Clifford Atherton – Obituary

Lowerhouse Cricket Club 1st XI playing Norden Cricket Club 1st XI in a Lancashire League Senior Division One match at the Brooks Foundation Ground in Lowerhouse, Burnley on May 5th 2019 in Lancashire (Photo by Tom Jenkins)

Club life member and elder statesman Clifford Atherton has also passed away. Clifford’s association with Lowerhouse CC is unparalleled. Clifford has undertaken a plethora of roles at the club including volunteer, scorer, committeeman, signing professionals, team manager, secretary, and groundsman. In appreciation of Clifford’s involvement he was latterly a life member and he was still attending matches in 2018 as a nonagenarian. I was very pleased to be able to see him a month ago at the club with daughter Kay over from Australia, and he still had that mischievous twinkle in his eye.

Clifford cared passionately about the club. From when I first met him in the 1960s Clifford bounced around the club like a superball. He was simply infectious with his care for the club and his desire to help in what was in those days, a matter of survival.

As team manager Clifford provided us with a wealth of enjoyment through his enthusiasm, readiness to engage in banter and some comic cuts moments.

During a particularly dark season circa 1979, money tight, performances poor and situation desperate, we played Church in the first round of the Worsley Cup. Clifford ended his team talk with “I don’t want to put any pressure on you lads, but lose this and we go bust “Say no more. Church 59 all out and a ten wicket win for the House. 

After a Churchillian rousing team talk at Burnley, Clifford so enthused himself that after shouting “Go get ‘em “ he threw the changing room door open , pulled himself up on to the door lintel and swung like a monkey from it … and in so doing booting the Burnley chairman in the face . The gentleman that he was, Peter Lawson, who had known Clifford for years, saw the funny side of it. As indeed did we.

I could go on. I still have the diaries from those days. Clifford featured a lot, often with his sparring partner Brian Higgin. No doubt we will all have a Clifford story to tell at the wake. At his peak Clifford was one of the most known men in the Lancashire League.

Clifford was a very generous man, often dipping into his own pocket to tide players over to the next pay day or lending them the money for a social or even paying subs. Not all players had cars in those days and Clifford would ferry people about above and beyond the call of duty.

Clifford was also known throughout local football, not only as a character but as a well-respected referee. The Sunday league derby between Lowerhouse Canteen and the Lane Ends was always keenly fought over with us – the Lane Ends – always underdogs against a very good Canteen team. The game was always refereed by Clifford with Canteen co- manager Peter Atherton running the line. We never stood a chance!

One of the problems in living into your nineties is that you have left a lot if not all of your contemporaries behind. Nevertheless the younger generation will never let Clifford or his efforts be forgotten. Clifford’s children, grandchildren and extended family are steeped in the club, and many of us will continue to toast Clifford, and those peers of his generation who have been similarly noted in these columns before. Whatever success we have had in the last 15 years could not have come without Clifford and those who steered the club through the much more difficult times. Never was so much owed by so many, to so few.

Clifford’s funeral will be at Burnley Crematorium on Wednesday October 23rd at 14.20 followed by a wake at Lowerhouse Cricket Club.

Our deepest sympathies are extended to Peter, Carol and Kay, all the grandchildren and Clifford’s family

Stan Heaton