The History of Leith

November 10, 2004


LEITH Franklin Cricket Club is believed to be one of the oldest outdoor sporting clubs in Leith and has been playing on the same cricket square for almost 150 years.The original cricket club was called the Hermitage which was formed some time before 1850 but in 1852 some workers in Fullartons printing works in Stead’s Place formed a club called Stead’s Place Cricket Club which was sometimes referred to as Fullarton’s Cricket Club but at the end of the 1852 season the members decided to open the membership to all interested in the game and they called the club after one of the most famous printers of the 18th century, Benjamin Franklin.

Not only was he a printer, But something of a scientist and later became one of the authors of the Constitution of the United States during the War of Independence. In 1752 he happened to invent the lightning conductor and the centenary of that event may have led the members of the cricket club to adopt his name.

Not too much is known about the club prior to 1863 except that it was run by Thomas Murray, the manager of the printing works who later became Secretary and then President of the cricket club.The early fixture list was not extensive but teams representing Captain and Vice Captain, Married and Singles and Other Members against the Volunteers added to the list.

Franklin were very successful during the early years of play and they are recorded as having remained unbeaten at home for the first ten years. Without declaration rules Franklin are said to have fielded all afternoon during the 1867 season whilst Dalkeith scored 322 for nine wickets.This was the highest score by opponents until 1922 when Clydesdale scored 346 for nine wickets at the links of which Dan Mackay scored 257 not out, one of the highest individual innings recorded in Scotland.

The bulk of the membership of the club during the 1870’s was drawn from the printing works and the Murray and Welsh families seemed to have provided three or four players each around this period. The Sinclair family also provided several players as did the Mitchells and Clunies at a later period. The record however must have been held by the Cunningham family as nine members apparently played for the cluh over a period of several years.

The rise of the Leith Caledonian Cricket Club during the late 1800’s attracted members from the Franklin and the Club was at its lowest point when members of the Nelson Beaufort Club joined en masse and began to strengthen the playing membership so much so that in 1899 Caledonian were beaten for the first time. Prior to 1904, when golf ceased on the Links, playing cricket could be a somewhat hazardous sport trying to avoid the golf balls and it is recorded that on one occasion a crowd of some 2,000 chased the Volunteers away when they attempted to march across the cricket square. The Club did not function during the First World War and the square was relaid after war ended. For several years the Club went through a period of rebuilding but by the end of the 1920’s it had once again regained its prominent position in Scottish cricket.
The club did not close down during the Second World War and many good cricketers played for the Club when they were posted to the Edinburgh area for duty. Among these was A L Wisden the grand nephew of John Wisden, the Sussex and England cricketer who later became famous for his statistical records about the game. Several centuries have been scored by Franklin players in first eleven matches including two by Franklin’s only capped player Willie Hermiston who played against Ireland and New Zealand in 1949.

During the early years on the Iinks, players changed in a bell tent which was erected for that purpose but the first clubhouse was built in 1893 and was enlarged in 1929. Sadly the annual Edinburgh versus Leith cricket match is no Ionger played but many will remember the interest which was shown in this match and the many enthusiastic spectators who used to encircle the boundary line.

The club celebrated its centenary in 1952 and although changes have taken place over the past 50 years with amalgamations, the building of a new clubhouse and the occasional professional player it is still in good heart and will soon be looking forward to 2002 when it celebrates its 150th anniversary.

Source-“The Porthole”

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