as told by Albert Philp to Bruce Chandler
Formation of the Bray Parish club stemmed from a parish cricket match, the idea of Bray’s rector Canon Campbell. This match was played in 1954 on Lord Meath’s Killruddery estate between Christ Church and St.Paul’s. Albert Philp, a member of Leinster C.C. during the 1930’s, played in this match and together with his friends Eddie Whitten and Donald McCleane, a wicketkeeper, decided then to start a club in the parish.
Lord Meath provided a field off the Vevay Road and Bray Parish played their first match in 1955. There were friendlies only at first and the members mainly lived in Bray. Albert remembers Cyril Harvey, Cyril Gilbert, Charlie Lane, John Shiels, Ray Tarleton, Frank Talbot and John Leeson as members from those first days. In the second season growing enthusiasm prompted the club to enter Leinster competitions. Jim McKell, a useful bat from Dean’s Grange, joined and over ensuing years Albert remembers also Neville Packam, Norman Elliott, Eddie Nolan and Eddie Foster – another good batsman.
The club stayed for two seasons in Lord Meath’s field off Vevay road. Their arrangements were very simple. Players arrived togged out as there was no pavilion. Albert brought the stumps, pads etc. in the boot of his car. Players’ wives and girl friends provided teas at the boundary edge. Off the field things were simple too; the club had no committee and held no formal meetings and these informal arrangements remained throughout their twenty odd years of existence.
The free use of Lord Meath’s field did not prove satisfactory as the cricketers shared occupancy with a herd of cows. Dodging cow pats became a primary consideration when fielding. An opportunity to move to better conditions was taken in 1956 and the club moved further up the Vevay Road to a field situated on what is now Glendale Drive. This field belonged to the County Wicklow Lawn Lawn Tennis Club, which rented it to the cricket club. Albert Philp acquired an Atco lawn mower. He and a few others spent many hours behind this mower keeping the grass in order. This eventually became such a grind that Eddie Whitten had the bright idea of getting some sheep to keep the grass down. He persuaded the members that sheep currants were no problem compared to cow pats. Eddie’s farmer friend from Windgates provided the sheep and club appointed Charlie Lane as “Official Cricket Square Sheep Currant Remover”. Sheep evidence on the outfield was considered to be acceptable to fielding sides !.
These new arrangements worked well but came to a disastrous end. The tennis club was the venue each year for the East of Ireland Lawn Tennis Championships. The club had a fine flower garden. Their members were well used to compliments from important tennis visitors on the courts and surroundings. Then one night the sheep broke through the hedge from the cricket field and ate all the flowers right down to ground level. Thereafter a certain frostiness was maintained by tennis to cricket; the sheep returned to Windgates, the Atco was reinstated and the tennis club seriously investigated new uses for their field. Cricket on this field finished in 1964 when the tennis club sold the field for building. Lord Meath then found Bray a flat field at Killruddery and they had this field on a grace and favour basis for a few years until his lordship needed it again for farming.
Bray Parish had successes on the playing field culminating in the winning of the Minor Cup. In the early days Albert Philp opened the bowling at a steady slow medium pace. He was 45 when he revived his cricket career by founding the Bray club; his greatest feat with the bat came at Anglesea Road some years later. Batting against Merrion Thirds Albert reached 86. With plenty of time left his sights were on a century. However Bray’s captain Jim McKell thought Bray had amassed enough runs. Oblivious to Albert’s score he declared.
Eddie Whitten was a fine bat. Eddie had been accepted for the Royal Bank on leaving school but was placed on a waiting list. He went to England and became a teacher, spending his long summer holidays improving his cricket. Four years later he reached the top of the waiting list and joined the Royal.
As the club moved through the 1960s older players hung up their boots and Albert found it hard to get new members locally. His sons Clive and Ivan turned out for the club.Fred Lee, who later revived cricket in Bray, joined. Albert’s daughter Valerie scored every week for some years. Albert looked to the Royal Bank for new recruits and found a stream of Pembroke Wanderers hockey players with good eyes for a cricket ball. David Petrie, Charlie Hovendon, Graeme Moffatt and Geoff Simpson carried on the fortunes of Bray Parish. They even arranged for the club to play at Pembroke’s ground at Serpentine Avenue after the club left Killruddery. Yours truly was playing hockey for Pembroke in the mid 60s and got a last minute call to play for Bray against Man of War. The match was on their ground in north county Dublin. We were soundly beaten; I managed two runs with the bat.
Albert Philp played his last match for Bray in 1972 at the age of 62. Charlie Hovendon held the club together for a few years after that but Bray Parish C.C. fizzled out around 1976. Charlie may have some old scorebooks.