This is the text of a speech I gave to the annual supper of the Oakfield Parkonians Cricket Club in 2015.
Founded in 1906 as an Old Boys Association, the Club changed its name in 2014 to reflect changing membership and also to stake a claim to our home ground, Oakfield Playing Fields, at the time under threat from the local council with being given over to housing.
Welcome Ladies & Gentlemen, Guests, Friends, Old Boys, old players, new players, current players…to the annual supper of the Oakfield Parkonians Cricket Club.
Why am I here?
It is more than 20 years since I last stood up in front of a Club Supper to speak. That was before the season when I was Club Captain and 1st XI skipper.
Four League games won, and just two defeats, in my season as 1st XI skipper, since you asked, reversing the disappointing stats from the previous season. All “time” games, back then, so 9 were drawn, however — not exactly box office!
I think there are only one or two players still with the Club who were playing back then, and only me from that 1st XI.
Perhaps not surprising, if the results from the decade 1985-95 are a fair reflection of the cricket we played…
Different times, certainly. We might claim that we were more sociable, back then. We certainly drank more. And if anyone wants to challenge that, I strongly suggest that you don’t.
A crate of Guinness, after a game at Mossford was rained off? Between two?
Not good, not good at all.
No wonder we didn’t win many games…surprising, with hindsight, that we could play at all…
Welcome to the Oakfield Parkonians Cricket Club.
The Oakfield Parkonians, the new name for a Club that is now entering its 109th year.
We have been based here at Oakfield Playing Fields for nearly 30 years, so the association with the ground is well established. The new name makes sense.
But why “Parkonians”?
Well, because when we re-founded the Club in 2014, we wanted to continue the long tradition of the Old Parkonians Cricket Club. And as anyone who has ever been in the Members Lounge next door will know, there is a lot of tradition, of which we remain very proud.
Parkonians? Who are they?
As there are not so many Old Parkonians here this evening, I thought it might help to offer a definition — an Old Parkonian is a former pupil of the Ilford County High School.
The School was founded in 1901 as the Park Higher Grade School.
The first “Old Parkonians” were a football club founded by masters at the school, less than a year later, in March 1902.
The Cricket Club followed in 1906, and retained the Parkonians name, even though the School had by then already been renamed as the County High School, Ilford.
We still have our links with the School, with young players in the Colts and senior sections, and more Old Boys on Committees.
But we have not been a closed Old Boys Club for many years, and the change of the Club name reflected this.
Into the 21st Century — a twitter spat
Just the other week I had to explain on twitter that no, we are not @OldParkonians. That’s the Old Parkonians on the Wirral (formerly the Old Boys of Birkenhead Park School), now a rugby and cricket club.
I tweeted a line about the Club that we have used on our website — “We used to be “Old”, but not anymore”, only to be told by a follower that we should ”respect the past and the people who made Old Parks history.”
As someone who has played for the Club for nearly 40 years (a mere beginner, I know, compared to some of the former players here tonight), I held my tongue – I know that we do respect our past, and I did not want to get into a twitter-spat over a name.
But it did set me thinking.
What is a “Parkonian”?
Well, I gave you the formal definition just now — an Old Parkonian is an old boy of the school formerly known as Park Higher Grade School.
But more specifically, I wanted to share with you three stories from my time with the Club, which I hope will encapsulate what it means to be a Parkonian, Old or young.
1976 — in my first season of senior cricket, I was introduced to an elderly man with a remarkable history. I certainly did not know it at the time, but Doug Kesby was perhaps the archetypal “Old Parkonian”.
What I saw was a bowler with an impeccably high bowling arm even in his late 60s, when we played in the same Extra 3rd XI team.
What I didn’t know was that this was man who served 50 years as Club Secretary, whilst claiming an astounding 2,862 wickets for the Club. To put that figure into context — Doug’s wicket tally has only relatively recently been exceeded by the totals of the next three bowlers on the all-time lists, added together.
Now he was an Old Parkonian.
Forward 10 years, or so, to a much less enviable record.
To a 1st XI that did not win a single League game for two and a half seasons. Or was it three and a half?
You won’t find this record in the official Centenary history of the Club, and our estimable archivists have not extended the website record this far back, fortunately. But I was there, and I remember.
We really weren’t a bad side. We had some good cricketers, some very good cricketers in the team.
But we could not win a game.
Still, we enjoyed turning out on a Saturday and Sunday (yes — most of us played both days — it was the only way to get a win), and were uncommonly pleased with ourselves when we finally did break the run of defeats with a win against (I think), West Essex.
We were Parkonians.
Fast forward now to a couple of weeks ago, at the Frenford Club, the old PLA ground.
The indoor A team had already won their division, and promotion to the top division of the Metropolitan Essex District Cricket Board Indoor Cricket League (#MEDCBICL) for next winter.
The A team fielded a mix of 1s & 2s players, and achieved their second promotion in two indoor seasons.
The B & C teams, playing at the new Frenford Club, fielded squads that mixed experience with youth, fathers with sons, over-40s and under-16s.
Both B and C teams had won through to their respective plate competitions.
And both lost.
And in spite of putting a brave face on the losses, it was very obvious that they really hurt.
And I believe that that is the spirit of the new Parkonians, the Oakfield Parkonians of the 21st century.
From Doug Kesby, a Club legend, via a team that could not win, and defeats in the MEDCBICL Gerry Seeberan Plate and Moran Farnsworth Plate competitions, to a Club that no longer hopes not to lose, but one which expects to compete, and to win.
Not a bad legacy for the Parkonians, I hope you will agree.