Sean McPartlin - Are you going to Scarborough…

25 Jun
Sean McP Are you going to Scarborough…..Cricket Scotland Blogger Sean McPartlin gives us his latest blog after taking a little trip to take in the first day of Yorkshire 2XI v Scotland A. 

There are places which haunt you for no other reason other than coincidence. 

Take Scarborough, for instance. When I lived for a time in Southport, in the sixties, the decline of English seaside resorts was such  that there was fierce rivalry. The towns eyed each other warily across the north of England. 

Southport had a cricket Festival – two three day county games with a Sunday League fixture in the middle. We were proud of this development, and the crowds it attracted.

I was pleased when the Hampshire burr of John Arlott intoned, “Welcome to this delightful seaside ground, the boundary ringed with colourful deckchairs, the tang of salt in the air…” until he added: “The perfect preparation for the archetypal seaside cricket festival at Scarborough at the end of August.”

We were jealous of the stars who were enticed to Scarborough, the touring teams, the buzz of high level performance. Cricket folk talked of “Scarborough” with reverence. I knew one day I would want to see for myself.. 

Not even the music scene provided any relief, and even when I was able to point out that Paul Simon had ripped off Martin Carthy’s arrangement of the melodic “Scarborough Fair”, it didn’t alter the fact that it was the Yorkshire town’s name in the charts. 

As a student, and  hopefully more mature, I was studying War Poet, Wilfred Owen. Already pleased at his Craiglockhart connection with my birthplace, I read that he spent some time in Southport when stationed nearby, only to discover that he had also written some of his best work when stationed at Scarborough and billeted in the  Clarence Gardens Hotel, or Clifton, as it is now known. 

It seemed Scarborough would continue to haunt me. 

I had never actually been there until this week when I took the opportunity to visit the fabled North Marine Rd ground to watch Scotland ‘A’ play Yorkshire 2 X1. 

Persistent rain greeted our arrival in the town, and we resorted to the cricket supporters’ pick me up – a bacon roll and a mug of tea in a local café. Spotting me as a cricket fan (should I be worried?) the waitress pointed out that the equivalent fixture had been rained off last year and she wondered if Paul Collingwood was still involved with the Scotland set up. It was an impressive level of cricketing interest! 

Arriving at Scarborough CC, the rain had stopped and the ground staff were making preparations  - better timing than I ever managed with a bat! The ground is an appealing mixture of old and new – a Victorian pavilion, a “Tea Room”, characteristic red brick houses along one side, rolling hills with a distinctive old church in the distance, and a couple of modern  plastic seated stands to compliment the original wooden benches. Only one street back from the ‘front’, it has that distinctive feel in light and breeze which distinguish seaside grounds. Adding to the air of nostalgia, a Dakota DC3 slowly flew past, on its way to who knows where; all we lacked was Vera Lynn! 

Knowing the sometimes convoluted rules of pavilions, we approached with caution – only to be welcomed, given the run of the place, and engaged in banter. As I’ve always found, Yorkshire folk cultivate a gruff image, but are actually open, friendly, and dryly humorous; it was a promising start. 

And so it was on the pitch. After an unfortunate non-striking end run out for Matty Parker, skipper Mommsen and Hamish Gardiner batted extremely well, mixing a solid foundation with some aggressive stroke making. The local spectators were impressed as they built a hundred partnership, and the Yorkshire lads played their part competitively. Sitting with a  pint on the balcony, there was that sense of well being which only cricket can engender. 

It was  a good day’s cricket, garnished with a wee trip to the promenade at Tea to see where Owen wrote some of his best poems. Blue skies had emerged, white breakers fringed the sand, and the old castle high on the cliffs gave a sense of occasion. I’d explained to Craig Wright that I was only down for the day, but suddenly I was wondering if a longer stay would have been a better idea. 

The final memory from childhood concerned those BBC icons “The Likely Lads”. Terry spent an episode trying to discover the middle name of his mate, Bob. Eventually, when the wedding banns are proclaimed, he discovers it: “Scarborough? Robert Scarborough Ferris?????” 

In his unique blend of embarrassment and nostalgic pride, Bob explains: “My dad was stationed there in the war, it’s where I was, you know, conceived.” 

Never remotely empathetic,Terry’s response was  predictable: “Really? Well it’s just as well for you it wasn’t Bognor….” 

If Scarborough had haunted me through my life, my first visit had proved conclusively that she was a friendly ghost! 

So, it was A Grand Day Out, as Southport native and Wallace and Grommet creator, Nick Park, might have had it – and I don’t think he had any Scarborough connections!


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