Yorkshire Merit Final 1979 at Bradley & Colne

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS from 42 years ago:

Standing room only at the 1979 Yorkshire Merit Final at Bradley & Colnebridge. This was the first time this competition had staged the Final in Huddersfield for 14 years and they witnessed Roy Nicholson of Brighouse claiming the County Championship title.

The Huddersfield Examiner (2 June 1979) report from Peter Muff states:

All the glamour and glory of Yorkshire Merit Finals Day this week belonged to Brighouse bowler Roy Nicholson. And quite rightly so as the Yorkshire county player collected the title he has been so near to getting for some considerable time now.

But there was a handsome bonus for five of the other players who took part in the Championship as well. For the county merit decides the representatives Yorkshire send to the Rolls Royce greens in Derby for the British Crown Green Merit in August.

Yorkshire have six places this year and they go automatically to the four semi-finalists and the best two losers in the quarter-finals. Which means that this year they have a very strong hand for the Crown Green showpiece.

In addition to Nicholson (pictured left) there will be 1978 BBC Masters winner Gene Bardon (Newsome), 1972 Yorkshire Merit winner Ken Johnson (Skipton), Crown Green Enterprise player Allan Thompson (Mirfield Old Bank), Yorkshire county player Peter Jackson (Newsome) and former Leeds Parks champion Keith Smith (Horsforth Con).

There was a photo-finish to the tussle for the last two places as only two points separated three of the losers in the quarter-finals. Thompson (who got to 19) and Jackson (who got to 18) were the fortunate ones. The unlucky one out was Yorkshire's home team captain Jeff Sykes (Mirfield Old Bank) who was left at 17 by Bardon - and that was after he had enjoyed a 17-13 advantage.

Yorkshire last produced the winner of the Crown Green tournament in 1975 when Bob Wilby of Barnsley beat Cliff Bordley (North Midlands) in the Final at Telford in Shropshire. And the year before was a particularly memorable one for Huddersfield because Fred Whitehead of HC&AC triumphed over Tony Poole (Shropshire) in the Final at Stoke.

Then, of course, David Blackburn (Crosland Moor Liberal) went very near to becoming a British champion at Llay in Wales where he finished runner-up to Noel Burrows in 1976.

With the player power they are sending down to Derby in August the county must be reasonably optimistic about scoring again.

There was a huge crowd to see the Yorkshire Merit Final at Bradley & Colnebridge WMC on Tuesday and after the monsoon season which greeted the preliminary rounds on Saturday and the miserable weather which frowned on the intermediate stages on Monday, what a turn-up it was for the Finals Day to be greeted by blue sky and warm sunshine.

The host club must have worked miracles amid all that foul weather to get the green ready like they did for the big day and with the soft green field and trees of Mirfield and Roberttown forming a glorious backcloth to the whole production. I hope the thought that staging the first county championship to be held in Huddersfield for 14 years was all worthwhile.

It takes a lot of hard work - on the green, behind the bar and on the catering side - to cope with an army of spectators like the one that swooped down on the club and paid record receipts at the gate. But, if what I hear is right, the committee will have Nicholson-size smiles when they look at the handsome takings from an obviously thirsty crowd.

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