Chapter Three

The First Of The Big Professionals

1902 was both a sad year and also the start of something big. W.H.Bower, a stalwart of the first eleven for twenty years and captain ever since the formation of the Lancashire League, left the club to join neighbouring Colne. But a new professional by the name of George Turnbull was appointed and he was to go on to achieve tremendous successes during the next five seasons.

Turnbull shattered the club's bowling record in his very first season, taking 122 wickets at an average of 6.18. He took eight wickets in a match on no fewer than five occasions and had a 9 for 35 feat against Bacup. Although not normally renowned for his batting prowess, he shared a fourth wicket partnership of 108 with Wynne in the home match with Church. Whilst Wynne was proceeding from 30 to 42, Turnbull hit 95, including 1 six and 20 fours, in the space of 12 overs and occupying the crease for 28 minutes.

The biggest black spot of that season occurred on 30 August when Accrington visited Seedhill. Nelson were bowled out for their lowest ever total - 13! Here is the scorecard :-

Nelson finished the season well down the league table despite Turnbull's wonderful contributions to the cause, whilst Bill Harry Bower was helping Colne to gain their first championship title.

But things began to go right again in 1903 when Turnbull returned and even rose to greater heights in accumulating 126 wickets. A new name appeared amongst the amateur ranks and it was James Crossley who made headlines when, in four consecutive innings, he scored 87 not out, 105 not out, 62 not out and 46. 300 runs before being dismissed! Those scores had been compiled on 30 May, 1 June, 2 June and 6 June - all within one week. At the close of the season Colne and Nelson had tied for first place and had to meet at Turf Moor for a play-off. The match was a double innings affair and the full scorecard makes interesting reading :-

Nelson started the 1904 season in great style. Turnbull was virtually unplayable in the very first fixture and Bacup, in front of their own supporters, crumpled to 24 all out. Turnbull returned the incredible bowling figures of 9 wickets for 5 runs.

Although the professional easily passed the hundred wicket mark again the season's results were only average and the team finished mid-table. Once again Turnbull showed, in one match at least, that he could handle a bat and in the home fixture with Burnley he shared a second wicket partnership of 146 with James Crossley. Crossley made 46 not out and Turnbull hit 99.

With Turnbull retained as professional, Nelson were runners-up in both 1905 and 1906. During the 1906 campaign, A.E. Wynne carried his bat through the innings in scoring 82 not out away to Colne and J.H. Briggs had the magnificent figures of 6 for 5 in the home fixture with Accrington. The lowest score that Enfield has ever recorded on Seedhill was witnessed that season when they were tumbled out for 28. That man Turnbull was their destroyer, taking 8 for 8!

None of the Nelson batsmen came to terms with the conditions when Bacup visited Seedhill and they were all out for 91, Mr.Extras being the top scorer with 21! Bacup struggled as well but looked to be heading for victory when they had reached 89 for 8 with the aid of a fighting 41 from their professional, Midgley. However, James Briggs bowled their last two batsmen and Bacup were all out for 90!

Even after all Turnbull's achievements, the club decided not to extend his contract and Frank Howard became the professional for 1907. But neither Howard nor the team in general met with much success. R.K. Robinson, captain of the first eleven, had retired from playing but became an active member of the committee and, indeed, was instrumental in bringing the legendary Learie Constantine to Nelson some twenty years later. The new "skipper", E.A. Wynne, was able to achieve better results in 1908 when George Wilson from Worcester County was engaged and the team became runners-up again. Wilson’s best figures were reserved for the home derby against Colne. After Nelson had been dismissed for 105, Wilson took 8 for 12 in helping to send Colne home for a paltry 45. There was no play in the return fixture at Colne, denying Wilson the possible satisfaction of collecting more wickets.

The 1909 season was remembered mainly for it's atrocious weather - no less than nine fixtures were abandoned - but professional George Wilson did find time to take 96 wickets - a remarkable achievement in the circumstances. He took nine wickets against Enfield at Nelson and collected 8 for 28 and 8 for 30 in the two fixtures with Colne.

William Bestwick, the professional engaged for 1910, was dismissed after only a few games because of a breach of discipline and, although the club had then to obtain the services of substitute professionals, a respectable sixth place in the league table was earned. On 30 July 1910 at Bacup, J.E.Brooks (75) and A.Robinson (58 not out) put together a record seventh wicket partnership of 117 (the only century stand for the seventh wicket) and Nelson were able to declare their innings closed at 222 for 7 - their highest score on this ground.