MIKE AMOS: Joyous afternoon watching Hawes take on Richmond Mavericks

In the Wensleydale Creamery League, to which I find myself blissfully if temporarily betrothed, no club is more westerly nor more gloriously situated than Hawes United.

Hawes is a cheese-making North Yorkshire town of 887 people, or so the 2011 census supposed, of whom 3.8 per cent somewhat surprisingly identified as Buddhist.

So centrally does it straddle the Pennines that until 1954 the former London Midland and Scottish region ran the six-mile railway from Garsdale eastwards to Hawes – usually with a little pug of an engine known to its friends as Bonnyface – while the branch westwards from Northallerton was run by the LNER.

The town’s most recent claim to fame may be that it was where, in March 2015, the egregious Mr Jeremy Clarkson is said to have lamped a Top Gear producer – best make that “had a confrontation with” – at the Simonstone Hall hotel, where they were encamped.

Someone sent the hotel a plaque, equally carefully worded: “Here lies the BBC career of Jeremy Clarkson, who had a fracas on this spot.”

Motor mouth seems to have prospered, nonetheless.

Hawes had also made national headlines just a couple of years earlier when Mr Steve Bloom, described as “the Basil Fawlty of booksellers”, started charging customers 50p just to browse his second hand roads and still reserved the right to be offensive to them.

“Medium to low rude,” he insisted, before heading from the hills in 2017. There appears not to be a plaque.

For sporting types, however – literary types, too – Hawes’ greatest claim to fame may be that it was where Percy Jeeves was discovered.

Jeeves was a West Yorkshireman, played youthful cricket at Goole (in the East Riding) and in 1910 successfully answered an advert in the Athletics News for a pro at Hawes (which, remember, is in the North.)

He did well, bagging 65 wickets at 7.5, making a fair few runs and amid groundsmanship duties was given additional gardening work by the toff who then owned Simonstone Hall, aforesaid.

His real break, however, came when the secretary of Warwickshire CCC, on holiday in those parts, did himself a mischief while shaving with a cut-throat razor. Urgently summoned, the country doctor patched him up and recommended a recuperative afternoon at the cricket. Jeeves was on his way.

After two years’ residential qualification, obligatory at the time, he made his Warwickshire debut in 1913, taking 106 wickets at 20.65 and scoring 765 runs with an average a little over 20.

Against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham, he was also admired by the great author P G Wodehouse who, impressed by Jeeves’s urbane unflappability and decorous demeanour, made a note of the name. Though Percy Jeeves died on the Somme in 1916, that name was forever to live on, a true gentleman’s gentleman.

He has a blue plaque, too, but it’s in Goole.

Hawes United, near the bottom of the Wensleydale League, are playing Richmond Mavericks, still with thoughts of the title. The Mavericks, as we may previously have noted, sport a Latin motto which somewhat spuriously translates as “They don’t like it up ’em.”

The day and the situation are glorious, Stags Fell rising steeply to the north, Wether Fell to the south, the railway trackbed – LNER section – alongside. A group of a dozen or so locals is gathered, benched, on a little hillock behind the near goal.

One or two others have cameras with arms-length lenses. They must be the ground hoppers.

There, too, is Kevin Ross – our friendly Forfar fan – who in Hawes main street had sought directions from a couple of youngsters wearing Hawes United shirts. Much to his surprise, they knew.

Though a good 70 miles from the mouth of the Wear, Hawes is (or certainly was) home to a thriving branch of the Sunderland Suppporters Club. Perhaps some of them are on the subs’ bench when news comes through of Newcastle’s late, late equaliser in the early kick-off at Liverpool.

The reaction has but two words. The first is “Geordie” and the second need not concern us.

An elderly spectator laments that Hawes have had to move fields. “T’other one was better,” he says. “The farmer wanted it back.”

Mavericks lead 2-0 at half-time, the first a hotly contested penalty, and seem comfortable. Then Hawes hit three in 15 second-half minutes and hold on for a famous victory. Amid the excitement on both subs’ bench and back bench one of the United backroom boys walks past with a time-honoured explanation.

“They just wanted a kick up the a**e,” he says.

It’s been a quite joyous afternoon, a reminder after long lockdown of why so many of us still love community-based grassroots football and a salute to those whose tenacity sustains it.

And if the closing question is whether the Mavericks like it up ’em, the answer’s that they very definitely don’t.

Mike Amos, who lives in Middleton Tyas, worked on the Northern Echo for more than half a century, was seven times in 17 years named North-East Journalist of the Year and in 2006 was appointed MBE for services to journalism in the North-East. 

His autobiography, Unconsidered Trifles, is available for £10 (softback, plus £3 50 postage) or £22 (hardback) from the author at 8 Oakfields, Middleton Tyas, Richmond, DL10 6SD.

The book is also available through Amazon.

Further details, including on-line payment, from mikeamos81@aol.com

For more from Mike you can also visit his blog here.