Chairman's Blog

Some 75 years ago, Wyndham Fletcher and a group of friends founded the Shepway Stragglers Cricket Club. Cricket in the Kent countryside seemed like the perfect way to leave the war behind them.  Why “Shepway Stragglers”?  Shepway was the name of Wyndham’s house, and the club was to be peripatetic, straggling around the county with no fixed abode.  The records indicate that Wyndham raised sides for and ran every game for the first few years, with some forced recruitment on commuter trains back to Kent on a Friday afternoon.

The new club recognised that the long-established Kent wandering side, the Band of Brothers, along with Clubs such as the Free Foresters, played their cricket on Saturdays, and so the Straggler fixture card was arranged for Sundays, so as not to clash.  The early membership had strong connections with the wine trade and the local military, and the early card was a mixture of fixtures against sides with military or alcoholic connections, and over time as matches against village sides entered the card, not so much a ‘who’s who’ as a ‘where’s where’ of Kent. Today is the 1,215th Straggler game to be played, of which 518 have been won and a mere 395 lost.

The founders made one key early decision in appreciating the importance of bringing in new talent to sustain the club into the future, and in late August 1949 a young man made his debut for the Stragglers against the Royal West Kent Regiment at the Shornecliffe barracks.  He must have been on to bowl early as his first Straggler wicket was a Regimental opener bowled for 4.  Paul Smallwood went on the play Straggler cricket for 41 years taking 298 wickets, is a participant in the 8th wicket partnership record of 107* with JLA Barnes in 1957 and the record for the 10th wicket partnership of 75* with CE McCausland in 1952.  Paul is our Club President, the fourth to hold the position in 75 years.

Of course, Paul was followed down the generations by four more Smallwoods and a Burge, Matthew, who made his debut in 1982, Jasper who made his debut at Street End apparently at the age of 8 or so, I seem to recall, followed by Al, Benny and Tom Burge.  Tom is now about 7 foot 3, and bowls much like his grandfather must have done in his pomp.  There have only been a couple of years of Straggler cricket without a Smallwood at the crease, behind the stumps or running in to bowl, and that somehow sums up the familial continuity of the Stragglers over the decades.

Of course, what 7 decades of Smallwood cricket also means is that there is one supporter who has probably sat by the boundary and seen more Straggler cricket than anyone, as wife, mother and grandmother, since first meeting Paul in 1956.  In recognition of such stalwart support, I have some flowers for Patricia.

At the other end of the telescope, I am really pleased that today we have three winners of the Peter Budden Shepway Straggler award, sponsored in memory of Peter, the 3rd President of the Club and very long-time Latin teacher at Wellesley House – Inigo Pullen (2018), James Felton (2019) and Harry Heming (2020), who are part of the future of the Club.  Indeed, in the last fortnight we will have had five of the six winners of the award turn out for the Stragglers – George Long (2021), and his brother Xandy, joint winner in 2022 played at Egerton, where both took wonderful catches. The other joint winner from 2022, Archie Brown made the faux pas of turning out for the Junior BB last Friday against the Stragglers but redeemed himself by gifting his wicket to the Chairman!

Very sadly, Club couturier, Jasper, has had a stressful week trying to track down the celebration caps due to be presented today.  A box of caps arrived, but, on inspection, they proved to be the centenary caps for Chippenham rugby club, in a fetching shade of blue.  Having complained at length, the Straggler caps were eventually located and sent out for delivery in time for today.  However, the courier seems to have vanished en route.

The important focus for today, for which caps will, eventually, be presented, is to recognise the significant contribution of 42 Stragglers over the years, with the bat (2,000 runs), the ball (100 wickets), with the gloves (25 victims), in the field (40 outfield catches) or just by turning out more than 100 times for the Club.  Some of those who have reached one or more of these milestones are watching the Stragglers of 2022 from another pavilion.  However, I am delighted that 4 of the 42 are playing today, and that many others are here to have their contribution recognised.

I will start with those who have reached one milestone:

  • Bobby Barclay – leading keeper with 79 scalps
  • George Baker White – 2,681 runs, now in the top 10 of Straggler run scorers
  • Charlie Barlow – 50 keeping scalps
  • Giles Brealy – 2,930 runs, and for many years leading the career averages
  • Jim Budden – 2,449 runs
  • David Collingwood – 25 keeping victims
  • HA Collins – 126 wickets
  • Andrew Cox – 2,032 runs
  • Toby Cox – 3,101 runs. Toby is the only Straggler to have averaged over 100 in a season
  • JW Deedes – 37 keeping scalps
  • Ed Denne – 28 keeping scalps
  • Will Gow – 136 wickets
  • Blair Hart – 25 keeping scalps
  • RAH Lee – 36 keeping scalps
  • NO Macleay – 45 keeping victims
  • CE McCausland – 159 wickets
  • John Parry – >100 appearances
  • James Ryeland – 211 wickets
  • Simon Schilder – 2,531 runs
  • Matthew Schilder with 2,027 runs including the highest Straggler score of 194*
  • Al Smallwood number two on the keeping list with 70 keeping victims

Two milestones (all with > 100 appearances plus):

  • Mark Baker White – 152 wickets
  • Matt Smallwood – 2,351 runs
  • President Paul Smallwood – 298 wickets
  • Peter Budden (third President) – 120 wickets
  • Jimmy Cox (second President) – 2,543 runs
  • JLA Barnes – 105 wickets
  • DK Thomas – 44 catches
  • RSG Wood – 160 wickets

Three milestones (all with > 100 appearances plus):

  • Simon Allport – 156 wickets and 42 catches
  • Nigel Snape – 5,315 runs (leading run scorer) and 61 catches
  • Nick Tapp – 389 wickets (3rd) and 67 catches (3rd)
  • Wyndham Fletcher, founder of the Shepway Stragglers and President for the first 50 years, with 4,842 runs and 61 catches
  • Alastair Gordon, who with Joe was awarded the champagne moment in 2015, with 349 wickets and 65 catches

Four milestones (all with > 100 appearances plus).  This group has changed within the last month, as Jasper made it into the top tier at Egerton three weeks ago.  There are 8 Stragglers who have reached this level of contribution (none have yet got to 5):

  • Vere Collins, one of the founders of the Club, with 2,090 runs, 122 wickets and 42 catches
  • Bobby Neame – 4,669 runs, 48 catches and 25 keeping victims
  • Jim Woodhouse – 3,907 runs, 129 wickets and 43 catches
  • Rodney Fletcher – 2,137 runs, leading wicket taker with 925 wickets, and leading outfield catcher with 87 catches
  • Peter Canney – 3,447 runs, 507 wickets (2nd) and 69 catches (2nd)
  • Jonathan Neame – 5,071 runs (2nd), 148 wickets and 40 catches
  • Theo Allport – 2,549 runs, 43 catches and 55 keeping scalps (3rd)
  • Jasper Smallwood – 5,068 runs (3rd), 52 catches and 25 keeping scalps

We are delighted that three of the eight are with us at Belmont for the 75th anniversary match: Peter, Theo and Jasper with Bobby represented by Yvonne and Jim by Avril.