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‘It was in my wedding vows – thou shalt let me play cricket!’, says ‘Mr Rossie Priory’ Bob McFarlane

Former Cricket Scotland president and Rossie Priory Cricket Club player, groundsman and stalwart Bob McFarlane at Rossie Priory Cricket Club.
Former Cricket Scotland president and Rossie Priory Cricket Club player, groundsman and stalwart Bob McFarlane at Rossie Priory Cricket Club.

Michael Alexander speaks to Rossie Priory Cricket Club stalwart Bob McFarlane, of Inchture, about the history and traditions of the club, his tenure as Cricket Scotland president, and their hopes for the future.

As Rossie Priory Cricket Club’s first team captain, president and groundsman who played his first game for the club as an eight-year-old, there’s good reason why Inchture man Bob McFarlane is known as ‘Mr Rossie Priory’.

Weel kent on and off the field, the club legend, who had a “fantastic time” as Cricket Scotland president from 2010-2012, has scored 15,000 runs for Rossie Priory CC – including eight centuries.

Bowling wise, he has taken over 900 wickets with a career best of 10 wickets for 26 runs in a league decider against Crieff in 1983.

Former Cricket Scotland president and Rossie Priory Cricket Club player, groundsman and stalwart Bob McFarlane at Rossie Priory Cricket Club.

However, when the now 65-year-old reflects on a lifetime of highlights with the club and its affinity to the village, one of the things he’s most proud of is the year Inchture Primary won the Scottish Kwik Cricket championship.

The youngsters went on to represent Scotland in the national competition at Trent Bridge against the English and Welsh champions.

It’s a moment he describes as a “real achievement for a village of this size” and embodies the deep roots cricket has in the area, dating back centuries.

Lifetime of cricket

Born in Perth Royal Infirmary, Bob was just six months old when his family moved to the Inchture area.

His father, Bill, worked on Rossie Priory estate as a forester.

Bob’s earliest memory of cricket is as a four-year-old when senior Rossie Priory CC members would coach youngsters on Baledgarno village green.

The Rossie Priory Cricket Club team from the club’s 150th anniversary match with the London XI, Bob McFarlane in back row 3rd from left.

His first memory of playing for Rossie was as an eight-year-old in a match against Errol.

A former pupil of Inchture Primary, he played cricket for Perth High School for six years, as well as playing in the Perth District Junior League and for Perth Northern Boys.

Leaving school in 1974, he started work in Dundee with the DHSS – the start of a 40-year career that saw him end up as area fraud manager for Tayside.

However, he never let work – or his “very understanding” family – get in the way of cricket.

When he was 17, he was considered good enough to play in the Scottish Counties Championship for Perthshire – a side considered to be the best in Scotland at the time.

Bats used by the first professional John Broadley,on left and right of a bat that serves as a memorial to the members who died in the First World War. The bat on the left is called Calamity Jane

Amongst his “inspirational” team mates were four Scottish internationalists – Ralph Laing, Ralph’s brother Gordon, Jimmy Brown and Ian Mcpherson.

As the opening bowler for four years, he also came up against many foreign international players.

Now a father of two grown up daughters, Bob laughs that when he married Mary, it was in their wedding vows “thou shalt let me play cricket!”

What was great about playing cricket in the beautiful surroundings of Rossie Priory, however, was that when his family was young, it was a place where “you could let kids run around without losing them”.

Unique surroundings

It’s this stunning setting and the close affinity between Rossie Priory Cricket Club and Rossie Priory estate itself which make the club and its surroundings somewhat unique to this day.

Former Cricket Scotland president and Rossie Priory Cricket Club player, groundsman and stalwart Bob McFarlane at Rossie Priory Cricket Club.

Originally part of a much larger estate with roots back to the 1300s, Rossie Priory was built in 1807 by the seventh and eighth Barons of Kinnaird and has remained in the family ever since.

Rossie Priory Cricket Club is based on the estate and was founded in 1828 by George Kinnaird, 9th Lord Kinnaird. It is the second oldest Scottish cricket club still in existence after Kelso.

While the Kinnaird family has a wider sporting legacy – Arthur Kinnaird, 11th Lord Kinnaird, was a leading football player who played for Scotland and served as the president of the Football Association – it’s cricket that is synonymous with the Inchture area, and, in turn helps Rossie Priory Cricket Club to be revered across Scotland and beyond.

“Rossie Priory Cricket Club was founded in 1828 by Lord Kinnaird, a merchant banker, for workers of the estate,” explains Bob.

The club’s founder 9th Lord Kinnaird

“Effectively the village at the gates of the estate housed workers from the estate, and to keep them amused they would play cricket in the area.

“But George Kinnaird would also bring people up from London by train to Inchture Station and have them taken up by horse and cart to play a game.”

Continuous use

It was 1970 before Rossie Priory CC started playing competitive cricket. Before then it was very much a recreational game.

However, for almost 200 years, the cricket square on the estate has been in continuous use by the club – even through the war years.

In the early days, “gentlemen” would play the game in their traditional bowler hats and waistcoats.

Club members dressed in period costume for a match with Perthshire to mark the 150th anniversary. Bob McFarlane is standing at the back.

Highlights more recently include the 150th anniversary of the club being marked in 1978 with matches between a London XI, Perthshire Association XI and Rossie Priory XI. Members played in period costume with the event recorded for posterity by Grampian Television.

Another stand-out came in 2004 when the club won the Readers Smalls Club Cup at the third attempt when they defeated Marchmont by 92 runs.

One of Bob’s proudest personal achievements was being president of Cricket Scotland for two years.

During that time he visited a lot of English country grounds and travelled abroad to places like Ireland and Dubai.

The speakers and organising committee at the club’s 175th anniversary. Bob McFarlane is back row 4th from left

He then served on the Cricket Scotland Board for eight years and re-joined this year having become chairman of the Cricket Scotland Match Officials Association.

He’s also chairman of the Eastern Premier League and sits on the Cricket Scotland disciplinary and appeals committee.

Grassroots

When it comes to Rossie, however, Bob remains heavily involved at grassroots level too where the first team plays in Division One of the Strathmore and Perthshire Union.

As well as being first team captain, club president and groundsman – a role he’s held for 31 years – Bob also has the honour of being one of the club’s oldest players.

Former Cricket Scotland president and Rossie Priory Cricket Club player, groundsman and stalwart Bob McFarlane at Rossie Priory Cricket Club.

The age profile of the club can, of course, be an issue.

Some adults have “drifted away” during the Covid-19 pandemic and they lack teenagers and members in their 20s.

“When I was president in 2010-12 I used to be able to pride myself in saying there were more people playing cricket in Scotland than rugby,” says Bob.

“At one stage behind Yorkshire, the most populous area for cricket for UK per head of population was actually Aberdeen.

They’ve been fortunate, however, to recruit some new players who’ve come to work in the area.

The Telegram marking the club’s 100th anniversary.

Bob is also encouraged by the resumption of the shorter game Kwik Cricket this year and is hopeful about getting more young people involved.

This has been boosted by Cricket Scotland’s recognition that cricket is good for the health and wellbeing of children and is played in a protective and safe environment that recognises inclusion and diversity.

Looking to the future

Bob says the history of Rossie Priory Cricket Club and its links to the area is important to them.

He describes their setting as “uncovered, unspoiled, natural village cricket at its best”.

“If you did a straw poll around the cricketing population in Scotland, Rossie Priory Cricket Club would feature very high on the places they want to visit, because of the setting,” he says.

Bob McFarlane with the club’s top spectator Humphrey the Highland cow who lives in the field next to the pitch

While the past is important, the club is, however, also committed to helping support and grow the future of the game.

When Cricket Scotland published its 2020-2023 Strategy, a central message was that “Cricket is good for Scotland – and Scotland is good for cricket!”

It’s certainly an ethos backed by Bob and his Rossie Priory Cricket Club colleagues.

Aims of the strategy include that Cricket Scotland will not only inspire Scotland to choose cricket but will work to establish cricket as a mainstream sport in Scotland.

It also has ambitions that cricket will become accepted by Scottish society as a sport Scotland has a right to play and succeed at and it will be known as the most diverse and equal sport.

Former Cricket Scotland president and Rossie Priory Cricket Club player, groundsman and stalwart Bob McFarlane at Rossie Priory Cricket Club.

Cricket will develop and build great facilities offering indoor and outdoor training and playing venues and utilising the school estate to encourage greater participation outside the traditional summer season.

Cricket will be offered at many, hopefully a majority of, schools, state and private, as a team sport offering a combination of individual skills, team ethos and good spirit, developing leadership and communication as well as athleticism and tactical awareness.

Vision

Cricket Scotland states: “Our vision was created in 2015 and continues to guide us.

“It captures our focus on creating a greater awareness and appreciation of the sport in all areas of society across Scotland, building a more dynamic, diverse and engaged community involved in cricket in all its forms.

“This includes promoting and leveraging the strong values of cricket to ensure that communities of all ages and backgrounds, whether participants or non-participants, can enjoy the benefits that sport brings – increased belonging, improved physical and mental health, and community cohesion.”

PROPERTY: Carse of Gowrie mansion Rossie Priory goes on sale with its own chapel, cricket ground, clock tower and 237 acres

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