2022 marked the fiftieth year of the Nottingham Cricket Lovers’ Society. 

It was established in 1972 by Bryan ‘Bomber’ Wells, the former Nottinghamshire and Gloucestershire off-spinner, and, thanks to Bomber’s numerous contacts from around the cricketing world, many leading personalities visited the Society. 

The inaugural programme of 1972/73 was truly a star-studded line-up.  The guest at the first meeting – on 21 September 1972 – was the finest cricketer of the day, Garry Sobers, captain of Nottinghamshire and the West Indies.  The following month’s speaker was Brian Close, the Yorkshire and England all-rounder who had recently moved to captain Somerset.  Another big name followed in December 1972 when Brian Clough spoke to members.  Clough was then manager of Derby County but was a keen follower of cricket and was often seen watching games at Trent Bridge during his subsequent years at Nottingham Forest.

Later in that first season, a Yorkshire evening was organised, with Geoffrey Boycott, Fred Trueman, Phil Sharpe and Tony Nicholson addressing members in an evening compered by Michael Parkinson.  Leading women’s cricketer Rachel Heyhoe Flint was another guest, accompanied by Notts-born all-rounder Enid Bakewell.  Forty-nine years later, Enid, by now the recipient of an MBE for her services to cricket, was once again the Society’s guest as part of the 2021/22 programme. 

Other speakers in that first year included BBC statistician and scorer Bill Frindall, Middlesex batsman Jack Robertson and Yorkshire spinner Geoff Cope.

The stellar names continued in subsequent programmes with top England cricketers, Ted Dexter, Basil D’Oliveira, Jim Laker and Colin Cowdrey all visiting Trent Bridge in the 1970s.  The Society’s first Chairman was Denis Bland, a Nottinghamshire player in the 1920s and 1930s.  Despite being the founder, leading light and main booker of visiting speakers in the early years, Bomber Wells never held an official role within the organisation. 

Over the years, well over 300 guests have featured, with umpires, coaches, cricket writers, administrators, broadcasters and journalists frequently forming part of the mix.  Most years have seen a current Nottinghamshire player address the meeting.  Many of the County’s long-serving players from the past 50 years have been guests of the Society: Derek Randall, Mike Smedley, Tim Robinson, Paul Johnson, Graeme Swann, Chris Read, Paul Franks and many more.  Of the current squad, Steven Mullaney, Luke Fletcher, Samit Patel, Matthew Carter and Ben Slater have all spoken in recent years and long-serving player, coach and now Director of Cricket Mick Newell has visited the Society on five occasions.

The mainstay of Cricket Lovers’ and the person who has spoken most frequently at meetings was Nottinghamshire’s former librarian, historian and statistician, Peter Wynne-Thomas.  Peter first joined the Society in the 1970s, became its President in 1987 and subsequently Chairman, a post he occupied until his passing in 2021.  In an interview in 2018, Peter asserted that he had ‘spoken to the Lovers on 12 occasions.’  Sometimes Peter was booked to speak but often he stood in at the last moment when the expected speaker failed to appear.  As a prolific cricket writer, Peter was usually researching his latest book or article, so always had something to share with members. 

Membership of the Society has usually been around 80-100 people.  Members pay an annual subscription and support the raffle, which provides the income to fund speakers and keep this not-for-profit organisation afloat.  There are few rules or procedures – indeed, Peter Wynne-Thomas, again speaking in 2018, asserted that the Society was ‘remarkably haphazard’, adding that it was ‘just the sort of organisation I like!’

Ten meetings were held in the first autumn and winter of 1972/73 but the Society gradually settled on a programme of seven or eight meetings in each season.  The initial meetings were held in the Century Restaurant in the former Ladies’ Pavilion at Trent Bridge.  Occasionally, meetings have been held at the Trent Bridge Inn but the Society’s usual venue quickly became the Long Room.  This continues to be the Society’s home today, although the Derek Randall Suite is sometimes made available by the Club, particularly if a larger audience is expected.  Thanks are due to the County Cricket Club for continuing to provide space for Cricket Lovers’ meetings. 

Occasional special events have been held and records also show that ‘an exclusive Welcome Home Dinner & Dance for Nottinghamshire and England Cricket Celebrity Derek Randall’ was organised at the Chestnuts in Radcliffe-on-Trent on his return from the tour of Australia and New Zealand in March 1983.  At one point, the Society held an annual Christmas dinner with a guest speaker, but this was discontinued around 2000. 

From the beginning, Cricket Lovers’ meetings started with a quiz. This featured two competing teams, often from local cricket clubs, with Kimberley Institute CC being the first winners.  The quiz continued until 2018/19 when the small number of competing teams made it no longer viable.  The final winners were Notts Libraries CC but quiz honours must go to the West Wing team of John Goulder, Michael Goulder and Peter Tatton, who won the trophy on 18 occasions.  The first part of the meeting now features a short presentation, usually on Nottinghamshire cricket history and heritage.

Like many things, Cricket Lovers was interrupted during the winter of 2020/21 with no meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Society re-convened with a full ‘fixture list’ in 2021/22, beginning in October 2021 with tributes at the first meeting to recently departed Chairman Peter Wynne-Thomas and featuring Jeff Moore, Nottinghamshire’s new Club Chairman as guest speaker. 

The Society moved into its second half century with speakers including then President Basharat Hassan, Liam Patterson-White, Dennis Amiss and members of Nottinghamshire’s 1987 double-winning side.  Most appropriately, the November meeting saw cricket writer and Society Vice President Stephen Chalke share his memories of our founder Bomber Wells.