At their recent meeting, members of Stonehaven Probus Club were entertained by Mr Howard Smith, who told the story of the unlikely rise in the popularity of the English game of cricket in the North East of Scotland.
Probably introduced in the 1840s by the “Revenue Men” sent to supervise the collection of tax from the highly-profitable whisky and paper industries, these officials were mainly English.
It seems that in Scotland, as in the rest of the kingdom, governments of the day didn’t trust the locals when it came to collecting tax revenues.
The first mention of the game being played in Aberdeen was at a boys’ public school in the Chanonry, where cricket was played to a high level.
At a public meeting in 1857, chaired by an Aberdeen lawyer, James Forbes Lumsden, £60 was raised and used to lease a ground at Queen’s Cross (now St Joseph’s School).
At that time, all Aberdeen clubs were junior - ambitious ones aspired to senior status which, in effect, meant that they had their own ground and the players wore white flannels.
Within the city, land prices were high, so wealthy patrons were much sought after. However by 1890 the game had spread throughout Aberdeenshire.
Stonehaven’s two clubs were called Thistle and Hawthorn.
But the First World War badly affected the amateur game locally as well as nationally and it recovered only slowly.
This recovery was much aided in the North East by our extensive rail network which provided cheap travel for away games. All the smaller towns had their railway stations - sadly now long gone.
Today though the game is thriving once again and on a fine summer’s day, the sound of bat on ball can be heard at over 31 grounds in Aberdeenshire, including Stonehaven’s own Mineralwell Park.
The vote of thanks was proposed by Ron Ballantyne.