History of Old Cranbrookian Hockey
Saturday 09 May 2020
A match against an Old Cranbrookians XI was a regular feature of the School’s hockey term but the first OC hockey match against other opposition did not happen until 1952. Against the Old Rugbeians, it was arranged by Oliver Pemberton (Crowden 1948), who then set up the Lynxes Hockey Club formally in October 1957.

Dale Pike (Housemaster of Cornwallis and Master i/c School Hockey) was elected President and Charles Russell-Scott (Headmaster), Philip Hawkins (Staff) and Peter West (Crowden 1939) were the first Vice-Presidents of the Club.

League hockey had not yet begun and support for invitation clubs playing on Sundays was generally strong so, up until the late 1960s, a programme of matches in the London area was enjoyed by many OCs.

Bromley H.C. was regarded as the Lynxes home ground. In the early years regular opponents included the Old Aldenhamians, Old Bryanstonians, Old Canfordians, Old Cheltonians, Old Dovorians, Old King’s Scholars, Old Lawrentians, Old Rugbeians and the Old Suttonians. Later matches were arranged against The Bandits, Gore Court, Marden Russets.The Madhatters and the Old Tonbridgians.

The Lynxes had very good results against such opponents and often performed well in the Public Schools Six-a-side competition which was hosted by Broxbourne H.C.

Members paid a small annual subscription and the Club was administered by the founder, Oliver Pemberton and Mike Carter (Cornwallis 1954), who acted as Treasurer, aided by a small Committee. Dereck Penfold (Crowden 1952) and John Bluett (Rammell 1948), both members of Bromley Hockey Club, were very much involved – on and off the field.

The social aspects of the club were always important with convivial post-match gatherings in the Bromley clubhouse. A lunch arranged to celebrate 30 years of Lynxes hockey was attended by 70 members and guests and on another occasion a very successful buffet / dance was held.

Over the years a number of OCs played important roles in the administration of the club – notably John Townsend (Cornwallis 1956), Jeremy Barham (Crowden 1960), Richard Lane (Rammell 1961) and Nigel Defrates (Cornwallis 1962).

In the 1970s, as the structure of competitive hockey developed, the friendly atmosphere of Sunday games became less popular and it became more difficult to arrange fixtures and raise teams. In the mid 1980s the Lynxes Hockey Club had about 60 playing members and a further 20 non-playing subscribers. The Club still had fixtures in 1990 but, by that time, OC hockey had become more focussed on the games at the School and soon afterwards no other matches were arranged.

It was a member of school staff, David Firminger, who initiated and developed the hockey day at the School. He had come to Cranbrook in 1965 as Head of P.E. and played his first game for the Lynxes soon afterwards. A brilliant coach, David produced a continuous stream of high class school teams and individual players. By maintaining contact with such players after they left the school David was able to invite them back to play against the current School XI – so he started the concept of the OC Hockey Day at the School in 1969. In the early years dates varied from January to March.

The new hard surface was in use from 1972 and this enabled a series of matches to be held on the same day. By the late 1970s OC hockey teams would play against School XIs. In the 1990s matches were also arranged for OC Veterans against Marden H.C. or David Clark’s XI. In 1994 the Astroturf pitch was opened, providing a wonderful playing surface in all weathers and improving the standard of the hockey.

In 2005 the annual match between OC Women and the girls at the School (previously played in the Christmas term) was fitted into the schedule for the Spring event. With the almost 50/50 distribution between boys and girls at the school it was important to provide more OC events for the girl leavers so this was an excellent development in the OC calendar. By this time the date was fixed towards the end of March which made a good fit with the School’s Lenten Appeal programme.

In 2008 David Firminger arranged the day for the last time and a presentation was made to him by the OCA. Hugh Richards (Allan 1976) produced an OC XI to play against the Lynxes Veterans so six teams of OCs were able to enjoy the day.

Fortunately a series of enthusiastic members of the school staff took up the challenge to ensure the continuity of the Hockey day – notably, Paul Sorensen, Tony Gunn, and Liz Coleman, Several other members of staff and OCs have also given their support through umpiring but none more so than Philip Thompson (Horsley 1963), who has been blowing the whistle for some thirty years. Scott Beasley (Webster 2002), Jeremy Lawson (Rammell 1990) and Rob Hillier (Allan 1990) have made special efforts to raise OC teams over the years.

So over more than six decades the activities of the Lynxes Hockey Club have morphed into an annual Sports Reunion for OCs. This has become the highlight of the OC year with several games of hockey, basketball and netball matches being hosted by the school and enjoyed by OCs of several generations.
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