THE holiday was in Somerset, a chance to watch Wells City v Newton Abbott Spurs in the FA Vase, the gates outside the ground dedicated to Mary Bignall Rand.

Remember Mary Rand, once the golden girl of British athletics? The plaque records that at the 1964 Olympics she took long jump gold with a world record 22ft two-and-a-quarter inches and also claimed silver and bronze in running events.

“The pin-up girl and brilliant all-rounder of British Athletics,” said the Echo the following morning, while the mayor of Wells had sent a telegram in Somerset dialect. “we baint ‘alf proud o’ thee.”

The women’s world record is now 24ft 8ins, set by the Russian athlete Galina Chistyakova in 1986 and never outjumped. Mary Bignall Rand, Wells well, is now 79 and lives in California.

The area – the Somerset Levels – is also thought to be where Alfred the Great burned the cakes. It’s perhaps in tribute that the tea hut pasties are kizzened.

Wells is reckoned England’s smallest city, ahead of Ripon, only about 50 of its 11,000 inhabitants at the big match. Wells 1 Spurs 2.

REGULAR readers may recall the column’s long-held allegiance to Somerset County Cricket Club, instilled during Geoff Hill’s first form cricket at King James I Grammar School in Bishop Auckland.

If baint ‘alf proud of Mary Rand, how ecstatic might Somerset folk (and others) have been had the locals this week clinched their first ever county championship?

Rain and Essex denied any chance of that, runners-up for the sixth time in 19 years. The cider stays on ice.

A NEW book marking 20 years of talkSPORT reveals that former Durham and England fast bowler Steve Harmison was denied admission to a Barmy Army event in Barbados earlier this year even though he was the star turn – and a cardboard cut-out of him stood in the foyer.

Never a lightweight, Harmi admits that he’s put on a bit of beef of late. “I was quite alarmed that the guy didn’t recognise me,” he says.

It’s all very different from the Caribbean experience of former Durham County scorer Brian Hunt, given a test package tour with his wife after his work on the Northern League’s centenary history in 1989.

Arriving at the Kingston Oval, Hunty discovered that he’d left his tickets and credentials back at the hotel, 25 miles away. All that was in his wallet was his Northern League all-grounds pass.

Perhaps myopically, the gateman echoed Alan Whicker. “That’ll do nicely,” he said.

A FEW weeks ago we told of a new play about the post-Munich relationship between Bishop Auckland and Manchester United football clubs.

It’s hoped that the first performance will be on February 6th next year, the anniversary of the disaster. Now what they want is players, they of the strolling type.

Already working with the Bishop Auckland Theatre Company, co-author Steve Newcombe – a former Bishops chairman – is hoping to recruit a “pool” of would be actors to take part in a read-through at the Heritage Park ground on October 17.

“We’re hoping to take it all over the place – pubs, clubs, maybe even the Edinburgh Fringe,” he says. Steve’s on 07525 128847 or email

BACK on April 14, though cold enough for Christmas, the column attended its first cricket match of the season – at Ingleton, between Darlington and Barnard Castle.

It marked a return to action for the Ingleton ground after ten years out to grass and a new home for the King James I team, formerly Bishop Auckland-based. It has proved a pretty good move.

Club chairman David James reports that they’ve won both the Darlington and District League C division – last game of the season – and the Howell Cockerton Cup.

Ingleton villagers have been supplementing the teams, the “excellent” parish council has continued its support, enough money has been raised to buy a reconditioned roller for next season.

It was all celebrated at a presentation night in Ingleton village hall last Saturday, music by the Beer Pigs. Sadly, we couldn’t make it.

SPRING may already be in the air for the dear old Feversham Cricket League, too. Secretary Charles Allenby reports that at the end-of-season meeting all five clubs – High Farndale, Slingsby, Rosedale Abbey, Lockton and Glaisdale – expressed the intention of being back for more. “Surprisingly for me,” says Charles, “I’m optimistic.”

BETTER late, as they say, The Times obituary of former Middleham racehorse trainer Ferdy Murphy – who died on September 3 – recalls a character with the disputatiousness of his calling.

On one occasion, when he lived in Norfolk and was being driven home in a snowstorm from a Fakenham meeting by his son, the row over the choice of music became so intense – Ferdy was a Dubliners man – that the trainer, ten miles from base, insisted upon getting out and walking.

The lad hadn’t gone far when he turned around and returned. “I’m not getting back in,” said Ferdy.

“I know you’re not,” said the young un, “but you left your coat in the back.”

….and finally, the column on September 14 invited readers to suggest how many goals San Marino’s national football team have conceded at home since last they scored one there. The answer’s 74.

Paul Hewitson in Darlington today invites readers to name five English footballers who’ve played in a European Cup final or Champions League final for an “overseas” club.

From foreign fields, the column returns next week.