Tributes were paid to a much-loved player and official who dedicated over 60 years to Lancashire cricket.
Dr Mike Foley was recovering from hip replacement surgery at home, but died on February 21, aged 86.
Mike was a longtime servant of Salesbury Cricket Club, first as a player and then from the late 1960s as a junior team manager. He was well known throughout Lancashire cricket and was awarded an MBE in 2003 for his services to Salesbury Cricket Club and young cricketers.
Mike has been described as one of cricket’s most respected men and known for his “knowledge, devotion, gentleness and politeness in the sport”.
His career spanned over six decades during which he helped rejuvenate his local club and inspire a new generation in cricket.
Mike is first mentioned in cricket club minutes in 1957 when he backed a vote of confidence in the club’s selection committee following an unrest among club members which forced an AGE ( extraordinary general meeting) of the club.
In 1959 he was one of 16 club members who pledged to sell 6-day football lottery tickets, so the club could raise money to buy the ground.
Through this and other fundraising efforts, the land eventually became club property. In 1960, he joined the main committee of the club. He remained on the committee until 2007.
In his playing days, he was part of the 1st team that won the club’s first league title in the Chorley and District league in 1968. In 1969, he took over as second team captain, post which he held until the end of the 1978 season. During this period he was supported by club chairman John Mather as vice-captain.
In 1972, he led the second team to their first league title.
In 1969 the club made the decision to level the pitch and Mike formed a sub-committee to oversee the work. Later, he formed a subcommittee to oversee the replacement and installation of drains to improve the ground. While on the committee, he kept a close eye on the club’s machinery and ensured that the club maintained and replaced them as needed.
Mike continually sought out grants or fundraising methods to support the club and specifically junior cricket at Salesbury. He continued to sell football cards and in 1978 raised £145 by organizing a junior cricket ball throwing competition.
From the 1970s there was an annual expression of thanks at the club’s AGM for all the work Mike did in supporting the young members of Salesbury Cricket Club. In 1979 the club appointed Mike the club’s junior cricket manager, a reflection of the work he had been doing for several years. It’s a position he has enjoyed and has held this year.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, juniors made regular appearances at Old Trafford in the age group finals.
Mike was always looking for sponsors for the teams to help cover travel costs. To try to support the transition from juniors to senior cricket, Mike was among those at the club who pushed in 1979 to form a third team that could play in the Ribblesdale League Third Division. The Chorley and District league, at the time, only had two divisions on Saturdays.
As well as supporting the juniors in the 1980s, Mike took on the role of finding match sponsors for the senior teams and also preparing the ‘Red Book’ of fixtures.
In 2001, he was elected chairman of the club’s selection committee.
He was made an honorary life member of the club in 2015.
Always available to support others in sport
Salesbury Cricket Club chairman John Mather said: “I first met Michael Foley when I started at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School; he was a few years ahead of me.
“We all know what a nice and friendly person Michael was. His parents were the same and kindly on occasion would drive me home after a cricket or football match. Along with his passion for cricket, few would probably have known that Michael was also useful as a “left outside” (striker) on the football pitch.
“Michael was one of a small group of people who succeeded in 1962 in persuading the Salesbury Cricket Club committee to allow me playing membership, despite the fact that I lived in Osbaldeston, just outside the limit of authorized members.
“So I’ve always appreciated Michael’s support. I was one of the first, if not the first, to enjoy this privilege, which allowed me to experience 20 wonderful years as a playing member.
“Without Michael’s support, my very fond memories of the cricket club might never have been fulfilled. Michael’s commitment to the Salesbury Cricket Club, and in particular to the recruitment and development of junior members, was truly exceptional.
“I remember being often amazed at the amount of time he spent on the field on summer evenings in the 60s and 70s, not to mention all the ‘off-field’ effort he put into the organization. It is hard to imagine that there could have been anyone more committed, over so many decades, to the development of young people in cricket.
Sharing “the spirit of cricket”
Stan Heaton and Simon Lord, LJCL Executive of Salesbury Cricket Club, paid this tribute: “Mike spent as many nights as possible on the pitch, coaching, refereeing and supporting juniors of all ages.
“He was keen for cricket to be coached and played whenever possible, whatever the weather. If he was sure to play, he was happy to umpire and score under his golf umbrella.
“Parents could either get a little wet or watch from their car. The spirit of cricket was instilled in every junior who came into contact with him. Shirts had to be white and tucked into the game pants.
“The caps, if worn, had peaks in the front. He gave his all to junior cricket. In recent years, when he was unable to attend training, he continued to spend the spring organizing all the youth matches.
“On home game days he would always ring the bell to check on the condition of the pitch if it had rained and to make sure a wicket had been prepared. Where possible he would drive down to the ground and park his car as close to the edge of the border as possible.
“He was checking that the floor was in good shape before heading to the score box. If he needed to park near the clubhouse, he would bring his binoculars (also used for another of his hobbies, birdwatching) so he could watch the game and make judgments about the players .
“After each season he would prepare all the statistics for the youth teams, ready for award nights and inclusion in the following season’s ‘Red Book’.”
“Influential in the development of junior cricket”
A message from Lancashire Junior Cricket reads: “It was always a pleasure to deal with Mike and to meet him at our junior matches. As one of our senior statesmen, Mike was an invaluable source of common sense and understanding of the game and therefore very influential in the development of junior cricketers.
“Indeed, over the years hundreds and hundreds of junior cricketers have benefited from Mike’s wisdom, teaching and insistence that the game be played in the right spirit. We have already been contacted by many members of junior cricket.
“It is clear that Mike will be greatly missed by the junior cricket community both for his contribution to the sport and to children, as well as for his humility and humanity.”
Away from cricket, after attending university, Mike worked at Crown Paints in Darwen until 1988, then turned to his passion for natural history.
He received his doctorate in 1998 and became an honorary research associate in the Department of Biological Sciences at Lancaster University in September of the same year. He was an enthusiastic botanist and expert plant taxonomist and, as mentioned, an avid ornithologist, often uploading photos of British and European birds online.
For all of his years except his first four years, Mike lived in the same house in Salesbury.
In the 2003 New Year’s Honours, Mike was awarded the MBE for his services to the sport after 30 years as coach and manager of the Salesbury Cricket Club juniors.
A member of the junior team he coached paid tribute at the time, saying: “One thing that really stood out about him was that he wasn’t just interested in good players. He wanted everyone does well, it gets everyone involved and it creates an enthusiasm for the game in every young player.
Mike’s funeral will be held at St Peter’s Church in Salesbury on Tuesday March 15 at 11am. The service will be followed by interment in the cemetery.