A Morecambe Cricket Club great has passed away at the age of 78. John Butler, who wrote a book on the history of the club, looks at the life of Colin Hilton.
Morecambe Cricket Club lost one of its greatest past professionals last week with the passing of Colin Hilton, the ex-Lancashire and Essex cricketer who was part of the club’s astounding success of the late 1960s.
Born in Atherton 1937 he progressed into league cricket after representing the Lancashire Federation youth side.
Hilton took his first professional engagement with Ribblesdale Wanderers at the age of 17 with further appointments to follow at Atherton Collieries, Oldham, Walkden, Daisy Hill and of course Morecambe.
Given his opportunity for Lancashire at the age of 19 he played in the shadow of the great Brian Statham, with his opportunities limited to when Statham was away on Test duty with England.
His reputation as a quick bowler was beginning to get noticed even if this was on occasions because he was erratic.
Lancashire finished runners up in 1960 but the decline to 13th place in 1961 was a season in which he played 25 games taking 75 wickets.
The following year was disaster with Lancashire only winning two games and finishing next to the bottom of the County Championship despite these appalling displays Hilton had his finest season for Lancashire taking 94 wickets in all matches.
A knee injury resulted in a slow recovery and limited matches in 1963 resulted in the end of his Red Rose career.
In 1964 he took up an opportunity to play for Essex but it was not a success. The new no-ball rule caused major problems for him with the 1965 Wisden stating ‘Hilton was no-balled no fewer than 230 occasions’.
Again however the reports were he bowled as fast as anybody in the championship.
Leaving Essex he was pro at Oldham for three years before taking up the paid position at Woodhill Lane in 1968.
The season is well documented in that he took a record 113 league wickets in the club’s league and cup success – a mark that still stands today.
In 1969 a remarkable Bank Holiday weekend saw Hilton take 19 wickets, 10-34 in the victory against Lancaster and nine wickets against Kendal on the Sunday, as part of a net haul of 88 for the season.
In the close season prior to the 1970 campaign Hilton was ill at Christmas and missed the early part of the season, returning not the bowler of the previous two seasons he struggled and the club parted company at the end of the 1970 campaign.
Stalwarts of the club tell of many tales from Hilton’s era such as the Morecambe team arriving at revamped but not complete West Cliff dressing rooms at Preston.
Lacking such refinements as coat hangers Colin asked skipper and joiner/builder Charlie Clough if he had driven to the game in his van.
‘Yes’ replied Charlie to which Colin disappeared from the dressing room, reappearing a few minutes later with a hammer and a six-inch nail, this was duly located into the new plaster as a clothes peg for the Morecambe professional.
In 1976 Hilton returned to the club and played in the early part of the season before injury curtailed any further participation at the Morecambe club.
His funeral was held at Howe Bridge Crematorium in Atherton on Monday.