Jun 202020
Another article that was done a few years ago but forms a perfect part of this series as club legend Jimmy Porter spoke to Scott McHugh in 2012 to look back on his own Crimble Memories:
Jimmy in familiar pose in 2012

Jimmy in familiar pose in 2012

“You could really hear the ball fizzle when Duncan Carter bowled.”

It was just the sort of thing I wanted to hear when I spoke to one of Heywood’s best amateur batsmen Jimmy Porter.

A left-handed opening bat and one-time wicket-keeper Jimmy played in some of Heywood’s greatest teams from 1959 through to his retirement in 1983, winning the CLL title with legendary West Indian pro Clairmonte Depeiza in 1960 and the title with Colin Lever in 1974 and 1976.

He held the record score for a Heywood amateur – 129 v Walsden in 1980 – before Bobby Cross broke it in 2007 with 162 not out against Middleton. In one of those great coincidences, Bobby told me it was the same day he was introduced to Jimmy for the first time!

During his 23 years – separated by a gap of 11 years away due to work commitments and a spell with Middleton – Jimmy amassed 4,463 runs at an average of just under 20, scoring 500 runs in a season twice. To modern eyes, these figures may not seem astounding, but in the days of uncovered wickets, rapid West Indian professionals and no helmets, these are excellent statistics.

Naturally, of course, the first thing I wanted to ask Jimmy was just what it was like to face some of the world’s most lethal bowlers, and who were the best players he’d played with and against.

“Duncan Carter was the fastest I faced, without a doubt. He was a West Indian and pro at Littleborough in the mid 1970s and when I saw him coming out of the dressing room I knew he would be lively. He really made the ball fizzle, and remember, there were no helmets in those days.

“Joel Garner was probably the best bowler I ever faced as he was always there at you, consistently making you play at awkward deliveries.

“But I played against lots of the great pros of the era. Franklyn Stephenson, Andy Roberts, Cec Pepper. With Pepper, I wondered what I’d come into because he effed and blinded like nothing I’d heard before.

“However, the best player I ever played against was Sir Garfield Sobers. As a batsman, fielder and bowler he was simply the world’s best. I remember him pro-ing for Radcliffe when he got some big runs against us at Crimble. He was in his early days then, but he knocked us all over the place and wherever I fielded he kept knocking the ball past me. It was something to behold, and I’m proud to say I faced him, especially as I was only 15 or 16 at the time.

“Nowadays the players wear all sorts of protective gear, but we never had any. But you know what? I was never worried about injury. It never entered my head.” jimmyP5

Apart from his ability to play some of the game’s greatest fast bowlers, Jimmy deserves his place in Heywood CC history for two other reasons.

A groundsman and gardener by trade – about which more later – Jimmy returned to Heywood after a decade away in 1972 to bolster the batting and return an ailing Heywood square to pristine condition, which he undertook as a labour of love.

It was also Jimmy who was the key to bringing to Heywood one of the finest servants of the club.

“It was January 1976 and I had worked my way up from an apprentice gardener to parks manager at Rossendale Borough Council. The office secretary told me there was a David Fare to see me, who was working at the time for Durafencing.

“Anyway, it wasn’t long before we got talking about cricket. I told him I played for Heywood and David told me he was playing for Worsley but was looking for a new club.

“I wasted no time in asking him to come down to Crimble on a Sunday morning to come and see what we were all about. He took one look at the ground and decided to join that season.

“What a great signing he was! Along with Bob Cross, he became one of the most wonderful and loyal members of the club, being captain on many occasions and chairman for a long period of time. Well done to these gentlemen.”

But back to the beginning. Jimmy was born in Middleton and grew up near Middleton junction. A keen footballer – he played for Blackburn and Oldham A teams – as well as a talented cricketer, he grew up playing on the local croft, where in summer the one lamppost was used as a wicket and in winter was used as one side of the net. As you can imagine, a jumper was used as another goalpost!

In his second year at Moorclose Senior School, Jimmy became a regular in the school’s first team. In his third year he played for Middleton Boys and by his fourth year played for North Lancashire Boys at Old Trafford before being selected for the full Lancashire Boys team and playing at places like the County Ground at Northampton and Chester-Le-Street.

His great early influences at school were PE teacher Dai Bevan – the former Halifax, Wigan and Great Britain rugby league winger – and George Howarth, his maths teacher, who played in the second team at Heywood. These two were responsible for polishing his obvious talent and for him attending the trials that saw him play for representative sides.

Jimmy continues the story.

“In 1958 and just 14 years old I was encouraged to join Heywood CC by these two teachers, and I played my first season in the second team under captain John Oddie.

“I left school in 1959 and was playing cricket for Lancashire Boys and football for Blackburn Rovers, and it was this year I made my first-team debut as wicket-keeper batsman, with Keith Slater as professional and Ray Purser as captain.

“In 1960 we had Clairmonte Depeiza as pro, who was an excellent player. He bowled medium-quick off a few paces and was a good batsman and under Ray and Clairmonte we won the CLL title that year.

“I played in 1961 and had great memories of those early years. The crowds were in their thousands and Manchester Buses used to stop outside the Municipal Buildings to take players and supporters to away matches. Brilliant days.”

At that time, Jimmy was working for Middleton Council as an apprentice gardener and was told that if he was to further his career he had to work weekends in the greenhouses at Jubilee Park, near Middleton Parish Church, which made it impossible for him to play for Heywood and which – for a decade at least – caused him to leave the club he had come to love.

As luck would have it, however, part of his training was in groundsmanship so he was always in touch with the game he loved. In 1966 he was approached by a member at Towncroft to become part-time groundsman at Middleton CC, and although this meant he couldn’t play for the senior sides, Jimmy talked the club into allowing him to net with the first team to keep his skills honed.

Then, in 1969, his father retired and he took over the ground allowing Jimmy to play again. In 1970, ten years after his first league title, Jimmy and Middleton won the CLL title again before in 1972 he returned to Crimble to help restore a square that had seen better days – this time on a voluntary basis enabling him to play again for his first love.

He continues: “1972 was my first season back, under Bob Cross, at Heywood and I played until 1983. It was the right decision as it allowed me to develop my cricket skills at a higher level. I never regretted coming back.

“Bob Dearden became captain of the first team in 1974 and I was then asked to open the innings with Colin Lever. Colin was the perfect pro, you could rely on him to get 80-100 wickets a season and 800-1000 runs. He was probably the best professional we ever had and he was a proper gentlemen too, and in his last season – 1976 – we won the league title again.”

Not known as the most free-scoring batsman, Jimmy was, however, a proper competitor who sold his wicket dearly. He scored more than 500 runs in each of the 1979 and 1980 seasons when professionals were usually of international class and quick. Very quick.

It was in 1980 that Jimmy achieved the highpoint of his career.

Bob Cooke was professional and Heywood batted first against Walsden.

“It was May 24, a warm summer’s day and David Fare won the toss and elected to bat. I opened the batting with Vinny Kay and when the score reached 86 Vinny was out.

“That brought in Bob Cooke and we slaughtered the home attack to all corners of the ground. Now, I wasn’t renowned for hitting sixes but this was my day and I hit two sixes into the river and 16 fours in total out of an unbeaten 129, then a club record. Bob ended on 109 not out and we finished on 279-1 off 48 overs, including a then record second-wicket partnership of 193.

“In 1980, club records show I was only one of 14 amateurs to have scored more than 500 runs in a season since 1904 for Heywood CC.

“These are all achievements I am really proud of and I can only say thank you to Heywood CC and its members for these wonderful years.”

 June 20, 2020  3 Responses »
Jun 182020

Mikey in the runsMikey Grogan has played junior cricket at Heywood, progressed into the senior sides, played first team cricket and captained the 2nd XI. He has also become a junior coach and been a fixture throughout the winter months in the social side of the club, he looks back on his Crimble Memories: Do you remember your Click here for more ….

 June 18, 2020  1 Response »
Jun 172020

Paul has watched plenty of cricket at his favourite venuePaul Hamill has watched cricket at Heywood since the early 1970′s and has been a passionate supporter of the club over that time. Whilst there is no cricket at the club this summer Paul has taken the chance to send in his memories of many years of cricket at Crimble: Do you remember your first Click here for more ….

 June 17, 2020  No Responses »
Jun 162020

John in full flowJohn Heywood has played both youth and senior cricket at the club as well as being a key volunteer as a coach, administrator and a supporter over the years. Still very much involved in club life, John has taken the chance to look back on his own Crimble Memories: What were your earliest memories of Click here for more ….

 June 16, 2020  6 Responses »
Jun 152020

Tom, back centre, in the 2010 side with Rajat Bhatia as ProTom Blundell is another player to have come through the ranks at Heywood from junior cricket to first team. A T20 cup winner, U18 trophy winning captain, junior coach and all round good club man, Tom has looked back on his experiences at Crimble so far: Do you remember your debut? My first taste of Click here for more ….

 June 15, 2020  3 Responses »
Jun 142020

HeywoodGeoff Lawson looks back on his favourite game for the club: My favourite was definitely not the final game of the season against Walsden when we were “ rained off “ needing 2 wickets to win the Championship! Walsden were 8 down when a steady trickle that failed to halt any other game during the Click here for more ….

 June 14, 2020  1 Response »
Jun 132020

Joey and Dave Fare on tour in Worcester at the scene of JoeyA product of the Heywood youth system who went on to senior cricket and played in the remarkable 2009 T20 cup final victory where Heywood played with no Pro or overseas and all 11 players had played youth cricket for the club, Joey O’Neill has been a big part of Heywood life for many years. Click here for more ….

 June 13, 2020  4 Responses »
Jun 122020

The Sheriff lifts the Burton Cup in 2013Roger Smethurst has been involved at Heywood from junior cricket all the way through and is currently Cricket Chairman as well as one of the most reliable volunteers and club people around. A Burton Cup winning captain in 2013, The Sheriff has taken time to look back on his own Crimble Memories: Do you remember Click here for more ….

 June 12, 2020  9 Responses »
Jun 112020

Hamish formed a great partnership and friendship with HumzaThe older of the two brothers who came over to play for the club from Melbourne, Hamish Paterson was a strong opening bowler who could hit the ball a long way towards the end of an innings. Hamish spent two summers at Crimble in 2011 and 2012 and was then replaced by younger brother Riley Click here for more ….

 June 11, 2020  2 Responses »
Jun 102020

Craig, back row second from left, still playing some cricket in March this yearCraig Sugden had played in the UK prior to his one season at Crimble in 2002. A prolific batsman who was on course to break Steve Wundke’s record for runs in a season; Craig ended with 1,296 runs at an average of just under 65 despite having to return to South Africa missing the last Click here for more ….

 June 10, 2020  1 Response »
Jun 092020

Steve with some familiar faces in the Knibbs Trophy winning sideOur club steward Stephen Cromarty has had a long involvement with the club from junior and senior cricket, to passionate supporter and more recently the popular figure behind the bar who has made a hugely positive contribution to club life. The Cromarty name has been a treasured one for Heywood CC, the practice nets carry Click here for more ….

 June 9, 2020  2 Responses »
Jun 082020

Steve McHugh and the patio braving a chilly day at CrimbleSteve McHugh has seen more cricket at Crimble than most and has been a fantastic contributor to club life as a supporter, reporter and committee man over the years. Steve looks back on some of his fond memories of Heywood CC: Do you recall the first game you watched? My memory is not too hot Click here for more ….

 June 8, 2020  4 Responses »
Jun 072020

David with Roger, Rick and the late Gary WilkinsonDavid Hilton has spent many years enjoying cricket at Crimble and is back after a work related spell in Bahrain. He has taken the time to look back on his experiences and memories of Heywood CC: Do you recall your first memories of HCC? My dad first took me watching when I was 7. They Click here for more ….

 June 7, 2020  3 Responses »
Jun 062020

Chris in action against LittleboroughA former first team captain and the club’s all time leading wicket taker with a remarkable 949 wickets to his name, Chris Kaye has been a fixture in the Heywood first team since the late 1980′s. One of the most decorated players in terms of silverware for the club, Chris has 6 Wood Cup winners Click here for more ….

 June 6, 2020  5 Responses »