GEOFF CRAMBIE: Pendle cricketing legend Learie Constantine
It’s now over 40 years ago that the late Noel Wild, then editor of this newspaper, campaigned for some form of tangible recognition to his dear friend, Learie Constantine, in the town where his name became legendary.
Now at last, Noel can beam down with his famous smile from the great newsdesk on high as he gazes at No. 3 Meredith Street, Learie’s home in Nelson for two decades, which now has affixed to the stone wall a prestigious blue plaque commemorating the grandson of a West Indian slave who became a member of the House of Lords.
Learie Nicholas Constantine, Baron of Maraval in Trinidad and of Nelson in the county Palatine of Lancaster, will however, always be known for his wonderful and indeed awesome nine years from 1929 to 1937, as Nelson’s cricket professional in an era of great players and glorious cricket.
In this week’s picture, we can see Learie in his prime (must be early season, he has a cardigan on!) at Seedhill and bottom left inset is the day Learie was made a proud freeman of Nelson.
On the right is Learie and his wife Norma and among those looking on are luminaries, Andrew Smith and Billy Bannister with Mayor Harold Ingham in the background.
Noel Wild had a marvellous story of Learie’s very first day in Nelson - as Learie walked along Leeds Road a young schoolboy called out “Has ta’ bin down t’ coal ‘ole, Mister”? He was soon to become the most familiar face in Nelson whose deeds both on and off the field over the years endeared him to everyone in town.
Today, some 82 years on from Learie’s momentous Lancashire League debut, his name lives on. His batting feats include 192 not out in 118 minutes with 27 fours and 5 sixes, bowling saw a 10 wickets for 10 runs return plus ones of 9 for 26, 8 for 7 and 7 for 5. His fielding has never been equalled in the history of the league.
A Learie Constantine autograph can today fetch £75, but his years among us here in Pendle will always be priceless.