There cannot have been much scope for sport during most of the eighteenth century as Spain made determined efforts to recover the fortress in 1727 and in 1779. The conclusion of “The Great Siege” in 1783 marks the end of Spanish attempts to wrest Gibraltar from the British by force of arms, and it must have been soon after this date that the first game of cricket was played on the Rock.
The earliest reference to the game comes from an unusual source. When the Spaniards adopted stringent measures to combat contraband, including the threat of firing on anyone who approached within musket shot of the Spanish sentry posts, the Governor of Gibraltar warned the inhabitants not to advance “beyond the cricket ground.” The order was dated 17th. June 1800.
The first reference to the game in the local press appeared in the Gibraltar Chronicle and Commercial Intelligencer in 1822: “The Gibraltar Cricket Club will play their first match on the Neutral Ground on Saturday next, the 6th. July, wickets to be pitched at 12 o’clock.” In those days the so-called Neutral Ground was an expanse of land between the northern face of the Rock and the Spanish line of fortifications.
A week later the same periodical reported that “the Civilians of the Gibraltar Cricket Club having challenged the Officers, a match will be played on the Race Course on Saturday next for one thousand dollars a side, wickets to be pitched at 10 o’clock.”
As the nineteenth century progressed, the Garrison and Calpe Cricket Clubs were formed. For some time it was claimed that the members of the latter club founded the Gibraltar Cricket Club in 1858, and it would appear that reference to such a club in 1822 did not point to a permanent establishment. However, it seems strange that no reference to such an event is to be found in the Gibraltar Chronicle of that year. Indeed, the only reference to cricket appeared on the 23rd. March in the form of a notice informing members of the CALPE Cricket Club that a general meeting would be held on the 25th. March at the Garrison Library to appoint a Committee and arrange preliminaries for the ensuing season.
Twenty five years later, much stronger evidence dating the formation of the Gibraltar Cricket Club appeared in the same periodical. A notice in the edition of the 8th. September 1883 reads: A meeting for the purpose of forming a Gibraltar Cricket Club will be held in the Exchange Rooms on Monday next, the 10th. instant, at 12 o’clock noon. The honorary Chief Justice has kindly consented to preside. The attendance of all those interested in Cricket is particularly requested.
The Gibraltar Chronicle of Monday 26th. May 1884 reported that the opening match of the season of the Gibraltar Cricket Club (lately started under the patronage of His Excellency Sir John Adye) will take place on their ground tomorrow, commencing at 11 am. Thanks to the energy of the Committee appointed to look after the ground, a good pitch has been provided for the match, on what was formerly half wilderness, half marsh.
The game of cricket thrived in Gibraltar during the final decades of the nineteenth century. Apart from the more regular playing clubs, a whole host of others featured in the press reports from time to time, some of the names being of somewhat obscure origins. The Civil Service played the occasional game, as did the Temperance Cricket Club (a contradiction in terms if ever there was one!). In 1893, a match between ‘Servants’ and ‘Grooms’ ended in a tie. The Commercial Clerks Cricket Club was made up almost exclusively of civilians, as was the Calpe Rowing Club team – both played an odd fixture or two during the season. Other teams containing many civilians included Standard CC, Werra CC, Collegiate CC, Surrey CC, Foresters CC and the Eastern Telegraph Company.
An unexpected bonus was the arrival of the first touring side in 1890.
On the 22nd. April, the liner “Liguria” collided with two other ships while entering Gibraltar harbour, which necessitated a longer than usual stay for her on the Rock. On board was the Australian cricket team, under the leadership of W L Murdoch, en route to England where they were to have a disastrous tour.
A Gibraltar Garrison team, numbering seventeen players, was dismissed by the “terrible twins” from “down under” – C T B Turner and J J Ferris – for 25 runs! Turner returned figures of 9/15 and Ferris 5/10. After such an unpleasant experience, it says something for the local side when they had eight Australian wickets down at the close with the total on 150!
One final note from the nineteenth century seems worthwhile recording.
On the 23rd. November 1893, the Gibraltar Cricket Club met to form a Football Club to be run in conjunction with the cricket club. Commented the Chronicle: The Gibraltar Cricket Club has hitherto confined its efforts to the game for which is was originated; but we feel sure that it is a wise step to endeavour to promote athletic amusement in the winter months, when cold weather, short days, and soft ground render cricket impossible, and we therefore wish the Football Club every success.
The game continued to develop in the early part of the twentieth century, both at Service and Civilian levels. By 1910, the Dockyard CC had become a force to be reckoned with, whilst for the Gibraltar Cricket Club, expatriates E Martin (a schoolteacher) and W F Gaubert were the stalwarts. One interesting event was the visit of an Army Service Corps side to Tangier. Amongst the Tangier team were such names as Abensur, Morillo and Hassan! The match, which took place on the 7th. July 1910, ended in an honourable draw. The visit was repeated on the 1st. August. ASC emerging victorious this time.
“The Gimlets” made an appearance in 1912, as “a society of sporting and convivial spirits who aspire with conspicuous success to achievements in the cricket, football and hockey fields equal to the laurels which they have won in the social and prandial exploits.” Also in evidence by this time was the Eastern Telegraph Company who played a fair number of games during the course of the season. King’s Chapel also turned out a side from time to time, as did an “Exiles” XI and a new civilian club calling itself the Prince of Wales Cricket Club, a name more noted locally for its footballing exploits.
A rather poetic picture of the scene at North Front is supplied by a letter published in the Gibraltar Chronicle on the 16th. October 1913:
May I call your attention to the most interesting and gay state of affairs to be seen on the North Font yesterday about 5.30 pm. The Officers of the Navy and Army were playing a cricket match watched by many beauteous ladies and enlivened by the band of the Royal Artillery, whose officers were dispensing general hospitality. Close at hand a Rugby Football match was in progress, so close that the football occasionally seemed to interfere with the cricketers. A little further off the hounds could be seen exercising, while several racehorses were doing their evening gallop round the track. To complete the variety, both Sun and Moon smiled together on the scene. Cricket, Football, Horses, Sun and Moon AND the Beauteous Ladies, all at the same moment – well, what’s the matter with Gibraltar?
The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 inevitably disrupted Cricket on the Rock, some of the Regiments there being posted to the war-front. However, the game did not cease altogether and the Gibraltar Cricket Club soldiered on. It was during this period that a Services team calling themselves “The Nomads” made an appearance, and they featured regularly throughout the war years. It was also at this time that the name of John Hayward Junior first began to appear on scorecards; as we shall see, he was to emerge as possibly the most accomplished Gibraltarian cricketer of all time.
On the 18th. October 1917, the Gibraltar Chronicle reviewed the Cricket season gone by:
To a stranger to Gibraltar any talk of a cricket season in the midst of the ‘Great War’ would probably come as a surprise, and incline him to wonder how the two can be in any way compatible. But to those who know the Fortress, even but a little, with its monotonous duties, its circumscribed area and its unrelaxing vigilance, requiring each and every man to be at all times within a stone’s throw, as it were, of his post, the vital need of wholesome and absorbing recreation, taking the individual out of himself for such time as he is engaged in it, is very plainly apparent. The need for exercise and organised games, now more than ever insisted upon by all military training authorities, affords further justification of a Cricket season, and all that it represents in the way of preliminary practice. Therefore, nothing in the way of apology is required from one who reveals the fact that we have has a cricket season on the Rock, and a successful one at that, in this year of grace 1917.
It may be added that the Gibraltar Cricket Club played no less than 75 matches that year, winning 52 of them and losing only on seven occasions.
Gibraltar Cricket Club’s stalwart of those years, Sergeant Wakeham, enjoyed himself in 1918. On the 8th. June, playing against the Officers of the Garrison, he took three wickets and scored an undefeated 130. There followed an undefeated 101 and seven wickets against RGA (North) on the 27th. July – a total of 763 runs and 44 wickets in the season. John Hayward Junior served notice of things to come with 741 runs (top score of 107) in a season in which the Gibraltar Cricket Club played 41 matches.
The end of the ‘Great War’ saw a return to normality to the cricketing scene in Gibraltar and a full programme of Civilian and Service fixtures. “The Nomads” continued to turn out regularly. By the 1920’s, John Hayward Junior was coming into his own with regular centuries and half centuries against all opposition. In 1929 he scored 1665 runs in 24 innings at an average of 75.68 and a top score of 239 not out. The Gibraltar Cricket Club could now count on sufficient members to turn out two sides on most weekends. ‘Flannel dances’ became a regular and popular feature at the Club’s Pavilion at North Front, and the Murto Cup became the first trophy to be offered for exclusive Civilian competition. For this, the Gibraltar Cricket Club split itself three ways – GCC., Line Wall College CC., and Wanderers CC. There were thus sufficient civilian cricketers now to turn out three sides.
In 1927, a second touring team arrived in Gibraltar. As in 1890, their visit was the result of an unexpected event. Due to an alteration in the ship’s date of departure from England, the proposed tour of the Cryptics’ XI to Portugal had to be cancelled, and instead they came to Gibraltar. They, too, proved to be a strong combination, winning three of their four matches. They defeated the Gibraltar Cricket Club by nine and ten wickets respectively. In the second of these matches John Hayward Junior scored 136 out of his side’s total of 213. The visitors also defeated a Rock XI by nine wickets.
By the 1930’s, Gibraltar was producing a whole cluster of local-born cricketers of good quality. Head and shoulders above all was John Hayward Junior, who regularly scored well over a thousand runs a season as well as taking his fair share of wickets. His younger brother, Teddy Hayward, was an all rounder who completed the ‘double’ of 1000 runs and 100 wickets on numerous occasions. Amongst many outstanding performances, Teddy excelled himself on the 20th. June 1932, in a match against HMS “Searcher.” He performed a ‘hat-trick’ in his first over and took nine wickets for five runs as the opposition was dismissed for 23 runs in as many minutes. When GCC required 49 runs for victory (it was a two innings match), John Hayward Junior scored 41 of them. Quite a day for the Hayward brothers! Other outstanding cricketers of this era were John Jones, an excellent all-rounder, and Frank Sant, a top-class wicket-keeper batsman. In those days, the GCC would play over fifty games in a season (69 in 1934!), opportunitiesnot open to the modern-day cricketer in Gibraltar.
In September 1932, H G D Leveson-Gower’s XI arrived for a three match tour. Leveson-Gower himself led the side which included another England captain in Lord Tennyson of Hampshire. All three games were drawn but the local batsmen did themselves proud. John Hayward Junior, then GCC’s captain, hit an unbeaten 169 and J Balbuena took 114 off the tourists’ attack when playing for a Rock XI.
In 1935, two English sides visited the Rock. In early April came G O Allen’s side – G O ‘Gubby’ Allen was to captain the MCC side which toured Australia the following season. Also in the party were A P F Chapman, a former England captain, and W G L F Lowndes, the Hampshire all-rounder who in 1934 had knocked a century off the Australians. This was the most powerful side yet to visit Gibraltar and won two of its matches with ease, the Garrison managing to force a draw with one wicket remaining in the other match. A few weeks later came the Yorkshire Gentlemen, the then Governor, Sir Charles Harrington, playing for them against the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, the regiment which had arranged the visit.
The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 appears to have had little effect on the game of Cricket in Gibraltar, but the same cannot be said of the Second World War in 1940. Not only did Cricket come to a temporary halt then, but the playing fields at the North Front disappeared to make way for the construction of an airfield. The game eventually resumed on a makeshift ground at the Alameda Grand Parade. One match that the Gibraltar Cricket Club might well prefer to forget was their opening fixture of 1944, when they were dismissed for their lowest total for many years – 14 runs – by a Combined Eleven representing the RASC and the RAMC!
By 1947, the Gibraltar Cricket Club was pressing the authorities for a ground to replace that lost during the war. Negotiations eventually resulted in the handing over of a site east of the Stone Jetty and adjacent to the airfield – the location of the present-day Victoria Stadium. The new ground was inaugurated in 1949.
John Hayward and John Jones, now in their forties, continued to dominate the local cricketing scene, and E Benyunes turned in many impressive all-round performances. Other proficient cricketers of the period included Walter Gordon, who could turn the ball appreciably both ways, Nemmie Cortes, a fine driver of the ball, Charles Norton, an elegant batsman, and the up-and coming Peter Fernandez, a medium paced bowler with a smooth, easy action.
In 1948, the Services organised Major and Minor Leagues, nine teams featuring in the former and six in the latter. The Gibraltar Cricket Club was invited to join the Major League, and emerged as undisputed champions, although, as a civilian side, the Club was not eligible to hold the Championship Trophy!
The 1950’s saw an increase of civilian cricketers as the Gibraltar Grammar School began to produce a crop of youngsters. The Civil Service turned out a regular side, and the Grammarians CC emerged as a force to be reckoned with. No longer did the Gibraltar Cricket Club hold the monopoly of civilian cricket on the Rock. Whilst “the old guard” continued to hold the fort, there were many talented youngsters knocking on the door. It was a healthy state of affairs for local cricket.
The Gibraltar Cricket Club had already taken the initiative in reviving pre-war cricket rivalry with the Services by organising representative matches against Combined Services sides, but by the late 1950’s it was clear that the Club was no longer representative of civilian cricket on the Rock. In 1960, therefore, the decision was taken to form an Association, representative of all civilian clubs, to be responsible for the running of local cricket. Thus was born the Gibraltar Cricket Association in May, 1960. Four years later, the decision was taken to run a joint Senior League in which Civilian and Service sides would participate. Three “Test” matches were also played each season between the Gibraltar Cricket Association and the Combined Services. In 1969, the Association achieved full recognition as a cricketing body when elected as an Associate Member of the International Cricket Conference (now the International Cricket Council).
One feature of the cricketing scene in Gibraltar in the 1970’s was the regular flow of visiting sides from the United Kingdom. Notable among the visitors were the New Zealand Ambassadors Cricket team in 1970, Essex County Cricket Club in 1973, and Yorkshire County Cricket Club in 1977. At the same time, there was a lack of young blood entering the sport, due partly to greater competition from other sports, partly because the local schools had ceased to include cricket in their curriculum, and partly because of the total lack of television coverage of the game on the Rock.
In 1977, the Gibraltar Cricket Association undertook a tour to the United Kingdom, only to encounter appalling weather. Not a single game was completed in the London area, but the Association managed some action at Nottingham and Sheffield.
Great anticipation was building up in Gibraltar cricketing circles as the 1979 inaugural ICC World Cup Competition for Associate Members approached, but when the moment arrived the Association had to withdraw from the tournament due to lack of players willing to participate.
Touring sides from the United Kingdom continued to visit, and despite the advancing years of the side, a team was sent to represent Gibraltar at the 1982 ICC Trophy Competition. It was certainly not the strongest side which could have been raised and the team lost all its matches, some of them by very heavy margins. However, it had been an achievement in itself to have raised a squad to participate and the players who represented Gibraltar on that tour proved themselves to be excellent ambassadors for their country.
The game soldiered on after 1982, thanks in the main to the efforts of a few stalwarts. Some injection of new blood came along from time to time through the arrival of expatriates, but this was a purely ephemeral factor and the pressing need continued to be the entry of young blood into the game.
In June, 1986, Gibraltar was again represented at the ICC Competition for Associate Members, which was staged in the West Midlands. The squad taken this time was much stronger than the 1982 one, but it still found the opposition too strong and some heavy defeats had again to be endured. However, the tour was to end on a high note on Monday, 30th. June, when Gibraltar faced Israel in the final game of the tournament and achieved its first ever International victory midst great excitement.
An interesting development after the re-opening of the frontier with Spain in 1985 was the establishment of contacts with cricketing expatriates along the Costa del Sol, and this was to bear fruit in 1988. In that year the Services decided to reduce their participation in the local competitions from the three single-Service sides to one Combined Services team. The resultant short-fall in fixtures was more than made up by the entry of four clubs from the Costa. When the Services pulled out of the annual “Test” series against the GCA, the Málaga Cricket Association stepped in to take their place. In 1989, the Costa contingent was reduced to two clubs, but a new Club was formed locally which called itself the Hindu Cricket Club.
Gibraltar embarked once again on the ICC trail in 1990, the venue this time being the Hague in the Netherlands, and the performances of the team surpassed all expectations, gaining victories against East & Central Africa, Singapore, and Israel. Results did not quite reach these heights in Kenya four years later, but there were some closely fought encounters.
An outstanding event during the 1992 season was the visit of Israel to the Rock, the first ever by a fellow Associate Member. Three matches were played, all resulting in close contests, Israel emerging victorious against Gibraltar and the President’s XI and going down to a Rock XI. The following season an MCC side, including Mushtaq Mohammed, visited Gibraltar and played a series of matches.
In 1996, Gibraltar participated in the first ever European Cricket Championships held in Denmark. The side went down to the host country, Ireland and Scotland, but won the encounter against Italy. The next ICC Trophy came round a year later and was staged in Malaysia. Gibraltar performed creditably with victories against Israel and Argentina and only the weather depriving them of probable wins against Singapore and West Africa. Soon after this the Gibraltar Cricket Association employed its first ever full time Youth Development Officer, David Gelling. He was instrumental in reintroducing the game into the local schools and engendering a great deal of enthusiasm for the game among the younger generation. The fruits of this work are still be felt locally.
The second European Championships were held in the Netherlands in 1998 and for the first time were played on an ‘A’ and ‘B’ Group basis. This should have meant closer contests, but in the end Gibraltar were shocked to find that the other countries in their group, taking advantage of the wider qualification rules of the European Tournament, turned up with much stronger squads than anticipated. The outcome was defeats against France (newly promoted to Associate status), Italy, Germany (still an Affiliate Member) and Israel (twice). On the positive side, Gibraltar took the opportunity to blood some of her up and coming indigenous youngsters, and this augured well for the future.
By now, the Costa del Sol contingents had disappeared from the domestic competitions as had done the Hindu Club (subsequently renamed the Asia XI), but a new club, Calpe CC, consisting in the main of young cricketers had appeared on the scene. The mid-week twenty overs league continued to grow in popularity with eleven teams contesting the two divisions in 1998 and 1999.
The 1999 season was notable for two major events. In July, Gibraltar sent a team to play in the European Colts under nineteens competition, staged in Northern Ireland, and it finished top of Group B with two victories against Germany and one against Italy. The second event was the staging, in Gibraltar, of the first-ever Quadrangular Tournament involving the host country, Italy, Israel and France. Gibraltar gained creditable victories against France and Israel and only lost to Italy in the final in the last over of a rain-reduced match.
Now, on the even of the new millennium, Gibraltar’s cricketers look forward to a busy year 2000. The senior squad will once again be participating in the European Championships, this time scheduled to take place in Scotland, Gibraltar has bid to stage the European Colts Under Fifteens Group B in August, local club UKCCC plan to take part in the European Champions Club Tournament, MCC are visiting in September, and there is a standing invitation to tour in Israel in October. All in all, things look rosy for the future of cricket on the Rock of Gibraltar!