Award of a lifetime for cricket stalwart

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Idyllic boyhood summers playing cricket with his dad on the sands at Middleton and Hest Bank are still fresh in the memory for Frank Wilkinson, whose enduring love for the game has culminated in a prestigious Lancashire Cricket Board lifetime achiever award for outstanding service to the sport.

And the former Morecambe Cricket Club wicket-keeper and opening bat, who has coached hundreds of youngsters through their junior years on to the senior game, is also in line for national honours.

He has been shortlisted for a NatWest OSCA in the bank’s Outstanding Service to Cricket Awards and in October, accompanied by his wife, Marion, will attend a celebratory lunch at Lord’s cricket ground when the winner will be announced.

The county award, an attractive plaque which has pride of place in the lounge at Frank’s home in Homfray Avenue, Morecambe, follows a nomination by the Lancaster and Morecambe Cricket Coaching Association.

Frank has been a member since its formation 12 years ago and is also part of the association’s development group.

Frank played all his cricket with Morecambe – apart from four games for the then newly launched Bare Cricket Club – and for 10 years was wicket-keeper and also opening batsman. During Charlie Clough’s glittering 15 year spell as captain Frank was vice-captain.

Hours spent playing cricket on the sands with dad, Frank senior, and also in the playground at West End Primary School, were extended to include stints at Woodhill Lane, Morecambe’s ground, retrieving balls from the nets, rewarded by a few deliveries from the club players at the end of practice.

Frank, who was to develop into a highly respected coach, recalls there was no coaching when he became part of the Morecambe scene. They learnt their basics from senior players, the likes of John and Fred Normanton, John and Alan Neve and Dave Garner.

His first game for the club was in 1954 when he turned out for Morecambe 2nds at St Annes. He described it as the year 10BC...10 years before the legendary Charlie Clough appeared on the scene!

“It did give me a chance of mixing and playing with people who were stars of the game, many of them internationals,” Frank explained.

A case in point was a benefit match for Morecambe’s West Indian professional, Roy Miller, in 1955.

Two West Indies visiting players couldn’t make it so Frank found himself, along with fellow club player, Dave Roberts, on the guest side, which included the magnificent three Ws – Weekes, Worrell and Walcott! (Four Ws with Wilkinson!)

Frank has given much back to the game – he has been coaching at Morecambe for 40 years, 18 years for Heysham Cricket Club Juniors and was Bentham Grammar School coach for 20 years. He still helps district primary schools liaise with their local cricket clubs.

Frank derives particular pleasure from seeing youngsters advancing from the juniors into successful senior players – current captain and wicket-keeper Lewis Edge is one of the successes, as is vice-captain Tommy Clough and squad members Gareth Pedder and Mark Woodhead.

Others are on the way, like Joel Creetch, only 11 but already wicket-keeper for the district under-11s. And there’s his own grandson, Charlie Wilkinson, playing for Morecambe Under 12s and a trialist with Lancashire.

Two other wicket-keeping successes include Lucy Allison (daughter of former top Football League and Lancaster-based referee Dave Allison) who went on to keep wicket for Somerset Ladies and Visitor football correspondent Derek Quinn, who progressed from the Woodhill Lane juniors to Cumbria Under 13s.

Frank added: “I’m very proud to have received the award from Lancashire Cricket Board and proud, also, that it has come to this area because there are people in lots of other clubs round here who are working equally as hard as me, although I’ve probably got it because I’ve been doing it longer.

“And my reward is seeing juniors develop their game and move on to senior cricket.

“I like to see boys and girls enjoying their cricket. I don’t think they would keep coming back week in week out if they didn’t enjoy it.”

Frank, who with Marion will celebrate their golden wedding next year, has just one wish for 2013: a dry summer!