THE BIG INTERVIEW
Kath Haworth received a glimpse into the future on the very first date she went on with her future husband Tom.
The young wide-eyed girl from Blackburn had agreed to make up a foursome alongside the pair’s respective friends in 1962.
Unbeknown to Kath at the time, her date in question was a talented all-rounder making a name for himself at Longridge Cricket Club.
And when the moment arrived to meet up for the first time one Saturday night 52 years ago, her date was missing in action – playing cricket!
With the Chipping Road club seemingly heading for defeat, Haworth – who was just 23 at the time – had dug in at the crease.
He stubbornly kept his wicket intact as Longridge managed to eke out a draw.
Once his work on the cricket pitch had been done, Haworth quickly got changed and showered before dashing off to meet Kath – hoping that she was still waiting for him at the Red House, in Wilpshire.
Fortunately for the cricketer, his wife-to-be was the patient type and had not taken umbrage at his poor timekeeping.
Kath was soon swept off her feet and more than five decades later, the couple are approaching their golden wedding anniversary after 48 years of happy marriage.
But that first date was a sign of what was to come for the future Mrs Haworth as over the years she has often had to play ‘second fiddle’ to her husband’s other love – Longridge Cricket Club.
Haworth has been involved with the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield outfit as a player, captain, junior coach, treasurer and current chairman for more than 50 years .
It was this devotion which saw him presented with the Outstanding Service to Cricket Award by the Lancashire Cricket Board last month.
Invited to a special ceremony at Old Trafford – the home of Lancashire CCC – Haworth beat off a number of other worthy nominees to win the award.
And as he gazed out over the outfield at Chipping Road from behind the glass front at Longridge’s impressive pavilion, he had a little chuckle to himself about how ironic his first date with Kath would prove to be.
“I was working over in Sheffield at the time and coming home at the weekends to play cricket,” recalled the 74-year-old, who was a quantity surveyor for 20 years before becoming Longridge’s postmaster.
“My mate was actually dating Kath’s friend and I remember thinking at the time that was a bit of a beggar because I had nobody to go out at the weekend with because he was obviously off out on a date with her.
“Anyway I asked my mate if he would ask his date whether Kath would mind making a four up – a double date – with me.
“Obviously Kath agreed, but when it came to meeting her at Blackburn, my mate went off in his car to pick her and her friend up.
“When he got there, she must have asked where I was to which my mate said, ‘Don’t worry, he’s meeting us at the Red House in Wilpshire – he’s still batting for Longridge!’ I was still at Chipping Road out in the middle playing for a draw when I should have been meeting my future wife for our first date.
“So that was it, I was obviously a little bit late arriving at the Red House because I was busying hanging on for a draw – we weren’t even going for the win.
“She’s never let me forget it. She actually tells people why on earth she didn’t realise what being married to me was going to be like then.
“That was 52 years ago and we have survived well.
“I suppose you could say it was a productive day all round for me.
“I managed to help secure the draw for Longridge and then went and met my future wife!”
Although it was he who walked forward to collect the prestigious award, Haworth admits he would never have won it without the love and support of his good lady and his children Jane, David and Susan. And he also paid tribute to the many people he has come into contact with over the years who have shared his love for Longridge Cricket Club.
“Obviously when I won the award, it was very satisfying and nice to receive something like that,” Haworth said.
“But like with any voluntary work, you don’t do it for reward or recognition, you do it in my case for Longridge Cricket Club, which is a wonderful community organisation.
“It’s like a family business down here and the award is not just for me, it’s for everybody – the lads and the girls – who do so much for Longridge Cricket Club.
“And it’s also for Kath who has had to put up with it all over the years. She’s been an absolute gem.”
Born in the town, as a child Haworth lived just a stone’s throw away from the cricket ground.
He played his first game for the club in 1956 and soon progressed to become a regular in the team.
He later became captain and skippered the club when they moved from the local Preston and District League to the Palace Shield.
“I have opened the bowling and opened the batting for Longridge,” Haworth said.
“I was an opening bowler in my early career and then when the club moved into the Palace Shield, I opened the batting.
“For some reason in those days we found it easier to find bowlers than batsmen.
“I was never a great batsmen, I was just somebody who sort of hung around, got runs and was difficult to shift.
“I used to open the batting with a bloke called Fred Wilkinson, who is still involved here at the club. He was a real quality player.
“I was basically a grafter and an awkward sod who wouldn’t get out.
“The faster a bowler would bowl, the more determined I became.
“We have a laugh about it now but when Fred and I used to play and we came up against a really good fast bowler.
“He would push it for one just so he could get to the other end and let me deal with the rest of the over.
“I used to get knocked about a bit. My highest score was 80 – I never got a ton.
“I got 80 not out against Fylde in a score of 140-odd all out.
“I carried my bat through the innings – that was the nearest I came to a hundred.
“I had a number of 70-odds and plenty of half-centuries but I was never a good enough player to stroke my way to a century.
“But you have to remember the wickets back then were nowhere near as good as what they are now.
“If you got a ton in those days, you had done something very, very special – they were few and far between back then.
“Bowling-wise, I once had a hat-trick at Chipping Road against Fylde.
“One of the best games I ever had down here with the ball was against South Shore when we first came into the Palace Shield.
“South Shore in those days were the top team in the league.
“We had just come into the league and we hadn’t been doing too well.
“But we played South Shore at home in the cup on a Sunday – it was a 24-overs-per-side match.
“There were no restrictions in those days and I bowled 12 overs right the way through and hardly went for a run.
“We ended up beating them by three wickets and South Shore only scored 60-odd in their 24 overs.
“I was bowling and I just kept putting it on a length and their two openers – who were obviously two of the best in the league at the time – just kept pushing it back.
“I remember afterwards one of them saying that they kept waiting for the bad ball because we were a new team and we were at the bottom of the Second Division, so they were expecting an easy ride.
“But the bad ball never came and before they knew it, 24 overs had been and gone and they suddenly realised that they had not got many runs.
“So I think that was one of my best performances, especially with it coming against South Shore.”
When Haworth played in the early days, Longridge just had one team but with him as one of the driving forces – especially during his 10 years as chairman – the club has grown beyond recognition over the last 25 years
It is now one of the biggest clubs in the Palace Shield, boasting six senior teams, a ladies’ XI and a number of juniors teams from as young as Under-9s right up to Under-18s.
The first team won the Palace Shield title for the first time in 1996 and has gone on to be crowned league champions a further four times, using players who had virtually all risen up through the club’s youth ranks.
One of Haworth’s biggest achievements is the thriving junior section at the club and it is only recently that he has given up running and coaching the club’s junior teams.
“I’ve really enjoyed coaching and bringing through young players, who have gone on to represent the club at first-team level,” Haworth said.
“ I would say one of my biggest achievements in cricket is when my junior teams won the prestigious Rose Trophy.
“We won it 1976 and again in 1979 – beating Blackpool, who had been all-conquering, on both occasions.
“Junior cricket is why a club like ours has developed and continues to develop.
“We have lads coming along here who are in the Under-9s and they are playing an 18-match programme.
“At the start of the season, they are hopeless but by the end of it they can play cricket.
“All of suddden, by the time the following season comes around, they are very competitive.
“This is what does it for me – I love watching the kids.”
Behind the scenes, Haworth has also played an important role in securing the long-term future of cricket in the town.
His work, alongside the committee’s, helped the club secure use of a second pitch at its Chipping Road base.
He was also instrumental in the development of the new clubhouse and pavilion which was opened in July 2011.
These are some of his major achievements but it is the little jobs such as arranging fixtures, organising club events or helping with the various juniors teams, which has seen him win the award.
As he approaches his 75th birthday, Haworth was hoping to take more of a back seat but recently a housing developer has applied to build properties on the fields surrounding the first-team pitch.
The proposals are still in their infancy but it means Haworth will not have the chance to step back as he fights to get the best deal for the club.
There is a possibility that should the plan go ahead, the club may relocate to an adjoining field – but that is all for the future.
“Three years ago when we built our new pavilion and clubhouse, I thought that’s me now,” Haworth said.
“I can sit back, just enjoy my cricket and I don’t need to worry any more. But now we are faced with this.”
Nevertheless, Haworth is still looking forward to the climax of the 2014 cricket season in the Palace Shield.
With just five games left in the Premier Division, the first team are currently in third spot and still have a great chance of lifting the title. They are just 13 points behind leaders and reigning champions Vernon Carus and two behind second-placed Great Eccleston.
One of his daughter’s sons, a certain 19-year-old Tom Howarth – not quite the namesake of his grandfather if you notice the spelling of his surname – is an integral member of the team.
The second team – although they cannot win promotion to the top division – are in a three-way fight with Vernons and Croston for the First Division title.
And the third team recently lost out in the final of the Crabtree Cup, losing to you know who – Vernon Carus’ third XI.
Haworth also has two other grandsons – Chris and Matt – who open the batting for the club’s Under-17s.
“All three of them are playing. Tom in particular is doing very well this season,” Haworth said.