Freuchie became the first and only team from Scotland to win the National Village Cup 35 years ago with victory over Rowledge. In the final part of our special feature, Neil Drysdale recalls the historic victory and the unprecedented scenes which followed.
It was an unforgettable afternoon in Scottish sport and one which will probably never be repeated.
In the summer of 1985, Freuchie’s cricketers prevailed against all manner of opponents and dank conditions to reach the final of the National Village Cup against Rowledge at Lord’s, prompting a mass exodus out of the little Fife community.
The lure of a trip to London emptied the place and the hundreds of people who journeyed south left behind just a sprinkling of essential workers.
From the moment that Pipe Major, Alistair Pirnie, led Dave Christie and his compatriots through the Grace Gates at the home of cricket, to the accompaniment of the specially-composed Freuchie March to Lord’s, there was something both surreal and uplifting in the air as the Scots prepared to tackle their Surrey rivals.
It wasn’t merely the size of the travelling support, which had crossed the Forth Bridge and thence to the British capital in scores of buses, which prompted a few of the citizenry in London to wonder whether the world had gone mad, but also the passion of the Freuchie faithful which prompted surprise amongst many of the English.
“It was quite humbling and there were many times in the build-up to the match where I had to rub my eyes and ask myself is this really happening?”, said the captain Dave Christie, who had steered his side to their date with destiny.
“I had seen the pictures of Lord’s on my television screen and read about all the wonderful cricketers who had played there, and suddenly, here were 11 Scots lads striding into the same arena and gaining the chance to walk where legends had walked.
“It was breathtaking and, although I was initially happy just to be involved in a game at Lord’s, I soon changed my mind when I looked out at the ground.
“I remember thinking: ‘Stuff this, we are not here to make up the numbers, let’s win it’.
“You could hardly believe otherwise when you spotted all the Scots in the crowd.”
The crowd, on an overcast, but tranquil afternoon, was certainly partisan. One couldn’t miss the woman with a yard-high top hat, bearing the slogan: “Freuchie of Scotland”.
Or the bearded chap carrying a banner, proclaiming: “Remember Bannockburn!”
Or the fellow, whose T-shirt conveyed the message to the English observers in the members’ stand: “Mi Lords, it’s Freuchie, not Frookie”.
Robert Smith, a 35-year-old glazier from the village, had brought his own trophy, a haggis-shaped glass model of a Scottish cricketer called Hamish.
Also at the party was nine-month-old Callum Glasgow from Glenrothes, who was escorted to Lord’s, despite his father’s protest.
“I banned the family from taking the wee lad to the game, but my wife pointed out to me that she had brought him along to every other match in the tournament, and there was no way in the world he was missing the final,” said Tom Glasgow, the brother-in-law of the Freuchie wicket-keeper, Alan Duncan.
These words neatly encapsulated the frenzied, almost barmy, spirit of the Tartan Army on a weekend when PC Ian Gordon was left to oversee a near-abandoned community.
As for the match itself, what might have turned into an anti-climax instead provided more twists and fluctuating fortunes than any film noir.
There had been controversy from the outset when the rival skippers, Christie, and Alan Prior, tossed an hour before the 1.30pm start.
The coin landed in the Rowledge man’s favour and he marched off to lunch with his players before eventually deciding to bat.
Out in the middle, as the congregation of banner-waving Scots raised the decibel level from the stands, Christie and his colleagues luxuriated in the chance to stroll round cricket’s cathedral and soak in the atmosphere and realise this was the one time in their lives where they would perform on the same stage as Grace, Bradman, Compton, Sobers, Botham….and so many other legends.
No wonder the normally phlegmatic Christie was caught up in the atmosphere.
He recalled: “The adrenaline was coursing through our veins and, while there were a few butterflies in our stomachs, we realised the pressure was heaped on Rowledge.
“They were the favourites and one or two of their boys had gone on record as declaring that the match would be over in 90 minutes, which wasn’t the smartest tactic.
“I stressed to the lads that we had to make them work for every run, and we had to remember all the lessons we had absorbed in practice, but really, the notion that I would have to motivate or fire up my players was absurd.
“We were at Lord’s, for heavens’ sake, we could hear hundreds of our own folk yelling their support outside and we had been gearing up for this moment for years.
“There was nothing to be frightened of, except fear itself, and we were a team who could look one another in the eye and know we were all in the fight together 100%.
“Personally, the match couldn’t start soon enough, and it was music to our ears when they chose to bat, especially considering how long it took them to make up their minds.”
Hence the spring in the step and enthusiasm of the Scots when they took to the field and the Rowledge openers, Bob Simpson and Tony Hook, strode along the hallowed Long Room and steeled themselves for a challenge which wasn’t long in arriving.
Indeed, Dave Cowan hit his stride immediately and tempted Simpson into an intemperate hook shot and the ensuing catch was safely taken by Andy Crichton.
That made it 15 for 1 and, despite Rowledge’s efforts to increase their momentum, they were kept well-shackled. Although they reached their 50 in the 17th over, life steadily grew more difficult once Hook was bowled by McNaughton, sparking a collapse from 56 for 1 to 94 for 5, with Christie removing their leading batsman, Chris Yates, for only 10.
“We never allowed them to settle, we backed each other up, and pursued everything like a cat on hot bricks,” recalled Cowan, whose early parsimony had been the catalyst for Rowledge’s middle-order self-destruction.
“Dave and Terry had spent months or, more accurately, years, reminding us that, whilst we might not be the greatest batsmen or bowlers in the world, we could be the equal of anybody in the fielding stakes and it proved crucial in the final.”
These qualities stymied any hopes of a Rowledge rally and Terry Trewartha also came to the party. First, he had John Dunbar magnificently caught by Stewart Irvine, then Prior was bowled and Brian Silver holed out as the favourites were dismissed for 134.
It was advantage to the Scots, but there was nary a trace of complacency, which was just as well, considering the problems which had afflicted Freuchie in previous rounds.
Once the refreshments had been consumed, Tony Field and Reffold were the men charged with the task of making inroads into the Freuchie top order, but Mark Wilkie and Alan Duncan survived the initial barrage.
At 23 for 0 in the 9th over, the pair seemed to have weathered the storm, but suddenly, in a twinkling, Rowledge were celebrating, the Tartan continent on the periphery were shaking their heads, and the tussle had been transformed.
Field was the architect of his team’s recovery, bowling Wilkie for 10 and then, almost before Andy Crichton had taken guard, he was trudging off. At 25 for 2, the runs dried up and worse befell the Scots when Duncan was caught by Yates with the tally on 42.
This marked the arrival of Dave Cowan, with his usual belligerent approach to digging himself out of scrapes, but the all-rounder nearly perished first ball, when his lofted shot landed perilously close to John Dunbar.
Yet, with Cowan and Stewart Irvine – “The Animals” – now at the crease, the time was right for a counter-offensive and the couple duly obliged, adding 33 in just four overs.
Christie said: “We had to marvel at how Jasper (Irvine) approached the job. Here we were, involved in the biggest, most significant game of our lives and he was laughing and joking and relishing every moment off it.
“It was as if he had been trotting out for a knock-about at Lord’s every week and maybe it summed up his temperament that he was in his element. Some of us on the balcony were chain-smoking, and watching through the cracks of our fingers, and our hearts were pumping. But Jasper and Davie were pretty cool customers.”
Unfortunately, this being Freuchie, there was no serene canter to triumph, as the tussle swung one way, then the next. Prior re-introduced Silver in the 25th over and the ploy paid instant dividends when Cowan was bowled round his legs.
Irvine provided the perfect riposte by hitting a towering 6 over the top of the Mound stand – he later discovered that he was one of only two people to have achieved that feat, the other being Garfield Sobers – but that was his last contribution before he was caught and bowled for 24 and, at 91 for 6, the tension was palpable.
It was time for somebody to seize the battle by the scruff of the neck and perhaps we should have surmised that Dave Christie would be that individual. Striding out to the middle, the 48-year-old stalwart had a chat with his partner, George Crichton, and they decided to chase singles rather than boundaries.
“We agreed we would run for anything feasible and test their mettle, given how we had spotted errors creeping into their fielding,” said Christie, whose sangfroid under fire exemplified the mental toughness of most of the Scots.
“We kept pushing singles here, there, wherever, and we moved to 127 with a couple of overs left. It was still not cut and dried, yet the balance had shifted in our favour.”
All the same, there was one climactic twist of fate. “George hit the left-armer through the covers for two, then rushed home for a rapid single. I pushed the next delivery into the covers and got one, and George took us to 133,” said Christie.
“We were so near to winning. But then, I was run out and I trudged off, barely able to think straight. My son, Brian, was next in, and I pulled myself together, looked him in the eye and said simply: ‘Be sensible, lad. Whatever you do, don’t get out. We can’t have Niven McNaughton coming in, because he’s shaking and hiding in the toilets’.”
By the time of his dismissal, Freuchie required two runs for an outright win or a single, provided they lost only one more wicket, under the Village Cup rules.
As Prior prepared to bowl, the public address system appealed for fans to keep off the pitch. It may as well have asked every Scot in attendance to raise a toast to Jimmy Hill.
With the very next ball, Crichton levelled the scores, and two deliveries later, Christie ran for a leg bye and, as he recollected: “Hundreds of our singing, dancing, celebrating supporters invaded the ground from in front of the Tavern.”
Joy was unconfined and there was mass back-slapping and toasting of the victors. And then, in the midst of the mayhem, the umpire ruled that the run was void because Christie had not attempted a shot. Everything stopped.
“It was crazy and I had no idea what was happening. We had to wait for a bit of calm to resurface and that was excruciating,” recalled Prior. “I had subconsciously accepted we weren’t going to win, but it still went to the wire.”
Upstairs, meanwhile, McNaughton had ceased viewing the action. But, thankfully for him and Freuchie, there was no more drama as Christie Jnr patiently, methodically, blocked the remainder of Prior’s over.
In the confusion, the Englishman actually bowled four more balls (it should have been three), but all to no avail. Christie defended stoutly, his team finished on 134 for 8 and the National Village Cup was in Scottish hands.
As the realisation sank in, Christie admitted that he passed through shock, then delight, and a massive sense of pride at what his confreres had achieved, and not least George Crichton whose unbeaten knock of 24 proved absolutely pivotal.
He said: “I gazed down from the balcony and there was this canvas of Scotsmen and Scotswomen going completely bonkers, united in joy.
“Then I was presented with the trophy and Stewart Irvine collected the ‘Man of the Match’ award – a cricket bat – and there were tears streaming down Jasper’s cheeks.
“If anybody ever doubts whether Scotland can’t be passionate about cricket, they should have been there during the ceremony, because some of the lads were crying, others were dashing around like dervishes and it all felt like the end of a Hollywood movie.
“We learned that Rowledge had brought some champagne to their dressing room, for uncorking on the balcony if they won. But we hadn’t dared to be so presumptuous, so the fans had to make do with Coca-Cola being sprayed on them.”
That Sunday night brought unprecedented scenes.
Two of the team, Cowan and McNaughton, wandered into Soho and were eventually rescued by a police car, which ferried them back to the Westmoreland Hotel, whereupon the Freuchie ensemble bumped into Ian Botham, who was staying there with the England team, which was in the process of wrapping up the 1985 Ashes.
“Some other guests in the hotel came up to Ian and asked for his autograph, but he ushered them towards us and declared: ‘Forget about me, get these Scotsmen’s autographs, because they have done something very special’,” said Christie.
There was a triumphant homecoming for the team, an explosion of publicity across the national media, and all manner of recognition for Freuchie in the months ahead.
And even now, 35 years later, their success remains one of the most heart-warming tales in Scotland’s sporting firmament.
The baby who went to the Lord’s party is now playing for the club
He was the youngest member of the travelling army who travelled down to London to watch Freuchie’s cricketers produce creased lightning at Lord’s in 1985.
And even now, 35 years after the Fifers made history by winning the National Village Cup, Callum Glasgow is still part of the club and working hard to ensure the club’s future.
He was just nine months old when he and his parents joined hundreds of other members of the community who headed to the game’s spiritual home for the meeting with Surrey-based Rowledge on Sunday September 1.
The Scots were widely written off before the match started. But, cheered on by their boisterous band of kilted supporters, Dave Christie’s team became the first – and, to date, only – Caledonian contingent to lift the trophy.
Mr Glasgow, who is now 35, and has a family of his own, revealed that he might have missed the greatest occasion in Freuchie’s history.
He said: “My dad didn’t want me to go down to the final, because I was so young, but my mum had brought me along to every other game and she was adamant that I should go.
“I was obviously unaware of what happened during the match, but ever since, I’ve learned about how the club progressed through the competition and how crowds came from all over Fife and Dundee and other parts of Scotland as the excitement built up.
“Growing up, I have seen the photographs and watched the videos and it was an incredible achievement from those lads to put Scottish cricket in the spotlight all over the world.
“Life has changed a lot for me: I am now a father to two daughters, but while I am interested in equestrianism, I have also found the time to take up cricket and I have been playing at Freuchie, where there is a great family atmosphere, for years.
“Lockdown has been a tough experience for everybody, and I have missed cricket, as have the rest of the players, but we realise everybody is just having to get on with it.
“There’s still a terrific feeling of pride at the club about what Freuchie achieved in 1985 and I’m sure we will have a wee celebration at some point in the days ahead.”