The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

Lenton Times Issue 8 - May 1993

Dunkirk Cricket Club Remembered


For almost thirty years John Watkins played an active part in the affairs of Dunkirk Cricket Club. Below he recounts the story of those years.

Having been put into cold storage for the duration of the war football in Dunkirk area resumed in 1946 with the re-establishment of Dunkirk F.C. At the end of its second season the Club debated the idea of extending its interests and starting up a cricket team. The matter was put to its Annual General Meeting but the proposal was defeated. Most accepted this decision but not six local men. They subsequently met on June 6th 1948 at the Dunkirk Hotel and resolved to found their own cricket club. The six were Les Preece, Tommy Wileman, Arthur Wileman, Doug Hewitt, Bill Savage and myself. We each coughed up 2s.6d. for subs and Dunkirk Cricket Club was born.


Photo courtesy of John WatkinsSee in Lightbox

DUNKIRK C.C. in the early 1950s. The photograph appears to have been
taken beside the Victoria Embankment changing rooms. Back Row (left
to right): Eric Culy, Jim Rennison, John Watkins, Roy Pritchard,
Derek Butlin, Jim Conroy. Front Row: George Burnham (Umpire & Club
Chairman), Les Preece, Fred Butlin, Ray May, Eric Luckner, Maurice
Stanley.

These initial subscriptions were sufficient to enable us to buy a ball and two sets of stumps from Redmayne & Todds, and Les Preece donated a couple of bats he had acquired while in the air force. A few more recruits were enlisted and as most of us had never before been involved in a proper game of cricket coaching sessions were instituted. We were now in the position to play our first game. This was squeezed in at the tail end of the 1948 season and pitted us against the might of Lowdham Borstal Institution. We made our way to Lowdham, as the boys only played home games, and got ready for the match. Only two of us had yet acquired 'whites'; the other nine had to improvise as best they could. We had just the two sets of pads so each time we lost a wicket there had to be a rapid transfer of pads to the incoming batsman. Nevertheless we coped and if my memory serves me right we even managed a narrow victory.

After this inaugural match we were forced to draw stumps for the duration of the winter months. This allowed us to concentrate on raising Club funds. A variety of sweepstakes were set up, ladies’ scent cards sold, and a Xmas draw organised. Local people were very generous in their support for these ventures and we soon had sufficient money to buy bats, balls, pads, wicket keeping gloves, a score book, an umpire's coat and the like. The Club was initially limited to 18 members who were expected to attend regular Club meetings held at the Dunkirk Hotel. Poor attendance at these or failure to pay the weekly subs were deemed grounds for exclusion from the Club. Even if we couldn't yet attract experienced players we did demand a high level of enthusiasm and commitment from those who wished to play for us.


Photo courtesy of John WatkinsSee in Lightbox

Dunkirk C.C. versus a team from the City Social Club August Bank
Holiday 1952 on Highfields. Dunkirk are fielding and those
identified in the photograph include John Watkins, Roy Pritchard,
Eric Collington, Herbert Hillyard (the departing batsman), Ken
Heason, Jim Rennison and Dennis Caffrey.

At one of the early general meetings I was voted Club secretary in my absence (it taught me not to miss meetings!) and I then held this post for the next five years. It fell to me to assemble the fixture list for the coming year. After placing an advert in the Nottingham Evening News I received several letters from other clubs and fixtures were quickly established for the 1949 season. We secured a match pitch at Highfields and played there on a Sunday with the same venue being booked for the Wednesday night practice sessions. I no longer have access to the Club's actual match records but I seem to recall that we managed a number of wins in that first season.

In July 1949 we made one of our best 'signings'. This was George Burnham who served as Club chairman tor more than a decade and more importantly took over the role of Club coach and official umpire. George had been a club professional playing in the Derbyshire League for the likes of Blackwall, Bolsover and Markham Colliery C.C.s and held the distinction of being one of the first players to be signed to play for Sir Julien Cahn's XI in the 1920s. Now in his seventies he was more than willing to pass on the benefits of his experience. George's active involvement with the Club continued into the 1960s and he still retained an interest in the Club up until the time of his death in 1971 at the age of 92. Other long serving Club members to emerge from these early years were Les Preece (1948-1963), Jim Renison (1949-1978) and Ken Heason (1950-1977), not to mention myself, John Watkins (1948-1978).

The Club joined the Notts Cricket Association and soon established an extensive list of fixtures. After a couple of seasons restricting ourselves to friendlies the decision was taken to enter a league and Dunkirk C.C. successfully applied to join the Nottingham & District Saturday Cricket League. We never actually won the league championship in my time with the Club (our best was runners-up one year) but nevertheless we always seemed to enjoy our cricket. We played against some marvellous teams. Everyone tried their best to win but the games were always conducted in a most sporting manner. Over the years we built up firm friendships with many of our opposing team members. This was because we had regular fixtures with some teams year after year. Among the season's high points were the annual matches with North Muskham and later Grimsby British Railways C.C. A bus would be hired for these away fixtures and a good time would be had by all who went along.


The Dunkirk Hotel had provided an initial base but after a few years it proved somewhat difficult to hold Club meetings there. So we eventually accepted the invitation of Mrs. Culy, proprietor of the City Social Club, to meet at her establishment. The City Social Club was housed in the building which is now occupied by Dual Trimmings Ltd on City Road, Dunkirk. We did not totally forsake the Dunkirk Hotel and continued to hold some of our social events there but Mrs. Culy was extremely generous to us - so much so that we soon wished to acknowledge this generosity by making her a life president of Dunkirk C.C. Mrs Culy offered us the use of a room at the City Social Club for our meetings and also suggested that we might like to take over a strip of land adjoining the Social Club and erect a practice net there. We did this but nearby residents were soon complaining that the noise we generated in the nets was disturbing their peace and quiet and practice sessions at Highfields had to be reinstated.

We may never have been league champions but in 1958 two team members hit the local sporting headlines. Alec Goodband managed to achieve the best bowling analysis for any match in the Nottingham & District League for that year while David Smith topped the league's bowling averages. Later there was another David Smith who played for Dunkirk C.C. for a short while. An excellent all round sportsman it was no surprise to us when David signed professional terms with Notts County F.C. One other club member who was to enjoy considerable acclaim in the world of football was Henry Newton. He played for Dunkirk C.C. as a youngster in the late 1950s/early 1960s but once signed by Nottingham Forest F.C. he was prevented by the football club from playing any further cricket in case he should injure himself. Forest's gain was our loss! A further club distinction worth recording occurred in 1962 when Jim Renison and David Smith were chosen to play for a Nottingham & District Cricket League XI against a Notts C.C.C. Xl in a testimonial match for Johnny Clay.


Photo courtesy of John WatkinsSee in Lightbox

Dunkirk C.C. (late 1950s) back row (left to right): George Burnham, Alec
Goodband, Graham Fox, Peter Collington, John Watkins. Front Row: Henry
Newton, Malcolm Seaton, Ken Heason, Jim Rennison, Gordon Pilling, David
Smith, Tony Towne.

Each year the Club had to try and balance its books. There was the expense of hiring pitches, payment to the umpire and scorer (the latter post frequently being filled by my wife, June), purchase and upkeep of equipment, and the cost of transport to the more out of the way venues. Through the efforts of Club members our finances always remained in the black and in the 1960s we even managed to accumulate quite a sizeable bank balance. This was achieved by putting on jumble sales, running a Tote, sweepstakes, prize draws and mounting various social events; there was also the income provided by the annual subscriptions and the match taxes required from those actually selected for a particular game. For a short while the Club ran a junior team under the stewardship of Eric Collington. We found, however, that the expense of running two teams was a heavy drain on Club finances and the experiment was discontinued after a couple of seasons. The late 60s and early seventies saw team members looking particularly smart with the adoption of our own Club caps, blazer badges and Club sweaters. This was largely the idea of 'Mac’ Faulconbridge who also initiated some rather swish Xmas dinners for the Club at the Commodore and the like.

Throughout the early history of the Club the idea of having our own ground had been muted but with no suitable site available it had always remained something of a pipe dream. Then in the early 1970s several members of Dunkirk C.C. held an exploratory meeting with representatives from the City Council to discuss the possibility of taking over some land close to Grove Farm down by the river Trent. Another interested party was Dunkirk F.C. who also lacked its own ground. The City Council were willing to countenance the land being used as a sports venue but wanted assurance that its use would be maximised. So Dunkirk F.C. and Dunkirk C.C. held Club meetings to discuss the suggestion that they join forces and together rent the land. Both Clubs proved agreeable and so in the mid-1970s we amalgamated with Dunkirk F.C. to form Dunkirk Sports and Social Club.

It was two or three more years before we could actually dispense with our pitch at Highfields. The ploughed field that we inherited had to be converted into a suitable playing surface and there was the small matter of raising sufficient funds to pay for the erection of changing facilities there. I spent quite some considerable time and much effort helping to prepare the cricket square at this new ground but was destined never to play on it. Sadly I developed a back complaint in 1978 which effectively ended my playing career and with it came the conclusion of my active participation in Dunkirk Cricket Club after thirty very enjoyable years.

JOHN WATKINS

In addition to those already mentioned in the text or included in the photographs local lads that I recall from Dunkirk C.C.'s early years include Jim Chambers, Walter Day, Steve Hickinbottom, Aubrey Hourd, Bob Marshall, Albert Nelson, Herbert Perkins and Ralph Savage.





All material on this site not covered by other copyright and not explicitly marked as public domain is © Lenton Times 2010 and must not be used without permission