Thanks to Anne Cochrane, for putting this together.
Uproar at a Burnley v Lowerhouse game – but this happened on 26 June 1937.
The Club has recently, gratefully, received from Joe Waterworth the hand-written Committee Minutes book from May 29 1934 to January 2nd 1941.
On 29th June 1937 it was moved that “Helm Spencer be left out of the team through his conduct in the Burnley game.“ This is what lay behind that decision to discipline the team captain.
Incidentally, Helm Spencer was a significant figure at the club for many years, and there is a family connection to this day. A promising county career as a seam bowler was cut short by WW1. After the war he played for Llanelli and qualified for Glamorgan. He played for Glamorgan in 1925 and 1926 then returned to the League as a pro from 1927-29, in 1930 he played for Lowerhouse as a pro , and then as an amateur until 1937 remaining involved with the club for many years afterwards. At the time of the incident he was nearing the end of his days as a player, and in his forties.
A scanned copy of the full match report is attached, and although it is worth the effort of reading, this is a summary of events.
The headline reads “Won in last Minute. Exciting Finish to Burnley-Lowerhouse Duel. Helm Spencer in Amazing Double Incident.” The writer states “if there was a spectator who did not get a thrill out of the finish of this long to be remembered duel, he ought to be made to watch country cricket for the rest of his days.” (How true still..)
However he deplored the scene which occurred when Lowerhouse skipper Helm Spencer was batting when “in successive overs…Spencer walked away from the wickets which each time were struck by the ball. In the first instance, Spencer, who walked away because he wanted the sight-boards moving, was allowed to stay; in the second instance, when he walked away as a protest against the barracking by a section of the crowd he was given out, but there was some considerable argument at the wicket, notably between him and the Burnley skipper, C. Walmsley, before he walked to the pavilion. He made the walk with the boos of the crowd ringing in his ears, some of the spectators so far forgetting themselves as to follow him to the door of the pavilion, hurling barbed criticisms at him the while. A most unpleasant affair it was, certainly not in the Lancashire League tradition.”
Click on the images to enlarge:
There then follows a detailed match report. Lowerhouse initially did well, with Drabble “the lanky lad” taking two wickets in five overs, but then the Burnley pro E.A. Martindale, made fifty, half in boundaries, which earned him a collection of nearly £10 which according to t’internet would be the equivalent today of £476! Burnley went on to declare at 217 for 7, leaving Lowerhouse 131 minutes to bat as this was timed cricket, not overs cricket. Looking at the final totals, Lowerhouse only got 114, but if they had been still batting at 7pm plus lost time, they would not have lost.
Lowerhouse made a decent start but then lost the top order. “So arrived Helm Spencer at the wicket to become the central figure in an incident which created, and will continue to create, a lot of argument. “ When the first incident occurred “what I saw was Spencer somewhere in the vicinity of the square-leg umpire when crack! the ball struck the unguarded wickets. For a second there was silence and then the crowd broke into a babble of argument.” There was no appeal, so Spencer, who said he had needed the sight screen moving, was not given out, and resumed his innings. This was apparently accepted as a misunderstanding “although there were a few spectators on the popular side anxious to exercise their lungs.”
However, facing Martindale, Spencer again walked to square-leg, the ball hit the wicket and this time the umpire gave him out. Spencer stayed put. “The Burnley players, gathered in little groups talking volubly, the umpire went to consult his colleague and again lifted his finger. Still the batsman made no move. Walmsley went to him, and Spencer apparently began to explain, emphasising his points with a movement of his free hand. The crowd voiced its opinion in no uncertain manner” and the debate continued. “Mr. Fred Constantine of the Lowerhouse committee,” had just started to walk out to the wicket when Spencer walked off, “he was loudly booed all the way. He stated afterwards that he moved away from the wicket as a protest against the abusive comments hurled at him by some spectators after the first incident.” This took up 8 minutes, which were added to the previous 11 minutes lost time in Lowerhouse’s innings, so contributed to their downfall, when the last man was out with only 1 minutes to go. “A great roar from the crowd signalised a great victory, while the players tumbled over each other with delight.” (So they didn’t just shake hands then!)
The takings at the Turf Moor Gate amounted to nearly £110 pounds, again allegedly worth £5200 at today’s value, but also meaning that as the general entrance fee was sixpence, at 40 sixpences to a Pound, there were possibly at least 4500 people on the ground, so even if only half of them were Burnley fans, that was still a lot of “barbed criticisms” being hurled at Helm, which probably didn’t bother him at all, and led to him being disciplined by the Committee . Who’d have thought it in those gentlemanly days….