Blog post

Clackmannan County: a Scottish cricket club

Exploring a booklet of the club's history

colour illustration of a cricket player holding a cricket bat
by
Ian Scott (opens in new window) (National Library of Scotland)

Although cricket is widely played and supported in Scotland, many people believe that Scottish cricket is a contradiction in terms, like a square circle or liquid ice, or a myth like the Chimera or the Loch Ness monster. This little booklet is one small piece of evidence that shows they are mistaken.

The earliest Scottish cricket clubs were established in the country in the 19th century. Perth Cricket Club has been in existence since at least 1826 and the Grange Club in Edinburgh (now the home of the Scottish national team) was founded in 1832.

Indirectly, we might have Bonnie Prince Charlie to thank for bringing cricket to Scotland. The sport was first popularised in Scotland by English troops sent to garrison towns such as Perth to suppress dissent following the 1745 Jacobite rising led by Bonnie Prince Charlie, by which time it was already established as England’s national sport. Cricket was also increasingly taken up by the Scottish gentry in imitation of their 'sophisticated' English contemporaries.

cover of a booklet with title 'Clackmannan County Cricket Club' with a colour illustration of a cricket player holding a cricket bat

The cover of this short history of the Clackmannan County Cricket Club is an idealised image of the game, reminiscent of illustrations from boy’s story papers of the period. It was not unique to this publication and was used as the cover for many similar short histories of Scottish cricket clubs produced by Dundee-based publisher D.C. Thomson.

two black and white photographs - one showing a building in front of which are a seated crowd of people and a cricket match taking place

Clackmannan County Cricket Club was founded in 1868 and is based in the town of Alloa in the central lowlands of Scotland. The town is almost exactly equidistant from Scotland's two largest cities Glasgow and Edinburgh. Alloa is known for being a centre of the brewing industry and is also the home of Alloa Athletic Football Club.

According to the handbook, cricket was played in Alloa as far back as the 1850s, although later historians have found evidence of cricket being played in the town as early as 1785. By the 1880s, Clackmannan County Cricket Club was successful enough to engage professional players, including some from Yorkshire, the great cricketing county in England. In 1925 when the handbook was published, Alloa born Thomas Alexander Bowie (1877-1974) was captain of the club. He played with Clackmannan County for almost thirty years, scoring at least eight centuries. He also played for Scotland scoring two half-centuries and is immortalised in the pages of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, the bible of the sport.

black and white photograph, a group portrait of a cricket club

The sport’s apparent low profile in Scotland can partly be attributed to the fact that Scotland’s national team has never been a force in the international game.

Many of Scotland’s greatest cricketers such as Mike Denness, Gavin Hamilton and Douglas Jardine have played for the English national team as it was their only real chance of playing first class test cricket. In Scotland, cricket arguably is most fervently followed and played in small towns and villages such as Alloa and Freuchie in Fife.

black and white advert for Arthur West, sports outfitter with text and illustration of a cricket player

On 8 September 1985, Freuchie won the National Village Cup final against the favourites Rowledge at Lord’s (the home of cricket), the only Scottish team to do so. This was not just the greatest day in Scottish cricket history but one of the greatest achievements by any Scottish sports team.

Clackmannan County Cricket Club is still very much a going concern. Like Freuchie, their players have day jobs as plumbers, teachers, dentists and builders but this does not detract from the passion and dedication which they bring to the cricket field.


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