1987: cricket legend Viv Richards becomes Rishton pro

Viv Richards
Viv Richards

The big chill hit Burnley at the start of 1987, yet that most summery of sports, cricket, was being featured in the Burnley Express.

Amid stories about harsh frosts and snow, sports writer Granville Shackleton revealed in January that West Indies legend Viv Richards had agreed to become Rishton Cricket Club’s professional in the upcoming Lancashire League season.

Steve Waugh

Steve Waugh

I can remember the season well as I followed Rawtenstall home and away in those days with my dad, and I can recall the excitement generated by Richards’ appearance in the league.

Legend is a word too often bandied about, but it certainly befitted Vivian Alexander Richards.

The West Indies captain was a dynamic batsman and inspirational captain for what was then a dominant, all-conquering West Indies team.

I was a wide-eyed seven-year-old when I first saw Richards warming up on the boundary at Rawtenstall’s Worswick Memorial ground that season.

Bert Bolton

Bert Bolton

Granville revealed Richards was reputed to be picking up a cheque for £10,000 for the four-and-a-half months he would spend at Rishton.

Yet, despite his presence, and 999 runs, Rishton only finished fourth that season with Rawtenstall runners-up to Valley rivals Haslingden.

It was not a good season for Burnley, though, with the Turf Moor club finishing bottom of the league.

Another huge name also pro-ing in the league that season was Australian Steve Waugh at Nelson.

Away from the crease, the Express was bidding farewell to one of its own respected figures, local government correspondent Bert Bolton.

The article read: “When Mancunian Bert joined the Express in 1954, his first reaction was ‘I’ll give it six months.’ But he and his wife, Barbara, and young daughter Jackie soon discovered they liked life here – and Bert has just retired from the Express after 32 years’ service.”

After beginning his career as a copy boy with a national newspaper in Manchester, Bert worked for a series of titles before joining the Express from the Stockport Advertiser in 1954.

He also served in the Army in the Second World War and was a signaller on Gold beach during the D-Day landings in Normandy.

Bert himself said he was proud of the fact he never made an enemy for the paper.