History

To the History of Ovington Cricket Club

By Fletch

Knavesmire

I would like to start by thanking those who have helped me piece together this work; hopefully it is a work of more fact than fiction.So thanks to Ann Mowbray, Dave Sherwood, Keith Helliwell, Bill Carter, the late Les Kirby and of course Maurice Bell. First I will try to answer the question how Ovington came into existence and how they came to stand at the test of time.

The Beginning to 1935

Ovington Cricket Club was formed in the late 1920’s; two stories exist of how the club came into being. One is that a group of Gentlemen who played for the South Bank Working Men’s Club formed their own team to play more in the spirit of the game and not to win at all costs. In the mid 1920s the most competitive cricket was played in the York Evening league, we know the South Bank club were champions in 1925. The picture below was taken in August of that year. When compared with earliest Ovington photographs, their would appear to be no-one in both photographs

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The second and more likely is that a group of Young men in their late teens were unable to win a place in the South Bank team and so started their own team.

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This is believed to be the earliest Ovington photograph;

Back Row from Left: Unknown, unknown, Eric Horton, A.Barker, Unknown, Charlie Simpson, Mr Goodwill

Middle Row: Arthur Thompson, Unknown, Alf Goodwill, Stanley Aked, Unknown.

Front Row: Unknown, Charlton, Unknown

The founding fathers of the club were: Eric Horton, Les Kirby, Jack Garlic, Arthur Thompson, Alf Goodwill, Stanley Aked, Charlie Simpson and Edwin Leaf. Les Kirby mentions in a cassette recording made in the early 90’s that he thought the club was founded in 1927 whether they played some friendlies in 1927-28, but we have no way of knowing. The first written record we have is when they applied to join the York Evening League in 1928, they were elected to play in Section C for the 1929 season. Ovington’s first competitive game was scheduled for the 15th of May 1929 and it was against “St.Marys” but was not played due to bad weather. The second game on the 22nd was against the St.Clements club which was a local derby. Ovington scored 37 and won by 12 runs. The first published league table saw Ovington at the top but unfortunately by the end of the season saw Ovington finish 4th. Alf Goodwill and Edwin Leaf were both selected to play against the champions as a part of the “Rest of the Division” team. Edwin Leaf got a special mention in the press report as one of only two players to achieve a score of 40 or more in one innings. Their pitch was number 18 on the main Knavesmire somewhere close to what was known as the 3 bob ring, stories exist of them preparing pitches for the next days game and when they returned the following day to find cow pats all other the pitch as this area was used by the freemen of York for Cattle grazing. This is the picture of the team at that time wearing the first club caps which cost half a crown which in this time was a great deal of money. The caps were hooped in Oxford and Cambridge blue.

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2nd from the left on the back row; (a young Ted Coulson)

2nd from the right on the back row; Alf Goodwill and next to him, Les Kirby, Eric Horton is seated on the left of the front

Arthur Thompson and Charlie Simpson going out to bat in about 1930

The 1930 season saw little improvement in the clubs fortunes as once again we were mid-table in section C with Southland’s being champions. Yet again Ovington were represented in the “rest of the division” side with Alf Goodwill nominated as captain and Charlie Simpson also playing. In 1931, Ovington finished third, unfortunately behind “Cooks Troughton and Sims” and “South Bank WMC 2nd xi”. Representatives in the division side against the champions were C.Simpson and A.Barker. Although it would have been seen as a poor season, the restructuring by the league enabled Ovington to take their place in Section B.

1932 saw a successful with Ovington heading the table until the last game which saw Haxby Road OB draw level on points and a play-off match was played on the 14th August on the YMCA ground. The Storey cup for section B champions was reported by the press as a “hard fought encounter” but Haxby Road ran out the winners by 29 runs. Les Kirby and Eric Horton attended a meeting about the formation of the York Saturday Afternoon League on the clubs behalf, however it was decided not to join at this time. This league later became the York Vale League.

During this time the club also played Saturday and Sunday friendlies which away games were an afternoon out on were always well-supported by players families and friends. A bus was hired to all away games on Sunday’s and the club seemed to be making real progress.

In 1933, Ovington finished third behind Scarcroft and  Haughton School OB ; those playing for the “rest of the division team” were H. Limbert and N. Kirby .

The 1934 season saw very similar results finishing third yet again behind R.A.S.C. and Albany-Street Methodists. Representatives of the “rest of the division” team was E. Coulson. However, by 1935 LNER and Terry’s who were founder members of the league had both resigned from section A. So 1935 saw Ovington competing in section A. Amazingly, the club topped the section until the last game when they played the South Bank WMC in what would become the title decider. South Bank posted a massive 121-8. Ovington only managed 70 all out. South Bank took the title and Ovington were runners up. But in seven seasons in the league, the club had gone from section C to runners up in section A

1936-1945

In 1936, the club moved to Pitch 5 on the Little Knavesmire where we still play today. After the highs of the previous year, we started with two losses but by late June we had risen to mid-table. A win over the Revellers in early July saw us make further progress up the table. By the season end, the final table showed South Bank as champions, Ovington as runners-up 4 points behind with the poor start costing us a chance of the championship. Players with honourable mentions in Press reports were; J.Limbert, E.Coulson, R.Leadley and A.Thompson with outstanding bowling figures in one match of 7-19. At this years evening league A.G.M, Southlands resigned from the league and Scarcroft who had finished bottom, were not relegated due to league restructuring.

1937 started well with a win over Railway Institute. However, Ovington lost their main derby match with South Bank WMC due to an unbeaten opening partnership by Claude Skilbeck and W.Exelby of 96. Ovington finished on 91-8. The return fixture against Railway Institute saw us winning on the last ball of the innings when the R.I. bowled a wide when the scores were tied. Bizarrely, Ovington’s last man was run out off this ball. The final table saw newcomers to Section A, York Highways Department become champions. Ovington finished in a very respectable third. The match between the League Champions and the Rest of the League saw Ovington’s Ted Coulson make 20 but R.Leadley, who had been in prolific form all season, failed to score.

Ovington started 1938 well and were in contention for the Evening League title at the halfway stage, but fell away and finished runners-up to reigning champions York Highways Department, possibly due to the wet summer which caused the cancellation of a third of the league fixtures. Saturday fixtures played at this time, although on a friendly basis, saw the club playing what are now most of the areas leading teams, such as Selby, New Earswick and Old Malton. A typical game, away to Dringhouses saw them score 132-7 with Ovington winning with 133-3, E.Watson getting 50 and E.Coulson getting 66 not out. The way the team travelled to away fixtures is interesting, as they often used public transport. The bus or train the team would be taking as well as the time of departure was published in Friday’s Press, along with the team sheet.

1939 was almost a repeat of ’38. Mid-season saw Ovington top, having only lost one game. By the time the final table was published, the Revellers had overtaken them and Ovington were once again runners-up. The club’s leading players were E.Watson, E.Coulson, J.Haxby and Arthur Thompson with some more impressive bowling figures including an 8-26 in one game. As the season end approached, one wonders what the players were thinking as the threat of war grew ever more real.

As 1940 came, little would have seemed to have changed, as France fell, Ovington’s main concern was winning the Evening League Championship. As in previous seasons, Ovington started strongly but their title challenge faded away and they ended up in third place behind South Bank WMC and Revellers. Peter Mowbray, claimed to have played his first match when he was 12 for the first team, this may have been a Sunday game or standing in for someone who was unavailable, but the first written record of him playing was August 10th, unfortunately, he didn’t retain his place for the next game, perhaps as he was only 14 at the time. At a match in early August between Revellers and Ovington, almost £3 was collected for the Red Cross, equivalent to about £86 in 2008.

1941 saw fewer teams competing in the Evening League, just 8 in total. Railway Institute were league champions, with West Yorkshire Regt. Finishing second and Ovington were third. In fifth place was Knavesmire Camp, an internment camp during the war. From their playing records, it seems only the guards and staff played for them. A subsidiary league was played to lengthen the season, in which Ovington played in the top group, and finished third. Another charity match between Ovington and the Royal Army Pay Corps was played in mid-August over two nights. It was hoped that Knavesmire cricket enthusiasts would support the cause. The York Senior League had been suspended for the duration of the war, but the Saturday League continued to play. An inter-league match was arranged between the Saturday and the Evening Leagues to be played on Ovington’s ground over two nights. Ovington’s Jack Haxby and H.Wheatley were picked to represent the Evening League side. The Evening League made 156-6 and the Saturday League 109 all out. Wheatley taking 3-39.

Only six teams competed in the Evening League during 1942. The Press reported that Ovington had gained a lead of two points due mainly to the consistent bowling of E.Richardson. The game between Ovington and the Railway Institute became the title-decider. Ovington 63; R.I. 31-9. Ovington ran out champions by four points from the Railway Institute in second. The Champions versus the Rest of the League led to Ovington being victorious by a single run. Mr H.C. De Burgh presented the trophy and said that “the Evening League provided healthly recreation… and so long the matches did not interfere with war-time duties,the clubs in the league were doing the correct thing by carrying on until the return home of the many players who had joined the Forces”.

1943 saw Railway Institute and Ovington once again fighting for the Evening League Championship. R.I. ran out winners and Ovington were runners-up. The team continued to change as more and more players were called-up. Eric Horton was also called-up and Les Kirby took over the day to day running of Ovington. The Press coverage in these years became less. Although not present, the club’s equipment was still stored at Eric’s house. The players would have to go to his house and knock on the door, to ask his mother or sister for the equipment. New players who seemed to feature in reports were E.Bentall and B. Prest.

In 1944, Railway Institute and Ovington were yet again contenders for the league title. We were unable to find a final table as the papers were focussing on better news on the war-front and post D-Day advances but after 7 games, Ovington were equal on points to R.I. who had played a match less.

As the war drew to a close in 1945, more teams joined the Evening League, and 8 teams were to compete in this year. As Ovington and R.I. had struggled for supremacy for the war-years, newcomers Dringhouses would have seemed to have little chance. However, they ran away with the title. No final table could be found, as Ovington fell two games behind. They either finished 3rd or 4th in 1945. The end of the season coincided with the end of the war with Japan surrender. Everyone must have been hoping that 1946 things would be getting back to normal.