My Cricketing Memories – Part I
YOU won’t find a more quintessential cricket ground than Uplyme’s. The village church stands high above the ground, a stream trickles silently around the field and the pub is within staggering distance.
On a hot summer afternoon, it’s just about as perfect as its gets. No wonder all those touring teams from up country wanted Uplyme on their list of must-visit village cricket clubs.
It wasn’t just the cricket, which was always played in a friendly and competitive manner. There were few livelier clubhouses after the game when jugs of beer would be quaffed, awarded for exceptional feats or embarrassing dropped catches, of which there were many.
And then to round the night off, John Stamp would nip up to Charlie Raymond’s farm for a quart or two of his roughest cider which usually sent the visitors to bed totally incapable of speaking or walking.
They were foolish enough to challenge Stomper to a drinking competition. Shirts were discarded and chests puffed out as the hapless city boys tried to out-drink Uplyme’s most thirsty performer.
On one occasion we found one of them in Cats Park in Lyme emptying the contents of his stomach over the municipal flowers without a clue where he was. Apparently he spent the night on one of the park benches.
These and many more happy memories come flooding back as I looked back over the 20 enjoyable years I spent as a player and committee man at the home of Uplyme and Lyme Regis Cricket Club. They were some of the happiest days of my life.
Although I showed a bit of promise as a schoolboy, I was an average second XI wicket keeper and occasional opening bat. At school I won a place in the 1st XI as a fourth former and can distinctly remember facing Rodney Jones who was opening bowler for the Old Boys, a real quickie who revelled in putting the fear of God into us whippersnappers.
Coached by Uplyme’s best players
A few years later I was batting for the Old Boys when the technical drawing and metalwork teacher, G.A Taylor (Gat to all of us) was umpiring. When I asked for a two (middle and on) crease position, he replied “slightly towards the vertical plain boy”. As only Gat would.
I was selected for Dorset Grammar Schools Under 15s with Mike Denham who was a far better batsman than me. As youngsters we were coached down on the King George V playing field by Mike’s father, Ted Denham, headmaster at Uplyme primary, and Bob Mason, a brilliant all-round sportsman.
Ted and Bob were the stalwarts of Uplyme Cricket Club (note no Lyme Regis in those days) and kept the club going for years through good and bad times. Bob’s son Andy followed in his Dad’s shoes, an excellent opening bat and lifelong Uplyme supporter who is now club president.
I didn’t really return to cricket until Dennis Applebee arrived in town from North London to run the WTA hostel at St Alban’s. Dennis played for Edmonton in a good standard of cricket in London and was also a brilliant table tennis player.
Uplyme were at a pretty low ebb when Dennis started to breath some life into the club. He got us all playing again, leading from the front with his leg-breaks or was it off-breaks (none of us were really sure), bowling from the Talbot Arms end and always aiming for what became known as ‘Applebee’s Ridge’, a slight hump which sent the crimson rambler (as BJ Rattenbury always described it) in all directions when Dennis managed to find it.
I have dined out on Dennis Applebee stories in cricket club after-dinner speeches more times than I care to remember. He was one of those chaps you wouldn’t want to share a lift with because you just knew it would break-down between floors, but when it came to organising sporting events, he had no equal.
We fed off his enthusiasm and love of the game and he provided us with so many memories of happy occasions both on and off the pitch.
When Dennis arrived in Lyme the club was desperate for money. So he set about putting that right, utilising his organisational skills to maximum benefit. It was Den who introduced the notorious ‘Gentlemen’s Evening’ to sleepy Lyme Regis, complete with a guest speaker, often from the world of cricket and, of course, a stripper to round the night off.
These were held at various locations around town, including the Buena Vista Hotel, the Royal Lion and the Marine Theatre. For some reason that escapes me, they were always sold out, although not all those who attended had ever touched a cricket ball!
Some of Dennis’ antics have gone down in the folklore of Uplyme Cricket Club. Two immediately come to mind. His wife Sheila used to pack his kit bag and on one occasion she packed his dress shirt in the days when it was all the rage to have a ruff down the front and lacey cuffs. When Dennis went out to toss there were some suspicious looks from the opposing captain as they shook hands!
Later in the game Dennis went for a diving catch off his own bowling. He was a bit stocky to say the least in those days and he hit the ground like a Sunderland flying boat landing and got up with grass stains all down the front of his trendy dinner shirt.
A week or so later he was attending a civic function and was wearing the said shirt but still with the green staines, which clearly had not come out in the wash!
More memories of the golden years of Dennis Applebee in part two of this series and how Uplyme and Lyme Regis Cricket Club (note Lyme Regis had now been added) attracted some of England’s finest cricketers to the King George V playing field and the club’s celebration of its 100th anniversary at Lord’s, the HQ of cricket.