Chapter Four

War Stops Play

A.W. Hallam from Nottinghamshire was appointed professional for 1911 and his 89 wickets haul was a great factor in Nelson regaining the League Championship. As Ramsbottom had tied with Nelson on 35 points, a play-off was required and this was arranged to be played at Accrington. Ramsbottom took first knock and made 146 in their first innings. Nelson were then dismissed for 90 and the chances of a Nelson victory looked very remote. Hallam (4 for 22) and J.E.Brooks (5 for 32) put Nelson back in the match and Ramsbottom's second innings collapsed for 55 all out. Nelson reached their target of 112 for the loss of only 3 wickets, Willie John Throup scoring an unbeaten 44.

Hallam's first impact on the league scene had been felt on 6th May when Nelson visited Todmorden. He took 8 for 13, seven of those victims being claimed in the space of nine balls, all seven being clean bowled. Amateur William Sherman enjoyed his best season and shared in three impressive partnerships. First of all he and F.Bewley shared an unbroken seventh wicket partnership of 92, Sherman scoring 102 not out before the innings was declared closed. Three days later, Sherman (61 not out) helped James Crossley (71) to accumulate 136 for the third wicket. Later in the season, 135 was compiled in a second wicket partnership when Sherman scored 72 and Ernie Bradshaw made 73 not out. It was also in 1911 that Willie John Throup recorded his maiden century, hitting 103 at Lowerhouse.

Hallam was retained for 1912 and his bowling figures were even more impressive. He took 7 for 9 when Enfield were dismissed for 23, claimed 8 for 22 against Haslingden and then took all ten Rishton wickets for 39. This was the first time a Nelson player had taken all ten wickets in an innings. However, Hallam's wonderful total of 115 wickets did not ensure another title for Nelson and the club slipped to fourth place.

Nelson slipped even further - to twelfth - in 1913 and Hallam, who took only 67 wickets during that season, was not re-engaged for 1914. Hallam had contracted neuritis in his arms and was unable to do justice to himself, bowling well below par.

Nelson opened a new pavilion on 20 June 1914 during the interval of the annual "Derby" match between Nelson and Colne. Sir J.O.S.Thursby,Bart., performed the ceremony supported by many dignitaries that included Albert Smith,M.P. (President of Nelson C.C.), Mr.O.P.Lancashire (Chairman, Lancashire County Council), Dr.Crawshaw,J.P. (President of the Lancashire League), Mr.J.Whittaker and Mr.Wm.Barlow (Treasurer and Secretary of the Lancashire League respectively), Councillor Turner Hartley,J.P. (President of Colne C.C.), Amos Nelson JP and County Alderman Wilkinson Hartley JP (both Patrons to Nelson C.C.), Daniel Walton (President of the Bowling Club) and His Worship the Mayor of Nelson (Mr.W.E.Riley). The building was a beautiful structure with plenty of character and it served the Nelson club for 69 years until it had to be demolished in 1983 to make way for the M65 motorway.

H.J. Preston of Kent and William Shipman of Leicestershire were professionals in 1914 and 1915 respectively but neither were able to lift Nelson to any significant heights. The First World War was in "full swing" and professionals were not engaged in 1916. J.E.Brooks showed his all-round talents during the season, taking 8 for 25 when Todmorden were dismissed for 61 at Todmorden and followed up with a 7 for 23 feat away to Burnley. His batting prowess came to the fore with a 65 not out away to Rishton when he shared an unbroken fifth wicket partnership of 112 with R.K.Robinson. Brooks then hit 67 not out in Nelson's score of 137 for 5 declared at home to Rawtenstsall before George Shutt took 6 for 8 in helping to bowl the opposition out for 51.

Matters became even worse in 1917 and "organised" cricket was not possible. Although several matches were arranged by the clubs themselves, the Lancashire League suspended its activities until hostilities ended.

So it was 1919 before the League got under way again and Nelson appointed Pat Morfee as their new professional and Alf Pollard joined the amateur ranks, having had several successful seasons with neighbours Colne. Nelson finished the season in second place, mainly due to Morfee, who took a total of 122 wickets at a cost of 8.75, and Pollard, whose 112 wickets cost 7.74 runs each. Pollard's 112 wickets still stands as the amateur record to this day. Nelson bowled their opponents out on 24 occasions out of the 26 fixtures. The two sides avoiding all out scores were Colne, when they scored 89 for 5 at Seedhill to beat Nelson's all out total of 80, and Rawtenstall, who were 99 for 8 in reply to Nelson's declared total of 199 for 9.

On the 7th June 1919 Bill Sherman played his first match of the season, having returned from Boulogne on furlough, and promptly hit a century against Burnley, his second for the club.

With two fixtures remaining, East Lancashire and Nelson shared the lead at the top of the league table and the two sides met at Seedhill for what was billed as a ‘title decider’.

A crowd, estimated at over 12,000, paid £268-14s-2d (a record at the time) at the gate but the match finished as a draw, leaving the championship to be decided on the final day of the season. Nelson lost to Ramsbottom but East lancashire beat Colne by 7 wickets to take the title.

It had been decided in 1919 to hold a separate competition for an additional trophy. At the conclusion of the league programme, the teams were divided into three zones :-

  • Rossendale (Bacup, Rawtenstall, Ramsbottom and Haslingden);
  • Burnley (Burnley, Lowerhouse, Colne, Nelson and Todmorden);
  • Accrington (Accrington, Church, Enfield, Rishton and East Lancs.)

Three Trophies were allocated, The Maden Cup for the Rossendale Section; The Worsley Cup for the Burnley Section and the Hacking Cup for the Accrington Section. The zones were played on a league basis but it was not a great success and it was decided to organise just one single Cup Competition in future.

So, the following season, the Worsley Cup was used for the new knock-out competition. Colne had been the first winners of the Worsley Cup but it had been restricted to the Burnley locality teams. 1920 was the first season when all the Lancashire League clubs competed for it and it was Nelson that lifted the cup on 25 August 1920.

George Geary was appointed as professional for 1920 and he, just like his predecessor, was highly successful. Three league matches were abandoned without a ball being bowled but he still managed to take 95 wickets. Alf Pollard created a new League record by securing over 100 wickets in a season for the third consecutive campaign (having obtained 101 wickets for Colne in 1916).

The cup competition had started by counting the league fixtures scheduled for 11 May as the First Round cup-ties as well as League matches. Nelson scored 119 but their opponents, East Lancashire, were shot out for 48 as George Geary took 3 for 16 and Alf Pollard claimed 7 for 29. Nelson entertained Enfield in the next round and, batting first, totalled 68. Enfield fared even worse and were dismissed for 63, Geary (3 for 26) and Pollard (6 for 32) doing the damage again. The semi-final took a similar course, Nelson making a modest 95 (Geary top scored with 45) and the opposition, this time Accrington, falling for 50. Once more it was the deadly duo, Geary (5 for 18) and Pollard (5 for 30) who won the day.

However, the final, played at Haslingden, was a different sort of contest with batsmen, at least some of the Nelson batsmen, making hay while the sun shone. The details of that Cup-Final are as follows :-