Unsung Heroes – J. H. Hartley

Lowerhouse, like other Lancashire League teams, has a rich history of producing fine amateur cricketers.

Yet for every Hall of Fame listed player; there are many others who’ve played minor roles. Less games, less runs, less wickets. These players are often forgotten to history and in the words of Paul Simon, their story is seldom told. If you want to nominate such a player then contact Adam Hope and we’ll see if we can do something to celebrate their career.

This offer, though, doesn’t include super-fan Bob Spencer whose 2 not out at Haslingden in 1971 hardly constitutes a career, or makes much of a story, especially considering the man himself can’t remember the shot (or indeed shots) that made up that epic innings!

Unsung hero J. H. Hartley (1898-1902)   

Down the years we have seen many players who play mainly for the Seconds but come in to the Senior Team when required to, in effect, make up the numbers. J. H. Hartley was one such player. Hartley made his first team debut in 1898 scoring 4 versus Church. A week later he was stumped for a duck, becoming one of 9 victims for Burnley paid man Albert Hilton. Hilton was a Sussex man , born and bred, and was in the last of a 3 year stint at Turf Moor. Hartley was promptly dropped and it was several weeks later that he was back in the Firsts, batting at number 11, which would become almost his regular position. His last innings of that season saw scores of 12 not out, 8 and 5.

If Hartley dreamt of more First Eleven action in 1899 then he would have been severely disappointed. He was promoted just once making 1 not out.   It got better in the 1900 campaign but barely. He played in 3 matches making only 14 runs but in making 12, he’d equalled his highest score.  Just when Hartley’s career seemed stuck both in second gear and the second team, he found himself in demand in 1901. In fact he got 17 games in the first team. On May 11th he again scored 12 not out but was still entrenched at number 11 when he went to Lane Head, Bacup on June 1st. This game provided him with his moment of fame. Lowerhouse batted 49 eight ball overs before declaring on 170-9.

Hartley may have put his pads on but he was the only ‘House batter not to get in. Lowerhouse had left the home team with little time to attack the set target. In fact two overs before time was due to be called Bacup were 73-1 with a draw certain. Hartley had never bowled before in the Firsts and maybe because he hadn’t batted on the day, his captain through him the ball. Hartley soon got the opener Maden caught for 37. He then trapped John Midgeley LBW  He was the Uncle of Bacup legend James Midgeley who still holds the batting record at that club. Hartley had taken 2 wickets for just 1 run.

In the remainder of 1901 and the 9 games he was to play in 1902 he was never asked to bowl again. Therefore his bowling average of 0.50 per wicket is easily a Lowerhouse record, and is likely to remain so. Hartley did get promoted to open the batting at Enfield later in the season but was clean bowled for 1. He was down at number 9 when he excelled with 39 at home to Todmorden; this being three times higher than any other innings for the ‘House! Hartley hadn’t been rewarded for his bowling at Bacup and his career high with the bat saw him bizarrely  demoted to number 11 once again.

J. H. Hartley played 9 games in the first half of 1902 but only scored 26 runs but his 13 not out against East Lancs was his second highest score. He played his last ever game for Lowerhouse on June 21st at Dill Hall Lane , Enfield. After this he disappears from our radar for good.

Our unsung hero played 35 games over 5 seasons scoring 171 runs in 32 innings. His average was over 10 which was respectable for a tailender in that bowler dominant era. He held 10 catches. In modern parlance he was a journeyman cricketer, but the mystery and intrigue of why he never bowled a second career over, after getting 2-1 in his first, forever endures.

By Paul Hargreaves