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Fletcher revels in his festive clash role
CRICKETING stalwart Alan Fletcher has spoken of his pride and delight at being allowed to take part in the 50th anniversary Boxing Day match featuring Tottington St Johns and Brooksbottom.
Fletcher was one of the organisers of the first match during the winter of 1963 – one of the worst on record – when he was part of the Bolton Road Methodist Cricket Club.
But he was recruited by the Tottington side in this year’s encounter to bowl the ceremonial first ball to mark the event’s half century.
And he has also dispelled the popular local myth that the first match was organised over a pint as part of a bet.
“The true story is much more mundane,” he said. “It would have been unthinkable for gambling and drinking to be part of the Methodist Church’s activities.
“What really happened was that I and the Brooksbottom secretary, the late jack Whitmore, floated the idea in the summer months, agreeing to meet in November for further discussions.
“We met on a cold, wet, inhospitable morning in the ramshackle wooden Bolton Road pavilion.
“Our scarves and gloves remained in place, the roof leaked and a howling wind whistled through the warped timbers.
“A one-bar ancient electric fire, held together by decades of dust and bird droppings, straddled the rotting floorboards to provide some semblence of heat.
“Our meeting lasted an agonising 30 minutes in which the Boxing Day rules were cemented and all other business was conducted via the telephone.
“On the big day at Summerseat, a blanket of fog combined with a heavy frost delayed players, umpires, spectators and the pies, but the match was played and a tradition born.
“The freeze lasted for seven long weeks, decimating all local amateur and professional sport.
“It was a matter of pride and delight to be invited to participate in the 50th anniversary match. I bowled what should have been the first and only ball which landed in front of second slip and declared wide.
“The second ball was a bit nearer the batsman – so that was my lot.
“Tottington St John and Brooksbottom are to be applauded for raising thousands of pounds for ground and pavilion improvements, but, most of all, for their work in the community, plus the development of their youth sections.”
Bolton Road Methodists CC later became Bolton Road CC before eventually morphing into Elton Vale Sports Club. When Elton Vale’s involvement in the Boxing Day fixture ended in 2006, Tottington St Johns took over.