President's labour of love charts life and times of Barnard Castle Cricket Club
WHAT began as an account of Barnard Castle Cricket Club through the years turned into a social history of the town.
Small Town, Big Dreams – The Life and Times of Barnard Castle Cricket Club charts the club's exploits since its formation in 1832 and details the lives and times of more than 100 of those who made their mark both on and off the field.
The book has been a four-year labour of love for Mr Brenkley, who for more than 20 years was the cricket correspondent of the Independent on Sunday and the Independent newspapers.
“But Barnard Castle Cricket Club was, is and always will be my first love,” he said.
“My first report of a cricket match was of a Barney game in 1967 for the Evening Despatch Pink 'un when I was 14.
“I always wanted to be a reporter. I knew then I wanted to write about cricket and I thought that one day I would write a history of the club.”
Mr Brenkley, 67, who began his career as a journalist covering Barnard Castle for the Darlington and Stockton Times, said he realised at an early stage of research that the book would be more than a history of the club.
“I was determined to find out about the people who played beyond the cricket field,” he said.
“The game has always been an important part of Barney’s way of life. It was the town’s first organised sports club and it has always been attached to the town and crucial to its wellbeing.
“The club had people who gave something back to town and country, so the book became a social history as well as a club history.”
In his playing days, Mr Brenkley was a wicket keeper. He turned out for the club from 1970 to 1975 and again from 1986 to 1992.
“As with all sports clubs, there have been long periods of doom and gloom followed by winning streaks,” he said.
The 1880s, during which the club won the Durham County Cup, was the first golden age, said Mr Brenkley.
After the First World War, it was “hanging on for dear life” when the standard declined, before a large influx of troops in the Second World War combined with the emergence of good local players saw fortunes improve.
The club dropped out of league competition between 1892 and 1961, when it joined the fledgling Darlington and District set-up for one season before moving to the North Yorkshire South Durham League.
Barney CC is enjoying a new golden age having lifted the NYSD title twice and Kerridge Cup three times in recent years.
Mr Brenkley said this is a testament to the club's junior set up which has resulted in a good seam of home-grown young players who form the backbone of the current first team.
“I am privileged to be president of the club. I have been lucky enough to watch cricket all round the world, in all the test playing countries and beyond, but nothing gives me more pleasure than watching our boys at Barney on a Saturday.
l Small Town, Big Dreams – The Life and Times of Barnard Castle Cricket Club is published in hardback and available priced £25 from the Teesdale Mercury shop, in Market Place.
Orders can also be placed by emailing baliolbooks @gmail.com. Delivery is free in Barnard Castle; postage is £3 for others.