Mid Argyll Cricket Club pulls up stumps

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The sound of leather on willow could be heard in the rain at the foot of Dunadd Hill for possibly the very last time.

It marked the end of a 25 year innings for Mid Argyll Cricket Club.

It may be a surprise to know that cricket was not only a feature in Mid Argyll for 25 years, but that cricket in Argyll has a long and ancient tradition.

Records from the 19th century show that cricket teams existed in Kilmartin, Lochgilphead, Inveraray and other Argyll towns. However World War One had a devastating impact on the fortunes of the game.

Land reclamation, World War Two and the surge in popularity of football further impacted on the game, leaving local teams struggling.

In the 1980s a Lochgilphead cricket team was started by Neil MacLeod, a former Scottish national cricket player. Robin Finlay, one of the early players in the team, recalls some of the fixtures.

He said: ‘Most of the games we played were against groups like the rugby club, various village teams and RAF Machrihanish. They actually had an artificial  cricket strip which was far superior to the various fields that we played in.’

This team survived only a few seasons and disbanded when Neil moved to Dingwall.

In 1991/92 under the charge of Peter Crompton, a music instructor at Lochgilphead High School, the Mid Argyll Cricket Club was founded. Within a short time there was huge interest and the club had up to 30 willing participants ranging from 11 to 60 years of age ready to play. The emergence of the club coincided with a rise in popularity of cricket throughout Argyll. Other teams formed included Cairndow, Campbeltown, Dunoon (Innellan), Oban and later Carradale and Sannox in Arran.

An Argyll league was formed, comprising Mid Argyll and four or five of the strongest other Argyll teams.

Mid Argyll had no permanent home ground in the beginning, instead playing their early matches on any available field. In 1992 one of the founder members Tim Lister made land from his farm available and so the Dunadd ‘Oval’ was created.

It was at the Oval that, for the next 20 years, Mid Argyll Cricket Club played all their home matches. Many tourists stared in amazement as they climbed Dunadd Hill and saw modern day Scots playing something that looked vaguely like cricket.

In addition to playing against other Argyll teams, Mid Argyll travelled regularly to play against teams from Comrie in Perthshire and Gargunnock in Stirlingshire.

The team also hosted matches against visiting teams from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Yorkshire and even Australia.

Playing cricket in Argyll was not without its problems. Notably the weather had a huge influence, with many games over the years cancelled, postponed or abandoned mid-play. The foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 resulted in no home games being played that year.

Youngsters introduced into the world of cricket soon grew into teenagers and tended to head away from Mid Argyll, consequently the age profile of the members was constantly rising.

Cricket demands a huge amount of time and commitment, an average game lasts around four to five hours and an away match could mean a player was away from home and family for anything between six to eight hours, and fewer players were willing to make this sacrifice.

It became apparent four or five years ago that the writing was on the wall for the club. Members were retiring from play and were no longer available to make up the team, and so with great reluctance the club had to withdraw form the Argyll League and cut back on the amount of fixtures.

A ‘formal’ end of the club was considered appropriate with a final match being played at the ‘Dunadd Oval’. Two teams were brought together to bid farewell to two and a half decades of cricket from Mid Argyll Cricket Club. The first team, under the captaincy of Tim Lister, comprised the ‘old guard’ – some, like Matt Lewis, who had travelled from Bridge of Allan and Gordon Lyburn who had come from Dumfries to celebrate the day. Others such as Stewart Turner, Phil Hemmings, the father and son duo of Peter and Angus Shackleton joined.

Robin Finlay from Mid Argyll braved the weather and faced the team of Stanley Lister, Tim’s son who had invited friends from Argyll and university to make up the opposition.

The result of the match was second only to the enjoyment of the day, and the ‘old guard’ were able to show the young ones a thing or two with a comfortable win.

Just before the game a minutes silence was held in memory of David Dunlop who had died earlier this year. David had been an enthusiastic and loyal supporter of the club. Born with severe disabilities, his passion for sport never waned and his courage stoicism and infectious sense of humour affected all who knew him.

The final act of the club was to redistribute the funds held by the club and in memory of David. Following suggestions by his parents, the club made donations to the Tartan Army Children’s Charity and to Macmillan Cancer Care.

The stumps were then finally pulled on 25 years of cricket played by Mid Argyll Cricket Club at the Dunadd ‘Oval’.