Written by Andrew Hignell, the Archivist of Glamorgan County Cricket Club, and the leading authority on the history of cricket in Wales, this book recalls these Golden Years in the history of Blaina Cricket Club as well as tracing the fascinating history of cricket in this Monmouthshire valley from the times when coal was king, through the years of the decline in the iron and tinplate industry to the modern years of mine closure and de-industrialisation, drawing on the memories and personnel recollections of those directly involved with the Blaina club.
Cricket was first played in Blaina in the mid-nineteenth century amidst the smoke and noise from the area's ironworks. Indeed, the early history of the town's cricket club is closely interwoven with the growth of the iron and coal industry. 'King coal' brought fame and fortune to the area's entrepreneurs, whilst the influx of people also brought skills, knowledge and new ideas to the area, including healthy recreation. But the industrial boom was not without its problems, with the seeds of industrial unrest and Chartism being sown in the Monmouthshire town.
It was against this background of fractured relations between the rich and the working classes that cricket began in the 1850s as the ironmasters used the game to fly the flag for their works as well as trying to harmonise industrial relations and promoting healthy lifestyles. The playing of cricket subsequently developed into a unifying force within the tight-knit valley communities and, as the first team-game to evolve in industrial Wales , it helped to bond and give immense pleasure to the people whose livelihood was dominated by the state of the iron and coal industries.
There were good times and bad, yet throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the Blaina cricket club remained strong and vibrant. For example, it was a founding member of the South Wales and Monmouthshire League, created in 1926 as the leading cricket clubs from the south-east and west of Wales came together, with Blaina's games watched by crowds of up to 4,000. Unlike other clubs in the region, it has successfully ridden out the grim years when the iron trade slumped or the output of coal fell. Indeed, some of the club's strongest years, measured by on-field performances and results, have come during trade depressions.
Andrew Hignell is a prolific author and widely recognised as the leading authority on the history of cricket in Wales.