I am delighted to report that 2016 was a very good year for BB. I will report on the cricket later in this Letter. As usual it is my great pleasure to be able to thank all those who have contributed to the running of BB and I am extremely grateful to the members of the Benevolent Board and all our Match Managers for their efforts on behalf of us all. Their efforts have certainly made our Club one which still attracts good players and nice people – as happily has been the case throughout our long history.
A major innovation this year was the new and highly successful match at Torry Hill between two teams of Brethren. Brother Rose Kingsdown very kindly allowed us to play the game at Torry Hill and despite rather indifferent weather a large gathering of Brethren, past and present, witnessed a good game of cricket with a jazz band playing in a small tent in the outfield, a delicious barbecue lunch and the chance walk round her lovely gardens or swim. We will repeat the game this year and all Brethren who have given us their e-mail address will be invited to attend and I would love to see even more Brethren there this year. We are very fortunate to be able to play matches at Torry Hill and also at Belmont where the Trustees also make us very welcome.
Brother Rose, after her highly successful year as President of Kent CCC, was invited to continue into an unprecedented second term last season and she did so with unflagging charm and enthusiasm. She will now be succeeded as Kent’s President by Brother Charles Rowe who played for Kent - and of course for BB - for many years. I know that all Brethren will be delighted at this. It is further excellent news that Brother Matthew Fleming has become the President of MCC.
Our prominence in the high offices of cricket should in no way diminish the successes of our playing Brethren. We had an excellent season (played 19, won 10, drawn 2, lost 6 tied 1) both in terms of the cricket played and the enjoyment had by those who played for, and against, the Club. Six matches were cancelled, three because of bad weather, two because our opponents failed to raise a team and one, regrettably, was our fault. The steps we took last winter to improve the match management of our teams paid dividends and as a result far fewer games were called off at the last minute. We will continue to do all we can to encourage excellent match management and thus hope to avoid the scourge of cancellations which sadly is more commonplace in cricket than I can ever recall. The continuing success of our cricket has been due in no small way to the enormous and infectious enthusiasm of our Hon. Match Secretary, Alex Norwood Hill. We owe him a continuing vote of thanks for all he does. The task is considerable but happily he carries out his many responsibilities with evident pleasure. In a year of good cricket one of the highlights was that rare bird, a tied match (241 apiece) against Tonbridge School.
Among some excellent individual performances during the season were hundreds from Marcus Pyke, Finn Hulbert and Mike Churchill. Piers Richardson bowled very well on many occasions including a haul of 5-23 in the inter-club game at Torry Hill.
I was delighted that BB had such an excellent season, but I was particularly pleased to see how well Junior BB is doing under the energetic management of Brother Mark
Pettman. This year he expanded our fixture list from four to eight matches, and we won the first seven before losing the last match, a 20/20 game against the Brethren. It was splendid to see how 2015’s crop of inexperienced young players matured as cricketers and this season they played some marvellous cricket in exactly the right spirit. They all enjoyed their matches and getting to know their opponents. Brother Mark carried out his role magnificently – and he would be the first to say how much we owe to the parents of many of the boys. They do a lot of fetching and carrying and with Mark they give the boys great support.
This year we were able to take advantage of a kind offer from Kent CCC. In previous years we have seen declining attendances in our Tunbridge Wells tent –and the Kent CCC were experiencing similar problems. For a relatively small sum we were offered the chance to share their tent and we did so on an experimental basis. There was an irritating day when we found that all our food had already been consumed but apart from that it all worked well. Having received the appropriate assurances we will continue with this arrangement because we were able to put the savings we made into BB cricket and as a direct result we were able to cover the costs of our inter-club match at Torry Hill. There are worrying developments at Canterbury so far as our tent is concerned. The ECB seems determined to hold one day county cricket in July and August and there is to be no Championship game in August this year. Instead, Kent will have a three-day match against the West Indies and, assuming that we receive the appropriate assurances from Kent CCC, our tent at Canterbury will be in its traditional place and full of Brethren having their usual wonderful time on Sunday 6th, Monday 7th, and Tuesday 8th August. The Canterbury tent was much enjoyed by those who were present and the whole exercise was, as usual, managed very stylishly by Brother Peter Canney.
We thoroughly enjoyed our annual golf matches against, chronologically, Chislehurst, Rye and Royal St George’s GCs. Our thanks are due to each of them for their hospitality and the warmth of their welcome to us. We also took part in the Quadrangular match against MCC, the XL Club and the Gloucester Gypsies at the Berkshire GC. It pains me to report that we came second in all of the matches except the Quadrangular match where we came fourth. We need to do better!
Changes to the Benevolent Board
After nine years of excellent work as our Hon. Secretary, StJohn Brown has decided that the time has arrived for him to stand down. He has looked after the affairs of BB diligently and has helped to move BB calmly into the 21st Century. I have been enormously grateful for his support and am delighted that he has accepted my offer that he should become an Honorary Life Member in appreciation of all he has done.
We are indeed fortunate that Anthony Fincham has agreed to become our new Honorary Secretary and I am greatly looking forward to working with him. He is a senior lawyer in the City of London and in his pomp was a fast bowler who, though narrowly missing his blue, once took four wickets for forty-odd for Oxford University against Glamorgan. I know that we will be in safe hands.
Tom Boucher has also joined the Benevolent Board as the Keeper of the Website. He has developed our new website and I am grateful for all he has done so far. Without doubt the running of BB will benefit greatly from the new technology and this will be a great help to all of us - the playing members in particular.
Communications with Brethren
Being able to send much of our literature by e-mail saves the Club a lot of money each year. If all of this year’s mailing has come to you by post it means we do not have your e-mail address. If you are now prepared to help us by agreeing to receive our annual communications by e-mail and that you will be happy for us to e-mail you infrequently (on BB matters only) it would be very much appreciated. Just send an e-mail to me at email@example.com and we will do the rest. Those who are more set in their ways and prefer to continue to receive our annual communication by post should do nothing and things will continue as usual.
The Club has an acceptable level of financial resources for its current level of activities. We need to continue to run a balanced budget, so we need to be judicious as to how we spend going forward. Our policy is to support the playing side of the Club in particular and make playing for BB as attractive as possible.
Up to date, the following have accepted my invitation to appointment:
Honorary Life Member: A. StJ. Brown
Playing Members: T.W. Davey E. Dickinson M.P. Hickson
F. Hulbert F.T. Hulbert D. Lock
C. McLean W.C.O. Meredith A. Newport
H.R.F. Law H. Ward T.J. Whyte
Social Members: The Lord Colgrain H.M. Fenwick
In closing this letter I can say that I believe that BB is in a good place at present although club cricket has a very distinct problem insofar as many cricketers stop playing the game before reaching 30 - a far younger age than previously. BB is taking steps to ensure that our playing membership holds up well and that we continue to attract new members who will fit well into our traditional environment.
I hope that all Brethren will continue to take an active interest in the affairs of BB and I look forward to seeing many of you on the boundary in 2017.