Todmorden cricket double winner Mr Colin Sunderland dies aged 77

A MEMBER of Todmorden Cricket Club's 1954 double winning side has died at the age of 77 after a long illness.

Colin Sunderland had a long career in the fire service which took him to the position of Chief Fire Officer of Bermuda and after retiring from the service and becoming a qualified cricket coach was briefly resident back home in Walsden for a few years before settling in the south of England.

It is his sporting achievements that will perhaps be best remembered by people in the town of Todmorden and village of Walsden, both of whom Colin represented at cricket. Walsden born and bred, Colin went to Walsden Board School, leaving at 14 and did various jobs until joining the Royal Air Force for his two years’ national service at 17.

Returning home, he worked in the sheeting room at the “Top Shop” - Walsden Printing Company - and it was around this time he met his wife Mildred, at Bottoms Methodist Chapel Youth Club. He joined the fire service in 1951, postings taking in Elland, Todmorden, Keighley, Bingley and Huddesrfield, where he became a junior instructor, and Birkenshaw headquarters, where he became an instructor.

Completing his fire service examinations he became Station Officer at Ossett and in 1973 the family left England when he took up the position of Assistant Fire Chief of Bermuda and then became the island’s fire chief in 1976, retiring from the service in 1981.

Mrs Sunderland said: “Colin decided he wanted to change his career and went to study sports education and we moved down to Bideford in Devon where he became cricket coach and groundsman at Grenville College.”

Colin’s father Fred had been a groundsman at Walsden, Todmorden and Burnley cricket clubs and Colin had always loved his sport. His achievements included a stint as table tennis champion and a football career which included Walsden FC, Burnley FC’s Colts teams - where as centre forward the side won the Tom Clegg Shield - and Bury FC. His job with the fire service meant it was difficult to play on a regular basis.

Cricket was clearly in his blood and betwen the late 40s and early 50s he played around three seasons for Walsden before joining Todmorden for four or five seasons, including that double winning season.

In 1954, under Harold Dawson’s captaincy and with Australian Jim Burke as professional, the club won the coveted Lancashire League and Worsley Cup double. It brought the young fast bowler into contention with some of the game’s legendary names, including the great West Indian Everton Weekes, remembers Mrs Sunderland.

“One time when Bacup were at Todmorden for a derby Bacup fans were walking up the road to Centre Vale when news came through that Colin had bowled Weekes for a duck in his first over - and they went straight back home again!” she said.

She said that perhaps Colin’s best performance was in another 50s match, against Lowerhouse, when his remarkable figures of 8-29 included a hat-trick.

Club records show that in season 1956 Colin scooped four accolades - bowler with best average, the Mr E. Knowles prize for players taking the best aggregate wickets in April, May and June, the Mr Walter Forrest trophy for the same feat in July, August and September and Mr T. Burgin’s prize for the player who in the opinion of the committee had made the greatest improvement during the season.

While at Todmorden he was approached by Kent with a view to trials but by the time the couple had started their family and with a good career in prospect in the fire service Colin was unable to take up the opportunity. “He decided to put his family first - as he always did,” said Mrs Sunderland.

In later life the couple settled in Calne, near Chippenham in Wiltshire, and he took up another hobby, singing in a barbershop quartet - and a tape of Colin singing with his group, Ridgeway Harmony, performing “Sitting On Top Of The World” was played at his funeral service at Semington Crematorium, near Chippenham.

He leaves his wife, Mildred, three daughters, a son and seven grandsons.