At a time of year when thoughts turn to sacrifice and remembrance with Armistice Day, the story of Oughtbridge War Memorial Cricket Club is an apt one.
Chatting to Vice-Chair Matt Summerhill, the village club just North of Sheffield has had a direct link to those who lost their lives in battle for over a century.
The current cricket club was borne from a merger between Oughtibridge Church Cricket Club and Zion Cricket Club in 1919.
This coming together of church and works teams meant a single entity for Oughtibridge and then the ground was donated to the village in 1921 by Oughtibridge Silica Firebrick Company Ltd, as a War Memorial to those who died in the 1914-1918 war.
That strong association of loss and acknowledgement continues from their badge being a poppy to the fact that the war memorial itself is now built into the wall of the pavilion.
In June 2007, Oughtbridge War Memorial Cricket Club was flooded as the River Don burst its banks. The severity of the water damage wrecked the pavilion and they were effectively homeless for the best past of two years because the ground had tonnes of rubble strewn all over it.
When the pavilion was rebuilt in 2012, it was felt that a war memorial as an integral part of the new building made it very accessible, alongside the existing one at the parish church.
“The fact that every time you walk out to bat or you head back into the changing rooms,
you walk past all those names, it does give you that reminder that you are representing the village.”
The plaque shows the names of the 44 who lost their lives in the 1914-18 conflict and the 28 villagers who died in the Second World War.
Matt always takes the time to read the names as his own sign of respect but also acknowledges the profound sense of shock and having to rebuild in the aftermath:
“When you’re watching the games being played and you look at how many names are on there…you think about what that must have been like when the club came out of the First and Second World War. People you’d played with, your mates, were not there any more. That must have been an incredibly difficult time.”
For many villages, including Oughtibridge, the heart of the community was ripped out by both wars and there will no doubt be descendants in the village, including those who play cricket or are members of the sports club.
“That badge means everything to us. It’s a hugely important part of our identity” Matt told me, as I was curious how the importance of that sacrifice transfers to younger generations and lives on.
There is also a further visual reminder in the form of a sculpture on the end of the pavilion with the names of the fallen on leaves of the tree, in a field of poppies. It was commissioned by the war memorial committee to mark the centenary and climbs up the side of the building.
Our thoughts turn to how the year has panned out for Oughtibridge War Memorial Cricket Club and it sounds as if it’s been very positive.
Their first XI came third in Division One of Yorkshire Cricket Southern Premier League, almost grabbing promotion on the final day of the season.
Having beaten Rockingham Colliery home and away (who went up) and pushed eventual champions Ackworth close, the foundations are there for a 2024 attempt to get into the Championship (the level below Premier League).
Oughtibridge’s second XI also ended in third, playing as they do in Division 3, having finished ninth the year before. Lifting the Presidents Trophy against Wath second XI was a welcome piece of silverware.
Meanwhile, the midweek side, a combination of firsts and seconds won the South Yorkshire Alliance Works Midweek Cricket League. Having claimed the top spot in the North group, they defeated Sheffield Collegiate by 37 runs in mid-August to lift the title.
In women and girls cricket, Oughtibridge came second in Division 2 of the South Yorkshire Softball League and then lost in the quarter-finals of the Plate competition to Wickersley Old Village Vixens. I see they have three indoor teams for this autumn’s South Yorkshire Women & Girls Cricket League’s season.
Oughtibridge WMCC have signed Sri Lankan all-rounder Hasaru Shaamikara as their overseas pro for 2024.
Chami, as he’s known, hit 1,147 runs and 52 wickets in 2023 and has apparently put everything into his time at Oughtibridge.
He’s left Galle Cricket Club to rejoin the Sri Lankan Air Force team and this will be his third season with Oughtibridge. Beyond the currency of wickets and runs, Hasaru coaches sides and is very much part of village life, living above the Post Office. Matt remembers when he came over as a shy 22-year-old having never left Sri Lanka before.
Oughtibridge are a club looking ahead, albeit one with its sense of self strongly forged from the past down to the name of the village itself.
Bit of history for you. It’s pronounced ‘ooti-bridge’ on account of a bridge named after a bloke called Oughtred around 1150. Oughty’s Bridge evolved into the name it is today.
We finish up our catch-up with plans for the cricket club in future. They’ve made six signings (including left-arm seamer Joe Hibbert and keeper-batter Danuka Hettiarachchi) as a sign of intent to get promoted in 2024.
They’ve also announced Will Cooper as first XI captain, taking over from John Grayson; Will joined from Treeton after the 2022 season. Oliver Cockbill-Black becomes the captain for the second XI and Liz Harris will continue to lead the women and girls’ squads.
Off the field, the cricket club want to build separate changing rooms for their women and girls’ cricketers as well as new facilities for machine storage and scoring.
That’s all for another day.
For now, it’s a poignant time of year to think about those lost in conflict and at Oughtibridge, they are always remembered.
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