evidently welcomed as the introduction of a fourth Grade was contemplated as early as February 1913. However, by April the Association had decided against a fourth Grade, but by the end of the year it had also agreed that each grade should consist of not more than eleven clubs with the two lowest placed teams in each grade having to retire at the end of the season though each would be eligible for re-election. The three grades were retained until the 1914-1918 War broke out. The Association gained early praise from the press for their most decisive action in stopping competitive cricket altogether – even to the extent of forbidding a replay in the Senior Cup Final between St. Ronald and Huntly. It appears that between 500 and 600 cricketers were amongst the first to enlist. Although a few friendly encounters took place between 1915-1919, cricket as a competitive sport ceased to exist during these years.

The association met anew in March 1919, amid expressions of sympathy to relatives and friends of those who had fallen in the War. Obviously encouraged by the number of clubs represented at this meeting and the assurances received from other clubs that they would be prepared to play in the coming cricket season, the Association agreed to carry on as before with cup competitions and three Grades. In 1920 an additional Grade was formed playing mid-week fixtures. Teams competing in this fourth Grade were:

Forbesfield, G.I.F., Hendersons, 2nd John Knox, McKinnons, Nomads, Red Triangle, 2nd St. Nicholaas, St Ronald Strollers, 2nd Woodside, Y.M.C.A., 7th Old Boys

Between these four Grades there were in 1921 no less than fourty clubs competing of which Balmoral, Crescent, Inverurie, Huntly, St. Ronald, Stoneywood, Kintore, 2nd St. Ronald, 2nd Balmoral, 2nd Stoneywood, 2nd Inverurie, Kemnay and Westburn survive today. Up to then of the other surviving clubs had put in appearances, but seem to have withdrawn temporarily from the competitive scene.

From its inception, up to this time, the Asscoiation had never been a wealthy organisation; at worst it had been in debt to its Secretary to the tune of £2 or thereby; at best it had shown a credit balance of almost £40. However, from the 1920s the credit balance has been constantly maintained above £30. Whether because it was happy in its new-found wealth or because such large numbers were now showing interest in watching cricket in the City’s parks, the Association felt it should capitalise on this interest; three collection boxes were purchased in 1925 for use at Duthie Park, Stewart park and at the Links. Presumably, confident that very large sums would be collected, the Association even stipulated that the bank only would be responsible for handling the contents of each box. The boxes, or at least one of them at any rate, survives today and is in evidence at the Aberdeenshire Cup Final. Records of the Associations finances at this time and up to the end of the decade provide no evidence of the balance increasing markedly as a result of this innovation and it would seem that the collection boxes did not attract large sums they were expected to produce. Appropriatly, in its Jubilee Year, however, the Association declared a hitherto unprecedented credit balance of £60 9s 10d – and despite a loss of £2 19s 5d on their Jubilee dinner. Along with the collection boxes, the Association introduced that same year another item which has survived until the present time when score sheets were issued to the teams. The score sheets then not only provided the Association with reports of each game, but also gave the local press details of the play.

With Grades 3 and 4 amalgamating in 1927, competition was, once again, back in the old arrangement of Grade 1, Grade 2 and Grade 3. In 1931, however, arrangements were early in hand for the formation of an Evening League with competition open to all clubs in the city. Matches in this league were to be limited as to time rather than overs. The time was agreed beforehand by the opposing Captains, prior to the start of each match; the winners to be the team with the higher total, irrespective of the number of wickets which had fallen at the time stipulated. Interest in this new type of competition was quite evident, with twenty culbscompeting that year. In its inaugural year the teams taking part were:

Balmoral, Balnagask, Bankers, Craigton, Firh Trade, Gordonians, 2nd Gordonians, Graamar FPs, Hendersons, Holburn central, Lads Club, Mannofield, North Church, St. Andrews, St. Clements, West St. Clements, Westburn, Woodside and 45th Old Boys

North Church emerged as winners at the end of the season, with Gordonians runners-up.

When the Association celebrated its Jubilee in 1934, it was appropriate that some fifty clubs were playing on Saturdays and on Wednesdays. By now the three Grades had increased in size to fourteen teams in each with an additional three sides taking part in the Grade 2 Cup Competition and five more sides competing for the Grade 3 Trophy. The sides competing in the three Grades were divided as follows:

Grade 1

Balmoral, Carlton, Crescent, Fraserburgh, Gordonians, Grammar FPs, Hendersons’ Inverurie, Kintore, North Church, St. Clements, St. Ronald, Stoneywood and Woodside.

Grade 2

Bankers, Craigton, Cults, 2nd gordonians, Holburn, Kemnay, 2nd kintore, St. Andrews, 2nd St. Ronald, Stonehaven, West St. Clements, Westrurn, Y.M.C.A. and 45th Old Boys.
In addition, Aboyne, Alford and Banchory competed in the Cup Competition.

Grade 3

Anchorians, Balnagask, Central School, 2nd Crescent, Culter, Dunecht, 2nd Garmmar FPs, 2nd Inverurie, Lads Club, Middletons, Queen’s Cross, 2nd Stonehaven, 2nd Westburn.

Ellon FPs, Fisheries, 2nd Kemnay, Mugiemoss and Turriff also competed in the Cup Competition.

It is equally appropriate, perhaps, that the Association, having reached its half-century – not without a minor hiccup here and there along the line – should, in December 1934, receive from the Umpires’ Association, a Mr. O’Neil, the suggestion that an Umpires’ Association be formed and that this Association should come under the control of the Aberdeenshire Cricket Association. The meeting at which this suggestion was put forward was instantly responsive, if necessary and a fee of 1s 6d per match, plus expenses for travel, if necessary – and, of course, team between innings – was set by those attending. Moreover, the President of the Aberdeenshire Cricket Association, Mr. A. Johnston, who was in the Chair at the meeting, was also swift to give his blessing to this enterprise and moved that £10 be set aside to finance the merging Umpires’ Association.

Before embarking on the more recent history of the Association, it is perhaps fitting we pause at the halfway stage to reflect on how the Association itself had progressed over the first fifty years. From its pioneering days of the Association had kept efficient control over competitive cricket in an ever-expanding area. Accepting that change generally occurs fairly regularly in the higher echelons of bodies such as a cricket Association, it is interesting to note that in its first fifty years of existence, the Association had required only fourteen Secretaries to administer its affairs. In the initial years, when the financial dealings of the Association must have been almost non-existent, a Treasurer was appointed in addition to the Secretary.

Of the former office there is a record of only four treasurers having been appointed. It is equally interesting, if not even intriguing to note that, throughout these fifty years, there seems to have been someone in the background – unnamed – acting as Assistant Secretary. The Association’s records show constant reference to the small honorarium set aside for his services, but they contain no mention of the individual by name.

Earliest mention of payment for the Secretary’s services occurs in 1899 when his honorarium was set at the princely sum of two guineas. This sum had, however, increased by 1934 to £25, while the unidentified Assistant Secretary’s honorarium had remained, as it had done for a number of years, at two guineas.

Returning to the introductory photographs of this history, while still in a reflective mood, one cannot help recollecting that when William Carnie wrote about cricket in Aberdeen about the middle of the nineteenth century, the game would appear to have been played at the Links and at Albyn Place so far as teams other than Aberdeenshire were concerned. Accepting therefore that there were the only two areas available for cricket and that fourteen matches had been organised on 2nd June 1884, the amount of space available on these two sites must have been considerable. George Davidson’s Lay of the Links confirmed that either golf or cricket were played alongside each other on the Links and since golf hybrids such as pitch-and-putt would not have been thought of, we can imagine that the ground available on the Links at the time, must have extended northwards farther than its present perimeter.

We know also from the history of the oldest city club, Crescent, that they played where the home of football in Aberdeen now stands, Pittodrie. The Links therefore must have stretched westwards as well as northwards, beyond where it does presently and since there was no roadway to the beach from the city, no Beach Ballroom and, certainly, no amusements arcade as it presently stands – the expanse of Links to the south of cricket’s present confines there would be very large indeed. If the expanse of territory at Albyn Place was anything like that available at Links, think of how much easier the task of finding pitches at the height of the cricket season might be for a present-day Association Secretary. By the time the Association was formed, however, no mention is made of the Albyn Place ground and so the Links would appear to have been the sole area for cricket initially. It was not until 19th June 1895 that the town granted the use of three pitches at Duthie Park and thus was cricket brought to another area of the city. Stewart Park was later brought into use and, in the course of establishing a little more of the history my own club, St. Ronald, I have learned that in the years prior to 1914, they played on the ‘Bleaching Fields’ – a ground in the vicinity of, if not actually where, Rubislaw, the home of Grammar FPs, now stands.

On the administrative front, it is quite remarkable that in the fifty years to 1934, only fourteen individuals had filled the office of Secretary. The distinction of being continuously longest in this office during this period remains with W. Mackay of Huntly C.C., who held office from May 1904 until war broke out in 1914. The first incumbent of the joint office of Secretary and Treasurer was W. Patterson if Kittybrewster Mechanics. The post was eventually combined when Mr. Patterson, who had been appointed Treasurer in 1889 and held office continuously until the posts were amalgamated in August 1896 when the Secretary resigned, had previously held the joint post in 1891 when for that one year the two offices were combined. In essence, therefore, he too had held the office of Secretary and Treasurer for eleven years though not continuously like Mr. Mackay.

It was not until 1927 when David Donald of St. Clements United Free Church Cricket Club became President of the Association that the presently maintained arrangement of holding that office for two years only first seems to have found favour. Until then the longest-serving President of the Association had been William Jaffray of University Press who had held office from 1895 until his death in 1905. In addition he held the distinction of being only three individuals to hold the office of Treasurer, an office he occupied for three years. Until the Jubilee year, twenty-one individuals had held the office of President.


MrPurple  Feb 17 2006 - 12:42am   
 
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