Memories of Ebbw Vale Cricket Club in the 40's and 50's

By J.P. Thomas

The idea for this offering emerged following conversations in 2000 with Malcolm Keane at both Monmouthshire Cricket Meetings and at the Ground. We thought the odd items may be of interest to the present members and that in any case I would have pleasure in recollecting the old times that were to me highly enjoyable and important in that they gave me a life long interest in the game.

In 1944 I attended Glyncoed Junior School and was taught by a Mr Stan Bull (known as Istanbul, naturally.) Mr Bull was the scorer for the Ebbw Vale Cricket Club 1st Eleven. He must have thought that I could count as he asked me to operate the Scorebox for him -it was situated near the end of the Rugby Grandstand in those days. Thus began my association with the Cricket Club. Incidentally he must have thought that I could sell raffle tickets as he often gave me books of tickets from the Cricket Club to sell for him. Message to the Great Scorebox in the sky - "Mr Bull I'm grateful".

Naturally I wanted to play, not spend hours in a dirty, dingy scorebox getting splinters in my fingers spinning the huge wooden wheels containing the numbers. However my next job was to score for the 2nd Eleven, which I enjoyed as it gave me the opportunity to talk to the players.

I remember going to "Nets" on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and it may surprise today's players to learn that unless a valid reason was provided for absence from the Tuesday practice, such as shift work, then players were not considered for Saturdays teams - in those day's Sunday play was not permitted on the ground, which had something to do with the Free Church Council - whoever they were.

Selection meetings were held in the old Visitors Dressing Room and went on well into late evenings - I can vividly recall looking at the team sheets with a few friends by the light of matches to see if "J.P. Thomas" was 13th or 14th man for the Seconds for the Saturday match.

Eventually I used to get picked and was always thrilled to arrive outside the Bridgend Hotel to catch the bus for away matches at about 12 midday with my holdall containing all my "kit" (coffins hadn't been invented). In those days we used to clean our kit, even whiten boots with Blanco - ever heard of Blanco?

Nobody owned their own bats, pads or gloves in those days, except the top order in the First Team. The team bag contained a selection of items, always handed down from the Firsts and bats and gloves were often exchanged on the field with the incoming batsmen. Gloves were either the cotton with spiked rubber strips shown on the backs or the wrap-around sausage variety - Helmets, Arm Guards, Chest Protectors and Thigh Pads had still to be invented - some stuffed a thick towel down their front leg. The two most junior players in the team were responsible for lugging the bag between bus and changing rooms.

We always travelled to away matches by bus, nobody that I knew in the Club owned a car in any case. The younger lads loved the bus rides, especially the late night return journey's when singing would last from West Wales to Ebbw Vale Crossing - win, lose or draw.