Lest we forget.
There are many commemorations as we live through the centenary years of the Great War. At Lowerhouse C.C. we need to remember the loss of one of our very best amateur cricketers.
William (Billy) Whittaker was killed in France in 1918. He was such a good player that he qualifies as one of our elite performers who are in the Lowerhouse Hall of Fame as both a batsman and a bowler. He made a solitary appearance for the first team as a teenager in 1895 and by 1898 he’d nailed down a regular spot. Except for one season spells at Rishton, Ossett and Read he played at Lowerhouse right through to 1916.
He scored 4313 runs for the ‘House with 2 centuries and 14 fifties. As a bowler he took 333 wickets with 19 5-wicket hauls. He was having a field day in 1916 because of the weakened state of the Lancashire League. There were no professionals engaged and many top amateurs were in the forces. The League would shut up shop after the 1916 season was over; not returning until 1919. Billy took his best figures of his career when taking 8-28 at Turf Moor of all places. It was at this point of the season that the war intensified. The British at the Somme mounted a major push to overcome the established stalemate of trench warfare. The horrific number of casualties was unforeseen and would lead to Lord Kitchener’s appeal for extra volunteers by widening the age range of men who could enlist. On the day of Kitchener’s plea Billy was Lowerhouse’s star man. He scored 69 not out of a 111 final total against Accrington and he took 3 of the 4 opposition wickets to fall. Two weeks later he played his 258th and final match for his beloved Club. At home to Nelson he took 4-39 as he and Tommy Shutt bowled out the Seedhill side for 82.
Alas it didn’t end well as Lowerhouse failed in their pursuit. Whittaker was run-out for a duck. After being an ever-present Whittaker missed the last 5 games so it’s likely he enlisted at this time with the Welsh Regiment. After completing his training he left for France in August, 1917. On March 24th, 1918 he was reported wounded and missing in action. The Lowerhouse A.G.M. mourned the loss of one of their best of players. It wasn’t until May the following year that his sister who lived at 4 Fox St, Lowerhouse was informed that he was presumed dead. He is commemorated on the large Arras Memorial in France.
At the time of his passing William Whittaker was the second most prolific Lowerhouse amateur batsmen behind Joseph Cook and the second most prolific bowler behind only Tommy Shutt. The latter still holds the Club record of 76 wickets set in 1910. Yet before missing the last 5 games of 1916 William had already taken 71 wickets. The record was at his mercy but he answered the call of King and Country. We can only hope his heroism and selflessness will be remembered forever at Lowerhouse C.C.