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Bob’s Blog: Coarse Cricket in 1930s

Bob Mathieson writes our Cricket First Team Match Reports, and often shares memories of cricket from days gone by. He’s kindly agreed to share some more of those memories with us. This is episode 2 of his blog. You can read his first post here: Bob’s Blog: The Reluctant Batsman

Number 2020/2 by Bob Mathieson

Earliest Memory

I wonder Reader, what is your earliest memory as a child? I am absolutely sure of my first experience. It has stayed with me for nearly 85 years. I had just toddled, holding hands with my mother, out of the cake shop, Tustin’s, on the corner of Boldmere Road and Jockey Road when we were greeted by the pusher of pram containing the only boy I knew. We lived in the same road and his name was, and I hope still is, Lawson Dicks. Why does this stick in my memory? Lawson was wearing a pink pixie hood which, even in my limited experience, made him look a prat, and two green candles were leaking from his nostrils. I suspect that vision has played in important part in developing my views on humanity.

Misty Second Memory

In my second memory, I was in what is now Tesco’s car park at New Oscott. In 1939 it was the playing field of Princess Alice’s Orphanage and I retain the misty image of figures in white running around. I had no idea what was happening and why I was there. But the memory stuck and some years later I realised that there had been a cricket match in progress and I asked my mother why we had been there. The simple answer was that my father was playing for the Horse and Jockey against the Beggars Bush. It had not been talked about in the family, however, because it had caused a serious difficulty between my father and his mother.

Sutton Pubs

It seems that in the late 1930s a number of Sutton pubs got together to play some very social cricket against each other. Not many pubs had ready access to a proper cricket ground but it was agreed that this need not interfere with the promotion of a healthy thirst and some comradely sport. In fact, any piece of grassy land would suffice. Games were frequently played on Powell’s Common, when a tennis ball was used to prevent injury to players and passing dog walkers. It was often necessary to shoo cows away from the chosen playing area. Fielders were circumspect about diving if the cows had been in recent residence. It is understood that it was all good fun, although some sort of unsavoury incident led to the Green Man at Middleton being banned.

Temperance and the Conservative Club

In 1910 my paternal grandparents had moved to Sutton and taken up residence on Birmingham Road, the second house above Maney Hill Road, facing the shops in Beeches Walk. Grandma Mathieson, the daughter of the proprietor of a temperance hotel, swiftly identified the dangers posed by the nearness of the Horse and Jockey and its rough customers, and arranged membership of the Conservative Club for Grandpa Mathieson. She was confident he would meet there all the nice, influential men of Sutton. Grandpa did not object as knew that this refuge would be rather lax in its observation of licencing laws. Indeed, they served breakfast! My father, following strict Marxist principles, refused to join a club which would have his father as a member, and together with his school friends patronised the Jockey when he reached maturity aged 15. He never changed this practice. Grandma was not told.

Cricket Practice

It seems that the Horse and Jockey team saw cricket practice as a means to improving their thirst. The triangle of grass in Beeches Walk was convenient and well suited to this purpose. To all intents and purposes, it became the Jockey’s beer garden. Father saw the danger and stayed away on “training nights”. Sure enough, Grandma summoned senior policemen and Town Councillors from the Conservative Club to put a stop to this public nuisance. Somehow, and inevitably, in the course of the negotiations my father was mentioned. He was summoned to the Family Court before Mrs Justice Grandma, was found guilty and remanded on bail to await sentence. Happily, at this point in history, Mr Hitler started to interfere with Grandma’s comfort, so she postponed the case until after hostilities and wrote a stiff letter to Adolph.

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