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A Window on a Lost Decade

A chance discovery by Miss Joan Bird MBE of Freshwater East, Pembrokeshire, of a piece of Cowbridge cricket memorabilia - the 1901 Fixture Card for the E H Ebsworth XI - has solved a mystery that has existed since the last of those who were around at that time passed away.

Joan kindly presented the fixture card to Cowbridge Cricket Club, helping shine a light on a decade about which there had been very little previous information.

Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that the team names and dates printed on this small card would have been extremely helpful to the authors of ‘1840 and all that’, the story of the club that was published in 2015 to mark the 175th Anniversary of the first recorded fixture in 1840.

When the book was written, it was not clear what cricket had been played by the Cowbridge town club once E H (Harry) Ebsworth had opened his new ground and established his sporting and socially high end private XI in 1896.

Although there are good records beyond 1906 - when the Rev Owen Jones established the Cowbridge Wanderers Cricket Club - there has always been a mystery about the missing previous decade.

What the little fixture card tells us is that playing on Mr Ebsworth’s fine ground was an Ebsworth 2nd XI which enjoyed regular fixtures against local teams. This 2nd XI had not been previously known of but it would appear to have been those very same townsfolk who had played earlier under the name of Cowbridge. During the 10 year period when there had been a gap in our knowledge, they played as the Ebsworth 2nd XI.

The 1901 fixtures listed for this team were a real mix. A match against Cowbridge School, referred to as ‘The College’, was played on May 22nd and the School won. There were matches also against such teams as Cardiff Electrics, Cardiff Teachers and the Cardiff Commercial Travellers XI. Local teams played included Llanharan, Bonvilstone, Llandough and Southerndown, all now sadly defunct.

The donation of the 1901 fixture card augments the bits and pieces already held by Cowbridge Cricket Club. Chance discoveries of the sort made by Joan play an essential role in helping create a more vivid and accurate picture of the past.

Born in Cowbridge, Joan enjoys a strong family association with the Cricket Club. It was her father, Bruce, who played for the club with his brother Ralph and the Dunns, amongst others, before the First World War. Having survived Gallipoli, Bruce returned to help revive the club post-war.

Bruce Bird was always regarded by the late President, Colin Adams, as the finest wicket keeper Cowbridge ever had but he proved equally effective off the field, for example, organising a highly successful prize draw for the purchase of sightscreens to enable Glamorgan county cricket to be played at Cowbridge in 1931.

Joan’s career took her to Morocco in 1960 to head a rehabilitation project established by The Save the Children Fund. On returning to Wales, she was awarded the MBE for her dedication over ten years in north Africa, spending the remainder of her working life as head teacher of Pembroke Nursery School.

Anyone who would like to take a look at Cowbridge Cricket Club’s small yet interesting collection of memorabilia is welcome to contact Jeffrey Bird on 07976793629

Front cover of the Historic Scorecard

The fascinating fixture list revealed by Mr Ebsworth's XI 1901 Scorecard