A Stormy AGM…

At the forthcoming AGM, it is proposed  “that the club name shall be altered to Burnley West End.”

Don’t panic – this was in January 1933, and when the meeting opened the motion had been struck, the Chairman had spoken to the proposer, a member of the committee, and “consequent upon a letter received from the Lancashire League, they had decided that such an alteration was impossible at the present time”. “Nor any other”! came the cry.

According to the Burnley Express of 4th February 1933, amid “stormy scenes”, the perilous  financial affairs of the club came under intense scrutiny. It is clear, reading between the lines, that things got very heated indeed.

“Money Troubles at West End”

The Club had sustained a considerable loss of nearly £300.  (Whilst it is difficult to compare historic values, t’internet tells us £50 then is over £2000 now, so it was a significant amount.)

The Chairman rightly pointed out that the severe depression in the Burnley District had continued. (The report of the AGM appears next to a debate on whether the Public assistance committee were allowed to provide clogs for poor children so they could go to school. The short answer was no.)  They had had the cricket, the First Eleven with professional Edwin St. Hill finished fifth, but not the support and a lot of people had used tickets which they had not paid for,  even though “there were facilities for the hardest hit to extend their payment to suit their circumstances. “ However, he urged members not to panic.  He was proud to be Chairman. Keep flying the flag!

Then the inquisition started, the charge being led by Mr. W. Bailey.

Travelling expenses had gone up by £50, “more details would clear the atmosphere”. The explanation given was, perhaps unsurprisingly, more travelling, “more friendlies, compensation for loss of work and cost of teas etc.”  The suspicion must have been that someone was making a quid or two.

There was a £55 increase in ground expenses to £101 being more than the previous two seasons combined, why spend so much in such hard times?

The Chairman replied that as there had been complaints about the seating with  threats of “possible claims”, and “with the attraction they had in Mr. St. Hill and several outstanding amateurs”, the Committee had felt it essential to  provide more benches. If you want people to come, they need somewhere to sit.  Plus,  as always, repairs to the mower.

Then came the thorny issue of “the Dance balance sheet”.  Several members asked why the financial results of the Dance organised in December 1931 had not appeared in the club balance sheet for either 1931 or 1932. This had obviously caused a lot of ill will and speculation.  The Chairman and Treasurer distanced themselves from this hot potato, claiming no knowledge, as the Dance had been organised entirely by a member of the  committee and the Ladies.  That committee member was the same gentleman as had proposed the name change, so perhaps that had been a diversionary tactic?

“After considerable heated discussion”,  the beleaguered committee man made a statement,  he obviously felt his reputation was at stake.

The ladies had asked him to organise a fund-raising Dance. At first it was just going to be in the clubroom,  but then the Cotton Queen had said she would attend, so it had been moved to the Mechanics. He had told the Committee this, (including you, Mr. Bailey) and they had agreed.

It had made a loss.“It looks like I have been trying to run Lowerhouse Cricket Club, but there was a 33 shillings deficit for printing, which I paid myself. I did my best, single-handed.”

As feelings were obviously running too high, Mr. Bailey then made some conciliatory remarks.  Explanation accepted, but it should still have appeared in the accounts, profit or loss, and he moved to accept the balance sheet. He said the AGM presented an opportunity to air feelings, he was not being antagonistic, and hoped “his views would be taken in the spirit in which they had been given, and the club could look forward to prosperity in future years with harmony and goodwill among the members.”

The retiring treasurer, Mr. Wilkinson, who had come all the way from his new home in Manchester specially, asked for “sympathy not destructive criticism. “

Messrs. Kneeshaw were re-appointed auditors, despite the suggestion that the club could save money by doing it themselves.

In conclusion, the vociferous  Mr. Bailey, appealed for economy, unity and enthusiasm.  Lowerhouse didn’t have the money to emulate Nelson, Blackburn or Rishton, they should obtain a good pro for as little as possible and economy be made a general rule.

That is in fact what happened. St. Hill had been re-signed for 1933 season, so the wage bill remained high for another season, but by the next AGM St. Hill had departed to Slaithwaite, J.R. Milne an experienced, cheaper pro was signed andt strict economies meant the loss was greatly reduced to £50.

“The Dance” which caused so much fuss, and the significance of the Cotton Queen’s intervention is the subject of a separate write-up.

By Anne Cochrane

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