Cricket - A Gentleman's Game?
By Norman Bury
A photograph of members of Darwen Cricket Club.
So, how long does it take to become proficient in the art of this gentleman's game, called cricket?
Does it share equal status with the other old Royal and ancient game, called golf?
It is generally believed the game of cricket was not played outside the British Isles until the Britons themselves introduced it to the natives of many lands that make up the British Empire, upon which it has been said, the sun never sets.
Proclaimed as the National Game of England, 32 other countries are members of the International Cricket Council, located in London. The rules that govern the game all over the world are those drawn up by The Marleybone Cricket Club (MCC) in about 1788.
A medal awarded to Esau Bury for cricket, inscribed with his surname and initials and the initials of Darwen Cricket Club.
The game was introduced to the American colonies in the mid-18th century but never achieved widespread popularity in the United States.
Naturally, one suspects that the game has been played since that time in every corner of England by every generation of 'gentlemen'. I use the term loosely, as from time to time, it would appear to the casual observer that quite the opposite may be the case. The game is said to build character, courage and determination. To stand steadfast in the face of imminent danger, and to protect your wicket at all cost is a feat, if it can be achieved, that is held in the highest regard by those peers of the person achieving.
At first, those unfamiliar with the game may be forgiven for thinking that by a strange quirk of fate, they have happened upon some medieval ritual. Those relaying a description of the game to others not in the vicinity, use terms such as 'hitting the ball down to long on', or 'driving it through the covers', and 'he trickles the ball down into the gully'. A batsman is 'out' if the ball leaves the bat and is 'caught in slips', by those other men who are 'in the field', and who, incidentally are called 'fieldsmen.'
Another puzzling term is when a bowler is said to bowl a 'no ball' and the batsman, if he is quick enough, can belt it and still make a score! When a fieldsman is at 'silly point', he is almost within striking distance of the batsman's bat. This term then is self descriptive.
A batsman has to 'go in' before he 'goes out', and he can score without hitting the ball with the bat if the ball strikes his leg and it runs out into the field. This is called a 'leg bye'. If it hits him in the head, is that called a 'good bye?'
The bowler's objective is to 'break' the wicket, which are three round sticks, with grooves in the top which stand upright in the ground.
Two small specially shaped round wooden cylinders, called 'bails' lie in those grooves, along the top of the vertical sticks. A batsman who gets out without scoring a run is said to have 'made a duck'.
The man standing behind the wicket and the batsman is referred to as 'the keeper', no doubt something to do with the wickets resembling bars of a small cage. Perhaps this is where the keeper keeps all the ducks.
A medal awarded to Esau Bury in 1905 for cricket, inscribed with his surname and initials and the initials of Darwen Cricket Club.
No doubt you have to be a certain kind of person to play cricket, and whilst my own experience is very limited, (highest score, 11 runs), that was my major achievement on the cricket field, preferring to leave the more highly technical and academic details in much better and more experienced hands.
So it came as rather a surprise to learn that one of our early ancestors had been associated with this rather fascinating game at a higher level. Evidence has come to light indicating without doubt definite associations with the Darwen Cricket Club, near Blackburn in Lancashire, England.
A photograph of Esau Bury, the elder brother of John William Bury, grandfather of Norman Bury who won medals as a member of Darwen Cricket Club.
An old photo of Esau Bury and his family, together with some medallions, were kindly forwarded to me by two more recently discovered relatives, Mr Frederick Devine, and his sister Joan, who are in fact cousins of mine. Esau Bury is the older brother by six years, of my grandfather, John William Bury.
The front of a medal won by Esau Bury in 1904 for cricket, it is engraved with the initials of Darwen Cricket Club.
The medallions have been inscribed during consecutive years 1903, 1904 and 1905, with his initials and surname together with the initials of the Darwen Cricket Club and the above dates. If there is any one out there who knows of any records of the Darwen Cricket Club going back as far as the above dates, then I would very much appreciate hearing from you. Mr Frederick Devine has already made some considerable efforts on my behalf, to raise further information, but as yet, to no avail.
This piece uses information taken from Microsoft Encarta.
(Acknowledgement to Encarta 98) Norman J. Bury 12/02/04