Atlas Cricket Field

Atlas Cricket Field

An excerpt from ‘Steelin’ Away’ by Sean McPartlin

There is something about the linking of industry and the summer game which seems to promote a quirkiness of conditions – and nowhere could be more illustrative of that than the much missed Atlas Steelworks ground at Armadale.

The ground was a car park during the week, and the team organizers had an uphill battle in more ways than one. It was so undulating that, crouching down, the wicketkeeper could only make a wild guess as to the arrival of the bowler in his delivery stride. The pitch, too, was predictably unpredictable, and a team mate, having lost three front teeth to a ball that rose sharply off a length, developed a case of the ‘visiting relatives’ whenever availability for the Armadale trip was later being discussed.

For the batsman facing the “Foundry End”, the view behind the umpire was the looming hulk of the Steelworks – big as a transatlantic liner, and just as dark. At ground level was about 3 feet of brick, topped by a huge expanse of corrugated iron – the world’s first ever black sightscreen – blocking out the sky. Ten feet above the ground, a steam pipe ran the length of the works, gurgling and hissing throughout the game. Local rules stated: two runs for hitting the bricks, four for reaching the corrugated iron under the pipe without bouncing, and the maximum could be achieved by a hit on to the building above the pipe.

Changing rooms were in a railway wagon without wheels, and at tea, hot water was fetched by an Atlas player who climbed a fence into the nether regions of the factory and returned with a boiling urn. Playing there once on a holiday weekend, come tea time, the foundry was locked up and deserted. The Atlas lads drove into the ’dale and returned with 24 cans of Export and 24 pies. Non-coincidentally, the number of runs we amassed batting second was…..24.

Soon after, the team folded, and later the steelworks was closed and demolished – and so was lost one of the most interesting experiences in east of Scotland Grade cricket.

A couple of years ago, a colleague invited me out to see her new house in a recently built development in Armadale. I thought about Atlas CC as I drove there. When I arrived, she was on the phone and ushered me in, telling me to have a look round while she finished her call.

It was looking out of the kitchen window that I finally established my bearings, realized where I was standing, and the years fell away. When her shouted question penetrated my reverie: “Where are you?” – I answered without hesitation: “Deep Mid off.”

Happy days indeed!

Sean McPartlin

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