When Barnes and Constantine Shared a Cordial After the Match

Prior to paying his £2 entry charge for a Twenty20 match between Rawtenstall and Ramsbottom last night, Third Man dropped into Malachi Fitzpatrick’s Temperance Bar and Emporium.

The Fitzpatricks, an Irish family of herbalists, started their business in 1899 and at one time had as many as thirty establishments.  The Rawtenstall emporium is the last of the line.  In fact it is the last temperance bar in the country.

Third Man selected a Blood Tonic Cordial which, with its fruity raspberry taste and principle ingredient of rosehips, is claimed to be an effective treatment for the rheumatoid arthritis that is likely to result from spending three hours outside watching cricket in this coldest, wettest, darkest of Junes.  

The town is located deep in the steep sided valley of the Irwell, north of Cottonopolis, to which for a hundred or more years it dispatched its considerable manufactures. 

The Cricket Club has a history dating back to the early 1880s and a fin de siècle blazer and cap worn by their star batsman Fred Pickup is displayed in a new club house built above the steep bank of seating where the Town has habitually gathered on Sundays to watch their team compete in the Lancashire League.

Rawtenstall took on its first professional in 1883 paying him 30 shillings a week but for that they expected him to prepare the ground, bowl to and coach the amateurs, oh, and score fifty runs and take seven wickets in every match. 

Their ground is situated on the Bacup Road at the other end of which reside their great rivals.  The photograph above shows an expectant home crowd packed across the banking, about to enjoy the 1949 cup final derby against Bacup.

As JH writes below, “I bet the Bacup boundary fielders got a right earful.”

In the 1920s Nelson CC led the way by becoming the first club to employ an overseas star when they signed the Australian fast bowler Ted MacDonald.  In 1929 they engaged the services of a professional who was to set the Lancashire League on fire – the West Indian firecracker, Learie Constantine.

Rawtenstall’s answer in 1931 was to sign the 58 year old Sydney Barnes who at that time had taken 3,373 wickets including 189 test match victims.  ‘Barnie’ began well against the Blackburn side of East Lancashire.  His 7 for 30, including a three over spell that produced 5 wickets without conceding a run, guided Rawtenstall to victory.

A massive crowd was therefore guaranteed for the confrontation between Constantine and Barnes.  The West Indian began with 96 not out in Nelson’s 175 and he followed this with 4 for 34 as Rawtenstall were bowled out for 103.

Barnes received a stern reprimand from the Committee for not getting his 7 wickets. “Pro, what exactly are we paying you for?!”

Barnes did not otherwise disappoint, ending the season with 115 wickets at an average of 6.3, but Rawtenstall finished fourth in the League, ten points behind Nelson.

Yesterday evening, with dark clouds overhead and rain on its way, the Banking was sparsely populated.  Across the road the once dynamic Ilex Mill has been converted into flats, but its outline still calls to mind a scene from Lowry. 

The home side made a meagre 99 which their opponents, from down ‘The Valley’,  knocked off for the loss of only four wickets.

When Barnes and Constantine had their duel, the smoke from countless chimneys would have filled the valley and the views of the South Pennine Moors that now grace this ground would have been glimpsed only once a year when the mills closed for Wakes Week – providing it wasn’t raining of course.

Third Man likes to imagine that after their match, while the amateurs downed their beers, the two great cricketers slipped out of the ground and made their way to Fitzpatrick’s to share a bottle or two of the Blood Tonic Cordial to ward off the arthritis that curses many a cricketer.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “When Barnes and Constantine Shared a Cordial After the Match

  1. John Halliwell

    A lovely piece, T M; an absolute pleasure to read, atmospheric, brilliant. I hope you’ve thawed out. I wonder what 30 bob a week in 1883 equates to in today’s terms? It seems like a heck of a lot. I would have loved to have been present for that 1949 final – the atmosphere must have been something special; I bet the Bacup boundary fielders got a right earful. Nelson’s Ted MacDonald! As an opposition batsman, you’d be lucky to sleep the night before. What an astonishing bowler Barnes was – his record for that season is astonishing, and at 58! He is one of those very rare players you’d risk getting in a time machine for……

  2. Time travel has its attractions, John, but it plays merry hell with the aging process..
    Thank you for reminding readers of the ‘earful’ the visiting players would have received from that massed community released from the confines of Chapel – it was no doubt all part of the fun of an afternoon at the cricket and not confined to the rowdy Hillites over in Sydney.
    These days a sub pro probably asks for and gets between £300 and £400 for an afternoon and thirty bob in the 1880s may well have been equivalent. The Rawtenstall Pro on Friday night was out for 0 but did take two wickets in his first over. He was unable, though, to make further inroads.
    What does become apparent when thinking of the arrival of those international stars in the 1920s and 30s is how similar the Lancashire League was then to the IPL now – with Malinga and Gayle preferring the cash to the honour and Warne and Gilchrist finding a last chance to weave their magic whilst earning a crust or two.

  3. diogenes

    Damn it…you renind me of the golden age of the leagues when barnes, Conny and Martindale duked it out. I believe that the legendary centre forward Tommy Lawton used to play cricket in the ldeagues and was coached by martindale about Conny’sslower ball…did he face Barnes? There is a history of the leagues waiting to be written…

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