A 35-0 win, a great exhibition and memories of the day that ladybirds stopped play

We’ve had a Hebridean week on Islay, pronounced as in Smiler or maybe four-minute miler, where football – there are just three teams – proved elusive.

This time last year, however, we were reporting back from Skye where on a dreich midsummer evening Portree had thumped Lochalsh 17-2. Belatedly but with timing that’s paradoxically perfect, Brian Weir provides a follow-up.

On the islands they play football in the summer. For the penultimate game of 2018, the once-rampant Portree crossed with just nine men to Mallaig, on the mainland, and lost 35-0.

It was the same score, it may be recalled, by which Dundee Harps beat Aberdeen Rovers in the Scottish Cup in September 1885. Anything you can do, Arbroath put 36 past Bon Accord the same day.

Mallaig’s 35 attracted much social media comment. “Bugger,” wrote one correspondent, “I had a quid on 34.”

The evening before taking the high road, we headed up to South Shields for the launch – “Private VIP view”, no less – of a fascinating exhibition on the history of football on South Tyneside,

It marks exactly 100 years since South Shields were admitted to the Football League second division, in which they finished ninth. Spurs won the division, Huddersfield Town second.

The museum and art gallery also has an exhibition on Charles Dickens, said to have been inspired to wrote Great Expectations by a stay at nearby Cleadon Hall, though it’s doubtful if ever he played for the Mariners.

Among local lads more legitimately remembered are Sam Bartram and Ray Wood both goalkeepers, and Johnny Dixon who played opposite Wood – Aston Villa v Man United – in the 1957 FA Cup final.

Demi Stokes, raised in South Shields and a key member of England’s women’s World Cup side, also features.

Immortalised, too, is the late and much lamented George Graham, Hebburn lad, whose right wing magic helped Arsenal to the 1971 double.

Ronnie Tatum, another Hebburn hero who captained North Shields to victory in the 1969 FA Amateur Cup final, had been George’s best man and George his. “Fame never changed him a bit,” Ron recalled. “He didn’t drink but every time he came back home he’d be first at the bar to buy a pint for everyone who did.”

There, too, was the great Ray Snowball, former East Boldon headmaster and Crook Town’s goalkeeper in their Amateur Cup glory days.

Ray’s 87, has a bit of bad back. “All that picking the ball out of the back of the net,” he said, voluntarily.

Though the emphasis is mostly on South Shields and Hebburn Town, there are memories pf Horsley Hill Billies and Crabtree and Westoe Anchors, of Whitburn Bankhands and – honest – White Lea Barcelona.

Among the VIPs was Bob MacLeod, signed by Brian Clough for Hartlepool United while still at teacher training college in Sunderland and who after 25 games over three or four seasons spent seven years at South Shields.

Now 72, he was playing tennis the following day with Dave “Jock” Rutherford, the column’s all-time hero. Jock’s much older than that.

The gallery’s on Ocean Road, hitherto just a couple of hundred yards from South Shields Metro station but a little bit further since the station closed this week. A posh new interchange is expected to open next month. The exhibition, a veritable cornucopia, runs until October 12

Holiday reading, a new book on the Scarborough Cricket Festival – described by author John Fuller as “a cherished cricketing heirloom” – was published on the day we headed north.

“Travelling to watch county cricket at Scarborough is a rite of passage,” he writes. “The migration of fans each August to the North Yorkshire coast deserves its own nature documentary.”

Once the festival would embrace an August fortnight, Yorkshire sharing the delightful old North Marine Road ground with the likes of T N Pearce’s XI, of D H Robbins’s and D B Close’s, too.

Now it’s truncated to a four-day fiesta, though Scarborough is also allocated a County Championship match in June.

Gone is the black tie festival dinner, the band that played throughout the day and ended it with the National Anthem, gone – for the moment – Yorkshire’s accustomed triumph.

Though the festival match winner between 2013-17 all went on to claim the title – Durham in 2013, Yorkshire in 2014-15 – last year’s 186 run defeat by Worcestershire, bottom of the table, prolonged a woeful sequence. “Roobish,” as Sir Geoffrey might have supposed.

When last the column was there, victory for the mighty Somerset in 2017, the greatest distraction was the ever-circling seagulls, officially herring gulls though these days they seem rather more fond of rum and raisin ice cream.

Whatever happened to feed the birds, twopence a bag? These days the beggars just help themselves.

Fuller pays them scant attention, though they once stole his chips when on a trip up the coast to Whitby, recalling instead the incident during a John Player League match in 1979 when play was stopped by a vast invasion of greenfly, players obliged thereafter to wear handkerchiefs over their mouths.

On another occasion play was halted by tens of thousands of ladybirds. The collective noun’s a loveliness, apparently, though not everyone at Scarborough would have agreed.

A carnival spirit prevailed, nonetheless. Where else might team-mates have got away with putting itching powder in Sir Geoffrey’s cap?

None may have enjoyed the festival more than Ken Rutherford, playing for New Zealand against Brian Close’s XI in 1986. The night previously, Rutherford and many others had celebrated double international Willie Watson’s birthday with a seaside pub crawl which went on until at least 4am – that being the last they could remember.

A few hours later, having warmed up with a cup of tea and a fag, Rutherford smote 301 from 234 balls, the fastest first-class triple century in history.

Folk have many more tales to tell; so has John Fuller. His book’s perfect for when rain stops play – though at Scarborough, of course, it never does.

Last of the Summer Wickets by John Fuller (Great Northern, £9 99.)

Did we mention Somerset? Here’s the opening to the Cricinfo match report on the first day of this week’s game with Nottinghamshire: “Cricket is woven more deeply into this place (Taunton) than it is anywhere in England, except for Scarborough during festival week.”

Addressed on the Islay ferry, The Times two weeks ago today carried an obituary of John d’Ancona, sub-titled “Senior civil servant who began his career playing football for Newcastle United.” He was 84.

Though he spent two years at St James’ Park, something said seriously to have impressed Tony Blair, nothing suggests a first team appearance. Thereafter the young Magpie tried to join the Foreign Legion, thus reversing the more recent trend of foreign legions trying to join Newcastle. He didn’t make that, either.