Mike Popplewell takes a trip down memory lane

In the summer of 69″….so begins the Bryan Adams’ song. But, what really happened in the summer of 1969 and how were things in the Bradford League that summer as ‘The Pink’ set about recording the events of the day.

‘The Pink’, and its Leeds rival ‘The Green Un’, were of course The Yorkshire Sports and The Green Post – respective Saturday evening sports papers of Bradford’s Tand A and the Leeds based Yorkshire Evening Post.

Reports and scorecards, usually containing no more than the first two hours play, featured on the front and back pages and a discovery amongst my piles of hoarded ephemera started me on another ‘magical mystery tour’.

As it happened the Beatles ‘Mystery Tour’ had been released two years earlier but music nevertheless featured prominently in the summer of 69, though Adams’ song was to emerge much later. This was the summer of the iconic Rock festival ‘Woodstock’ in the States, the first Moon landing, rain, student riots, troop deployment to Northern Ireland, more rain, the advent of Colonel Gaddafi as Libyan leader, even more rain, cricket cancellations on a huge scale and, on a personal note, the birth of my first child.

‘Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose’  ie The more things change the more they stay the same. I don’t speak French but it is a favourite saying of mine and so appropriate to this current weather hit Bradford League season.

“I seem to remember that we didn’t know when we were going to get a bat on ball,” said John Harrison, the captain of the all conquering Bingley side that summer. In fact, Bingley were top of the Bradford League First Division after eight games having won only TWICE.

Peter Pickup, in his ‘History of the Bradford Cricket League’ (1988) wrote “Never in the League’s history has there been such a start than that in 1969.”

After five games, Lidget Green, Brighouse, Hartshead Moor, East Bierley and Bradford had simply not bowled a ball – all games having been washed out – and many others in the First Division had lost four out of five to the weather. With only one win in 11 Bankfoot found themselves in THIRD place in Division One.

The late Phil Carrick also appeared for Farsley as a 16 year old this summer but it was Bingley who stole the honours with a feat never before, or since, repeated as they swept the board with successes at both first and second team level.

“I think the secret that season was not only team spirit but ‘club’ spirit,” recalled skipper Harrison. “We did everything as a club. The first team and the second team were together as groups and after a game we would all stay behind. With many players having young children whole families would be together – it was a great spirit.

” We had a second team captain, Paul Meredith, who would have got into most first teams but was happy to lead the seconds because he felt that was where he was most needed.

“There were players like ‘George’ Batty, and wicket keeper Derek Isles had played for Worcester Seconds, but there were not so many ‘stars’ just a bunch of lads who gelled well as a team.”

My battered ‘Pink’ for 17th May, 1969 shows details of the first round of The Priestley Cup with eventual winners Bingley struggling to get the better of Lightcliffe in the early overs. John Harrison had no clear recall of this particular match but when I informed him that he had been run out without scoring he casually remarked, “Oh that would be Ken Standring running me out,” as if it had been a regular occurance!

The battered copy of the Pink from May 17, 1969

In any event the match report confirmed Harrison’s suspicions. ‘Harrison joined Standring but the Bingley captain was easily run out after Standring had nudged an Ormondroyd delivery to cover’ read the report.

John spoke highly of Ken and Roger Bailey, the pair compiling a century partnership in this game, and Standring went on to top the First Division averages and pick up 37 wickets along the way while Harrison was like the proverbial metronome with only one innings below 20 in the whole season.

“I certainly remember the last day of that season,” said Harrison. “We had already won the Priestley Cup, the second team had won The Priestley Shield and the Second team league competition – everything rested on our final game as Spen Victoria and ourselves began the day level on points.

“We dominated our game with Lightcliffe but only drew so we had to wait for news from Spen Vic’s game with Idle.”

It was to prove one of the closest finishes in the league’s history for Idle, having been bowled out for just 117, could not have made it more difficult as their side, which included League stalwart John France, hit back to dismiss Spen for just 115, securing a two run win, and handing Bingley the title by just three points – thus completing an incredible four way triumph for the club.

It was an outstanding season for the club but they had stayed together as a team for a while and won the cup in 1967 as well as 1969, beating Spen, were runners up in 1970, and won it again in 1971.

Amongst the other headlines back in May 1969 was the collapse of Priestley Cup holders Bowling Old Lane in their first round tie with an Eccleshill side who were to eventually finish bottom of the First Division.

Bernard Ellison, who has given such service to football and cricket in Bradford over the years, Jack Bethell, father of Andy and Steve of Spen and Pudsey Congs note, Barrie Jenkinson and Brian Clough were amongst an Old Lane side who surprising failed to build on their 1968 triumph and finished in third bottom spot.

Other instantly recognisable names this summer included Lidget Green’s bowling prize winner Tony Bowes, Tony being the son of the great Yorkshire and England man Bill Bowes, while Mike Fearnley’s bowling helped Farsley to the Second Division championship and East Bierley’s Brian Lymbery was runner up in the batting.

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