Tributes to Pocklington RUFC and Woodhouse Grange CC stalwart Alasdair Swann

Gazette & Herald: Alasdair Swann is pictured at Woodhouse Grange Cricket Club in 2004 with grandchildren  Christopher Bilton, front left, and Andrew Bilton, front right, and the boys’ father Russell Bilton, back right Alasdair Swann is pictured at Woodhouse Grange Cricket Club in 2004 with grandchildren Christopher Bilton, front left, and Andrew Bilton, front right, and the boys’ father Russell Bilton, back right

ALASDAIR SWANN, a former player and coach at Pocklington RUFC who also spent more than half a century with Woodhouse Grange Cricket Club, has died aged 78.

Flags flew at half mast at the Sutton-on-Derwent-based cricket club after he passed away peacefully in his sleep on Thursday.

A wicket-keeper/batsman in the summer and a fly-half at Percy Road in the winter, Swann turned down several offers to play both sports at higher levels to remain with his local outfits.

He first came to prominence as a Barmby Moor school boy in the late 1940s, scoring his first centuries and kicking his first match-winning drop goals at Pocklington School.

Swann joined Grange in 1951 and, over 60 years, would represent the club as a player, captain, coach, groundsman, umpire, committee member, mentor and motivator.

Known for his fierce competitive edge, Grange club secretary David Farmer said he was also “the life and soul of the party in the clubhouse after the game and noted as one of the great characters in local cricket”.

Also a representative of the touring Pocklington Pixies, made up of old Pocklington School students, he kept wicket as the side reached the final of the ECB National Club Championship at Edgbaston in 1969 – losing to Hampstead in the final.

He led Woodhouse to the York Senior League title in 1972 and a number of cup triumphs and continued to play for Grange into his 70s. He was still umpiring at the end of last season.

He was elected a member of the York & District Senior League’s Hall of Fame in the class of 2007 in recognition of his lifetime of achievement.

Swann scored three first division centuries, his best a knock of 119 against Easingwold in 1965. His best aggregate came three years earlier when he made 600 first division runs at an average of 30.

“The terms Alasdair Swann and Woodhouse Grange are inseparable,” said Farmer. “He will be sorely missed. He played a key role in the development of the club over the whole period of its history and gave his time in a variety of capacities.

“To have served 60 years is amazing. It’s a lifetime commitment.”

In rugby union, he skippered Pocklington for ten seasons and played in three losing Yorkshire Shield finals before coaching the side that would finally lift the trophy in 1976.

A former club president, and an honorary life member, he hardly missed a home game and, using his professional background in construction, was behind designing clubhouse improvements at Percy Road and Sandhill Lane.

He also sought out grant funding, supervised the work and even helped with the labouring.

Pocklington club spokesman Phil Gilbank said: “Alasdair was a one off who gave a lifetime of indefatigable service to his beloved home clubs – Woodhouse Grange CC and Pocklington RUFC.

“If a job needed doing Swanny did it, and everything he did he led, with boundless enthusiasm and energy, cajoling and inspiring others along the way to join him.

“The current on field success and facilities of both Woodhouse and Pocklington are a testament to his work and leadership through the decades, and he revelled in their achievements and celebrated with the best.

“But it was during times in the doldrums that he just worked even harder to steer them back to bigger and better things.”

A widower, having been married to June, Swann leaves two daughters and six grandchildren – two of which, Andrew and Christopher Bilton, represent Grange’s first team.

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