In the heyday of ICC Europe - the largest of the five ICC regions in the cricket playing world, currently with 34 member countries, Associate, Affiliate and Emerging - no effort was spared, under the excellent and imaginative leadership of Richard Holdsworth at the time, to promote and develop the game, in the round, across Europe - the cricketers themselves, and also the general management of the game, coaching, umpiring and later scoring.

There were tournaments galore, from Under 15 through to adult, and all sub- divided into ability divisions.

It was a huge learning curve for most of the participants. Many experiencing for the first time being in the 'professional' situation of a full week of tournament cricket and all the disciplines involved - travel, hotels, catering, adhering to timetables for playing and practising, attending various meetings, pre-tournament, post-match de-briefs, including the occasional disciplinary, culminating in an end of tournament dinner and awards ceremony.

Mac Wylie

The success of these tournaments was of course dependent on the wonderful co-operation of the various host countries who left no stone unturned in their efforts to see that all their preparations ran smoothly, which invariably they did.

But also due to the expertise of the ICC Europe personnel - referees, managers, umpires and scorers - who ensured that these tournaments ran like well oiled machines, both on and off the field of play.

One such person was Mac Wylie, a Scottish International umpire, who officiated at several European tournaments over a couple of years, before falling victim to a newly introduced upper age limit restriction, thus becoming the first European umpire to be 'binned' for this reason!

But his abilities had been noted and he was invited to remain involved with ICC Europe, to act in various roles, working with the development of umpires. Mentoring and advising the panels at tournaments, later acting as Umpire manager at tournaments and finally travelling widely in Europe to assess umpires in various affiliate countries.

This was a crucial and very responsible function. There were three tiers of umpiring panels, 1. European Elite panel, 2. European panel and 3. Probationer panel.

Countries could nominate an umpire whom they considered a good prospect and worthy of a place on this third tier. An assessor would then be sent to that country to observe the umpire(s) in action, usually covering two games over a weekend and having in depth de-briefs afterwards.

I have spent many, many hours talking 'umpiring' with Mac Wylie and his depth of knowledge and understanding of the job is superb. Umpires are no different from players. Some make a better fist of their abilities than others. But an expert eye can discern the special ones.

On field demeanour, fieldcraft, man and match management and crucially, respect from the players, sets some apart from others.

Paddy O'Hara and Mac Wylie

Umpiring is a curious business. Sometimes really unusual events can occur on the field . Any umpire can make a mistake - just consider the World cup final last year! - It is in these situations and how it is managed that the true character of the official can be measured. How umpires respond to adversity like this is crucial - the old mantra "the only thing that matters is the next ball".

Mac Wylie, or as some of his peers in Scotland affectionally refer to him, 'The old bugger' is really observant in these respects and his quiet but really perceptive comments have helped many umpires in both his native Scotland and in Europe, to improve their skills - provided, of course, that the advice given is taken on board and implemented.

It was a sad and disappointing day when the central funding - admittedly a very considerable expenditure - from ICC began to dry up. It led to tournaments being dropped from the schedule and inexorably the whole ambitious European development programme largely withered on the vine.

Perhaps some time in the future, it may all start again. Wouldn`t that be great?

It was entirely appropriate that at last year`s Cricket Scotland Annual Dinner in Edinburgh, Robert Macdougall Wylie and that other great servant to Scottish umpiring Sandy Scotland jointly received The Eve Maudsley Award - for 'Special recognition of their many years of service to umpires and umpiring'.