At the start of what was to prove a memorable weekend, though for some forgettable reasons, the handsome new Brian Johnson gates at Darlington Cricket Club – still the Feethams ground – were formally opened last Friday evening.

Since none thereabouts supposes it to signify Great Britain, or even Geoffrey Boycott, the wrought iron motif was simply GB.

GB in Darlington cricket is retired solicitor Gilbert Brian Johnson, 70 years with the club and for 17 years president of the North Yorkshire and South Durham League, too.

“I have leaned on him for advice and support, always freely given. That’s unusual for a solicitor,” said Chris West, the incumbent league president.

The admirable Mr West claimed to have been confused, nonetheless. “I thought they meant Boris Johnson,” he said.

If Friday night were convivial, momentous even, then Saturday afternoon would prove fraught in the extreme.

Founder NYSD members, Darlington have been champions 22 times – GB in the team for five of those triumphs – and on seven occasions double winners. They’d never, ever, been relegated from the top division.

On Saturday, however, they’d not only to beat third-bottom Middlesbrough to avoid that ignominy but also to avoid automatically relegating their second team from the second tier because two club teams can’t play in the same division. The seconds, ironically, had won the shield for top B team at the level.

Brian – “utterly and completely staggered” by the club’s gesture – admitted that he would be “absolutely distraught” were the worst to happen next day.

He’d been a Darlington member since August 1948 though his career had begun as a 12-year-old with arch-rivals Darlington RA. One Saturday, after talks between his father and Darlington stalwart Charles Hinkes – another solicitor – he found himself in the Darlington second team at Thornaby. “I was never party to all the jiggery-pokery that went on,” he said.

Attended by his family, the ceremony was a bit like first footing, only without the bit of coal for the fire. All inside went out again, passed through the gates, awaited the formalities and then returned whence they’d come.

Chris West spoke of Brian’s lifetime as player and leading official – 21 years in the first team, captain in 1970 and 1971 – had the temerity to mention George Reynolds.

GR was chairman of the adjacent Football League club when GB led their neighbours. Their dealings were “fairly rumbustious” said Brian – it’s doubtless a legal term – though at times they were more rumbustious than that.

Ever expansionist, George had wanted to buy the whole site. “We stoically refused to sell for the price he wanted to pay,” said Brian. “We have secured the future of Darlington Cricket Club for many years to come.”

Former team-mate John Heslop recalled what still he calls Brian’s golden weekend, circa 1960, when his match winning 65 not out won the Sanders Cup final against Eppleton at Sunderland and the following afternoon he hit 126 against Norton in the league.

Brian remembered it, too – “I think it was only 125” – and also the six he smote from the first ball of the last over in the Saunders. “I was being carried off when a little old man from the crowd gave me a carved wooden plaque for the biggest six he’d even seen at Ashbroke. I still have it.”

The gates had only arrived that morning. Not yet the golden gates though it’s expected that in time they will be.

The old gates weren’t even closed. “They were mouldy and falling to bits,” said club chairman Gloria Howells. “These are a fitting tribute to Brian. We wanted it to be something special.”

The following afternoon, alas, merely proved what they say about one door opening, Darlington failing by just four runs to chase down Middlesbrough’s all out total of 132. So the gates clang shut on almost 130 years of sporting history, but they will surely swing open again.

A second visit of the season last Saturday to Richmond Town FC, managed by Scottish under-21 international (and Darlington lad) Neil Tarrant. Half the crowd has a telephonic eye on the cricket, Richmondshire needing only a draw again to claim the NYSD League title. Word arrives that skipper Gary Pratt has essayed a run-out from the boundary. “That’ll be his second best run-out ever,” they say, recalling earlier heroics. Richmondshire get their draw, Town beat Windscale 6-0.

Middleham may best be known as North Yorkshire racing country, but almost beneath the shadow of Richard’s ruinous castle, its delightfully set cricket ground – views for miles, and of yards – is another sure-fire favourite.

It was there last sun-blessed Sunday that Richmond Mavericks, the team in which the column claims a paternal interest, play Newton-le-Willows in the final of the Towler Cup, first contested amid those glorious acres in 1933.

Newton’s name is all over it. The Mavericks – their Latin motto meaning “They don’t like it up ‘em” – have won neither that or anything else and have already lost twice to their opponents in the league. Talk about outsiders.

The bairn’s bairns are there, too, carried off to the castle by their wicked grandmother. “There’s a dressing up box,” she says.

Newton-le-Willows bat, the boy opens the bowling. Most of the team answer to nicknames – Beansy (whose surname’s Hines), Sloppy, Woody, Trouty, Slim. Slim may be comparative.

As ever they play with a smile, but this time there’s something different. It’s a cup final, they almost look like they want to win, though the number of extras suggests otherwise.

In another part pf the pavilion, run by the Middleham Sports and Community Wellbeing Association, there’s a kiddies’ birthday party. Newton may suppose that all their birthdays have come at once but decline from 104-4 to 113 all out, one ball of their 20 overs remaining.

Craig Marshall claims 6-19, the bairn has 2-24. For the first, lbw, the batsman’s so far down the wicket he’s almost in Leyburn.

His mother rings simultaneously to report that the kids are dressed up as Mary Queen of Somewhere-or-Other and riding hobby horses.

Fabio Sartini, the skipper, opens for Mavericks with Mike Layfield, in the Richmondshire side which had triumphed the day previously.

The game’s interrupted when the umpire’s whacked by the ball in an attempted run out. “Bloody dangerous game, cricket, but that’s supposed to be the batsmen,” he says.

They’re 73-1 when Layfield goes for 40, see Trouty not so much run out as absent without leave at the non-striker’s end, are grateful to Tim Waite for seeing them home by six wickets.

There’s talk of an open-top bus, no greater ecstasy in Middleham since Gerry Scott – with a broken collar bone – won the 1960 National on Merryman for dear old Neville Crump.

The victors head back to Richmond, a pub appropriately called The Turf, every one a winner.