The Fondu Cricket Club:1951-1967


   
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When the Fondu Cricket Club first started the groundsman was Albert Gurnett. Previous to this Albert looked after the bowling green and baseball pitch. When cricket came along Albert found it all a bit of a handful preparing the pitch etc. So it was arranged that Harold Shulver should go up to the ground in the afternoons and help prepare the pitch and was given the full time job when Mr Gurnett retired in about 1952/3. In later years members of the cricket team regularly cut the pitch on a Wednesday night, with Mr E. John Sach (familiarly known as ‘Lofty’) towing the mower behind his old Humber car.

During 1951 the cricket scoreboard was made by the works carpenters and put up at the sports club. Also a strip of concrete was laid in the far south-east corner of the field as a practice strip; nets and poles were added later. The AGMs of the cricket section were held at the sports club and the chairman took any requests etc. to Mr Claughton who played in early matches and was always very sympathetic to the section’s requests. Through him and Mr Soar the cricket section obtained various pieces of equipment over the early years – bats, balls, stumps, gloves, caps etc., also a white marker for the boundary, a mower and roller for the pitch. A request for a larger piece of equipment, the sight screens, was also agreed and the works carpenters made and erected them in about 1952 or ’53. Mr Soar brought all the cricket gear for away matches, for he was the only one with a car in those early days. When he left Mr Sach took over this job. During the early years George Page and Harold Shulver did the scoring at different times.

At an early AGM the subject of cricket coaching was brought up. Mr Shulver spoke to Mr Claughton about it and later, much to the team’s surprise, they heard that he had arranged for interested members to be coached by Essex players for an hour on a Sunday afternoon at Romford. This took place in the winters of 1952/53 and 1953/54. The indoor nets were behind a pub in the centre of Romford. The team had to pay their own travelling expenses and about half of the coaching fee, the Fondu sports club paying the rest. It was a great thrill for some of the team to be coached by Essex 1st XI players like ‘Sonny’ Avery, Frank Vigar and Bill Dines. The Fondu players involved were George Riley, Colin Cook, Peter Leach, Clifford Dean, Alan Shulver and a few others. Two people who definitely got something out of it were G. Riley and C. Cook. George later became a great all-rounder for the Fondu and other clubs. Colin was also to become a much improved batsman playing for Fondu and Tunnel Cement.

The sports pavilion had a bar and changing facilities, with showers in a lean-to at the back. About 1955 or ’56 improvements were made providing much better changing rooms and toilets; the kitchen and bar were also made larger. The kitchen was used for preparing teas, several ladies being involved including Mrs Kit Leach, Mrs Jessie Sach and Mrs Florrie Shulver. Mrs Leach took some of the food to the clubhouse by bicycle, but the Saches conveyed most of the provisions in their car. The teas usually consisted of a salad (cheese, egg, pilchards or the famous ‘Spam’), bread and butter, jam, cakes and delicious scones home made by Kit Leach. The water for the tea was boiled up in an urn and there were two large brown teapots to supply the seemingly endless cups of tea. The opposing team used to send a postcard each week, giving names of players and guests, also the numbers requiring teas. There were often several guests and the Fondu teas were much appreciated, usually in a thank-you speech after the meal. When they were playing against the boys from the Ardale School every scrap of food was eaten!

Harold Shulver outside the Fondu pavilion

It was a family orientated club and the children of the cricketers spent many an enjoyable afternoon together. ‘Lofty’ Sach had two sons who played, John and David. Derek Phillips and his nephew David also played, together with father and son George and Peter Leach and Harold’s son Alan Shulver. When there were not enough Fondu workers to complete a side family and friends were roped in.

The Fondu was a very friendly team and the atmosphere was quite relaxed. Sometimes the game was over too soon and this was followed by a ‘beer match.’ This consisted of 11 overs a side, where all the team bowled one over. There was some big hitting in these matches – the losing side buying the beer! To the east of the Fondu ground was a cornfield and to the north, a wood. Sometimes the ball went into the woods or field. The trouble was finding the ball and sometimes they didn’t. Each year there was a social for the cricket section at the sports club, when the ‘Swing Nuts’ usually played the music.

There were no league tables at that time so the games were all friendly. There was however a Thurrock Knock-Out Competition, which Fondu managed to lose mostly in the first round. The Gazette reported in the late 1950s that there were over 40 Clubs playing in the area. Most of the local teams were company orientated – Hedleys, Stork, Lathol, Thames Board Mills, Gragas, The Post Office, Interknit and Shell, to name but a few. But there were also other groups including Grays Parish Church and Old Palmerians.

The following reports from the Thurrock Gazette show that the team’s success rate was mixed:

6 June 1952 – This game at Purfleet on Saturday ended in a draw, Fondu scoring 152 and Tunnel 2nd XI 33 for 8 wickets at close of play. Tunnel were lucky to force a draw. The rivalry of next door neighbours brought our old friend Harry Soar on to the battlefield again on Saturday, when Fondu met Tunnel and he jumped straight into form with a fine innings of 48 not out. Gregory hit 27 runs and took 4-9.

21 August 1953 – After getting away to a good start, Fondu were at one stage 64 for three wickets, Leach having made 47. In a sudden collapse the next five wickets fell without any addition to the score and the home team were all out for 73. Inland Revenue were never in difficulty and they hit the runs for the loss of only one wicket.

17 May 1957 – Skipper hits Old Boys out of trouble: A fine innings of 31 by Old Palmerians’ skipper Rex Page won the match for them by four wickets at Chadwell on Saturday. Earlier their opening bowlers Tofts and Garvey had broken the back of the Fondu batting by dismissing six batsmen for 18 runs. Courageous batting by the tail-enders, however, carried the score to 53. The Old Palmerians started as badly as their opponents, five wickets being down for 18 runs. Then Page came in and by aggressive batting (six fours in his 31) he pulled the game round.

16 June 1961 – Seven runs to win, one wicket to fall: Batting first at Purfleet on Sunday, Horndon scored freely and by tea had made 148 for six wickets, when they declared. Morgan finished with 58 not out and Vereker scored 24. Fondu also scored well in their reply mainly due to Foster (42) and Riley (39). The match had a grand finish, with Fondu needing seven runs for victory with one wicket to fall and Ferdinand and Leach managed to score the necessary runs.

5 June 1964 – South Ockendon 2nd XI entertained Fondu on Saturday and lost by six wickets. Fondu were supposed to bat first after losing the toss but their gear was late in arriving and South Ockendon went in. They soon lost four wickets but then a good stand of 54 between Lee and Ellison put them on a firmer footing. They declared at tea with 116-8 on the board. When Fondu replied they lost their openers with only six on the scoresheet. Then Riley (31) and Warren (who finally made 51 not out) took the score to 80 before being parted. Another wicket fell, but Warren saw his side safely to victory.

26 May1967 – K.O. for Fondu: Tunnel ran out easy winners of this Thurrock and District Cricket Association Knock-Out Competition (first round) match at Aveley on Monday. But they made a slow start when they batted, due to good bowling and fielding by Fondu, but, thanks to Payne (27), Vaughan (16) and Walsh (16), they made 78 runs in 16 eight-ball overs. After a good start by the first three Fondu batsmen, the remainder of the order collapsed due to some good catches and run-outs.

21 July 1967 – Fine 73 by Fondu man: Fondu’s innings was given a great start at Purfleet on Sunday by a superb hit of 73 by Riley. But only Warren and Leach (both 14) managed to get into double figures and Fondu were all out for 126. Brown took 6-43. When South Ockendon Hospital batted, apart from opener Blows (16), they collapsed and only a last-wicket stand of 34 gave the score a look of respectability.

Sometimes bad weather prevented play and other times fixtures were not reported. There were no e-mails in those days and somebody had to take the report personally to the Gazette office in Orsett Road, Grays. Over the years fewer and fewer Fondu employees played and the inclusion of outside players made for a variable team Even outside players became scarce and the club folded at the end of the 1967 season. Some of the players, including Brian Anthony, Peter Leach, George Riley and Dennis Warren went to play for the Stork Cricket Club.

Grays Co-op were losing their ground at Bridge Road and took over the Fondu ground in 1968, using the Fondu name for a season or two. By 1998 a new clubhouse for the Bowls Team had been erected to the north of the bowls green, the original cricket field and clubhouse being replaced with housing in the late 1990s.

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