The Vagabonds Cricket Club: How it all began
Written by Vagabonds CC founder: Barrie Walshe… Member 1980-01
Cricket has always been my first sporting love ever since listening to John Arlott commentating on ‘steam radio’ in pre TV days. He painted such cricketing poetry that a live picture would have been an unnecessary distraction.
Through my school days and after I played for House, school, and the ‘Old Boys,’ until moving from West Hampstead to Hampshire in 1963 I began playing for Old Alresford. I will avoid reflections of my few memorable exploits, suffice to say I just loved every minute of my playing time. At the age of 30 I decided to try marriage once again, this time much more successfully to Sally who soon, with a little help from yours truly, provided me with two lovely daughters. At this time I was club captain, selector, committee member, and ground helper and playing twice a weekend. Suffice to say considerable sacrifice was required and so for a few years I gave up cricket altogether.
That situation could not last and so over a few (well perhaps quite a few) pints of beer along with like minded friends the idea of ‘friends’ cricket club playing a few games a season was born. The first task was to establish the club ethos and I was assigned to draw up The First Principles of the club, a few jars later to be named The Vagabonds Cricket Club – at this stage we had just 5 members !
AND SO ON A COLD WINTERS NIGHT IN 1980 THE VAGABONDS CRICKET CLUB WAS BORN
At this time my work included liaison with decorative designers within the company I worked for, so I asked one to develop a club badge based on the club name – little did I know at the time that I would be the model that inspired the eventual outcome ! To this was added the club motto: In the Sprit of Good Friendship or In Spiritu Sociatatio ( the Latin translation courtesy of Elizabeth Kennedy ).
The rest of the winter was devoted to raising money for kit and finding a home ground to play at. Some kit was supplied by ‘ Badger ‘ Barratt, a founder member, who had the residue from a previously defunct club. Money was then raised each Sunday lunchtime in our local by raffling a large joint (meat !) and various vegetables provided by George Kempster, another founder member, from his own garden. Alton Jubilee Sports ground was hired for 6 Sundays in 1981, fixtures were found and we were away !
Early fixtures were mostly against pub sides and the most memorable moments were usually post match, however we did manage to get all out for 13 in one game …I top scored – equal with extras – with a total of 4 !
Over the next few years we gradually improved our player base, but always, as to this day, by recommendation from existing club members. This idea has served us well as by recruiting like-minds we have always managed to maintain the fundamentals of the club’s ethos.
By the mid eighties we had doubled our fixture programme and with it the quality of player and opposition was also improving – we needed a more prestigious home ground with a good watering hole reasonably adjacent, Cheriton, a pretty village with a nice ground and good local, The Pots, proved the answer and so became our home for a few years. The only exception was one game each year was played at Bentworth as a second home ground, against The Financial Times. As the opposition was made up principally of journalists and they move around, this changed over time to Reuters C.C. and finally Daily Mail C.C.
It was in The Pots that I first met Eric Flynn who had recently moved into the area. We found mutual interests to chat about, mostly fly fishing, rugby, cricket, the entertainment world where I had ancient, but relevant, history. Before long Eric was a signed up member of the vags and this proved a significant turning point in the club’s development. Eric brought in new members, in particular Paul Hibbert whose spinning fingers have captured 400+ wickets for the club,and persuaded me to create a larger fixture list so the following year (1988) we went from 12 to 17 matches, and from there it continued to develop until we hit a peak in 1995 of 26 games in the season. Whilst Eric’s contribution of 200+ wickets in this time, many good runs, and the intro of such eventual famous names as Sam Mendes, plus being the one most pivotal in adding tours to our activities – not least the great tours of West Wales – it was another new name that also influenced our progress.
Nev Bamford was one of many Kiwi’s who had played for us in recent times, but he was the one who stayed and played on a regular basis, and what a cricketer and club man he proved to be. His batsmanship was a delight to watch and he scored many centuries for the club backed by some very useful pacy bowling and even wicket keeping if required. Nev also brought in Pete Green and Gavin MacAuliffe, two more Kiwi’s who made notable contributions of one sort or another ! At around this time we also had the memorable – in every sense ! – Shaun duBernard , a wild character from S A who could bowl at lightning pace and destroy opposition bowlers with the bat : we had become a multi national team, and at our level, of some consequence !
And then there was another who ultimately influenced our club development: Hugh Crichton-Stuart became an exuberant member in 1990, and alongside his stylish action, his fast bowling proved an edge in many games; he could also be an effective lower order bat. Importantly at a time when, for many various reasons our membership had declined, he brought fresh faces into the club, all of whom have greatly contributed both on and off the field of play. Notably Andy Geach, Jamie & Lachie Monro, Guy Parker, Jez Hunter, Stuart Tristram, and brother Will. The next raft of Monro’s, Chandos and Hugo, are just beginning their Vagabond experience and we hope that they will also form an important part of the future of this club.
A change of thinking at Cheriton C.C. in the early nineties meant we needed to find a new home ground, and with a history at Bentworth going back some 10 years this became our next, and current home. The contribution by Penny Taylor and Charles Bailey in helping to secure this agreement with the owner and the local club, should not be underestimated – with the delightful Sun Inn as our ‘clubhouse’ close by (my watering hole since the sixties), and the fabulous support of Mary, the landlady, I think we would be happy to stay here forever !
So here we are today, as usual from time to time, we are short of regular playing members so the club’s season is back to 15 matches plus any end of season tours that may take place, but the membership size is very healthy – including Vice Presidents – well over 50. As to our various tours over the years, they were all highly memorable but need no comment, just refer to the pictures under Vags Photos on the website and they tell the stories !
Likewise, our annual club dinners are also well documented in pictorial form. There are good signs of regeneration once again in the club with highly talented young players such as Will Perton, James Burridge, and Mark Henderson all playing regularly and enjoying the unique Vagabond way of enjoying it’s cricket and social activities
With members spread all over London and the South, the organization of the club is more complex than for conventional cricket clubs, so it is important to remember that much is done by few for the many, ( I know, it does sound a bit Churchillian !), so I will mention the following: Andy Kennedy (and Perton Signs) who supply some 50 odd foc copies of our annual booklet. Pete Bowden who does such a fine job with the annual bats used in trophy presentations. Penny Taylor who scored (now now !!) for us for ten years or so, and Michael Burridge who took over the task when Penny moved away, both taking the job into an art form and a pleasure for any who wished to review and read the history of any of our games, our previous club captains, Stan Chaffey, Eric Flynn, Nev Bamford, Keith Cotton, Mike Garton and now Ben Dixey. Gareth Hopkins ( & Emma) for marvelous teas, appreciated by us and all visiting teams. Steve Hyde for re-starting a club website and hopefully maintaining it, as well as trying to get an autumn tour back onto the club agenda. Peter Caines with help from Ray Murrell preparing the ground to a high village standard for a non-village team is also a significant factor in the overall equation of all enjoying our weekends in Bentworth.
It is important, though sometimes inevitable, that pressure is not put on people to play …that’s the way we have always run it and what many enjoy about the club. We understand that work and family and financial matters all affect our spare time but we do need a bit more commitment and new friends introduced. Historically we have had a nucleus of around a dozen members who would play 10-12 games a season and the rest who would play anything up to 5 or 6. Of the latter we have a very strong contingent, but of the former we are now down to just a few. Please give this some thought, the club deserves survival but ultimately this will come down to our members’ future priorities and desires. I hope your decisions will favour the club’s needs.