It was a love affair with cricket which lasted more than 70 years and began after he climbed over a wall to watch the Australian Invincibles on their visit to Aberdeen in 1948.
Doug Cruickshank was just eight when he marvelled at the sight of Test legend Don Bradman score a century against Scotland at Mannofield, but that experience lit a heady spark in the Aberdeen man, who has died at the age of 79.
Sport was in the youngster’s blood and, even as he started work at the GPO in 1956 as a telegram boy, he was in the thick of the action as a talented amateur footballer and was one of the leading basketball stars in the Granite City, in addition to becoming a popular figure on the golf course at Nigg Bay.
Yet, for anybody who has been involved in north-east cricket, it’s the sight of this enthusiastic character carrying out a wide range of roles at Bon Accord CC, on and of the pitch, which will most stick in the memory.
There are some people who inspire dedication and commitment around them and Doug was one of those personalities who flung himself whole-heartedly into growing the game at the grassroots.
‘A great and generous human being’
Local councillor Mohammed Tauqeer Malik is among the people involved with cricket in the region who has paid rich tribute to his late friend at Bon Accord.
As he spelled out, Doug might never have used two words where one would suffice, but despite his disinclination to spend time in the spotlight, he happily wore more hats than Audrey Hepburn, and nurtured generations of players, from all ages, backgrounds and nationalities, to the Aberdeenshire Grades circuit.
Mr Malik said: “Doug was always interested in cricket and he began playing for Bon Accord in 1970. He was captain for two years and became secretary of the club in 1995 right through to this year.
“He has done excellent work for Bon Accord for many years, he was a very generous man and he helped Bon Accord financially and he was very well known throughout the area. Doug was a great human being.
“Cricket was his passion.”
‘He was a great believer that cricket should be for everybody’
Mr Malik continued: “The main reason Doug was so well known in the grades was because of how he welcomed all players, regardless of their background, and he encouraged and helped everyone in his team and even in the opposition.
“He followed us wherever we played and he was constantly engaged in the game: whether walking around the boundary lines and giving us tips, or sitting in the score box as a scorer and bringing refreshments for both teams during the break.
“He was a great believer that the sport should be for everybody. I am the longest serving captain of Bon Accord CC and Aberdeenshire Grade select and, every year, he was the first to nominate me for the role. I am very grateful for this.”
Doug was widely regarded an outstanding wicket-keeper, skipper, treasurer, secretary, a behind-the-scenes catalyst for kit to be purchased and training sessions to be organised. Wherever he ventured, his attitude rubbed off on others in his company.
Yes, he loved Bon Accord, but he was concerned by the shrinking participation numbers at other clubs in recent years and he did his utmost to offer constructive solutions.
Doug and Syd were one of the best double acts in the game
The passing of this local hero has also brought an end to one of the most enduring and prosperous cricket partnerships in the area.
And while many people will recall the heroics of the Australian team from that demolition of their Scottish rivals in 1948, in which Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller were a deadly bowing duo, Aberdonians have equally fond memories of the achievements of Doug Cruickshank and Syd Stephen who made the Links-based club the most successful organisation in the history of the Aberdeenshire Grades.
Their combined leadership and administrative skills propelled the club forward, emabling them to secure countless honours during their half century together.
The partnership continued to flourish when Mr Malik became captain, which gradually led to the club strengthening its position in the Grades cricket in the area.
Mr Stephen paid tribute to his old friend when he said: “Doug was the most fair minded of men, but in his own quiet way, he was determined to succeed.
“He even managed to get into the Scotland v Australia game at Mannofield without a ticket by climbing over the wall when he was only eight years old in 1948.
“It was a privilege to know him.”
The quiet men who made a big noise in the sport
The Press and Journal’s cricket writer, Jack Nixon, got to know Doug well throughout many years of travelling around the Grades realm and grew to recognise the significant impact which this unsung fellow made at his beloved Bon Accord.
It was never about individual gain or glory for him, and yet there were plenty of honours attained by his confreres which were inspired by his passion and philanthropy. He was happy to celebrate the scores of youngsters who rose through the ranks, but he was always planning and preparing for the future rather than resting on his laurels.
Mr Nixon said: “My own personal memory of Doug’s devotion to duty was six years ago on a lovely, sunny June morning when I was coming over the brow of the hill next to Pittodrie near to the Links where the Bons play.
“I remember thinking it was a most unlikely venue for a game of cricket, but there, out on this brown patch of open land was Doug on his own preparing the pitch for the afternoon game, giving it all the love and attention that the most devoted of groundsmen would have given to a Test match at Lords.
“I knew at that moment just how important the club was to him. It spoke volumes.”
Doug’s legacy will live on in the future
Mr Nixon added: “I particularly enjoyed my trips to watch Bon Accord play, especially such was their standing in the Grades that every visiting team wanted to beat them on their own very difficult pitch which, at its best could yield a feast of runs, but when it was playing up, could be a nightmare to bat on.
“Whatever the circumstances, Doug was always the perfect host, even when he was tied up scoring as was usually the case.
“When I first starting covering the local game in the Aberdeen area, I was viewed with some suspicion by most teams, but once they worked out I was only a supporter of the game with access to a laptop, that all changed.
“Doug and Syd sought no fame of honour. They simply got on with serving the club and game they loved with distinction. Their reward was in seeing Bon Accord flourish, dominating Grade 1 in particular in the 21st century.”
Time to honour Doug’s memory should come this summer
In common with every other Scottish organisation, Mr Malik and his teammates have been unable to take to the cricket field because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
But he is determined that, as soon as it is safe to do so, there will be a commemoration of the myriad things which Doug did for the game across the north-east.
He said: “Hopefully this year, when the situation improves, we will be able to play in Doug’s name and honour his memory.”
It will be no more that this modest champion deserves.