The Gnomads Cricket Club (Touring) began as an 8-a-side team entered in Hayfield Cricket Club's inaugural President's Trophy competition in 1882. Dick Hubble assembled the team under the working title "Hubble's Has-beens", which became the "300 Club" by the time the first match was played. The 300 Club reflected the combined age of the original eight players: Peter Allen, Mike Barlow, Eric Brierley, Dick Hubble, Will Logan, John McCall, Geoff Settatree and John Walsh.
To everyone's surprise, not least that of the team itself, it won through to the final of the competition. Chasing Hayfield Football Club's 87 for 5, the 300 Club finished on 85 for 6, beaten, but having given a good account of themselves.
That first year represented the pinnacle of the team's success. The following year, the 300 Club's progress terminated in the semi-final and successive years thereafter saw a consistent slide until first round exit became commonplace.
Such a trend and potential deserved a higher profile, and in 1984, with the writing on the wall already decipherable, Dick Hubble decided to develop the 8 into a full cricket team, with a view to organising a September Tour.
The first Tour took place in September 1984, to Dorset, on the strength of the contact offered by Arthur Kenyon through his brother-in law, the landlord of the Red Lion in Beaminster.
The social and cricketing opportunities for a reprobate group, no longer young enough or talented enough for regular first team cricket, provided Dick Hubble and Peter Allen with the platform to indulge their favourite hobbies: a convivial alcoholic social life, coupled with that most evocative and resonant of summer sounds, the thwack of leather on abdominal protector.
A name was established: the Gnomads Cricket Club (Touring), and allegedly the Club took over a defunct company, Hayfield Surgical Appliances Ltd, to provide itself with professional credibility.
Shortly afterwards the distinctive club colours of pink and green were selected and became synonymous with the touring side who capitalised on the traditional cricket "coffin" for carrying kit with a real one.
Tours followed to Appleby in June 85, Bridport in Dorset in 86, Diss on the Norfolk/Suffolk border in 87, Cleveden near Bristol in 88, Bressingham in Norfolk in 89,.'Bristol in 90, Bressingham in 91, Clifton in Bristol in 92, Yarm in 93, and Hereford in 94
Progressively more domestic fixtures have been played over the passing years, 15 or so games a season now being commonplace. Whilst winning has always been the target, it has been an ambition rarely realised.
The Gnomads Cricket.Club (Touring) has spawned a number of offshoots:
Sub-groupings, like the Five Nations Rugby Watching Society, and the Featherlites and their Mates weekly badminton group, have involved largely the same personnel. Golf, and indeed croquet, have been threatened but never realised.
Traditions have become established, like the Christmas dinner held in January.
Presenting commemorative gnomes to opposing sides started with miniatures and progressed to metre-high versions in fire-damaged concrete in the year that the Gnome Factory collected on its insurance.
The annual awards of Tosser and Poseur of the Tour have tended to be magnetically attracted to certain characters.
The emphasis on tour entertainment has spawned a number of bands, invariably centred on Phil Strange and Colin Cooper, and going under a wide range of titles. The Gnomads' wandering minstrels have been the envy of every opposing side on tour, and the source of entertainment for many.
The highlight for the Gnomads in terms of their profile in the outside world was provided by the concert and revue "A Smack in the Bails", performed at New Mills Town Hall in April 1995. A showcase for Gnomadic talent, both musical and comedic, this not only raised £1,000 for charity, but provided a memorable evening for the audience and the performers. The revue has been repeated on a semi-regular basis since 1995, with similar success and it is likely that the Gnomads will be treading the boards once more in the not too distant future.
Over 60 people have played cricket for the Gnomads over the years. Many have moved out of the area, and for others their time with the Gnomads was brief. Nevertheless, a hard-core of around 35 remain involved. Traditionally all have been known by nicknames. Some names alter with remarkable frequency until they stick, always at the whim of the current Executive Committee.
That Executive itself underwent a radical change in 1993. Peter Allen, Dick Hubble and Ian Webster (Gubby, Barney and Ara) moved over and there was a real risk that the Gnomads might cease to exist.
Happily Doug Coverley, Ian Almond, James McCarthy, John Webster, Dave Chatwin and John Hargreaves (Duvet, Tonsils, Desperate, Lazarus, Blow Job and Sickoveru) took over the reins, and the Organisation went from strength to strength. Robin Greaves (Surgicals), as Fixtures Secretary, provided the link between the two dynasties. And Peter Allen (renamed Swoops) remained as Scribe and Archivist to continue to document the progress of the Gnomads. The executive has gone through occasional further changes, but has always remained in safe hands (unlike a cricket ball with a Gnomadic fielder).
Annual General Meetings for many organisations are a chore. For the Gnomads the AGM is one of the highlights of the year, and the minutes document the history of the Club and represent their own contribution to social history, albeit a somewhat inebriated version.
If, having read this brief introduction, you find yourself yearning for still more Gnomadic material, our archive also includes the fruits of some extensive literary research carried out by our former Scribe and Archivist, Peter Allen Esq., in his avowed Wagnerian objective of supporting the myth with as much wind as possible.