A History of the LCU&SA

This history of the Association was written in 2021 by a stalwart of the LCU&SA – former Association President, Appointments Secretary (and President of Cricket Leinster) Peter Thew – pictured on the right above, with assistance from a fellow stalwart, former Training Secretary Alan Tuffery. This is an updated history from an original article written by Ronnie O’Reilly.

Early days 

Like so many aspects of life in Ireland, cricket and cricket umpiring in the Leinster area in the era before the 1960s was far different from the modern game’s relative sophistication. Those were the days when draws were frequent, cup matches could extend over a week, tea was 20 minutes, there were no one-day wides, no penalty runs, few behavioural problems, no grading of umpires, and a cloud of tobacco smoke around the head of the striker’s-end umpire was common enough. 

The status of umpires, to put it mildly, was low in the mid-century game. Although appointed by the Leinster Cricket Union (LCU), this organisation took no responsibility for payment of the umpires’ expenses. Umpires were paid on the day of a match by the home club. As umpires were not permitted access to, nor invited into, most club bars at that time, they had to wait outside, often for a considerable time, until the club treasurer got around to paying them. And this humiliation all for the princely sum of five shillings (€0.25).

A watershed year was 1961. The amounts paid, but more importantly the system of payment, were no longer acceptable and the umpires refused to officiate at all for the first part of that season. Perhaps for the first time, clubs and players realised that cricket without neutral and knowledgeable umpires was fraught with problems. Clearly, something had to be done, and quickly.

To his great credit, Brendan McGrath of Old Belvedere proposed at a meeting of the LCU that that body should not only select and appoint umpires but also become responsible for the payment of umpires’ expenses, and that this should be done in a more discreet and less servile manner. The clubs would continue to have ultimate responsibility for the expenses, as is still the position today, but would now reimburse the LCU. This was agreed and further joy followed in 1962 when the expense payment was doubled to ten shillings (€0.50). 

An LCU sub-committee was formed in 1961 with Brendan McGrath as chairman and including Jim Connerton, who looked after appointments, and those other towering umpire figures of that period, Ken Orme and Tim Protheroe-Benyon. Meetings were held monthly in the O’Connell Street offices of Marlowe’s Cleaners (where Brendan was managing director); appointments were made for the month ahead, with appointments cards being sent out to umpires. Brendan furthermore arranged to pay umpires’ expenses out of his own resources in advance of eventually being recompenses by the clubs through the LCU. 

Our Association today owes a great debt of gratitude to Brendan McGrath for his successful effort to put Leinster umpiring arrangements on a regularised basis. He very appropriately became the first honorary member elected after our 1992 constitution was adopted. 

Slowly, the number of umpires increased, with Brian Carpenter and Gerry Doyle starting in 1964 and Bob Smith in 1966. By the early 1970s, the list included, among others, the names of Cecil Dixon, Des Farrell, Michael Gallagher, Ted Harper, John Manning, Jim Pender, Paddy Quinn and James Timmins. At about this time, the sub-committee evolved into a separate organisation – the Leinster Cricket Umpires’ Association (LCUA) – and took tentative steps into areas of recruitment, training and looking after the welfare of its members. The structure was a loose one with no constitution or membership: if you were an umpire you were a member. Lack of belief that the lot of the umpire could improve to any satisfying extent seems to have been the reason that the Association effectively ceased to function actively during the mid- to late-1970s. Other than appointing umpires to club matches, the Association was dormant. 

The Association grows up 

In late 1979, the Association was revived on a proper footing, largely due to the drive and hard work of Bob Smith, who did this simultaneously with his tenure as President of Clontarf Cricket Club. It was fitting that he should become the Association’s first President in 1980. An early step was affiliation with the UK Association of Cricket Umpires (ACU) and for many years we were part of the north-west region of the ACU. 

At that time, there were 16 regular and 6 occasional umpires. Two were full members of the ACU, with three associate members studying for the exams. For the first time, the Association had a representative on the full LCU committee. 

This period saw both the ends and the beginnings of some significant careers. Tim Protheroe-Benton carried out our training activities for many years until he retired in 1985, to be replaced by Sean Moore who in turn gave way to the evergreen and indefatigable Alan Tuffery  The late-70s also saw the start of the umpiring career of the legendary Liam Keegan. Liam had an enormously positive influence on the Association over the next quarter-century and served as President for two periods (1984-6 and 2001-3 – he died in office) as well as doing stints as Secretary and Appointments Secretary. By the mid-1980s, Liam had cajoled many more reluctant debutants to don the white coat, and membership increased to more than thirty. 

From the 1970s onward, our members went international, in the sense of being officially appointed to games outside Ireland (including not-quite-first-class matches in England and international tournaments) as well as home internationals. In the last two decades of the old millennium, the Leinster roll of honour in this regard featured such big names as (alphabetically) Brian Carpenter, Jim Connerton, Stu Daultrey, Louis Hogan, Robert MacClancy, Ronnie O’Reilly and Ken Orme. It should also be mentioned that Tim Protheroe-Benton claimed a world record as the oldest man to umpire an international when he stood in the 3-day Ireland/Scotland game in 1977 at the age of 72. 

During ’80s and ‘90s a particularly valuable development took place in the form of all-Ireland umpiring co-operation. The historic first north/south umpiring combination was Sean Moore (Leinster) and Dai Jones (Belfast) standing together in a South Leinster/Munster interprovincial match at Carlisle CC in June, 1981. From then on, not only were such combinations usual in all-Ireland games but our Association participated in regular exchanges with our northern colleagues and, in recent times, with Bristol, Sussex and Guernsey.  

Out of this interprovincial enthusiasm came two important developments. First, there was the formation of an all-Ireland umpiring body. This started in 1993 as an informal committee without real authority, but it evolved in 1998 into the formally constituted Irish Cricket Umpires’ Association, which became the Ireland region of the ACU&S (the aforementioned ACU plus scorers) in 2002. 

Interprovincial co-operation went hand-in-hand with interprovincial rivalry and 1989 saw the first in the annual series of matches for the White Stick Trophy. This is played between teams comprising umpires from the LCU&SA and NIACUS respectively every year since (except once when a bereavement forced its cancellation, once when the weather was just too unkind and finally due to covid-19 in 2020). The match, is played alternately in the Dublin and Belfast areas every September. It is the highlight of the umpiring year for all participants, is very seriously and competitively contested but also is the source of much good-natured banter and friendship. At the time of writing, the score stands at 16-13 in LCUSA’s favour, with the 2016 match famously tied. 

Also in the 1990s the Association originated two perpetual trophies for players. Dickie Spence was a much-loved cricketer who took up umpiring in the late-‘80s. He had just achieved international standing when, in 1996, he died suddenly in Cork on the morning of a match he was due to umpire at The Mardyke. The previous year, the LCUA had instigated a fair-play award for the senior cricketer (now Premier League and Championship) who best exemplified how the game should be played – as voted for by the umpires. In its way, this was a ground-breaking concept at the time. Dickie himself had been a hard, competitive but thoroughly fair and honest player for decades and it was entirely appropriate to rename the perpetual trophy in his honour from 1996. It has been awarded each year and received with pride ever since. 

Sean Pender, an outstanding Irish Times cricket correspondent and a good friend to Leinster umpires, was a member of the LCUA (he played in the first White Stick match), and for many years an Umpires v. Press match was played on the eve of the senior cup final. After his untimely death in 1993, the match was continued for several years with a magnificent trophy, donated by the Irish Times, at stake. When, in 2000, it proved impossible to secure a ground due to pressure of other matches, LCUA created an award in memory of Sean to be presented to the best example of a cricketer below Senior 1 level (now Divisions 3 and below) who, over a season, contributed most to the games in which they featured – again as voted by the umpires. This still continues although in 2012 it was converted into a fair-play award for the appropriate divisions. 

At this time, the Association also matured in the institutional sense. Surprisingly for a body operating since the 1960s, the association had no form of written constitution until this matter was driven forward by President Louis Hogan. The first constitution was adopted by the members in 1992. Although it has been amended several times since then, it remains the bedrock on which the Association operates. New categories of honorary life membership (for existing members who have given especially valuable service to the Association), vice-president (awarded annually to non-members who have given especially valuable service to Leinster cricket or to the Association) and associate membership (for others whom the Association wishes to recognise). 

Another important administrative development was the creation, in the new constitution of 1992, of a new officer, Appointments Secretary, to take over from the secretary the enormous logistical task of appointments throughout the season. The first incumbent was Stu Daultrey and he moved the system from endless pieces of paper to an Excel-based master sheet. 

Modern times 

Developments since 2000 have built on the foundations described above. In 2005, when Martin Russell was President, the constitution was amended to change the name of the Association to ‘Leinster Cricket Umpires and Scorers’ Association’ (LCU&SA), thereby allowing scorers to become full members. This brought us into line with the equivalent bodies elsewhere in Ireland and in Britain (the very first associate member elected under the 1992 constitution had been Geraldine Banks who, as a scorer, was not eligible for full membership). This properly reflects the fact that the umpires and scorers are a team of officials and the idea of positive co-operation within the team is something the Association has been promoting.  

A link between the Association’s medieval and modern periods is Alan Tuffery. In the late-1980s he became the Association’s first Training Officer (now Education Officer) and brought training for umpires and scorers to a new level, successfully preparing countless nervous people for examinations. Astonishingly, he held this post for nearly 30 years. Under Alan’s leadership, workshops and panel discussions became a regular feature of the close season. For much of his career, he was supported in tutoring by Philip Boylan, David Walsh and Peter Thew amongst others. 

Early in 2009, Alan Tuffery and Peter Thew attended a weekend long tutor training course – held in Lord’s – for umpire trainers from across Europe. This marked the beginning of ICC Europe’s efforts to formalise the quality of training throughout its territory. Numbers of people presenting for training in the 21st century were steadily increasing and by early 2015 it was necessary to arrange a tutor training course in Dublin. Around a dozen candidates from across Ireland attended including Louis Fourie, Kevin Gallagher, Bala Kailash Aidan Seaver and Steve Wood from Leinster.

Although the numbers registering for training courses continued to flourish, this did not always translate into a significant increase in the number of members. Many of those who sat the course and passed the terminal exam did so for their own or their club’s requirements. Nonetheless, LCU&SA membership numbers continued to rise. In 2015, 68 umpires made a total of 1,419 appointments. Total appointments in 2003 were just 769 so clearly progress had been made in extending the coverage of matches. But much remains to be done. Since 2015, the number of appointments made has started to decline and clearly work needs to be done to stem this loss.

The realities of modern life mean that few of the new umpires are prepared to make themselves available every day of every weekend to umpire. Through the latter years of the 20th century, umpires like Liam Keegan, Stan McCready, Gerry Lyons, Tommy Thompson, Stu Daultrey, Joe Connolly and others were regularly umpiring 50+ matches per season. There are far fewer umpires now prepared to be available for those sort of numbers, meaning that more bodies are required to maintain the same number of appointments.

One particular area of disappointment with recruitment has been our inability to attract women into umpiring. The LCU&SA has had a total of just four female umpires in its history, although the most recent recruit – Mary Waldron – has proved to be extremely successful. Combining umpiring and playing, Mary winters in Australia so can play and umpire throughout the calendar year. That combined with hard work and her natural ability has seen her quickly rise to umpire interprovincial cricket here and Grade 1 cricket in Australia. It is to be hoped that she can become a role model for others to follow.

There is now a clear path for any new umpire to go as far as his/her ability will take them. Cricket Ireland formed an International Umpires panel in 2018 comprising four top umpires from across the island. The present panel – Mark Hawthorne, Alan Neill, Roly Black and Leinster’s Paul Reynolds – are retained by Cricket Ireland to umpire international and interprovincial matches both in Ireland and further afield.

And LCU&SA scorers during this period were frequently appointed to score in international and interprovincial matches. Geraldine Banks, Helen Caird, Stella Downes and Siobhan McBennett have continued the tradition of top-class scorers in Leinster.

The growth in umpiring numbers meant that the Excel based appointments system was becoming increasingly over-burdened. Peter Thew was Appointments Secretary for most of the first two decades of the 21st century and despite his best efforts the system was clearly creaking badly. At the beginning of 2017 and with financial support from Cricket Ireland, a web based system – Whos The Umpire – was introduced. This proved to be highly successful allowing umpires to maintain their own availability information for the Appointments Secretary, as well as allowing him to produce expenses claims on behalf of umpires.

Members of LCU&SA have, with increasing frequency in recent years, risen to the highest office in Leinster Cricket Union/Cricket Leinster. Following Brendan McGrath’s early example, Matt Sheridan (2009-10), Roland Bradley (2015-6), Derek Dockrell (2017-8) and Peter Thew (2019-20) have all served as President of LCU/CL. At the time of writing, Stella Downes has now succeeded to this role.

January 2021

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