8 July 2020

by Clarence Hiles


A reflection on the contribution of former stalwarts who gave to Ulster cricket…

Bill McCarroll was thrown into the deep end in 1985 after Jim McDowell resigned as General Secretary of the Northern Cricket Union preceding the Centenary Celebrations the following year.  It was a tough baptism, further complicated by the untimely death of the NCU President Ferguson Grainger, who had meticulously planned the Celebrations since the AGM in October 1984.  But Bill took it in his stride, and never looked back after his induction.

The NCU has been blessed with competent, efficient officials who provided outstanding service dating back from the first appointment of Bob Erskine in 1901-19, and latterly Bryan Milford since 2008.  Major Gordon Ormsby’s (1959-81) style was similar to army efficiency for 22 years, followed by Jim McDowell (1982-85), akin to a more friendly approach. His resignation after three years in office took the NCU Management aback, and facing a crisis, but Bill McCarroll ticked all the boxes.  It speaks volumes that he continued for 22 years before his premature death.

Ironically Bill had no cricket background other than the occasional walk to nearby Wallace Park, home of Lisburn CC.  He graduated from Primary School teaching to become a highly respected Education Administrator representing Regional Boards with schools and Government.  Sometimes we forget he was also the President and Secretary of the Northern Ireland Schools’ Football Association for most of the time. He was a tireless Administrator of the highest calibre.

His organizational skills were always evident from the outset, and the hundreds of cricket committee meetings was fodder for a busy man.  I knew him well when I was elevated to NCU Vice-Chairman in 1988-89 and then Chairman 1990-91.  Like my successor Alfie Linehan, he was my Lieutenant, always available, and a wise "Counsel".  As a former Chairman I have every reason to thank him for his friendship, but in truth, within the hierarchy we lost a dear friend.

When I wrote my book "A History of Senior Cricket in Ulster" in 2003 I deservedly gave him a lot of credit...

“Throughout the Nineties the NCU’s secretary Bill McCarroll was the cornerstone of the Union’s affairs, an efficient administrator who did all that was expected publicly and who privately always went the extra mile in the Union’s interests.  Only those closest to the power base of the NCU fully appreciated his commitment and his wise counsel on the crusty issues".

Bill was in his element making arrangements, and in particular, he excelled in organizing the NCU Finals, the Annual General Meeting, and the Annual Dinner.  He was the hub of the Union, and provided wise counsel prior and during the court proceedings after Cliftonville challenged the NCU’s right to deem Raman Lamba an overseas professional in 1991.  The NCU won the verdict, but it was sad for everyone to be in the High Court. 

Bill was also in the thick of affairs assisting the organisation of the ICC Trophy in July 2005.  The frenetic 14 days involved 12 countries, including 25 matches within the NCU region with Ireland later qualifying to compete in the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean.

It was a nightmare for most, but not for Bill.  Yet again, he took it in his stride.  He was meticulous, and despite the workload, he was the most accommodating of General Secretaries.  He was always available to advise and assist.

He loved the NCU Senior Cup Final and as a tribute following his death, the Union decided to award a medal in his memory.  The award was named "The McCarroll Memorial Medal" and players who were the Man-of-the-Match in the final were awarded the medal.  Details within the medal was inscribed "He was General Secretary 1985-2007".

NCU Chairman, at the time of the first award, Wylie McKinty in announcing the memorial said…

"Bill took tremendous pride and satisfaction in his organization of the Challenge Cup and in particular the final each year.  It is fitting therefore that his name will now be permanently linked with the Final.  The McCarroll Memorial Medal is something any cricketer will be proud to win".

The first recipient was Nigel Jones of Civil Service North in 2008.

As an exile domiciled in Barbados since 1996, Bill never neglected me as a "former man".  He always sent me an email with plenty of notice of an invite to the AGM and Annual Dinner.  A Christmas card in December was always first to arrive!  Such detail was very special.  In truth, I continued to keep close contact with him.

The Union was very fortunate in his successor too.  When Bryan Milford took the reins, he had a solid pedigree from a cricket background playing at Cooke, and then later as NCU Hon. Treasurer from1999-2002, and Chairman from 2004-05.  It seemed like a seamless transition after Bill had set the standard.

You can never measure the loss of Bill McCarroll, but it was huge at the time. Sometimes when we meet together to reflect on former colleagues we often speak of his genial, warm personality.

Gone, but not forgotten…Bill McCarroll  


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