"...the quintessential Englishness of the game and of the delightful places where we play it. Characteristic too, is our organisation; mercifully unpretentious, haphazard perhaps, but never quite falling apart..."
Michael Spratt, writing as President in 1997.
Below is a slightly updated version of an already revised article published as part
of the 50th anniversary celebrationsin 1997.
(The following is a slightly revised version of an article first written in 1985 for the third edition of the Club Statistics. It is reproduced here because many new members have joined since the original publication and they may be interested to learn about the beginnings of this peculiar Club.)
The AMCC will shortly be starting it's 38th season; the Club's existence has at times been precarious, but it has survived, Few of the early members are now active, and it has occurred to me that some reminiscences of the Founding of the Club and its early days may be worth recording before they are lost in the mist of time and alcohol.
The original idea was conceived, I think, some time in 1947. Two former School-friends, D. Brown and J. Irvine (now Vice-
Presidents) were both then in the Royal Navy, one in the Mediterranean and the other in the Far East. They occasionally corresponded, and one or the other suggested that it would be pleasant -- once we got out of this lot -- to gather some kindred spirits to play cricket on the village greens of England.
Such suggestions, no doubt were often made, but rarely acted upon. In our case fortunately the idea took root, and in December 1947 a group gathered for an inaugural dinner. Not much is remembered about that first dinner -- even the venue seems to have been forgotten by those I have consulted - but it must have been fairly bibulous, for it is known that some of those attending decided to gatecrash a party afterwards, and
in the course of the evening one of them (R. White, I believe) fell into a basement and broke his ankle.
I was not present at that first dinner, but shortly afterwards I was rung up by one who was -- S. Booth, a friend of mine from the RAF. He said, "Some cheerful fellows are proposing to form a sort of light hearted dining and Cricket Club. We intend to dine quite often, and even to play some cricket occasionally. There was a dinner last week and there is another one next week -- I think you ought to come." Of course
I agreed, and so I attended the second dinner, which was held I recall at the Cafe Royal. We were all young and poor in 1948, but somehow we seemed to be able to dine at some quite lordly places.
A committee was soon formed, comprising anyone who showed sufficient interest. Much of our deliberation, I recollect, was concerned - with the name of the new club. There were many suggestions. "The Centurtons" was one -- in those days the Local Papers reported village cricket quite extensively and the thought of a headline in the 'Surrey Advertiser' recording "Centurions out for 99" seemed attractive, though personally I wondered if 99 was within our reach, My own suggestions were "The Duskhunters" (for obvious& reasons) and "The Backwoods Men" (by analogy with "The Free Foresters") but neither of these found favour. I also supported a proposal of J. Irivne's for "The Lotos Eaters" -- this too was rejected. And for a brief time it seemed that the club would be called "The Bacchanalians" a name no one like very much but equally one which no one found wholly unacceptable.
But then it was discovered that there already existed a hockey club of that name so it was as the Centurions that the club first took to the field on 19th June 1948 against the Normandy Nomads, a team from Normandy Company at RMC Sandhurst.
I took part in that first match. Of the original XI no less than 8 continued to appear regularly in succeeding years -- those eight have in fact played well over 1600 Mariner innings between them.
The match was interesting. The Centurions batted first, and were dismissed for the paltry total of 40. I personally had the dubious honour of scoring the first Mariner duck -- it was not the last duck either for the club or for myself. S. Booth hit the club's first six -. the only scoring stroke of his innings.
When the Nomads batted they lost nine wickets for 26. Splendid, we thought, the club will begin with a victory. But the Nomads' no. 11 was their skipper, a certain Captain Langdale, and it was not until later that we learnt he had played first class cricket. Not surprisingly he had little difficulty in knocking off the necessary runs to turn our anticipated first victory into our first defeat. Play continued after our total had been passed, and when we finally dismissed the Nomads' no. 10 (for 4 runs) the score was 94 with Langdale undefeated on 62 not out, made in a last wicket stand of 68. For the club R. Mosse took 6 wickets for 28, but the other bowlers were somewhat less successful.
(Some research has highlighted that the Capt. was George Langdale OBE : http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/16190.html )
Captain Langdale, however, had one more contribution to make to the club's history, for after the match, when we were taking a modest mouthful of ale with our opponents, he mentioned to us R.C. Robertson-Glasgow's Coleridge parody, "The Ancient Cricketer". Light suddenly dawned; the combination of the naval background of the two Founders with the poem's only too apposite second line was irresistible,
and we became"The Ancient Mariners" from that moment, with the second line as our motto.
(Robertson-Glasgow or Crusoe(!) also has his own Cricinfo page here: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/19421.html he was an Old Carthusian - along with the founders and prolific writer on Cricket. His Poem the "Ancient Cricketer is taken from his book "The Brighter Side of Cricket in 1933" and by kind gesture of sportspages.com is reproduced here. You'll notice the poem doesn't actually make use of the 'he stoppeth one of three' double entendre, although it is used in a later parody also called 'The Rime of the Ancient Cricketer' by Micheal Green in his book 'The art of Course Sport' which is also worth a read here)
In that first season of 1948 we played only five matches, but in the following years we have never played less than 18 fixtures, and once as many as 30. Of our opponents in l948 only Witley has survived through the years on our fixture list; that village is therefore our oldest regular enemy.
D. Brown was the Club Captain for our first two seasons, and I succeeded him for the next two. On my retirement we elected a comparative newcomer, J. Harvey, to the post. I do not think it is possible to overestimate John's contribution to the Club. The cold figures of his career can be found on the preceding pages, and pretty impressive they are.But he was sole Captain for at least 16 seasons (possibly longer) and a joint Captain for quite a few more. In this period the Club went through some pretty difficult times -- it was on the verge of extinction at least once -- and I believe that our survival was due in no small part to John's devotion.
Today it seems to me that the Mariners are in quite a healthy state .- the old lags have mostly retired and a useful number of younger players has replaced them. I hope that some future archivist will be able to report equally favourably after another 37 seasons or so.
R.T.H. April 1985
(Postscript: I believe that the optimistic final paragraph above was fully justified in 1985. Sadly, twelve years later, the situation has changed. Though we have, I think, at least as many playing members as we had in 1985, it is ironic that after 50 seasons, we are forced to reduce our fixture list because we are unable to raise teams to support the number of fixtures we have previously played.)
(Post-Post-Script As I write in 2011, we have not reduced our fixture list since the late nineties and we've not recently had too many problems raising a side, long may this continue.)