There was a period in the history of the town, (over) sixty years ago, when the game of cricket made a sudden leap into public favour. I think it was Mr D. G. Robertson of East Mains, whom we all spoke of as "Laird" Robertson, who brought the game into local favour. The "Laird" was himself an enthusiastic devotee of the game, and in his earlier days he had played in many famous matches in the south.
At any rate there was for a time quite a fever for cricket among the youth of the town. The "big" club had among its members nearly all the shop assistants and apprentices in the district and they practised mostly in a field to the east of Wolseley Park. The "Laird" was great for arranging matches, and for those important occasions he gave the use of his own beautiful park at East Mains, where he had a fine cricket pitch laid out. In summer, when there was plenty of young gentlemen about who were keen to play the game' matches took place frequently on Saturday afternoons, and East Mains Park was thrown open to all who cared to witness the game.
Many a time the natural terrace above the cricket patch was crowded with keen partisans of the Callander team, and the high dyke running parallel with the Mollands Road was black with village urchins. Big schools like Stanley House and others in the neighbourhood often sent teams to play against Callanders in the "Lairds" park.
Naturally, the schoolboys of the time duly copied their elders, and cricket became the rage among the rising generation. At least three juvenile clubs sprang into being on the shortest notice - the West End Club, the East End Club, and the Bridgend Club. As evidence of the hold which the game for the time took on the youth of the place, it is recalled that in one of the schools a prize of a cricket bat was offered to the winner in a competition in arithmetic. The conditions of the competition pro-longed the contest over many anxious days, and it was only terminated on the day on which the school broke up for vacation.
The excitement was more general on account of the master's decision that the bat was to become a trophy for the club to which the winner belonged. At last the winner was announced amidst great cheering. A Bridgend boy was declared the winner, and the trophy was voted to his club.........neither the winner nor the winning club ever saw that bat to this day. It was no fault of the school master. The bat was duly ordered from a local shop keeper, but it never made its appearance.
It is with the fortunes of the Bridgend Club that my memory is most concerned. The pitch and fielding ground occupied a remarkable site. The piece of ground remains to this day, at the head of the Bridgend - a triangular patch, ridiculously small for the purpose, at the crossroads near where the old toll bar used to stand. One wonders now how in the world the game was played in such narrow limits, but the fact remains that there once flourished on this patch a very much alive cricket club of about forty members strong. Not only so, but the club was once wealthy in bats, wickets, gloves, leggings, and all the paraphernalia of a first class institution. At one stage of its history, at least, the club treasurer boasted a very substantial balance in hard cash, and the members sported gaily coloured caps and belts.
The boys were all the children of the immediate neighbourhood, and there was not the son of a wealthy man in the club. The question will naturally arise, where did the capital come from? The answer is very simple. The "hat" was passed around well-to-do people within the bounds of the clubs province, and the response was cordially beyond the wildest expectations........A wooden hut, occupied
by the toll-keeper, served as a kind of pavilion for the club, and here, on set occasions, members met for the election of office-bearers and the transaction of general business. They were extraordinary gatherings. Generally speaking, good humour prevailed, but sometimes personal differences got mixed up with discussions of points of business, and a wild babel would ensue......Once a very stringent set of rules were adopted to put down the use of improper language while play was in progress. In less than two minutes from the time of the adoption of the code the captain fell into grievous transgression. And was promptly waited on by the treasurer.
One night a muscular tinker, considerably the worse of drink, appeared on the pitch and demanded a share of the game. He was given a bat and placed in front of the stumps, and the bowler began sending up swift balls to the tinker's wicket. Manifestly alarmed for the safety of his person, the tinker for a time dodged the dangerous balls, At last a violent ball caught the strange batsmen in the neighbourhood of the stomach, and in an instant the fun began. Furious with pain and whisky, the tinker rushed at his tormentor with the bat as his weapon, and in less than a moment every boy about was flying for his life. Just as he disappeared round the end of the dyke, the bowler received the sharp end of a wicket in the small of his back, and so the tinker was avenged of his adversary.
A time came when the craze for cricket began to wane and life of the club was at a low ebb. Other sports claimed the boys, and by degrees the pitch became more and more deserted.....Finally it was solemnly and sadly resolved at a meeting duly convened for the purpose, that the club should be dissolved. But what about disposal of the funds? There was still a balance on hand representing a good many shillings. The problem was solved by the carrying of a unanimous resolution to hold a grand jollification to celebrate the decease of the club. It was like a wake. Seated on the grass on a summer's evening on the site of the old cricket pitch.......members ate and drank all that was left of the club's corporal existence. Buns and fruitcakes, lemonade and ginger beer, apples and nuts, besides other delicacies, were supplied to each man in equal ratio, and everything disappeared like magic. There was naturally a big turnout of members that night, but they never met again.
by James MacDonald