The definitive record of Millfields Cricket Club is ‘Millfields 1976-1990’ by Nikki Wood. Except that it is not definitive. Quite apart from the curse of missing scorebooks, Nikki’s first two sentences indicate the problem:
‘Unfortunately, from the historian’s point of view, information about the birth of the club is clouded in heads made even cloudier by large quantities of what can only be described as beer. No-one can remember a bloody thing.’
The club was formed either in 1971 or 1972. Or possibly 1973. 1972 is the best bet. It was originally called SW (Socialist Worker) Litho, the print shop serving the revolution. The editor of Socialist Worker was Roger Protz, so he became captain. There is no record of a vote.
In the following year (1973? 1974?), Roger worked for two weeks as holiday-relief news editor at Time Out, deputising for Duncan Campbell (now of the Guardian, although he played his cricket for The New Statesman). John Collis, then music editor of Time Out, therefore joined in the club’s second season. Then Roger left Socialist Worker to edit What’s Brewing, the CAMRA newspaper. It began to get confusing.
But it is clear that the origins are journalistic, reflected in the early fixture list – The Guardian, ITN, The New Statesman, Private Eye, Financial Times, Burundi News Shopper, This Is Latvia, Hello! etc.
But as John brought in fixtures via Time Out, and Roger through CAMRA, and as all the founder members resigned from the SWP to join Labour (in those days a left-of-centre party), no-one knew who the hell we were. SW? Time Out? CAMRA? And it was clear that the SWP couldn’t run a cricket club, let alone a revolution.
At an early AGM, as chairman Mike Hardman slumbered noisily after a decent lunch, it was suggested that we clarify matters by naming the club after our park pitch in Hackney, Millfields. Dignified, and meaningless – especially as we immediately moved to a proper home ground in Walthamstow. The alternative proposal was that the club be called Corporal Williamson’s XI, as our kit was carried in an army-surplus canvas bag stencilled with the gallant corporal’s name.
As friends, and then friends of friends, and then various Australians who simply appeared from nowhere (Australia presumably) came in, the journalistic roots of the club were loosened.
In our heyday we had over 40 fixtures, and were a decent-quality refuge for those who found the gamesmanship and ruthlessness of much league cricket somewhat depressing. ‘Serious fun’ was the motto, and is becoming so again.
Inevitably we grew old, however, though we were buoyed up by such marvellous players as Asim Ayub, the most talented and modest man to pull on the hallowed Millfields crimplene. About a decade ago the very existence of the club was threatened, still built as it was around a nucleus of wizened fantasists. It could have run its course.
Its salvation was in becoming a ‘fathers, sons and friends of sons’ club. The then-younger players, in particular previous club captain Tom Collis, have trawled the bars and clubs of south London for fresh, ripe, innocent talent. The result is that the fixture list is expanding once again, the future looks healthy, and the old bastards are still allowed to turn out occasionally.
John Collis, Millfields Legend (1944 - 2016)