The game of cricket has been played at the Aberdeenshire town of Huntly since the mid-1850s at which time the area was able to boast having a prime minister in Westminster; although there is no record of Lord Aberdeen having a role at the club, formed in 1854.
But then it would be no surprise if the PM of the day had played for the Castle Park team, given so many aspiring players have made their way in the game at the highest level from Huntly, and likely to continue to do so according to club president James Findlay.
He said: “We have a proud tradition of producing quality cricketers, no doubt helped by the fact our geographical location is half way between Elgin in the north and Aberdeen in the south, making us a gateway for the game.”
Among those who have gone on to greater things in the game is current president of Cricket Scotland Willie Donald, a native of Huntly who also played for Aberdeenshire and Scotland, and Dr Gordon Sherriffs, an all-rounder who also found his way to Mannofield and represented his country in an earlier era, while Brian Mearns, a former player, only retired from the game last year after 50 years of loyal service.
Azhar Ali, the current Pakistan captain, had a five-year stint at Castle Park in the role of club professional. More recently Kirstie Gordon launched her career as an eight-year-old before going on to represent Scotland and is now a member of the England squad. All of these players will have good cause to thank former secretary Patrick Scott who did so much to keep the club on the straight and narrow in his 50 years of service, retiring just last year.
But while president Findlay was happy to talk about the history of the club, he was equally set on looking to the future.
He said: “After a dip in our fortunes in 2015 we have applied ourselves to taking the club forward on all fronts, not least in promoting women’s and youth cricket through our excellent club head coach Neil Nicol who has taken the game to the 12 schools in the area, including the local secondary Gordon Schools where we have our indoor training sessions. Neil is the town’s Mr Cricket, and since picking up a back injury has devoted all his time to growing the game in the area.”
Nicol said: “My aim is to keep producing young players to sustain the undoubted ambition of the club, and to continue working with our fantastic network of schools who have supported the club ethos of producing juniors. We have one of the best reputations in the country for youth development which I like to think will reflect itself in the senior set up in the not too distant future.”
The club’s ambition was underlined earlier in the year when they managed to persuade former players Jack Mitchell and Liam Ferguson to leave Stoneywood-Dyce to come back and help the club win promotion from National League 1 of the Strathmore Union, helping club captain Callum Whyte towards his ambition of taking another step towards playing in the Eastern Premier, the top Scottish club league.
Mitchell will combine his high order with a senior coach role his old club.
Findlay said: “Our reserve team will play in the North of Scotland Association set-up, while we will also have a team in the Aberdeenshire Grades, putting us in a strong position in North and north- east cricket; although the intervention of coronavirus has put it all on hold, but we will be ready for the off, whenever that will be.”