A History of Senior Cricket in Ulster
by J Clarence Hiles.
Hiltop Publications, 2003.
ISBN: 0-9545892-0-3
400pp, 18.95

Labours of love do not come any more passionate than A History of Senior Cricket in Ulster by J Clarence Hiles.

It would be difficult to think of anyone more qualified to write the definitive history of the game in Northern Ireland. Not only does Hiles have a serious wealth of experience as player and administrator and a commitment to the game spread equally - and unusually - between the NCU and North West areas, but he also has a pen which glides gracefully across 400 pages and 200 years.

Hiles' first words are of his fascination with history and he puts it to telling effect. His portrayal of players, matches, the evolving politics and development of the game are set in real context: there is as much to be learned about the social, economic and political climates of the times as there is about the sport itself. Hiles contends that the development of any sport over 200 years cannot be appreciated without a working knowledge of the prevailing conditions of the day, a truism that has eluded most sports' historians.

Hiles writes with deep affection about his own experiences of the game, first as a lad growing up in Comber with his beloved North Down Cricket Club as his playground then as a "player, sponsor, administrator, alickadoo, journalist and historian". Rather than intruding, the personal pronoun gives the narrative an accessibility and authority that makes for highly rewarding reading.

By and large he writes generously of his contemporaries but his straight from the shoulder observations of some less fortunate souls add to the book's credibility.

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