| DOUAI SOCIETY CRICKET
A brief History - Compiled by Aubrey Balhetchet
The Douai Society was formed in 1868 by a group of Old Dowegians in Liverpool.
There is no evidence that an official cricket club was formed around that time but one imagines that some games must have taken place a few years later in annual games against the school, either in France or England. In the magazine of 1901 there is an excellent and amusing article describing what must have been one of the last dinners and cricket matches to be held in France. By all accounts it was a grand occasion with fine wines and song and impromptu concerts with talented pianists and singers - reminiscent of Woolhampton's postprandial activities - reported later in this compilation.
The match against the School which was won by the Society describes the Old Boys cricketers thus: "The wicketkeeper was corpulent and gouty,bald-headed and grey; the chief bat unable to run for himself; and the field generally short of wind and stiff of joint!"
Apparently this was one of the most successful Society meetings ever and on the return ferry crossing one 'know-all' celebrity was heard to say to a group of open-eyed lady companions that they were exiled Jesuits leaving France! 'May the day be far distant when the walls of Alma Mater shall cease to shelter the black-robed sons of St Benedict'
There are no records of Old Boys games played immediately after the move in 1903.
No publication of any kind from 1905 - 1920 existed. The Douai Society appeared to raise a side to play the School on an annual basis but there is no evidence that there was a regular side which played throughout the season. It was in 1937 that the Community kindly allowed the Society to use the School facilities for a cricket week and as this was at an experimental stage resident members of the Community formed the back-bone of the sides. The week was a great success and if not for a dearth of bowlers the results would have been much better.
Results: v Woolhampton = Won, v Downside Wanderers = Lost, v Mr.Royal's Xl = Drawn, v Hungerford C.C. = Drawn, Russells Xl = Won.
The Annual Douai Society Dinner usually preceded the Cricket Week and one
imagines the quality of food and wine and postprandial activities were
comparable to those in France. Choral works were the order for the evening
with the occasional recital (vocal) - all accompanied by talented pianoforte
players with Epstein in the 'fifties', Hall in the 'fifties' and 'sixties',
Hopkin in the 'sixties' and 'seventies' and Richards(Minor) in the 'seventies
and 'eighties'. Epstein could play several bars of Beethoven's Moonlight
Sonata with his back to the keyboard and his hands behind his back! Quite
remarkable! Richards' rendition of cricketers of the great sub- continent
playing cricket and cavorting to the tune of "An English Country Garden"
was hilarious. This was usually performed in a duet with our Resident Umpire
Claude (not out) Butler - of Solihull and Woolhampton.
Those not too partial to fine music would adjourn to the gymnasium to partake in some violent sport, occasionally resulting in a split eyebrow or two. A visit to A+E was never necessary as all medical specialities were well represented at the Dinner. There was an occasion when sutures and needles were called for and the 'duty officer' at the time - Dr. Paul Heffron suggested to Matron that they were perhaps a trifle too large. It was suggested that perhaps the patient was sufficiently anaesthetized on Young's Ale to care!
There was always a never ending supply of Young's Ales (in the wood) throughout
the Cricket Week generously donated by a past President John Rowley who
was a director of Young's Brewery.
Though Cricket Week started in 1937 the Old Boys cricket club did not begin a full fixture list until the 'seventies'. The late Bryan Peers, apart from running the Cricket Week in the 'fifties' and 'sixties', also ran a side called the Old Augustinians C.C. St Augustines was a Benedictine prep school which 'fed' amongst others - Douai, Downside, and Ampleforth.
The Club was affiliated to the Club Cricket Conference and was unique in many ways. It had a full fixture list and played at some very attractive village venues such as Westerham, Knockholt, Halstesd, Edenbridge and Tilford, the latter where A.G.Macdonell's "England, their England" was filmed and probably reflected the type of cricket that was played then.
Needless to say, the sides were composed mainly of Old Dowegians - many
of whom had never seen the gates of St Augustine's - and it was becoming
increasingly difficult for Bryan Peers to raise a full genuine Old Augustinian
side. The fixture list was handed over to the Old Dowegians around 1970.
The first meeting of the Old Dowegian Cricket Club took place in a pub in Westminster. Time, age, lost records, etc makes it difficult for your Editor to recall all the attendees, suffice to say that there were sufficient numbers to form a quorum. Bryan Peers was in the chair and on the agenda was the official name of the club, club colours, subscriptions, membership, etc., but one does recall very clearly that our Chairman was not keen on the name Douai Society C.C. as it sounded like a cricket club of a secret society! One cannot recall a vote on this matter but through a "natural progression"? the Old Boys were referred to by our old established opponents in Cricket Week as the 'Douai Society' and as' Old Dowegians '- or 'Douai Old Boys' as the Club took on more and more old boys fixtures.
The amended fixtures included the Old Alleynians, and old boys sides of Leighton Park, Ampleforth, Wimbledon, Stonyhurst, St George's Weybridge, Prior Park, Downside, and Emeriti. The Club also competed in the Brewer's Cup(the mini Cricketer's Cup) and as the Club wasn't very successful and as it involved a huge disruption to the fixture list, the Club withdrew from the competition after two years.
If not for Bryan the Old Boys would probably not have functioned as a full time cricketing unit. He himself was an excellent sportsman. A very aggressive and unorthodox opening batsman he could cause many a mental breakdown to opening bowlers! He was also a fearless wicketkeeper and often stood up to the fastest of bowlers.
||Bryan (Dial-a-Ride) Peers worked tirelessly on Sundays ferrying impecunious articled clerks, accountants (not many of these though), medical and pharmaceutical students around the countryside. His stamina, energy, and patience were boundless. Your Editor found out in later years that after dropping off his last passenger, no matter how late, he would always refuse a bed for the night and park just around the corner for a little sleep. He said he could sleep solidly for half an hour and was always ready and refreshed to 'go again' before driving back to North London!
Bryan also played cricket and hockey for the H.A.C. and excelled at full back. One hopes that Bryan Peers, first President of the Old Boys Cricket Club, will be recognized accordingly in the Douai Room in the new Pavilion.
Readers will by now notice that there is a distinct lack of 'stats' and
performances in this history. There is a huge dearth of reports and though
some scorebooks exist it is impossible to highlight all performances throughout
the decades. The two history reports, together with magazines from1894
-1902 (St Edmund's) and 1920-1999 (Douai) and some scorebooks will always
be available for perusal in the Douai Archives.
The Old Boys cricket was in full swing in the seventies. On average there were 26/27 fixtures in a season. By kind permission of the Community and John Shaw the cricket ground was used on Sundays whenever the 1st Xl were not playing and during the Summer holidays. Douai became the 'Home' ground for the Old Boys - playing approximately 17 games including the Cricket Week. Playing on one of Berkshire's finest grounds on beautiful pitches was a treat and it was no coincidence that Old Boys cricket improved during John Shaw's reign. On occasions when chasing totals of around 200 + it was the order of the day to get them.
John Shaw was always reluctant to play even when the team were short on the day. One cricket week he was forced to play more than one or two innings and averaged 100! John was always ferrying tea urns, pots, pans, gas cylinders, etc to and fro between the School and the Pavilion and his wife Angie and her staff worked tirelessly with very limited facilities in a dilapidated pavilion to provide lunch and tea for the cricketers and supporters. In 1994 the Captain of Cricket, D. McClement, presented Angie with lst Xl half colours. Perhaps the Old Boys could present her with their own half colours in recognition of her good work to complete the picture?!
Cricket Week which began in 1937 was the highlight of the season in July.
The Community were very generous in allowing "full board and lodging"
for a pittance. John Shaw prepared perfect wickets, sometimes for seven
games on the trot, and when lunch became very difficult to prepare in the
limited facilities of the Pavilion, both teams would adjourn to the Rowbarge
for a specially ordered lunch by courtesy of the owner - Larry Naismith
of 'M' Bond fame!
Breakfast was served up to 9.00 am and in the rush cricketers would be noticed wearing pyjamas under cricket flannels. Mid morning coffee and hangover potions usually took place in the Falmouth Arms before play was scheduled to begin at 11.30 am. At 'stumps' the opposition was invited to have a swim and partake of some Youngs Ales before the home side had 'supper' from 7.00 pm, usually in cricket gear! A decision would then be made as to which hostelry would have the great pleasure of entertaining us. The following were the most frequented: The Rowbarge, Angel, Boot, Bull, Pineapple, Pot Kiln, and occasionally a visit to Pangbourne or Aldermaston would be undertaken.
|One match is worth remembering - that of the Society vs The Malaysia/Singapore
Ligers on July 16th 1971. This was the Ligers (cross between Lion and Tiger)
first visit to the UK
The 2.00 pm start was delayed as their coach was late in arriving, but
in the relatively short time the Ligers knocked up 166 for 5 dec and all
were treated to some glorious batting.Their Captain Steve Houghton was
probably too generous in his declaration, especially as he was missing
his opening bowlers but the Society rose to the occasion and with a very
strong batting line up knocked off the runs with 4 wickets down and 10
minutes to spare.
Most of the Ligers played for their respective countries and their standard
was considered by international cricket journalists as good 'minor county'
with one or two able to make the 1st Class County Grade. They were probably
one of the strongest sides ever to visit Douai.
Apres cricket and pub crawl would continue with traditional games in the gym but special 'Douai Majors' would be played day or night. These included Daleks - a game where the white plastic cups would be placed over snooker balls - bets placed and they would be rolled from the start at the foot of the refectory steps. The finishing line would be at the end of the cloister by the clock.
||Another favourite was 'Jakes Golf'. Again the start would be at the foot of the 'Ref' stairs. One was given a choice of only one golf club and one golf ball. The 'course' would be straight down the cloister fairway past the clock, then an S bend towards the boot room but just before that a left turn and chip through the wrought iron gates by the Junior Jakes onto the 'quad'. A full shot was required over a couple of hedges on to the Park and then a straight run to the Pavilion where the final shot would be through the window of the Home changing room.
The record will always be held by Tim King (62/67/72) pictured left, with
Another pastime was the moving of cars after midnight, unknown to their owners, which would end up in tennis courts, the gym, and the strangest of places.
Alfie, who found his in the main cloister by the clock, just roared with laughter and proceeded to his breakfast!
Apart from rabbiting by headlights probably the most dangerous was 'The Battle of Britain'. One would sit in one's Spitfire Car and hide in a lay by, lane, passing area or similar spot with all lights turned off. When the enemy(Messerschmitt) ghosted past, also without any lights, one would spring out behind for a 'hit' with full beam headlights on. "Never in the field of human conflict.........."
Quidquid agunt homines Duacenses
And, From The Archives - Late 1960's or early 1970's
Frank Keating writes about the picture below;
With what affection I remember Old Dowegians' Cricket Weeks ... this from what, early '70's or late 60's?
I am kneeling, front right, and sitting to my right are good stalwarts Bryan Peers; great ODCC 'IL Presidente':
Peter Griffith (with Roger Segal, best all-rounder of my generation); with Aubrey Balhetchet squatting left.
Among the back row, lamented Rick, good J Shaw, Frank Aung. Pat Jeffrey, James Miller, 'Frendall', Polimeni ...
Left to Right;
Standing Rear: Rick Byrne, John Shaw, Bruce Lowe, Frank Aung, Patrick Jeffery, James Miller, Chris Walter(Old Augustinian and Belmont), A. Polimeni.
Seated Middle: Aubrey Balhetchet, Peter Griffith, Horatio Nelson, Bryan Peers, John Greenwood.
Front: Richard Olivier, Frank Keating.
|Names in the photograph provided by Aubrey Balhetchet