Friday 27th April – This morning, grey clouds and precipitation enveloped the Leeds 6 area. Unwelcome meteorological conditions greeting my family and me as we stood by the Headingley Stadium memorial garden. Our mission in the moisture to scatter the remnants of my fathers ashes.
His final resting place located behind the imposing East Stand of Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s home ground, close to the scoreboard. A hundred metres or so from the pitch where he’d witnessed his cricketing heroes – Wardle, Close, Hutton, Illingworth, Birkenshaw, Trueman, Boycott, Hampshire, Athey, Old, Moxon, Gough, Vaughan, Root and a pair of Bairstows.
His fellow Yorkshiremen – Cricket colossuses who join Leeds United’s Bremner, Clarke, Charlton, Lorimer, Charles, Collins, Currie, Sheridan and a pair of Gray’s under the sporting idols segment of his 81 year life canvas.
Just some of the cricketing Tykes whose glorious contributions for his beloved county made his chest puff out a tad further when discussing his spiritual home. The reason this ordinarily undemonstrative man, was moved to show an otherwise unseen tribalism when the turnstile rotated, allowing him access to the stadium.
Headingley, the amphitheatre where over a decade ago a rare untruth managed to fool a turnstile steward the wine clandestinely stored in his thermos flask was indeed coffee.
Bizarrely, instead of opening the flask the steward held it close to his ear prior to shaking it – Moments later he returned the thermos and ushered my old man into the stadium……… All I can assume is that what he heard in the silver vessel sounded more like coffee than wine……. Thankfully, security is significantly better these days!
I wrote recently that my siblings and I were introduced to Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) and Headingley over 40 years ago. A time when the all-conquering Tykes, who’d won six county championships in the 1960’s, had mostly departed to other counties or retired.
The 1970’s vintage of my inaugural YCCC memories included Boycott, Hampshire, Lumb, Athey, Bairstow (senior), Sidebottom (senior), Carrick, Cope, Old, Stephenson, Oldham. A capable outfit with many internationals who’d the unenviable task of trying to replicate their 1960’s predecessors.
Even though they couldn’t, it still didn’t diminish the old man’s obvious lift on walking into Headingley or Scarborough’s North Marine Road ground.
1970’s visits to Headingley and August’s Scarborough Cricket Festival manifest fond recollections of that era. A tea-time pack up from mum (who occasionally joined us with our younger sister) washed down by lemonade, or in dad’s case a pint of Tetley’s. From memory, the Leeds bitter a fragrance that hung around the Headingley crowd in those days.
Even the discomfort of perching for hours on the stadiums unforgiving wooden benches couldn’t dampen the spirits. Only a YCCC defeat would lower the old man’s mood. That being said he wasn’t a bad-tempered man. None of his behavioural traits registering above 1 on the Moody Get Scale (1 is low, 10 is apoplectic).
Anyhow, rain didn’t stop play, or dampen this mornings send off for Malcolm. After a few words, we took turns to scatter some ashes, had a moment of reflection before heading off for a meal in his memory.
I’ll conclude with a message to the old man “We hope you approve of your final resting place, Dad……… We’ll be around with a pint of bitter and a pork pie next time we visit.”