Cow Pats and Cricket Bats by Maurice Barnett ©.
A pleasing number of new members enrolled soon after the war, including - Arthur and Bill Luckett, Eddie Crossland, Chris Price, John Pinfold, Reg Hoggets, Bert Harrison and Wilf Bibb.
Arthur and Bill (like me) started their interest in the game with pencil and paper, as school boy scorers and spectators and later became excellent playing members. Bill was a steady medium paced bowler and solid opening bat. Arthur was one of the best swing bowlers in the local game. I have seen him clean bowl many high class batsmen with late movement in the air and off the seam.
John Pinfold was a six foot plus fast merchant with a beautiful classical run up and action and Chris Price proved to be one of three excellent wicket keepers I have known in the Club. The other two? - Jack Lewis and Jimmy Greaves (ours, not the footballer).
Reg and Eddie were first class club men; and above all Eddie Crossland in addition to being a prodigious worker on the ground, introduced the Major. He didn't join us - he adopted us.
Major Atkins was in charge of the P.O.W. camp at Maxstoke (now part of the golf course) and remained there for a number of years after the main occupants had returned to Italy.
He was the archetype of that rank, tall, burly, florid of face, garnished with a well trimmed moustache, erect and imposing. An impressive figure.
Back Row : Eddie Crossland, John Pinfold, Maurice Barnett, Major Atkins, Arthur Luckett, Alan Luckett
Front Row: Bill Luckett, Fred Houghton, Bill Gibbs, Chris Price
He never whispered; in fact I am sure he had been blessed with a built-in amplifier next to his vocal chords.It was not unusual for him to conduct an animated conversation as team captain, from the Pavilion steps with Chris 'late again' Price as he gently freewheeled down the Swan Bridge towards the field of play - but still refusing to 'get a bloody move on'.
Chris did not always remain oblivious to the time factor, however - we were batting, but not very well. those at the top of the order had failed, but Chris was still there and going well, with several tail enders to follow. It appeared that by tea, we would probably muster a respectable total after all. It all rested on Chris.
Then, our last hope, I assume having heard the distant chime of the Church Clock, suddenly charged down the wicket, missed the ball by a mile and leaving the wicket keeper to leisurely remove the bails trotted back to the Pavilion. when asked 'what the Brierley Hill did you do that for ?' he calmly replied 'It's time for me to go and feed the chickens'.<
Thus while our tail enders scratched about in the middle until the tea interval, Chris rode away over the Railway Bridge to the Rectory for his rendezvous with his Rhode Island Reds. I reminded Chris about this incident when I met him at a recent village event. He grinned and remarked 'That's village cricket'. It certainly was, but our definition at the time was far more lurid.
Notwithstanding such venial sins Chris was a likable character and no doubt the Rev. T.Y. (himself a keen cricketer) was justly proud of his son's stylish batting and wicket keeping for the team of this parish.
When the Major joined us we were at a low ebb. More kit was wanted, the ground was a mess, as was the pavilion and our mowers, larger and small had seen better days - but he came to our rescue. he augmented the £11 we had in the bank with cash, labour and new ideas, tackled from a variety of avenues, not to mention more than a modicum of motivation and a dash of discipline. he also owned a car!
Transport to away games presented the Club with problems from the Horse and Brake era to just after the Second World War. (Another reason for the predominance of home matches). In spite of the fact that the first motor car had been built a couple of years before our Club was founded (Benz 1885), this mode of transport remained a luxury to our players for another sixty five years. We graduated slowly from horse, cycle, motorcycle and (joy of joy's) charabang and finally to Ramsdall's taxi, before Jack Upton contributed by taking the kit and another one other in his newly acquired Austin Seven.
From then onwards, as car ownership grew, our membership no longer solely depended upon the young men in the locality, but extended to areas farther afield. this new factor operated both ways. Some players moved out, others came in. Improved Club status and membership, now depended upon facilities, organization and good fellowship. We did not shirk this unprecedented challenge.
There are some critics who feel that a village club should consist of local players - I would remind them, however, that under such a constraint we would not be celebrating our centenary now (1987), but lamenting the demise of our Club thirty or so years ago.