In Part 3 we look at the.....
LARNE DISTRICT LEAGUE
I’m indebted to former Cricket Ireland and NCU President Robin Walsh for his colourful account of his experiences at Larne when he was a teenage reporter at the Larne Times. Of course, Robin rose to the top of journalism when he became the Controller of BBC Northern Ireland in the 1970s.
“My first season in the Larne and District League was in 1958 when I joined the Larne Times as an 18-year-old cub reporter.
My most vivid memory over the three or four years I played was of the most treacherous pitch imaginable. Try coconut matting over the rugby pitch at Sandy Bay! The league did not use the adjoining Larne CC pitch on which it was a relief to play on Saturday.
The less than professional laying of the coconut matting made for a wicket so unpredictable as to be dangerous. An innings would have an unhealthy percentage of grubbers and bouncers in those pre-helmet days and it was often joked that the town’s dentists enjoyed their busiest times during the league’s season.
Yet it was an immensely enjoyable league with a wide cross section of folk within East Antrim taking part and becoming friends. The one with whom I still have contact is one Paddy O’Hara of umpiring fame. Back in the league days he played for Windsor who I seem to remember was a good side from I think the Carrick area. I also remember his pace was quite intimidating and more so given the surface.
The league games were 20 overs - the birth of T20! - and involved some of the companies in what was then a particularly thriving industrial area. The ones I particularly remember were the Corran Works, which turned out Pye radio and TV sets and the big Ballylumford Power Station in Islandmagee which any records you might have should show it to be one of the more successful sides.
Another successful team was one called Transport, which asked me to join although most of the team was drawn from Larne Harbour’s commercial activities. I have memories of playing in the side that won the league certainly once if not twice. You couldn’t help but take wickets given the playing surface and probably more by luck than judgement I remember scoring a century one summer’s night. I seem to remember a fine chap called Bob Dunkley captained us.
There was also a vibrant social side with an awards’ night dinner in the then King’s Arms Hotel. Not all of the Larne CC side played in the league given other commitments and that included Aubrey Girvan, who back then was enjoying his first spell as Mayor of Larne. It was Aubrey on a Saturday, Mr Mayor when reporting Monday at the Borough Council meetings!”
Interesting, although Larne was the focal point of cricket, various other teams travelled to and from the Sandy Bay Cricket Ground. We learn of teams like Windsor, Transport, Ballylumford, Phoenix, Curran Works, BTH, and of course Larne.