Kelso cricket club celebrates two centuries not out

Kelso Cricket Club, the first to be constituted in Scotland, are now 200 years old.

Thursday, 29th July 2021, 9:56 am
Updated Thursday, 29th July 2021, 9:57 am
Action from the anniversary six-a-side match at Kelso (picture by Gavin Horsburgh)

Based at Shedden Park, the club were founded in 1821 and have a playing connection with one of the biggest names in British high street shopping – Lillywhites – the sports outfitter having been prominent in promoting cricket’s development as well as the retail industry in the 19th century.

Cricket flourished in the Borders long before it was formally organised, as is illustrated by the club’s archives.

Regular opponents in the mid-1800s included Edinburgh’s Grange and local rivals Melrose, Hawick and Wilton, Selkirk, Galashiels and Duns, later to become Manderston, as well as Tynemouth, Middlesbrough and Newcastle in the north of England.

'Owzat! Borderers' team one batsman, Robbie Thomson, from Kelso, is bowled out by Tillside's Calum Bickerston (picture by Bill McBurnie)

The present-day Covid-19 pandemic has curtailed a lot of the club’s plans to mark their 200th anniversary but on Sunday a sixes competition was held at Shedden Park and there are plans for more commemorations in the coming months.

Ian Henderson, a past chairman and present-day committee member, said it is a very special time for everyone associated with the club and all are keen to mark their landmark anniversary.

“It’s changed from a gentry’s game to a public game to a people’s game,” he said. “One constant right through has been the duke of Roxburghe. A past duke was a founder member and the current one is still patron.”

Henderson believes Kelso’s golden age was probably in the 1980s and 1990s “when we were habitual winners of the Borders league” but is hopeful happy days will return in years to come.

Members of Kelso's first and second teams competed for them in the bicentenary sixes event (picture by Bill McBurnie)

At present, because of disruption to the game over the last couple of years, Kelso have a development side composed mainly of young players in the East Scotland Cricket Association Championship – and it’s been tough going, without a victory this season, but the club are hopeful that fortunes will change in the future.

“It’s up to the young lads now to take things on and that’s happened before,” said Henderson.

“There have been times when Kelso has not done so well in the past, then, in the 1980s, along came a group of very good players who all developed together and were coached by a couple of dedicated people who looked after the juniors.

“They made sure Kelso played at a higher standard than usual in the Borders by taking them up to play against the Edinburgh public schools.

Members of both first and second teams competed for Kelso in their bicentenary sixes tournament (Photo: Bill McBurnie)

“During that period, there developed a very, very strong Kelso side and we are still seeing the benefits today.”

Kelso began introducing overseas players and the side performed very well in the sport’s Scottish Cup. A foray into the national leagues for the first time lasted only one season, however, as the demands of playing around the country put a strain on Kelso’s resources.

“It was a pity. That was a very, very big achievement and there was a great bunch of players at the time, but it was a highlight getting there and that continues today,” added Henderson.

“Coaches are working very hard with the juniors and there are 60 to 80 youngsters being coached on a Monday night.”

Action from Kelso's bicentenary sixes tournament (Pic: Gavin Horsburgh)