The First 25 Years - By Bill Polson, Club President
Mitre played their first match on 4th May 1954 against the Anglican Students' Union who were defeated by 4 wickets. I was aware of that match from two sources. It was brought to my attention by my Sunday School teacher and mentor, the late Dick Watt who was at the time playing for Penicuik, having previously played for Carlton.
I also spotted the picture we have of that first team taking the field on a carousel of photographs in the front window of the former Scotsman office on North Bridge. I recognise two players in the picture, Eric Knott of Melville F.P., the first secretary of the Club, and Sholto Morton, who played Saturday cricket for Manor CC. The first captain was David Haskoll who says 'The only part of me in the picture is my right arm ...'
Knott and Haskoll had been instrumental in forming 'The Mitre' as a means of providing a summer activity for members of the Scottish Episcopal Church Youth Fellowships in Edinburgh. As well as the normal winter meetings of individual fellowships, there was also a combined drama and concert group called 'The Mitre Players'.
In the beginning, and for many years to follow, the club only played midweek cricket, but it was able to draw on an array of talented players who played in some very good teams on Saturday afternoons. These included such players as Ken Sutherland, a forcing bat, and the Frost brothers, all of whom like Eric Knott were members of Melville F.P.; Douglas Mann Snr, who nowadays would be described as a batsman who bowled, and played for Royal High captaining their 2nds for many years; Findlay and Eric Orr of Trinity Academicals formed a swift opening attack, while Mike Bond had attended Edinburgh Academy and played for Grange.
The formation of the club had attracted some press coverage in which entry into The Church Times Cup was suggested as a possible development. I am not sure that an entry into this national (UK) competition would have been accepted as my understanding that teams had to consist entirely of the clergy. Another suggestion was the running of a supporters' bus to Milton Bridge for the match against Royal Scots Depot. There is no way of knowing whether that happenned or not, but it certainly seems to be the big match of that season according to David Haskoll who recalls 'bowling my old C.O. with a ball that bounced twice after I had fallen flat on my face.'
I played my first match for Mitre on 29th July 1957 at Sighthill where we won against Laidlaw Drew & Co, a forerunner of Elldee who went on to reconstitute themselves as Corstorphine, now playing in the Scottish National Cricket League. I was dropped 5 times in scoring 22, a tally that it took many seasons to surpass, and took a catch in the gully in the first over of the home side's innings. A few days before that I had got as far as getting into my playing kit at Rossynlee Hospital, in a wooden building resembling a pagoda, but rain prevented any play. I remember the later stages of the car journey there as we rounded a hairpin bend and were then faced with a notice board warning of the danger of explosions.
By that time, Gilbert McIntosh had become captain, Eric Knott was his vice-captain and Sholto Morton was secretary. While in Edinburgh, Gilbert played for the Edinburgh Dental Hospital and Brunswick in the East League which at that time consisted of just one division with only two Grade Leagues. On completing his dental studies, Gilbert moved to Aberdeen where he became a prominent player for Aberdeenshire and the Mannofield XI. Sholto Morton always added class and distinction to our side as he wore a Winchester Colleage cap, and sometimes their blazer.
Following my debut, I played in wins over Customs and Excise at Inverleith Park, the Nomads at the Meadows, and Wellington Farm School. Nomads were a very strong side which included East League and Grade players such as Eric Mentiplay and Alistair Boal. In those days the changing rooms at Inverleith Park were at the southern end of the pitch and had a bandstand in front of them, and I think there was an occassion when a brass band concert started about 7 'o' clock with our match already in progress. Bowlers were running in to such tunes as 'In a Monastery Garden' and all the players tood to attention when the concert ended with the national anthem.
Then Sholto Morton's job with the insurance company, Scottish Union and National took him away from Edinburgh, and others moved away from the city around the same time, and regular midweek matches ceased.
However from 1960 to 1965 a match was played at the Provincial Youth Committee's garden party at Dalmahoy, opposite the golf course. The garden party matches were organised by the late Canon Kenneth McCutcheon in his dual role as Rector of St Mary's, Dalmahoy, and provincial youth organiser. The crowds at these matches were the largest I have ever played in front of. Rain cancelled the match in 1966, but it is these games which link the original club to the current one that resumed operations as Mitre on 10 June 1967.
The combined influence of approval from Canon McCutcheon and the donation of a bag of kit, from which some of the stumps are still in service, encouraged our reactivation. Our first opponents in the new era were Coates Hall Theological College. Mitre were victorious by 11 runs. Coutes Hall gained ample revenge the following year with a win by 90 runs, but with the personal consolation of my first hat trick for the club.
The next four years saw us struggling to field a full team, and consequently almost always making paltry scores. It was said at the time that a score of 50 gave the bowlers something to bowl at. We frequently faced opponents with two or three players missing. Some of the Coates Hall students turned out for us in our other fixtures, and with judicious recruiting of friends of members of the Episcopal Church Youth Fellowships, we grew both in numerical strength and in the number of fixtures played each season.
In the 1970, we re-entered the Public Parks' Cricket Association Trophy, and in that year we came close to proving the adage about reaching 50. Having made 54-8, we lost to Maccabi by 3 wickets off the second last ball of their scheduled 18 overs.
The years 1972 and 1973 saw the arrival in our ranks of a number of players who were to play important roles for us over several seasons, including some who were playing 30 seasons later. Amongst those were Dougie Kemp, although the former treasurer did not become a regular until much more recently, Bruce Lester, Geoff Smith, Scott Miller and Gordon Hall. The last name came from Boroughmuir, and several players, such as Neville Clark, John Branford, Mike Hart and Chris Sprott, turned out for both clubs in an unofficial link until Boroughmuir followed us into league cricket.
Gradually, Saturday cricket began to feature more and more in our fixture list, and in the Autumn of 1974 we decided to join the East of Scotland Cricket Association to play in their Grade B league in the 1975 season. In the same year we started playing at the Inch Park, whereas previously the Meadows had been out home ground. This came about because Brunswick, the previous users of the Inch Park, withdrew from the East League and ceased playing at the end of the 1974 season.
Our first league match was against D.A.F.S., and amongst our opponents that day was Willie Ritchie, the current Vice President of Murrayfield DAFS. We earned only one point for the slower scoring rate in a draw since there were no bonus points those days. No more points were gained until our penultimate fixture when we defeated Stenhousmuir 3rd XI at Bellsdyke Hospital, scoring 125 all out in 50 overs, leaving the home side to bat 30 overs for a draw which would have given them the Grade B championship. They were all out for 101 in 26 overs. Watsonian 3rd XI claimed the league trophy and we lost our final league match at home to Townhill by 148 runs.
In June 1975 we also played the touring Belfast Collegians, losing by 4 wickets in a 25 overs a side match played on a friday evening. Next day, we had our normal league fixture, losing by 5 wickets to Holy Cross 2nd XI, and following that on the Sunday with a good victory in a friendly against Boroughmuir 2nd XI. We managed to field these three teams using just 16 players.
The other event of long term significance for Mitre from 1975 was that this was the season in which Jim Brims [ "The Legend" ] first played for us. It was also the first season where we fielded 2 teams on the same day, which was Thursday 12th June, the matches taking place alongside each other on Meadows 2 and Meadows 3. We were one player short of 2 full elevens. The 'first' team veat Maccabi by 9 runs and the seconds lost by 6 wickets to Norwich Union. Geoff Smith captained that side and his younger brother, Jonathan, made his first appearance for Mitre.
Collegians returned for a second Friday evening friendly in June 1976. This time we played them at Union Park, and we secured guest services of Ronnie Chisholm, the Scottish international. This was through the good offices of one of his language teaching practice students, Nigel Handforth, a batsman from Northern Ireland who made a valuable contribution to the club in his short time with us. Later that year, Chisholm was our main guest speaker at our first ever club dinner.
Dave Mann had taken over the captaincy from me in 1976, and the 1st XI record for the year, which started with being dismissed for only 23 by McTaggart Scott with their strong Penicuik contingent, showed 16 wins, 14 defeats and 4 draws. Although only one match was played at the same time as a 1st XI fixture, a 2nd XI had 3 wins and 2 defeats. In the league, our drawn match with Watsonian 3rd XI, in which Geoff Smith and Mike Speed put on 30 for the last wicket and Dave Mann took 6-29 including a hat trick, enabled Stenhousmuir 3rd XI to win Grade B.
The 1977 season, with Mike Blackshaw as club captain, started with 5 consecutive victories in friendlies, but we could only draw our first Grade league match, and shortly afterwards we were bundled out of the Parks Trophy. The early wins included two noteworthy bowling returns. Ian Holden's 7-34 against McTaggart Scott and in the following match, and in the following match Jim Brims took 8-16 against Penicuik 3rd XI, thus helping DAFS to lift the Grade B title.
Towards the end of the season, allegedly as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, there was the first playing of the Mitre Trophy. We lost to Marchmont in this, initially, four team invitation knock out tournament. Marchmont went on to beat Bank of Scotland in a close final, deciding on a short run called on the last ball of the match. The 1977 season also saw the appearance of the first edition of Mitre News and Views, and we also claim to have opened up a new cricket venue by playing for the first time at Kirk Brae Playing Field.
TO BE CONTINUED ...