LuXlraqT_400x400.jpg   Rochdale Cricket Club

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Fred's Farewell To Redbrook


This had never happened at Redbrook before.  It probably didn’t occur at Dane Street, or any of Rochdale Cricket Club’s previous grounds either.


At about 10.15 on a warm sunny June morning a hearse followed by five private cars slowly made its way through the club car park and onto the outfield.  Fred Schofield was making his last visit to the club he had supported for almost seventy years.


The group of supporters gathered on the pavilion terrace fell quiet, the groundsman, putting the final touches to the first practice wickets of the season, extinguished his cigarette and stood motionless.


The vehicles began to circle in a clockwise direction, now silent to the members, the only sound being provided by lively birdsong.  The cortège, a large black hearse and an assortment of small cars made their almost graceful journey round the ground until, level with pavilion and in front of the mourners they stopped.


There was no minister needed to prompt our recollections of Fred.  Memories arrived instantly; his short stepped gait carrying him onto the terracing on match days, usually with the game well under way: of him handing over his annual ball sponsorship: of him slipping, almost unnoticed, into the tea room after the players had left to “help clear the table”.

There were imagined thoughts of him too: how he visited Dane Street in his early days: did he sit on the popular side, known as The Banner Pole, or did he watch from the Pavilion Enclosure?: of how his love of the club and the game was fostered through his boyhood years, then into adulthood, by some of the wonderful cricketers from all around the world that he saw. Cec Pepper from Australia: England and Gloucestershire batsman Charlie Barnett: Indian test player Dattu Phadkar, who took over five hundred wickets in four seasons: then thirty fallow years later, his support undiminished by the club’s lack of success, David Callaghan from South Africa and Chris Harris from New Zealand.


But all too soon the reverie was interrupted by the sound of the cars’ engines.  A hand appeared through an open window of one.  It was Elaine, his widow, passing on a copy of the order of service.   It provided further insight.   His love of Jazz.   The final tune at the chapel was to be a number by Bix Beiderbecke.


Then the hearse moved slowly on, like a railway engine followed by its carriages, obeying its timetable and continuing to its last, final stop.


There was suddenly an outburst of spontaneous applause and the cortège disappeared from view.  Cigarettes were relit.  Members returned to their everyday conversation.  One was heard asking another how their pet dog was, while a third lamented that he had now been to forty funerals in the last four years.   You were forced to wonder if he was keeping a record.


Soon the group dispersed. Back to work, furlough gardens, retirement.  Fred had gone too.


One of the last of a generation of people unhurried by modern life.


Fred Schofield 1935 - 2020