SCARBOROUGH CRICKET FESTIVAL
Since 1876, with only the exception of war years, there has been a Cricket Festival played at Scarborough at the end of the first class season.
2014 will see the 128th Festival and attendances in recent years, especially 2011, have been excellent. There is still the relaxed holiday feel around the ground, including the band, and players and spectators alike love to take part.
The seeds of the Scarborough Festival had been sown at Castle Hill. Many of the visitors to Victorian Scarborough were both wealthy and cricket lovers and matches at Castle Hill could attract crowds in excess of 2000.
In 1875 Lord Londesborough agreed to sponsor a match between MCC and Yorkshire. The MCC side was put together by C.I. (Charles Inglis) Thornton, an MCC member and a regular visitor to Scarborough. MCC were enthusiastic which is not surprising as Sir Charles Legard Bt. was the MCC President in 1875 and a good friend of Lord Londesborough.
The following year, 1876, when Lord Londesborough himself became MCC President, the Cricket programme at Scarborough was extended to nine days and the main match was again MCC v Yorkshire with MCC managed by C.I.Thornton. This was the first Scarborough Festival.
In 1898 the Scarborough Mercury recalled: It was Lord Londesborough who made the Scarborough Festival possible. He brought here for many years the Gentlemen players and at his own expense entertained them. Those he was unable to entertain at Londesborough Lodge he provided for in hotels and even went as far as keeping a house in The Crescent especially for the use of Cricketers.
Charles Inglis Thornton was born in March 1850 at Llanwarne in Herefordshire and died in December 1929 in Marylebone.
He was a right hand bat and right arm fast underarm bowler. He played for Cambridge( captain 1872), Kent, Middlesex and MCC from 1869 until 1895.
His reputation was that of a big hitter having been recorded as hitting the ball 168 yards in practice at Brighton.
As a guest of Lord Londesborough he was a frequent visitor to Scarborough which was a very fashionable Spa town and holiday resort.
In 1871 Thornton was asked by Lord Londesborough to raise a side to play against Lord Londesboroughs XI (effectively the Yorkshire first XI)which he did so from mainly MCC players and it was known as The Scarborough Visitors XI.
The game was played at Castle Hill and was a great success.
Following the levelling and improvement of North Marine Road Thornton was again asked to put together a side, this time a formal MCC XI to play against Yorkshire in 1875. Rain spoiled the day but the match was repeated the following year 1876, again with Thornton organising, and was the first Scarborough Festival as other matches had also been arranged around it.
From then on until his death in 1929 he continued to organise The Scarborough Festival.
Along the way he personally scored 107 in 29 hits for The Gentlemen of England v I Zingari in 1886 (including his big hit) and managed the C.I.Thorntons XI which beat the full Australian side of 1921.
He was awarded the freedom of the Borough of Scarborough in 1921.
Shrimp H.D.G. Leveson-Gower had already been involved at the Festival for several years before 1929 when he took over responsibility for organising the matches.
He was born at Limpsfield Surrey in May 1873, attended Winchester College and Oxford University where he was awarded a blue for cricket and played for Oxford from 1983 until 1986 when he was captain. He played for Surrey, being captain from 1908 till 1910, and the Gentlemen plus MCC.
His association with Scarborough lasted until 1950, he was made a Freeman of Scarborough in 1930.
Leveson- Gowers XI v the Tourists XI was always the highlight of the Festival between the wars and the Australians as now was the team everyone wanted to see. The Australians were beaten in 1938 and this had a definite effect in 1948 when Bradman as captain requested Levison- Gower to restrict his XI to not more than six current England players to prevent the fixture becoming a sixth test at the end of a long tour.
For many years he was a member of the MCC committee and in 1909 he became a member of the Test Team selection committee , of which he was chairman in 1924 and from 1928 to 1930.
Leveson-Gowers successor was T.N. Pearce.
Thomas Neill Pearce (Tom Pearce) was born in November 1905 and died in April 1994.
He played cricket for Essex and was captain of Essex from 1933 until 1950 when he retired from first class cricket. He was also an International Rigby Union Referee.
On retirement from playing first class cricket he was made an England Test Selector a job which he held for many years.
At Essex he progressed from Club Secretary to Club Chairman and then President.
He managed the MCC tour of India, Ceylon and Pakistan in the winter of 1961/1962.
During his period in charge at the Scarborough Festival there was no falling away in interest either from the players or the spectators and all matches continued to have first class status.
There were many wonderful Tom Pierce sides against the Indians, Australia, West Indies, New Zealand and South Africa.
In 1963 the distinction between Gentlemen and players was finally removed and the Festival lost one of its regular matches.
The first sponsored match took place in 1965 when an England XI played a World XI and the World XI was sponsored by Rothmans of Pall Mall.
Yorkshire as always continued to support the Festival in the regular Yorkshire v MCC fixture.
In 1970 JH Fenner of Hull agreed to sponsor a 60 over knock out competition which became The Fenner Trophy played over three days and with the three trophy winners of the year versus Yorkshire. It was very successful financially but the MCC fixture had to make way. When Tom retired from being Festival Organiser in 1981 he had been only the third Organiser since the Festival was first played in 1876.
The years following Tom Pearce had to rely more and more on sponsorship and big names to attract the crowds.
The Club was particularly grateful for sponsorship from Asda Stores, Scarborough Building Society, Tesco Stores, Wards, White Horse ,Northern Electric and Tetleys. McCains and Boyes Stores were local companies who both became significant sponsors.
The sponsorship was added to by contributions from big names such as Brian Close, Michael Parkinson and Tim Rice. In the spirit of the Festival teams took the field as: The D.B.Close XI who played during the 80’s against International Touring sides; Michael Parkinsons World XI who played MCC in 1988 and 1989 and India in 1990 and Tim Rice’s XI v Yorkshire in 1998.
More recently the Festival is a week of Yorkshire Cricket which usually consists of a four day Championship match and a one day fixture, but it is put on in a festival atmosphere with marquee and band music, in the intervals these days, to produce a relaxed holiday feeling of Cricket by the sea.