DAVID Mitchell grew up in Craven, son of former Dalesman editor W R ‘Bill’ Mitchell. David’s latest book, ‘From Snicket to Wicket’, is a nostalgic and personal look back on the part that cricket has played through his life.

IT all started in 1961 when David’s grandad, a regular in the Skipton leagues who once kept wicket to the great Learie Constantine, took him to Bradford to watch Yorkshire play the Australians.

David describes how a shot from Aussie Test player, Norman O’ Neill, ‘crashed into the crowd, a few seats away from us’. It was an exciting moment which fuelled an interest in the summer game. David’s mum, as he recalls, was more concerned about him leaving his granny’s brand new hand-knitted jumper at the ground, bringing another, older one home instead.

The book evokes memories of starting to play the game in the back yard on High Hill Grove in Settle, ‘down t’snicket by t’post office’. David was able to practise batting, bowling and fielding in games he devised for himself but was also fortunate to call on both mum and dad to provide a varied bowling attack. Mum had been a useful right-arm bowler for Johnson and Johnson at Gargrave. Dad bowled in a brisk left arm style with matches rattling in his pocket as he ran in to bowl. With friends, lengthy games took place along the back street, using an oil drum from Ellis’s Garage as a wicket at one end and a pile of jumpers at the other. David would diligently copy the actions of players featured on the sporadic coverage of the game on black and white television.

Many of David’s summer days were spent at Settle Cricket Club. He would watch his heroes from the boundary edge, complete with crisps containing the blue packet of salt and a bottle of Dandelion and Burdock. Even today, he can still recite the batting order. There would be a rush to find balls lost in the long grass on the railway embankment or a neighbouring garden. It was an exciting moment when he first stepped into the scorebox to help keep everybody up-to-date by pinning numbers up or pulling on an arrangement of oily chains and cogs to change the total. This was thrilling enough in itself but had the added bonus of a free tea as well! Saturday Ribblesdale League matches were often tense and exciting affairs but some of the most memorable to score for were in the annual medal competitions on Wednesday evenings. Twenty overs a side, these involved local businesses and pub teams and pre-dated today’s spectacular T20 competition. They were no less dramatic, though. The ‘barrackers’ in flat hats and jackets took their seats under the high whitewashed wall at the Kirkgate side of the ground and watched on as the butcher, the baker and the plumber had their moments of glory. Without a name to identify them, they might be registered in the score book as ‘Black Trousers’ or ‘Blue Cap’.

There was no more exciting day than when Yorkshire came to town. The Marshfield ground would be full as the county fielded strong sides ahead of the season. The sixties was a golden period for Yorkshire cricket and all their top names of the day would be there, including local lad Don Wilson who had been given a chance at the Yorkshire nets after bowling Len Hutton out in the 1953 game. Autograph hunting was eagerly pursued. There was high drama one year when John Hampshire put a six through a bedroom window on neighbouring Marshfield Road. Fair to say that the owner was unimpressed! The most difficult signature to get was Fred Trueman’s but David found a way round by asking Eric Mitchell, one of the Settle team and no relation, to get it for him at the evening event. Mission accomplished!

Having served his apprenticeship and gaining match experience with teams at Giggleswick School, David eventually played for the Settle club with trips across the border into enemy territory. Places like Barnoldswick, Earby and Clitheroe became regular haunts with a stop on the way back at the White Bull in Gisburn. David did not break any club records but describes turning out against fine players of the calibre of Jack Simmons, Ken Snellgrove and Ian Austin.

Throughout these years, there became an increasing obsession with ‘Owzthat’, that popular game where two metal rollers come out of a blue tin and provide hours of innocent fun in the days before computer games.

From Settle, David continued his cricketing journey through various Yorkshire Leagues, eventually turning out at Headingley and Scarborough whilst playing for Bradford. Growing up in Settle is a period of his life which evokes great fondness, not least in a cricketing context. The back garden and street at High Hill Grove and the Marshfield Ground played a big part in the days when players dressed in white played with a red ball. Now, it is the opposite way round.

‘From Snicket to Wicket’ can be obtained online or direct from David whose email address is sunnysiders.dm@gmail.com. It costs £6.99.