On this day eighty six years ago to the minute that Third Man is writing, had we had been outside Headingley cricket ground, we would have caught sight of Neville Cardus dashing out of the stadium searching high and low for a taxis and, then, when it was obvious that none were about, frantically running off in the direction of Burley Park railway station to catch a Harrogate train into Leeds for a connection there to Manchester Victoria and home.
What was all the fuss and excitement about?
Cardus had originally not planned to be there that Tuesday. The day before on Bank Holiday Monday, Yorkshire had ‘bundled’ Lancashire out for 74 in the Match of the Roses and the White Rose County would start the third day needing just 58 to win, surely, a formality for their famous openers Sutcliffe and Holmes.
Cardus tells us that he had gone for the last day ‘merely to kill time’. He knew that it had been twenty five years since the Red Rose County had won at Headingley and, like thousands of partisans from both counties, he’d have been thinking it might be another 25 years before they could win there again.
But on that Tuesday lunchtime there was little sign of a mournful loser’s tread in that cricket lover’s step. He rushed along the platform eager to be home, took his seat and watched with some secret relish as the guard approached to inspect his ticket.
‘Come from the cricket, sir? `What ‘ave they won by – lose any wickets?’ asked the guard.
`Yorkshire did not win,’ Cardus was able to reply, `they’ve lost by 24.”
‘I mean cricket match,’ the guard impatiently snapped, as if, thought Cardus, this passenger had mistakenly been ‘referring to some tiddley-winks tournament.’
‘Yorkshire all out 33,’ Cardus said, firmly. ‘Lancashire have won by 24.’
That morning the Mancunian had indeed witnessed a rout, but not the expected dispatch of the Lancashire bowlers. He had seen the humiliation of ten Yorkshire batsmen ‘skittled out by Parkin and`Dick’ Tyldesley for 33’. He had been rewarded for his resolution with the sight of a Lancashire win on Yorkshire turf for the first time since 1899 and he was already looking forward to the prospect of telling that history over and over again to any willing listener for the rest of his life.
Cardus would then described how, on receiving the news, the Guard had ‘suspended business on the spot; he didn’t give me a train ticket. He at once conveyed the terrible news to the driver; and the train then proceeded into Leeds more or less by its own volition.’
Before Cardus reached his home and friends he was to have yet more fun at the expense of Yorkshire misplaced confidence.
As he would often recount, ‘In Leeds itself, gloom was already falling on the city, as the tidings became known. My train to Manchester would leave Leeds station at 2.20. I went into the refreshment room.’
‘Soon one or two of the small gathering that had witnessed Yorkshire’s evil day came drifting into the station, on their way back to Laisterdyke, Huddersfield and such places.’
‘One man sat at my table, clearly from Laisterdyke. “It’s a reight do,” he sighed to me, “Hey dear, fancy ‘Erbert and Percy not bein’ up to gettin’ 57. Hey dear, Ah can’t understand it.”’
‘Then he looked at me sharply, saying, “Tha doesn’t seem to be takin’ it very much to ‘eart.”’
‘I explained that as a Lancashire man I couldn’t quite share his melancholy reactions to the match.’
‘He now looked at me from an entirely different angle. “So, tha’s Lancashire, art thi ? ‘As coom all way from Manchester to see match ?”’
‘I told him that I had.’
‘”And, tha’s goin’ back by this 2.20 train ?”’
‘”Yes, I am,” I replied.’
‘”And tha’s feelin’ pleased with thisself ?” he reiterated.’
‘”Naturally,” I said.’
‘”And tha’s goin’ back by this 2.20 train ?”’
‘”Yes,” I replied, myself rather getting out of patience.’
‘”Well,” he said, quietly but deliberately, “Ah ‘opes thi drops dead before tha gets there.”’
UPDATE: TM regrets that he has had to change the date of this match having checked the score card on Cricket Archive. And there he was thinking that he was celebrating an anniversary. Lancastrians will now have to wait until the 10th June to celebrate. Perhaps they should meet at Leeds to gain maximum satisfaction.
However, here is a contemporary image of a Whit Friday procession along the Huddersfield Road in Diggle in 1924. Were they all so happy a week later?