April 2005: Annual General Meeting and Annual Dinner
The Almondbury Casuals played friendly Sunday cricket and the AGM marked the start of their season. The latest venue was an exclusive golf club; an old and remote converted mansion surrounded by fairways, greens and woodland. The AGM was actually a fleeting event as Dyce and all the other diners missed it completely. Even if you turned up early, you would learn that the meeting was ‘just over’. During the club’s early years AGMs and dinners were held at a Gentleman’s Club in a nearby West Riding textile town. The dinner was said to be a distinguished and sophisticated event rivalling The Mayor’s Ball. Dyce assumed the source of the remark was deluded, drunk or both.
Since joining in 2000, Dyce had been a regular. Along with fifty or so others he assembled in the club bar on the Friday evening before the first fixture. As the aperitifs were subsidised by Casuals’ funds, as much beer as possible was drunk before moving through to the dining room. On their way diners enjoyed reading notices that advised on dress code; what jacket or collar and tie was allowed to be worn in which room. The stewardess needn’t have worried. This was a group who knew how to dress; not a stitch of denim in sight. Everyone ate the same things: soup, beef and vegetables, and pudding. After the soup, Will, sat on one of the arms off the end of the top table where Rupert Wilson was tucking in, made a tentative inquiry.
“Rupert, can I take my jacket off?” he asked.
“They won’t say anything, they’ll just stop serving,” replied Rupert.
In his late fifties, Rupert was a stout grey-haired golf club member and former opening bowler. In his youth he also trained as a coach, acquiring a working knowledge of the laws of cricket which he applied without mercy when umpiring, to many a teammate’s dismay. Rupert had a love of all rules, particularly those governing grammar, punctuation and spelling. There couldn’t have been a club rule about correct placing of the serviette as Rupert’s was tucked into his shirt collar like a child’s bib. Will, younger and better looking, took Rupert’s advice with good grace. A talented opening bat and competent wicketkeeper, Will moved easily between league battles and the less onerous Sunday games.
There were speeches, introduced by the Casuals’ secretary. In 2005, this was Bill Crossland who opened the bowling with Rupert for many years. Greg Smith, Chairman, was the first to speak. Whilst Greg hadn’t played cricket since his schooldays in Oxfordshire, he had become, by dint of rugby hand-eye skills, a slow bowler with decent figures and an occasional punishing middle to late order batter. Greg welcomed everyone and hoped they would enjoy themselves.
Second up was the guest specifically invited for the purpose of making a speech. Other impromptu speakers then make unsolicited contributions, sometimes too long and often not about cricket. The guest speaker was not heckled, but anyone else who puts his head above the parapet was fair game and the noise level rose dramatically. There was one individual who, every year, prided himself in being the loudest and most offensive without actually cursing. He was accepted. “That’s old so-and-so, he always does it, it’s part of the evening.” “Demon bowler in his day.” “Wouldn’t be the same without old so-and-so.”
If an Casual had died within the previous twelve months, The President delivered a tribute, usually about what school the guy went to and how good a shot he was, as well as what sort of cricketer.
Looking beyond the rosy faces and bottles of red wine, it was hard to ignore the beauty of the dining room’s wood panels, high ceiling and minstrel gallery. Everything about the place said old and tasteful. Dyce knew that the first buildings here dated from the 1500s. Then a succession of expansion and improvement depending on which daughter or son married well. Golf came 400 years later.
Whilst he had helped his son to get started, Dyce could not hit a golf ball without digging a trench, so he’d no experience golf clubs. His dad’s homespun philosophy was all he had to go on, passed down in a series of short grumpy, often ill-mannered, statements. He and his older brother were raised under the banner of ‘us’. ‘Them’ were the bosses, a privileged middle class who inhabited golf clubs and drove big cars, whose sons attended fashionable fee-paying schools followed either by university and entry into one of the professions or by admittance to the family business. Good to excellent life chances initiated by family money. And why not? It’s what parents are for. Dyce’s Dad also took his responsibities in this area seriously. He made it painfully clear that the state-educated Dyce and older brother were obliged to pass exams and go to university; one of the the 1960s routes out of the working class for those lucky enough to be bright.
Dyce didn’t know many of the diners and whether they were ‘them’ or ‘us’. The only current players present were Bill, Greg, Rupert, Will, Dyce and three others. They had a combined age of over three hundred. Greg pointed out a small number of former Casualsfrom the 1950s, 60s and 70s. He said the rest were guests. Dyce wondered why they’d all come. It didn’t seem to be much about the start of a new cricket season.
Wives and partners arrived around ten o’clock. They’d eaten out and come on to the golf club to meet their spouses in the mixed lounge for after-dinner drinks. One unfortunate lady, who must remain nameless, wore smart light blue denim jeans. The stewardess reported her to Rupert who went purple and didn’t speak for ten minutes.
Denis Compton scored the winning runs at the Oval to regain The Ashes after 19 years. Len Hutton was skipper.
In the early 1950s, four business pals from textiles and the building trade were in the Friday early evening habit of calling in the village local. Whilst there had been a few odd scratch games of social cricket in the 1940s, their recurring question was how did they get to play a bit more organised cricket. Why not ask around to see if anyone was interested in a friendly team? The Casualswere formed soon after, committing themselves to regular Sunday matches. Using their business skills, the original four created a culture which guaranteed enough players every week supported by adequate if limited finance. Whilst the head of the local Grammar School, to get things going, allowed the use of a ground, the Casuals subsequently hired local club grounds.
1953 was their second season. Members were relatives, business colleagues and sporting contacts from rugby union, amateur soccer, hockey and golf. Whilst the standard was not good anyone watching would have recognised a formal game of cricket: whites, umpires and scorer. Winter nets were provided and weaker cricketers were put down the batting order.
Those early Casuals set the tone for the next 50 years. Fellowship was the key, wrapped up in cricket. Six or so captains who rotated weekly. Just ten fixtures and no desire to play against strong sides
Six miles away as the crow flies, six year old Dyce was lying on a settee in the front room, eating jelly and ice cream, recovering from having his tonsils out. The house was a rented end-terrace just north of the town centre. The front room was used on Sundays and holidays if anyone came for tea. Otherwise they lived in the kitchen where a range took up the whole of one wall. A cupboard in the corner hid the sink. The window overlooked the back yard, wash house and outside toilet. Over the wall on the right was waste ground and coal sidings, where a small but extremely exciting steamy coal train, lead by a man with a red flag, disturbed the traffic once a day on its way to the power station.
For a treat, as part of Dyce’s recovery, he joined Dad and watched the cricket in the front room. Mum said Denis was a dashing playboy. He seemed about as remote as the royal family. When he scored the winning runs his hair flopped over his forehead, different to how he looked in the Brylcreem ads.
The family moved to the suburbs in 1953. Three miles east of the town centre and a two bedroom semi-detached. Dad got a mortgage for £4 a month. He’d left technical school at 14 with no qualifications. But he had a good head for figures and bookkeeping. So office jobs, The Pays Corps in India during the war, and ‘wages’ at The Electricity Board.
Jim Laker’s Ashes. He took 46 wickets in 5 matches against the Australians. 19 for 90 at Old Trafford. A brilliant supporting cast – Hutton (L), May, Cowdrey, Edrich and Compton, and they were just the batters.
25 initially signed up for the Casuals, followed by a further 51 during the 1950s. Records suggest the club was strict about membership with a waiting list, honorary members, patrons and so on. But they weren’t all players and in reality anyone could turn out. A list or those early Casuals reads like a directory of textile company owners and senior employees: wool merchants, scourers, spinners, wool and worsted manufacture and dyeing along with support industries such as card and loom manufacture. Then there were teachers, doctors, bankers and solicitors.
There was a tour
Dyce’s new house had an inside toilet and a back garden, not quite 22 yards, but long enough. It was mostly grass with flower borders. Defence was a must, to protect the plants. Dyce’s dad couldn’t contain himself though, losing tennis balls into next door’s. They reappeared each Autumn. Dyce and his pals also played on waste ground at the back of the local church. They all wanted to be Laker and when it turned sideways off a tussock, they were him. The kit varied a bit. A baseball bat and golf ball had to do some days.
A Scarborough trade union holiday camp. Everybody had a knickname to disguise the bosses. Dyce was the cat from his favourite comic. One of the games was beach cricket. Twenty-five a side, lads and men. Proper stumps and a tennis-ball. Some bloke caught me at square leg. Short of a bowler. “Bring on Corky” shouts Dad to the captain. Batter misses and it hits his shin. “Ow’s that?” “Out” says the umpire, lovely man. Just the one over each. The captain wore a kilt, played the bagpipes and spoke funny.
In 1956, Dyce was nine years of age, so older brother would have been fourteen. He took his ‘O’ levels about then, a year early. They called it the rapid stream. Uncle George took the family to Southport the day before the exams. In his rickety old Dormobile with three forward gears. Mum said it was too late for revision. No worries, he knew it all anyway. They played cricket on the beach. Terrific surface and Dyce batted for ages. He was at his peak. Had he been spotted and whisked away to an academy, who knows? Mum, Dad and Dyce were at Butlins when older brother got his results. He sent a telegram which usually meant bad news. He’d got six.
Dyce passed the eleven plus soon after. He was judged bright enought to go to a boys’ grammar school. It wasn’t so good if you didn’t pass. Potentially a life as a second class citizen.
Yorkshire won The County Championship seven times in ten years. The players were household names. Boycott, Illingworth, Trueman, Hampshire, Hutton (R), Sharpe, Padgett, Binks, Bird, Taylor (K), Wilson (D) et al. The captains were Burnett, Wilson (JV) and Brian Close.
Whilst results were still not the prioriy, in the 1960s the Casuals won more than they lost. The main factor explaining the improvement seems to have been an influx of current or ex-league men who fancied a run out on a Sunday. Two recruits in the early 1960s included Jack Taylor, a pace bowler, who played for Kirkburton, and Billy Bolt. Jack, a master at King James Grammar School was politely informed by the head, Harry Taylor, that he would play for the Casuals, or so the story goes. No one can recall how Billy Bolt arrived. As he was a Funeral Director with Bolt and Shuttleworth, the assumption is through social and business contacts. He played for Bradley Mills, now sadly defunct, and later took on the role of Chairman of the Huddersfield League. Apparently he was an all-rounder who could bat through a whole innings and someone described Boycott as a real racer in comparison. Bolt Junior also played. Another youngster, who first played when he was 14 (strictly speaking in the 1950s), was Richard Taylor, son of headmaster Harry. He went on to be a league cricketer with Almondbury and Old Almondburians
The tour was to Hunstanton
Dyce was 12 years of age in 1959. He knew the Yorkshire team by heart. Older brother was about to go to university. He and Dad fought like cat and dog. One made pointless bright remarks and the other had an ulcer with attitude. Stayed in bed for days at a time.
At the grammar school they played cricket with a hard ball and pads in nets, wearing short trousers. Then hand-me-down flannels from an uncle. Somebody famous had worn them. Sports master coached with a woodbine and his trousers tucked into his socks. Dyce was picked for the U14s when he was twelve. Big for his age. The third year nicotine addicts didn’t speak to him. Grunted if he asked something. A catch dropped. Mutterings and whisperings. A duck. Desperate, unhappy. He told Dad who wrote to the headmaster. He didn’t play for a few years. Sports master fancied himself that he understood boys. He’d had time off to do psychology.
House matches were great. All ages, all in it together. What a slip-catch. Dyce’s English teacher was umpiring. Next lesson over he came. Dyce kept his head down, pretending he hadn’t done anything. “Good catch” he whispered, a bit loud. Dyce didn’t know he’d seen it. Just a bloke at one end to shout over and sort out the leg befores.
In July 1961 Dad took him on the train to the test match at Old Trafford against Benaud’s Australians. They were so disappointed. In came Brian Close and smacked Benaud for six. He then hooked or did something that looked great, but it didn’t go far enough and he was out caught. He fell from favour.
By 1962 Dyce’s end-of term reports were crap. “You know the adverts on TV better than your lessons,” Dad said. Mum quiet. He stopped going with his Dad to the Saturday afternoon game, preferring the company of his pals and a smoke. Didn’t do much of anything at school though he was a good rugby union player. Good at something. In May the local rugby league team bucked him up, second at Wembley and first at Bradford in the play-offs. Otherwise mooning about and thinking about girls. Fallen out with everything: school, older brother, parents, and cricket.
Brian Close got a recall for the 1963 W. Indies series. June was that time of the school curriculum when the masters didn’t know what to do with the boys, after ‘O’ levels but before the holidays. So they went to a Sheffield steel works. Finished in the canteen with a ham salad and the TV was on just as Fred Trueman was piling into them at Lord’s. He finished with ten wickets in the match for 152. Magic after a less than riveting visit. During England’s second innings, Brian came in when Cowdrey retired with a broken arm. He walked down the pitch to Hall and Griffith. Scored seventy and took a severe pounding from short pitched balls. Match drawn.
Dyce got his head down and eventually fooled the examiners. Saved by two or three masters who took an interest. Something personal as well; how was he going to succeed? How was he going to live with himself? So not totally about money, but it was there, learned from the master of biliousness when it came to life chances, his Dad. In the sixth form Dyce knew everything. Deputy head boy. House captain. Queens Scout. How you ebb and flow. Ups and downs. Soccer at primary school, passing the eleven plus. Decline, girls, youth club. Penny drops. Good ‘A’ levels. University and you start all over again at the bottom.
Dyce was selected for the local RU team first XI when he was still at school. He couldn’t afford a round of drinks.
He volunteered to sort out the second eleven in upper sixth. So he picked it, captained it and so on. Sports masters had an easy time of it. Had all his pals on the team. Not bad cricketers. And the odd ringer that didn’t want to play in the first team. Linsell, a child prodigy of a spin bowler turned into medium pace with swing. Crowther, the big rugby forward, a decent batter. Huff and puff, left arm over, Waddington. A few wides and a few wickets. Oates at stumper. Never caught anything. Summer Saturday afternoons. Train to Wheelwrights in Dewsbury. Dyce’s last in with Clark. Five to win and we’re batting okay, and Clark goes and gives a soft caught-and-bowled. Smashing day out to King Ted’s in Sheffield with a tree on the square. Dyce declared too early. So Mr Archenold said. Big German physics teacher who pronounced Descartes in English. Poor bloke didn’t half get the bird from the snooty arty lot. And Roundhay. Their captain got shirty about Linsell just keeping them outside off stump. He couldn’t bat, that was his problem. Dyce holed out at long on after their fast bowler got him in the midriff. Mr Clarkson umpired. King James, good win. They were all round the bat in the last over. Heady days.
Dyce was picked for the boys vs master’s match. Real honour. All the school watching. They go home at ten past four and the boys are still battling. Dyce is last man again, but easier somehow. Last ball and we run. Good throw and he just made the crease, grass stained trousers. Mum’l complain. Horrible little Mr. Haigh made yet another sarcastic remark. Dyce laughed, walked away. They masters hadn’t won had they?
He left school a few days later.
Brian Close was Dyce’s hero. He and Fred Trueman kept him going. They were aggressive cricketers and not frightened to say what they thought. Even when they finished up in the soup. They somehow gave Dyce permission to be socially inept, say the wrong things or not say anything at all in a sulk.
South African cricket officials in 1968 realised that the inclusion of D’Oliveira in the England squad would lead to the cancellation of the tour, and probable exclusion of South Africa from Test cricket. When Warwickshire’s Tom Cartwright was ruled out because of injury, D’Oliveira was called up into the squad and the tour was duly cancelled. This turned international opinion against the apartheid regime in South Africa.
The fixture list increased from ten to eighteen. Mostly local, often scratch sides, through Casuals’ contacts. Ben Rhydding, Thoresby Park and Stainborough are also on the 1968 list. Established clubs in picturesque settings.
Jim Netherwood became Chairman and Alan Priestley joined as a player. Both became hugely influential and hard-working Casuals. Alan had moved from Otley to work at David Brown’s as a test driver where one of his work colleagues invited him to play for Thurstonland. Jim and a pal, who enjoyed afternoons watching league cricket at Thurstonland asked him to “Come and play when we’re short.”
In 1970, after sixteen happy years playing home games at Thurstonland, the Casuals negotiated an amicable move to Shepley CC. Some of the opposition had expressed concern about Thurstonland pitches and the toilet and tea facilities were better at Shepley.
At the time of the D’Olivera affair Dyce was at Medical School, living in flat with two ex-public schoolboys, Chris and Andy, on Princes Road, Liverpool 8. Reading Michael Parkinson’s Sunday Times stuff was part of Sunday mornings. Maybe biased, he was aploplectic about MCC’s Everest-sized hypocrisy. He also wrote gentle stories about his family, Fred Trueman and Wilfred Rhodes. Skinner Normanton was a favourite.
Chris’s father owned a carpet factory in near Oldham and Andy’s Dad was a draper in the Potteries. When they visited, they’d take the boys out to restaurants and feed them up. Chris’s grandparents even took them to The Adelphi. Dyce’s Mum and Dad brought a picnic.
When not studying, they played rugby and drank. Chris had a school contact at Waterloo on the way to Southport. Started in the U21 team known as the schoolboys. The fixture list comprised public schools, New College, Sandhurst and local works teams. The clubhouse was mostly wood. The main bar was men-only and lined by the coats-of-arms of top schools. Huge baths that took all morning to fill. Most of the locals had come through Merchant Taylors School and were well placed in finance or one of the professions.
Dyce was a decent rugby player and a fledgling medic. Enough to get promoted and be socially acceptable. There were however enough episodes to justify the title Professional Yorkshireman with a shiny chip on his shoulder. Great 1st Class fixture list and an Irish tour. His blunt thoughts about class and other labour preoccupations also leaked out during his medical training. Snooty bloody consultants.
They moved to Lodge Lane, Croxteth and lived two floors above a ‘lady of the night’. Dyce got his furniture from Swainbank’s, a converted cinema that was torched in the Toxteth riots. His wood wardrobe was too big to get up the flight of winding stairs to his garrett, so he sawed it in two and bracketed the bits.
The maximum grant and a small post office savings account. The odd pound or so when Dyce’s Mum could afford. Not enough, but they always ate well. The Bank Manager was friendly.
Played once for the University Second XI at Birmingham.
Illingworth’s ashes. February in Sydney. Australia had to win the final test to retain them and they had a lead of 80 after the first innings. When John Snow was warned for bowling one bouncer and cutting Jenner’s head, the crowd threw beer cans onto the pitch. He then fielded on the boundary after his spell and a drunken spectator grabbed his shirt and more cans were thrown. Illingworth led his team off the field in protest. After the umpires threatened to award the match (and therefore the Ashes) to Australia he brought them back. Australia were set 223 runs to win and England dismissed them for 160. England won the series 2-nil, and Illingworth became the first captain in 16 years to regain the Ashes. It was the only series made up of seven test matches. Snow took 31 wickets at an average of 22.83 and Boycott led the batting with 657 runs at an average of 93.85. In fact Boycott’s average for the 1971 season was over 100 (and he did it again in 1979). Illi didn’t get on with the management. Hugely respected by Australian players as a competitive Yorkshire skipper. Very muted congratulations at a celebratory Lords dinner.
Last year at university, working towards ‘Finals’, around May or June. They went on forever. Dyce continued to feel anxious and irritable after the stress had gone. Wrote essays and did multiple choice papers, two clinical exams and a viva in each speciality: medicine, surgery, orthopaedics, O&G’s and paediatrics. A marathon.
Summer off and back to house jobs at Broadgreen Hospital in September. It’s a cliche, but things were never the same again. Played cricket with a tennis ball on a strip behind the doctors quarters next to the Jewish cemetry. A good hit would make matron’s garden. She was a caricature, a battleship in full steam. She used to leave a flotilla of nurses in her wake when they toured the wards on Christmas Eve, singing carols. We had a high tea delivered every 4.00 pm to the doctors’ lounge. Spam slices was a favourite. On a good day you could skim them into the cemetery. They also played a formal game in whites. A surgical SHO bowled Dyce behind his legs with a leg break. Must have hit a divot.
Dyce played rugby for two further seasons, dodging between on-call commitments. The abiding memory was beating Orrell in a home evening game in front of a packed house. Dyce scored from the back of a scrum over in the corner between the main stand and the Southport railway line.
Dyce and his new wife, Sheila, moved to Cardiff soon after. And Boycott batted on and on. He was never a favourite because he was so certain about everything. Brian and Fred had a vulnerable air about them. They made mistakes and they bled a bit. You could follow and be inspired by them.
Clive Lloyd’s W. Indians. Beat England 3-0 at home and nobody ever accused them of being calypso cricketers again. Richards scored millions of runs and Holding took bucketfuls of wickets. Brian Close was recalled for the Nottingham test after an absence of nine years. The last 80 minutes of Saturday at the Old Trafford test sparked controversy. 39-year-old John Edrich and 45-year-old Brian Close were subjected to an unrelenting barrage of intimidating fast bowling from Roberts, Holding and Daniel. Clive Lloyd’s tactics were questioned, not that Close and Edrich were bothered.
That long hot summer in Cardiff went on until September, the culmination of a 16-month dry spell. The longest recorded in England and Wales since 1727. Mum and Dad came down for a two week holiday and never moved from our back garden, such as it was.
Dyce passed his specialist exams, and then had to fatten up the CV. Research papers. Usually took you to The Hammersmith, London, or America, as in ‘The BTA’; otherwise known as ‘Been to America’. Dyce and Sheila had no intention of doing either.
Dyce played evening league works cricket at The Heath Hospital, Cardiff, for Biochemistry, where he was a research fellow. Against the likes of Radiology, Cardiology, Neurosciences and so on. Biochemistry was not much at cricket, but if there was a competition for brain size, they would have won easily. The departmental boss was famous for describing how to measure insulin. The games were played on Whitchurch Psychiatric Hospital’s beautifully kept grounds. Cardiology always won because they pinched the best players.
Dyce also guested for an office of architects. The only time he was a ringer. Down at Pontcanna Fields, not far from Sophia Gardens, the home of Glamorgan. Two overs per man and they batted first. During Dyce’s two the fielders were up on their toes. One dropped catch behind, but precious few runs. Then he opened the innings, one of his new team mates umpiring. He could have been LBW but do you give your own side out, especially the ringer? Dyce stood in vain, waiting for the umpire to change his mind.
Cardiff in the 1970’s was a great place to be, except on Saturdays during The Five Nations. Wales topped the championship four times between 1972 and 1977, beating England five times. If there’d been more than one division, England would’ve been relegated every year. Dyce took Dad to The Arms Park once, the Irish match. Standard craic. Several beers at a hospitality do and get in early for a spot near half-way down toward the front of the paddock. Dad anxious about his waterworks, not helped by the excitement and fluid intake. Gradually, they moved backwards to keep the toilets in sight. Afterwards, back to The Park Hotel for several more. They sent the next door neighbour to bail us out, only he got involved too. Lost count, Dyce must have ordered a taxi. Dyce’s Dad talked about it forever.
Botham’s Ashes. The third test at Headingley is the one that is remembered. Mike Brearley had just taken over as captain from Botham. 6 for 95 in their first innings, 50 and 149 following on for us with the bat, leaving Australia 130 to win. Willis had other ideas, took 8 for 43 and they were all out 111.
Dyce and Sheila moved north in 1978 to a village called Delph, near Oldham.
He totally missed the Ashes series. Trying to research the relationship between pills for epilepsy and bone disease. Working in Manchester was hard going. Awarded a doctorate. Rugby for Saddleworth Rangers RLFC.
The university ran a works league so Manchester Royal Infirmary played everyone from Geography to Engineering. They were, to put it mildly, crap, playing on crap public recreation pitches as well as the university playing fields. They looked crap too, turning out in surgical scrubs, T-shirts and jeans.
Dyce got the odd Sunday invitation game, one of which was against Oldham Dog Track. He got a ringer or two from the rugby club and they were too good. It was set up by a neighbour, Brian Lawrence, a policeman between jobs, who was thick with a guy called Pickervance, owner of St Helens RLFC and the dog track. Dyce also played for Brian against a Saddleworth League select XI at Friarmere and they entered the Delph 6s. Both these league grounds are beautifully situated. Delph in a natural bowl and Friamere on a hillside. Dyce was asked to sign for Friarmere, but too much of a commitment.
Dyce once saw Max Boyce play for Delph. His agent lived nearby. He was a pace bowler of sorts and Delph had their league points from the game deducted.
Dyce drank in two pubs in Delph. One was The White Lion run by Sonny Rhamadin. He played with Delph, Liversedge, somewhere in the Bolton League and guested for Golcar, when, in 1963, he took 27 wickets for 92 runs in four matches, including 9 for 19 in the cup to skittle Holmfirth for 54.
Their first child, Louise, arrived in 1980.
A year later and Andrew appeared.
Apartheid 1948. D’Olivera, Olympic ban 1968. International sports boycott 1971. 1976 S African cricket union set up to promote multiracial cricket but not enough to be invited back into the international cricket community. To keep S African cricket alive, substantial sums of money were offered to touring rebels, beginning with an England team of older test players in 1982, under Graham Gooch. They were well beaten and given 3 year bans, effectively ending the careers of half. Teams from Sri Lanka, W Indies and Australia subsequently toured. An England team went again in 1990, but as it coincided with the unbanning of the ANC and the release of Nelson Mandela, it was a disaster.
The family moved to Snape in 1982. A village near Bedale, just west of the A1. Consultant post in Northallerton. Dyce asked the bloke at Snape’s post office if there was any cricket locally. Yes he said, I’ll take you up Saturday. They walked up a track near a castle into a large estate of rolling fields, trees and sheep. Thorp Perrow, Sir John Ropner’s estate. The mansion overlooked tennis courts and an ornamental lake beyond which grassland stretched up to an idyllic oval. To one side, square leg as you faced the house, was a green battered wood pavilion, two basic dressing rooms separated by an open eating area. Fixtures were very attractive to sides from the North East and the West Riding, enough for Thorp to play every Saturday and Sunday. These were good cricketing social sides like The Doghouse and Men of Derwent, or league teams, made up of juniors, those not getting a full game on Saturday and seniors wanting to keep playing. And they brought their families and social whirl with them. Thorp played forty one home games, travelling away six times a year. A four-match tour near Skegness, and five trips to places like Hawes and Escrick Park. The Hawes square nestles in a bend in the river Ure, surrounded by low fells. A crowd attraction on a warm summer Sunday evening and the odd holiday visitor guest player.
Whilst Thorp had ringers and regular occasionals from teams like Ben Rhydding, Doghouse, and Alford, the core of the team came from local people. Gardeners, farm labourers, transients due to work, the odd army officer, a Theakston or two. A dutch international fast bowler once. No idea who brought him. In 1984, Dyce played 8 Sundays, 12 Saturdays and 3 midweek, averaging 19 with the bat. The weekend 30th June, 1st July he managed 53 caught behind and 47 not out against South Northumberland and Chapel Allerton, both strong sides. He was tickled pink. Family and friends who visited were dragged up to watch and Dyce’s nephew, Nicolas, even turned out aged 14. He fielded brilliantly and took a catch. Not sure he got many runs. Wives and daughters prepared great cricket teas. Carrick’s had a fish and greengrocer business in the village and their lad used to play. Not to be muddled with ex-Yorkshire captain, Phil Carrick, who tragically died aged 48. The opposition would sometimes get confused and then reassured when they saw Carrick. He was only eleven. The club was run by John Sellers and his wife Rosemary scored. John was brilliantly connected, so it was largely through him Thorp got a regular full side. They’ve moved to a Scottish Isle somewhere now. The cricket was serious. Not expected to be good, but you were expected to take it seriously. Wouldn’t be dropped after a bad game, but could be moved after a misfield. At two games every weekend there was room for everybody.
Thorp played The Army in a time match, starting 11.00 am. Dyce took the day off work. The Ropners came to tea but only spoke to John. Thorp’s main ringer from Skegness was given LBW early on and clearly not out. The umpire looked about eighteen. The bowler was a captain or some such. Our ringer stood still for what seemed a long time, but he had to go. Dyce was too nervous to bat properly. After the match he was stood with their colonel, ‘that early LBW looked dodgy, still it’s same for both sides.’ The colonel was not impressed. Dyce noted he kicked the ball on his dismissal. When they were all out, they didn’t stop for tea. The Army went off and Thorp went in, until the preset time for tea. It must have been a draw.
Played St Mary’s hospital one Wednesday afternoon as part of their tour. Thorp had an SHO who could bowl off spin and a few odds and ends were draughted in. Thorp lost.
A local gp invited Dyce to play for the rugby club. In summer the club ran an evening league cricket team and he turned out for them, sometimes twice a week. There were twelve teams in the league and they played each home and away. Twenty over a side thrash. Clubs like Silton, Carlton and Crathorne, spread between Thirsk and Stokesley. Some were great little clubs with more than adequate squares. Others were interesting. The ball could pop up from anywhere on the dust bowl they called a pitch next to the dairy in Northallerton. The rugby club strip, sporting to say the least, was next to main East Coast line. If you were bored you could always wave to the railway passengers. Dyce’s mate Big Dave, a twenty stone prop used to turn out in his glasses. He got one that started in the bowler’s half, bounced three time finishing just on a length, then reared up breaking his glasses and producing a nose bleed. Big jesse strutted off when everyone fell about laughing. There was one ground where they had to shoo the cows off before they could play. Imagine a rough crown bowling green. The playing area was on the peak. The batter only saw the top half of the bowler as he started his run up. They had someone on the cut strip to shout to the lad fielding at square leg who had no idea where the batter had played the ball. Boundaries along the ground were rare because of the length of the grass. But, as the ball often got lost, the batters could easily run a four.
Dyce and family returned to Huddersfield in 1985. Another consultant post.Building a reputation, private practice and management.
Chris was born soon after arrival. Louise five and Andrew four years old. Dyce and Sheila always knew Andrew was likely to be a problem; mother and possible fathers were from institutions. Whilst he just made his milestones he was naughty; biting, nipping and throwing severe tantrums. Some support in N Yorkshire. Not a lot of help in Huddersfield – “He could be autistic, but we don’t like to label.” Good language and normal school until the staff couldn’t cope with behaviour. Then special school which was the right call. Still not much support from a carousel of social workers. Louise took third place. A good five years banging their heads against a brick wall. Andrew’s physical aggression worse and worrying. Friends and relatives tried to help but they were also fearful. Louise winding up to her teenage years. Chris okay. Sheila sinking, unable to give in and stop putting on a brave face. Dyce an absent medical father, sinking both at work and home.
When Andrew was ten, he was privately reviewed at the Maudesley, a London psychiatric hospital. One appointment and Asperger’s syndrome was the answer.
Australia and S. Africa tied the world cup semi-final at Edgebaston. Last over, fourth ball, one to win. Wiki says, ‘Klusener mis-hit to Mark Waugh at mid off, but this time Klusener went for the run, even though the chances of a run out were high and there were still two balls remaining. Klusener sprinted down the pitch while Donald, at the other end, was watching the ball instead of his partner and did not hear the call to run. Waugh threw the ball to Fleming who rolled it along the pitch to Adam Gilchrist standing over the stumps at the batsman’s end. Donald (who had dropped his bat) was run out by some distance for a diamond duck.’ Australia got to the final because of a higher super-six position.
Dyce was staying at The Buck, Reeth, N Yorkshire with two pals from Honley Squash Club. The Buck didn’t have Sky TV so Dyce to drove to The Bridge at Grinton to catch the finish. He was in luck, the landlord was a cricket nut. Terrific game, evenly matched and competitive, right to the last over of the day as S. Africa gradually overhauled Australia’s total. They needed one to win when Allan Donald and Lance Kleusner ran each other out. It doesn’t come much better. Was there anyone out there wondering where Dyce was? Maybe not. But just in that moment he felt many things, and lucky came out the strongest. Lucky to find a TV, lucky to be up in the Dales and most of all lucky to be fit and well.
Around 1995, one of Huddersfield’s Ear Nose and Throat surgeons, strangely enough called Smelt, formed a hospital team. Home fixtures on the YMCA ground in Birkby. An away game at Hullin Edge against The Elland Hospital. A short thick set bloke trundled up and bowled some off spin. Dyce thought he knew him from somewhere and this is easy. He promptly presented him with a caught and bowled which he gratefully received. Back in the clubhouse they told Dyce the bowler was Graham Eadie, Australian International Rugby League full back and one of the world’s most valuable players. His wife was a nurse.
One of the hospital’s regular fixtures was against Almondbury Casuals. Dyce played three, all in the rain, two abandoned. The first was at Shepley where they all retired to the bar to watch the test against South Africa. The second was at Silcoates School, Wakefield, where Dyce was caught off Hylton Roberts, a larger than life character who sadly died two years or so later. His relationship with a piece of chocolate cake during tea was not a thing of beauty. The whole of one committee meeting was devoted to stories about his appetite. Not a bad memorial. The hospital eventually completed a game at Thongsbridge. Rod Kelly, ex-Holmfirth professional, got Dyce somehow or other. But the game was more memorable for Dyce when he bowled and rapped one of The Casuals’ batsmen on the pads. The umpire gave it out and bloke refused to go. There is no record of what Dyce said, but it wouldn’t have been pleasant. Dyce also recalled Greg Smith improbably fielding a scorching drive to square leg and then his fielding colleagues letting him know how improbable it really was. These guys seemed alright, so Dyce asked how he might get a game. Tim Beaumont was chairman. A stocky rubicund jolly chappie with a plum in his mouth. ‘You can play whenever you like,’ he said. He played in the end of season President’s XI vs Chairman’s XI game with son, Chris, and from 2000, tried to be available for the regular season.