How playing football with his friends introduced Fred to cricket with Victoria

One of the early Victoria teams.
One of the early Victoria teams.
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It was by kicking football in the back alleys of Victoria Street that introduced Fred Bunting into playing cricket.

A young teenager in 1961, Fred used to meet his Model school chums in Victoria Street for the casual kick-about and after going to Lord Lurgan Park to see Victoria playing he caught the bug and has been associated with the club for ever since.

“I went up to the cricket out of curiosity more than anything else,” explained Fred who celebrated his 70th birthday on Tuesday. “I was asked to play and of course I was useless at the start but enjoyed it and stuck with it.

“Jackie Denver and Sammy Malcolm played a big part in getting the club off the ground and I can remember Jimmy Jones played for Victoria. I played on the Seconds then along with Albert Cunningham and Reggie Uprichard. It was good fun and everyone pitched in and there was also plenty of banter.

“Our changing facilities were burned down during The Troubles so we eventually moved to the Gordon Playing Fields. Now we are in Lurgan Park with our own pavilion.”

Fred was not renowned for his scoring exploits on the field, but he was and still is a stalwart of the club.

“I never managed to hit a century,” added Fred. “I got up to about the 70s but that was it. I also did a bit of spin bowling too.

“We always liked to win, but we also wanted it to be enjoyable and there were plenty of laughs from the many pranks played. I would never have been involved in anything like that,” chuckled Fred.

“There is many a player who went home with buns stuffed in their bag and that always created a bit of a mess. Also, if you got bowled out for a duck you might have found a little plastic duck hidden somewhere in your kit when you got home. Everyone got on well and for me the late finishes were never a problem. In football you play for an hour and a half, but you could be playing until 9pm on a Saturday night and many times I did.”

Of all the hundreds of innings Fred has played in, one game stands out as he recalls:

“I remember one day we went to Ards and it happened to be the day of the air show,” he said.

“It was a nightmare. The planes were taking off and landing all the time. There was a Harrier Jump Jet which hovered over us for ages and it was deafening.

“It was so bad we had two players run out because one didn’t hear the other calling. There was uproar over that as we felt it was very unfair, but we can laugh about it now. I also remember the day Gerard Johnston took all ten wickets in a game which is a fantastic achievement.”

During his playing career Fred went on to captain the Firsts and was secretary for a time.

“My playing days are over now,” he said. “I need a hip operation but once that is sorted out I can still go to the games and do the scorebook. The club has enjoyed a great 60 years and it has not been without success.

“Last year the Firsts gained promotion into Section Two and we have also started a Thirds. It is no problem getting the younger ones to play, we have more problems with the old hands being able to turn out now.

“Everyone is looking forward to the first game of the new season. However, we have a game on May 3, but with Glenavon getting through to the Irish Cup final that could be a problem. We cannot change the date so everyone will be praying for rain that day in order to get down to the final.”