‘GICC chalks up its century’

by Rob Batiste        Guernsey Press      25 March 2023

The Guernsey Island Cricket Club – ‘GICC’ – remember them? They play very irregularly these days, but still exist to celebrate their centenary in 2023. Indeed, it was this very month that Guernsey’s version of the MCC was formed set out its store to take island cricket forward. Playing under the guise of the ‘Island Cricket Club’, the aim of the new 1923 sporting creation was to ‘function in the same manner as the MCC did on the mainland’. That would not mean taking to the field in egg and bacon colours or parading in blazers and ties of the same gaudy colours, but to give impetus and direction to an island cricket scene which had fallen quiet after the intervention of the First World War.

It was on a cold March night 100 years ago that the Elizabeth College Hall was utilised for the public meeting organised and well patronised by Guernsey cricket enthusiasts. Rev W Campbell Penney, the College principal, took the chair due to the indisposition of the intended director of proceedings, Bailiff Sir Havilland de Sausmarez who had written a note to say how anxious he was that the island ‘further the interests of the historical summer game’.

Supporting the chairman was Major ER Morres, the former Minor Counties cricketer who had moved to the island a couple of decades earlier and had been a powerhouse performer for the now defunct Grange CC. Major Morres introduced the project, pointing out that post Grange CC, who largely controlled and directed the game in the early years of the 20th century, there was now no central body, no collective effort to bring together the whole of Guernsey’s available cricketing talent ‘into the prominence that would be essential in fostering the game to its utmost on these shores’. Simply, said the Major, the aims would be to replicate the MCC, constitute a central body capable of supplying information to all clubs and arrange fixtures with some of the best amateur talent in England, while also selecting Island representative teams.

In addition, they would take a gate at all games and set up a junior section. Subscriptions would be available to both players and non-players with the cheaper sub allowing both entrance to the ground but also the members’ enclosure and tea tent. As to who would make the sandwiches and pour the tea, Major Morres said there was clearly a need for lady members to assist in the catering and he went as far as suggesting that ‘the Parsons should organise village cricket in the outlying parts of the island’.

Swiftly enough, the March meeting was declared as the first annual general meeting of the new club which would have the Bailiff as its president, the Lt-Governor, Sir J E Capper, as its patron. Major Morres was elected club captain and Mr E B Waite, long-time driver of the game at Elizabeth College where he taught and as something of a legend, was vice-captain. Chris Rawlinson, a popular headmaster at Amherst and a future Guernsey Football Association president, was the founding secretary. Andrew Marshall was the inaugural treasurer.

Club colours were agreed as green and white with a narrow blue stripe and two months later on the afternoon of Saturday 19 May at the College Field, the Island CC played their very first of the many hundreds of matches they would play over the duration of the next 10 decades. Elizabeth College were natural providers of the first opposition and the first ball to be faced in the history of Island CC was the responsibility of a new face in local cricket circles, the Rev A Eames who had played a good standard in Gloucestershire. The vicar was soon ‘driving with free and easy abandon to the off’, wrote the Guernsey Press, while a Capt Schreiber briefly watched on from the other end in a first wicket stand of 21.

Rev Eames went for 13 soon after and but for a pair of 20s from middle order men Oscar Blad and Gerald Stone, the new club would have fallen well short of three figures. As it was, their total of 103 proved well out of reach for the College in a non- vintage year. Faced with the pace of OE and pre-war star Edward Mockler, the College were shot out for just 27, Mockler proving almost unplayable in returning figures of 6 for 5 from nine overs.

Other highlights of the club’s historic maiden summer was their first century, scored by P de Putron against the stationed King’s Regiment, games against their Jersey counterparts and hosting the likes of Weymouth CC over two days and the August festival star attractions, the E B Noel XI. Rain put an early end to the mid-June game against Jersey, but a couple of months later the two clubs met for Channel Islands Olympiad* points in the sister isle in front of the Jersey Lt Governor.

The match ended in a high scoring draw, GlCC setting their rivals 286 to win after openers John Perry (40) and WH Martin (66) had got the visitors off to a flier and Major Morres cracking 70 at No 4. Morres then took three wickets and Perry a couple, but the home team were eight down and 32 short of victory when stumps were drawn.

With the whites put away for the winter, the club members regathered in March 1924 to record the maiden season as a success. Results had been ’eminently satisfactory’, they were able to boast 32 playing members, 113 non-playing members including 51 ladies, and 40 juniors in a branch which was a ‘healthy, virile and enthusiastic adjunct’. Major Morres took the view though that there were not enough youngsters and the answer would be to make more of the Intermediate Boys School.

On the plus side, the experiment of taking a gate proved successful, especially at the Olympiad game in Jersey which was a ‘complete success’. As for the players, it was recognised that the new club were fortunate to have the services of Capt EC Mockler and Messrs MO Lewis, CS Barlow and CGW Robson, all resident visitors for the important matches taken on.

‘GICC’ was not only born but in decent health, in the College Field they had use of a top facility, and within two years the real MCC had paid a first visit.

The scorecard from the 1923  Olympiad cricket fixture

It was late July and despite two days being reserved to complete the two-innings game, rain intervened and the match abandoned on day two. Not, though, before Guernsey’s cricketing folk got to see some top-class batting from the recently retired England and Nottinghamshire Test batsman, Joe Hardstaff snr. Old Joe, who had scored a stack of runs on the MCC (England) tour of Australia in 1907-08, made an attractive 61 at the College Field on day one, and with Glamorgan county opener NVH Riches chipping in with his own half-century, MCC amassed 198 first up.

Joe Hardstaff Snr, England and Nottinghamshire

By the end of day one Island CC had been shot out for 95, Hardstaff taking 4 for 24 and the home side saved from complete disaster by an undefeated 27 from a Colonel Budgen batting at seven. Budgen had his eye in to the extent he was asked to keep his pads on and open the second innings just before the close by which time Hardstaff had bowled Morres for a duck. That first MCC side to arrive on island shores was led by Sir Theodore Brinckman who would go onto lead MCC in a three-Test series against, of all countries, Argentina.

MCC clearly enjoyed the Guernsey run-out because thereafter they kept coming back and, other than the Occupation years, have continued to be annual arrivals. As for Island CC, it was not long – the 1930s – before they were playing as Guernsey Island Cricket Club and attracting all sorts of opposition to these shores, some very good, some not so good and some bad. And the majority of those visiting teams departed believing they had played against the Island, the best of Guernsey. That has very seldom, if at all, the case, but until recent times GlCC has fulfilled an important role in not only selling the island cricket scene, but giving local players the platform to play mostly good cricket against tourists.

* THE Olympiad was, for a short period after the First World War, a Channel Islands version of the Olympics. Guernsey and Jersey would compete against one another in a wide variety of sports and, for instance, in 1923, the formation year, they would clash in cricket, football, swimming, water polo, men’s and women’s hockey, badminton, boxing, golf and tennis. It all sounded good, but doomed to fail as very quickly there were arguments over eligibility issues and financial support to some sports, but not others. Cricket fell into that latter category and when the Island CC met in March 1924 to discuss their first season and the new one ahead, Major Morres bemoaned the fact that they had to pay for their travel costs while the footballers had not. For the record, Jersey resoundingly won the first Olympiad of 1923, scoring 315 points to our 205. Guernsey’s only successes came on the football field, men’s hockey and badminton.