... working      as a team


IT began with a letter to the Yorkshire Evening Press. Mr T R Bonsall, of 115 Tang Hall Lane, York, secretary of York Post Office CC, wrote to the newspaper’s daily column “A Sportsman’s Diary” in 1933 decrying the lack of organised Saturday afternoon cricket in York and the surrounding area.
Although Evening League cricket was established in the city and the Derwent, Forest of Galtres and Thirsk Leagues were all thriving on Saturday afternoons there was nothing for York’s club cricketers.
The York and District Senior Cricket League comprising York ‘A’, Acomb, Rowntrees, Easingwold, Tadcaster, Thirsk, Sessay, Boroughbridge and Northallerton was on the go but they were strong clubs with top players.
“That league is catering for a different type of club - perhaps a little too advanced for the average city club,” said Bonsall, whose plea quickly gained favour.
Within days clubs had contacted him to support his idea and a meeting was held at York YMCA Institute, Clifford Street, on Tuesday, September 12, to get the ball rolling.
At that historic meeting, a proposal to form a York Saturday Cricket League was made by Fortifex CC and seconded by Osbaldwick.
Bonsall was appointed league secretary with Mr Rafton, of Holgate Road, taking the role as chairman. Others of the committee were Messrs Prest (South Bank WMC), Horner (Osbaldwick), Dalby (Naburn), Hill (Post Office) and Stones (Fortifex).
Enough teams backed the new league that it was launched the following year with two sections. Eight clubs were in Section A and there were seven in Section B - although that later became eight after the RAMC team joined after the season had started.
The maiden season opened on May 12, 1934, with the following fixtures:
Section A: Osbaldwick v Fortifex, Sutton on Forest v St Olave’s, South Bank WMC v Haxby Old Boys, Blue Corinthians v Stillington.
Section B: GPO v St Lawrence’s, Deighton v NMU, York Gas v Naburn. Stillingfleet - no game.
Games started at 3pm and were 35 overs aside.
Stillington emerged as the dominant force in Section A while the NMU side topped Section B, whose fixtures were not wholly completed because of the admission of the RAMC team midway through the summer.
The two section winners played off at South Bank’s ground on Saturday, September 1, 1934, to determine who would win the championship. It proved to be a one-sided game with Stillington winning by 53 runs thanks largely to bowler A Redshaw who took 7-18.
The Postmaster of York, Mr Bowness, a vice-president of the league, presented the cup in the absence of president Mr J X Prendergast, who was on business in London. Prendergast, didn’t neglect his duties, though.
A couple of days after the title play-off he entertained both teams and league officials at a victory supper at the Rialto Ballroom Cafe where the guests were entertained by bandman Billy Merrin and the Commanders.The league had certainly struck the right note with the local cricket fraternity, becoming an established feature of the York area’s summer sporting scene.
Teams came and went and sometimes the league operated with just one division and it was only in the 1950s that the two-tier structure became firmly established.
Cinema owner Prendergast, father of composer John Barry, the man behind the James Bond movie theme tune and scores of silver screen hits, continued his presidency until his death in the late 1970s. He was succeeded by Fred W Shepherd, whose building firm were a regular feature on the fixture lists of the late 1940s and 1950s.
The family tradition was carried on briefly by Sir Peter Shepherd before F Victor Mason, who had the Goodfayre restaurant in The Pavement in York city centre, held the post.
The role of league secretary was filled by Joss Darley, a co-founder of the Kelfield club, from 1951 to 1980.
After the position was briefly held by Derek Marshall, former Askham Bryan player Shane Hargrave took up the post of secretary, a role he filled until 2008, the league’s 75th anniversary.
During his tenure, and with Frank Stones as chairman, the league expanded.
The early 1980s saw the league grow with an influx of new clubs seeing membership double by the turn of the Millennium.
The league’s Golden Jubilee year, 1983, saw the first cup sponsorship secured thanks to sports outfitters Mitchells, whose Guy Mitchell became league president in 1974 – a role he fulfilled until his death in 2013. Guy’s dad was Tom Mitchell, the former Newcastle United winger and York City manager, and the family had a sports outfitters in Colliergate.
In 1985 sufficient teams had joined the Saturday League to run a third division for the first time. Three years later saw Yorkshire CCC skipper Martyn Moxon unveil a change of name to the York Vale Cricket League. That summer also saw the introduction of bonus points for batting and bowling, replacing three points for a win and none for a defeat.
The league’s 60th year in 1993 saw further significant changes with the league being sponsored for the first time by York-based accountants, Pulleyn Heseleton, forerunners of current sponsors HPH.
Grassroots cricket continued to grow and another milestone was reached in 2005 with the formation of division five.
Overseeing many of these developments was chairman Frank Stones who first became involved in the league in 1958. He stepped down after 30 years as chairman in 2009 and was immediately made a life member of the league.He is currently the league president.
Peter Northfield, the head of Science of St Peter’s School, took over from Frank and the league continued to progress. The annual dinner and awards evening enjoyed a major revival, the league website was developed, while a standard league ball was introduced for the first time in the 2010 season.
After Peter stood down at the end of that season, Shane Hargrave returned as chairman - after a season as interim chairman - and in 2012 the league expanded to six divisions for the first time with a record 54 teams.

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