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THE ART OF AMALGAMATION

As an example of relegating intense pride in each other's club, to allow their innate love of the game to take first place, the committees of Sheldon cricket club led by its only active founder in myself, and that of Marlborough cricket club led by its equally enthusiastic Martin Lawrence must make interesting readings, and above all encourage clubs in these days of harsh economic necessity to avoid "giving up the ghost'. The amalgamation took place in 1974 but for different reasons, and it might be timely to give a brief history of each club prior to1974.

Marlborough cricket club, easily the eldest of the two, was founded in 1906 by the late A W Woodgate and as was the won't in those days emanated from the bible class held at Marlborough road school in small heath. A much revered and respected man and also a cricketer of much ability, Mr. Woodgate, who is pictured smcc times past and present photo album, obtained the ground through his religious connections with Yardley Church Trust who still own the ground. Since then cricket has always been played on the stoney lane ground, and throughout the years many fine cricketers played for Marlborough, to mention H Hughes, D Turner, D Ellis, Reg Harding, through the sixties, Arthur Jones, Austin Caddick and David Genge, still household names in the area. However in the sixties rising costs plus the retirement of many stalwarts, Marlborough CC despite the devotion of Martin Lawrence, began to find the going tough. This was accentuated by the Yardley Church Trust decided to sell the ground for building. Immediately Martin and helpers canvassed the area, three thousand signatures were obtained and local MP's and Councillors lobbied for help. Eventually it was agreed to approach Sheldon Cricket Club with a view to amalgamation.

The history of Sheldon Cricket Club had throughout been one of a struggle to get a settled home, ever since a few friends founded the club in 1945 at a meeting in the st.Bernards Grange Hotel in Barrows Lane Yardley. The first game was in Common Lane which was lost inside two years to building work. For a short time, almost a season, Sheldon's home games were played at the then home of Sheldon Town football club on Hobmoor Road Yardley which was always unsatisfactory, and yet the loyalty of the clubs many fine cricketers was unbelievable. Les and Oliver Campton, Les Stokes, Eddie Broddrick to mention just a few. Along came an offer from a Mr Harold Street of "Friends Hall Gooch Street' of a ground owned by him on Cartland Street Stirchley, which would be rent free for three years if something could be made of it. Only the former cricket square was reasonable, the rest was overgrown war allotments. Despite the distance from Sheldon, funds were raised, the outfield ploughed, harrowed and reseeded. Alf Hunt also one of the founders of the club and one of the finest mechanics coaxed an ancient mower to work. Seven happy and successful years followed there. Friends Hall now Lyndworth Cricket Club decided to resurrect their cricket club, and ended the hopes of being able to run a 1st XI and 2nd XI on Saturdays and Sundays. A further move a little closer to home, made to streetsbrook road Hal Green, the domain of jack moulds football club and despite much work on the square, it remained poor and home fixtures had to crammed into June and early July.

When the approach came from Marlborough, for five seasons Sheldon had been at Sherwood Road Hall Green, the home of another football club, Moor Green which had much better facilities having been the original home of Moseley Cricket Club, and with Gordon Sharp, Les Pearson, Roy Hall, John Plimmer and Derek Hey all fine players having joined the club, it had a formidable playing record and was a happy and well run one. The proposed merger was not happily received by many, possibly the chief one being loss of identity and the breakup of a successful club after so many years hard work. The vote to merge was a close one, and for my part the right decision was made, despite being the secretary of Sheldon cricket club for thirty years.

At last the chance of a future, many young players had to be turned away because without sole use of the ground 2nd XI fixtures were not possible. It transpired that Marlborough cricket club had the same club pride, but in the end Martin Lawrence's good sense of diplomacy won them over. In the year of 1974 the entire two committee's merged and the name Sheldon Marlborough was agreed upon, a motif was designed including the square tower of Sheldon church and the spire of Yardley old church were the telling idea for club sweaters. Despite this there were many petty jealousies to be overcome including which players would constitute 1st and 2nd elevens but good sense from older players prevailed. The healthy finances of Sheldon Cricket Club were entirely given over to improving the decaying pavilion and improving the square, whilst Martin Lawrence was backed to the hilt in obtaining the ground. This was finally achieved and a long lease was secured. In 1975 the committee was reformed and led by Les Pearson Chairman and chartered surveyor, the services if many men were enlisted to give their help freely. Futher funds were raised by every possible means, including a fine grant from the sports council backed by the Midland Club Cricket Conference, Gala days and Courage Brewery loaned the necessary finance for the all important bar.

Today, the dreams of many of us have come true, a valued clubhouse with toilets and showers with plans for future extensions in the offering. Certainly not least of all was the formation of the first under 16 XI in 1978, something I had always wanted. Most of those boys now constitute the main body of our 1st and 2nd elevens and above all never knew Sheldon Cricket Club or Marlborough cricket club, but they know only of Sheldon Marlborough Cricket Club, with the club spirit that surely ensures the future of the merger and certainly for Martin Lawrence and myself, our cricket way of life has been rewarded.

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