An article on cricket in the East End of Glasgow – David Gordon

EastEnders – cricket in Dennistoun

by David Gordon

There has been much discussion in recent years regarding the demise of grassroots cricket clubs in the west of Scotland, with more than 25 disappearing over the past 30 years.

The precursor of this sad decline, however, was the loss of the Golfhill Cricket Club, based in the Dennistoun area of Glasgow’s East End. This was no ‘small club’, however. This was an organisation that had employed a professional and groundsman into the 1950s, had a ground in Meadowpark that possessed a wicket widely regarded as one of the best batting tracks in Scotland, and in the 1930s and 1940s could attract crowds in excess of 5,000 to matches. At one time it was the strongest side in the west of Scotland outwith the ten Western Union clubs.

Yet it quietly ceased to exist and its passing went relatively unnoticed as the swinging sixties ended. Golfhill’s demise, although, in hindsight, a lesson from history, had been long forgotten when a similar fate befell established clubs like Kirkcaldy and Dunbartonshire more than a quarter-century later, followed by the downfall and disappearance of Perthshire, the one-time colossus of the Scottish game.

My own interest in Golfhill was sparked by my researches into Scottish cricket internationalists who had also been professional footballers, with one such player – Horace Wass – having been Golfhill’s professional in the 1930s and the only player from the Golfhill club capped for Scotland. This led me to the late Tom Frood, a team-mate of Wass’s in the pre-war Golfhill side.

Frood had followed the usual path of the time into the Golfhill 1st XI, learning the rudiments of the game at the nearby Whitehill Secondary School before moving seamlessly to the Golfhill 2nd XI.

Sadly, Tom Frood did not possess a photograph of cricket being played on Meadowpark, and searches at various Glasgow libraries and on the internet had proven fruitless…until now. Bizarrely, a deltiologist in Sweden, dealing in old postcards, in January 2019 placed for sale on the Swedish website tradera, a postcard from 1912 depicting a cricket match in progress at Meadowpark, overlooked by the red sandstone tenements of Onslow Drive.

Interestingly, the picture confirms that the wicket at Meadowpark was pitched on an east-west axis, between Cumbernauld Road and Meadowpark Street. The ground sloped down from north (Onslow Drive) to south (the Dennistoun Juveniles football ground), meaning the wicket was on a gradient comparable with the Lord’s slope. The wooden pavilion was at the north-west of the ground, on the corner of Meadowpark Street and Onslow Drive.

Formed in 1896, Golfhill took its name from the house owned by the Dennistoun family, who had given their name to the district which they had developed earlier in the 19th century. The Dennistouns provided the land (a disused coup), which was turned into Golfhill’s fine cricket ground – Meadowpark.

The new Golfhill club quickly usurped the existing Dennistoun Cricket Club; Golfhill had been ambitious right from the outset, as noted in the following two pieces in The Scottish Referee; firstly from Friday 3 April 1896:

“A new club – Golfhill CC – has been started in Dennistoun, and is meeting with every support…  They have a fine large open field, and have laid a wicket, some 40 yards long, with turf. A fine pavilion with all accommodation and all conveniences is in the course of erection and altogether it looks as if this club has come to stay. Already they have a large membership…”

A year later, on Friday 2 April 1897:

“Last year was their first season, and they finished it with a balance in hand, and when it is considered that they built a pavilion at a cost of about £160, laid down a turfed pitch of about 800 square yards, besides providing all the best playing material, they think it a very good record for a new club.”

The strength of the Golfhill is exemplified in the Glasgow Herald of 2 May 1928:

“One of the most enterprising clubs in the Glasgow district is Golfhill, and nowhere is there a more enthusiastic and larger band of supporters than at Dennistoun. Further evidence of progress at Meadowpark is to be found in the fact that the pavilion has been reconstructed and improved in every way. The outfield has received special attention, and the wicket is in very fine condition.”

Founder members of the Glasgow and District League – and champions in 1956 – Golfhill, sadly, went into rapid decline in the late 1960s, dropping to Division Two of the Glasgow and District League. Repeated acts of mindless vandalism to their ground and its gas-lit, wooden pavilion caused the club to fold at the end of the 1969 season. The last competitive match at the Meadowpark ground was on Saturday 6 September 1969, Golfhill defeating Renfrew by five wickets. The Meadowpark ground and its once highly-regarded wicket, formerly graced by cricketing legends like Jack Hobbs and Learie Constantine, was only leased to the Golfhill club by Glasgow’s Education Department. With cricket’s demise in Dennistoun, Glasgow Corporation announced in January 1972 that the former cricket ground would be the site of the new Whitehill Secondary School and swimming pool, with construction commencing on the once-hallowed Meadowpark turf in 1973.

Ironically, given the production line of cricketing talent that fed into Golfhill CC from Whitehill Secondary, the replacement Whitehill school now sits on what was once the cricket square. While you would never know that cricket had once been played there, the football ground at the southern end of Meadowpark still remains, nicely levelled and with a new astroturf surface.