Rossie Priory toast distinctive history and fresh achievements

IT WAS a long wait of 176 years, but on August 6 at picturesque Scroggie Park, Falkland, wee Rossie Priory finally clinched their first national trophy by defeating Marchmont in the final of the Small Clubs Cup. The disappointments of final defeats by St Modan’s and Renfrew in 1986 and 2000 were vanquished.

How appropriate that the man of the match was Mr Rossie Priory, ubiquitous warhorse Bob "Faf" McFarlane, secretary, groundsman, former captain and stylishly-prolific opening batsman, who ground out a match-winning 97 not out. The gods of sporting justice, notoriously fickle, had been propitious at last.

Little Rossie are steeped in cricketing history. Founded in 1828 by Lord Kinnaird on his idyllic rolling estate at Inchture, near Dundee, they have claims to be the second oldest extant Scottish cricket club after Kelso, though some historians insist on big brothers Perthshire as taking second place.

The original Lord Kinnaird, a passionate cricket man, initially signed up Yorkshireman John Broadley as professional and coach. Broadley’s son, Johnny, became a celebrity for his colossal striking of a cricket ball: he had three bats, two of which are still awarded annually as club trophies, and a third, dubbed "Calamity Jane", hangs in the neat pavilion alongside some fine pictures and other memorabilia.

Rossie’s justifiable pride in their remarkable cricket heritage saw them celebrate their sesquicentenary in 1978 with a match against MCC - contested in costume appropriate to 1828 - while last year they marked 175 years of uninterrupted leather-and-willow bliss with a season of varied festivities, all stoutly supported by the community.

McFarlane describes 2004 as the club’s annus mirabilis. "As well as the Small Clubs Cup, we’ve also won the Strathmore League First Division and the Perthshire Cup. It’s partly down to having plenty of experienced campaigners in our ranks, many of whom have played at a higher level."

Left-hander Pete Stewart, now in his early 50s, has amassed more than 20,000 runs in club cricket, mostly for Rossie, and he played in a Scottish Cup final for Perthshire in 1975. Dek ‘Smiff’ McAlpine, brother of the colourful former Dundee United goalkeeper, Hamish, is also nudging the 20,000-run mark.

Mercurial left-arm spinner Ally Low - "Bob Dylan in whites" - also played for Perthshire in a Scottish Cup final, in 1987, and front-line bowlers Raymond Lynch and Peter Milne are likewise seasoned stalwarts who know their way about. McFarlane himself was also called up to serve the Big County for some years in the 1970s.

But Rossie is no mere grazing ground for grizzled veterans who fancy a further few twilight days in the sporting sun. The accent is firmly on youth.

"Niall Borwell, captain for the day in the final, is only 18," says McFarlane, "but he led magnificently from the front with a five-wicket haul. Also on the big day Billy Turner weighed in with a vital, late 24 not out, and he’s just 16.

"Our junior section is thriving. On Monday nights we can attract up to 50 youngsters aged from seven to 15 to our Kwik Cricket sessions."

Cricket Scotland’s technical director, Peter Drinnen, was the initial catalyst some years ago when, as Forfarshire coach, he made regular visits to six primary schools in the Carse of Gowrie. The culmination of his missionary work was that Inchture Primary School won the Scottish Region Kwik Cricket competition, and progressed on to the UK national finals at Trent Bridge.

McFarlane reflects: "It was a remarkable achievement for a small village with a population of under 1000 and a school roll of under 100. These school visits, this year with Forfarshire pro Luke Gleeson, continue to entice eager youngsters to enjoy a taste of the game.

"We hope that some of these young fellows who have caught the cricket bug will stick with it, and possibly graduate through the ranks into our first team. We may be a small club, but we do have valid ambitions.

"Our immediate aim will be to consolidate our new status in the Strathmore Premiership. Our recent success may attract new players, and - who knows - perhaps further down the line we might conceivably be challenging for a National League slot."

Meanwhile, as the autumn shadows lengthen, it is time to bask in the glory of a marvellous summer of resounding success and a trophy cabinet bursting at the seams.

The cricket world assuredly will hear much more of the stalwarts of Rossie. A fresh chapter in a long and illustrious history is only just beginning, and the legendary Johnny Broadley no doubt would be proud.