The Freuchie family who inspired their cricket club’s famous victory in the National Village Cup at Lord’s in 1985 have suffered a devastating double tragedy.
And Dave Christie, who has lost his son, Brian, 60, and grand-daughter Elaine, 36, in the space of just a few days, has spoken about how “our family’s world has collapsed”.
Elaine, who suffered from complications when she was born and had been an invalid all her life, died last Wednesday afternoon.
Then Brian suddenly suffered an aneurysm in his stomach on Friday and, although medical staff tried to help him, he could not be saved.
Brian’s death has left the village in mourning
The news has sparked grief throughout the little Fife community and Mr Christie, 84, who captained the club to their greatest triumph 36 years ago, said it was still hard to comprehend.
He added: “From the time he could walk, I couldn’t get out of the house without Brian wanting to come down to the club with me and he absolutely loved playing cricket.
“We were both together at Lord’s and he walked to the crease as I walked off [during the final] and then we both played in the Second XI and we were just always together.
“We’ve received so many flowers and cards and messages since people in Freuchie and Falkland and elsewhere in Fife learned about the news, and we’ve had to take some of the flowers down to the club. I’d like to thank everybody for all their kind thoughts.
“But it’s hellish, you wouldn’t have believed this if you’d read it in a book.
“In the space of just a few days, our world has collapsed and I am still trying to take it all in.
“Elaine had been struggling recently, but she was a smashing person, and losing her was bad enough for Brian and his wife Aileen.
“But then, for Brian to go as well…I’m trying to help Aileen and my grandson [Graeme] come to terms with the situation.”
Mr Christie, known universally in the Fife community as “Dad”, led the Fifers to the biggest achievement in the history of Scottish club cricket, in front of thousands of fans at Lord’s.
The Scots were rank underdogs against Rowledge of Surrey, but lifted the Village Cup after being marched into the ground by Pipe Major Alistair Pirnie and winning a nerve-shredding contest.
His son, who was a pivotal member of the team, later skippered the club’s Second XI and helped nurture the game with the same relish he brought to his efforts with “Dad’s Army”.
But now, the family are having to plan not one, but two funerals.
Brian Christie was the quiet man of the victorious side
Brian Christie grew up steeped in the pursuit with which Freuchie has become synonymous.
His father, a keen player since his childhood in the 1940s, passed on his passion for the game to his family circle and Brian did likewise with his son Graeme.
It was a story straight from Hollywood when he and his colleagues gained banner headlines following one of Scottish sport’s greatest triumphs at Lord’s in 1985, even if Brian was one of the quieter members of the famous Freuchie collective.
Brian made plenty of rivals suffer during his involvement in his side’s march of 1985 which was a tournament which started with 639 teams and finished with a group of Scots making history and becoming local heroes in the process.
Their achievements have never been forgotten about, not just in Fife but wherever cricket is played and cherished.
Brian was at the crease when the Fifers dramatically won, and he later revealed, that, as he walked to the wicket with the match balanced on a knife-edge, he was told by his father Dave – who had just lost his wicket – to “stay calm and be sensible”.
It was more than many of the Scots in the crowd could manage when they prematurely invaded the pitch at the home of cricket and the showpiece occasion was temporarily halted while Dave asked the spectators to return to the stands.
But, a few minutes later, his son and George Crichton cemented the biggest-ever achievement by a Scottish club in the history of the game and sparked wild celebrations which continued when the team was joined by England legend Ian Botham later that evening and shared stories with the star who was involved in the Ashes series.
Brian was the star of the quarter-final victory
A bandwagon of hype had started to build up by the time the Yorkshiremen of Oulton arrived in Freuchie for their quarter-final meeting.
And the large crowd – almost the whole village congregated at the Public Park to watch the action – were soon in delirious mood when their players wrapped up a comprehensive victory.
Brian was the architect of his opponents’ downfall with a devastating spell of six for 15 in just 7.2 overs.
It sparked a rapid collapse and the visitors were skittled for 73, which was chased down with the minimum of difficulty by Freuchie.
Yet, true to type, when man-of-the-match Brian talked about the contest and the whole cup campaign afterwards, he was disinclined to toot his own horn.
He recalled: “We were a wee bit under the cosh in the early overs, but there are days where you feel you can do almost anything with a cricket ball and that was one of them.
“These occasions, where everything clicks into place, don’t happen very often, but when they do and the crowd are chanting their approval and the boundary edge is packed with hundreds of your fellow-villagers, it is a magical sensation.”
‘Good things happen, bad things happen, that’s life’
He added: “You have a few nerves before the game begins, but once the umpire says ‘Play’, the adrenaline would surge through my body and I was pleased as punch to be part of the team. I suppose that, with my father as the captain, I might have had the extra burden of not wanting to disappoint him or let the side down.
“But it never felt like that when we were out on the pitch. In the dressing room, he was my dad, but in the middle, I was just desperate to do my damnedest for the team and family considerations didn’t enter the equation.
“Even before we beat Oulton and progressed into the semi-finals, there was an excitement developing about the Village Cup, not just in Freuchie, but across the whole country, but I kept my head down and carried on as normal.
“Good things happen, bad things happen, you have to take the rough with the smooth, but I was foreman at a structural steel company in Cowdenbeath, and I realised that the Cup was a fantastic adventure, but it wasn’t going to make me a millionaire and, win or lose, I would still have my family, my friends and my neighbours around me.
“This may sound a bit corny, but my dad always reminded me that Freuchie was there before I was born and it will be there after I have gone.
Getting ready for a once-in-a-lifetime experience
“Let’s not pretend I wasn’t thrilled when I took the six wickets – and it gave me an almighty tingle when I heard the fans going nuts on the boundary edge – but that was only one chapter in what seems like a grand fairy tale.
“We grew up loving everything about cricket and it didn’t matter if it was the Village Cup, the Fife Cup, a friendly second XI match or a midweek bounce game with the youngsters, it still gave us all an enormous buzz.
“When I started out at the park as a nipper, I never remotely thought that, one day, I would be walking through the gates at Lord’s with my mates and we would all be getting interviewed by the newspapers and meeting famous sports people and winning awards.
“But it was wonderful. I think we all knew that it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but how many other amateur players ever get the same opportunity?
“So we were all determined that we would not let ourselves down in the final.”
A dramatic climax to a grand day out
Freuchie were marched through the gates of Lord’s by Pipe Major Alistair Pirnie and the whole occasion was described as a “sweet September song” by Dave Christie, who recognised, at the age of 48, that he was in the twilight of his career.
Both he and his son were in the thick of the battle against Rowledge of Surrey, and the latter had boasted in advance that the match would be over in 90 minutes, but they were soon put under the cosh by their Scottish counterparts.
After being bowled out for 134, they reduced the Fifers to 101 for 7 with the outcome in the balance, but Crichton and Dave Christie steered their side to 133 before the latter was run out in nerve-shredding circumstances.
Brian said: “I never forgot being reassured by Dad as I walked in to bat and noticing this steely look on his face.
“Sure, there was frustration that he wasn’t there at the end, but there was also this quivering excitement at us being so close to history.
Brian will always be part of the Freuchie story
“I was nervous inside, of course I was, but all we required was common sense and if only I had managed to play a shot to the ball which sparked the pitch invasion, my Dad wouldn’t have needed to get on the tannoy and ask the spectators to get off the pitch.
“But, in a way, it only added to the drama and the spectacle and the climactic scenes were pure unadulterated magic for all of us.
“When we returned home, the celebrations were incredible.
“But nothing really changed. I can look out on to the pitch and all the houses around it in this community and I pretty much know all the folk who live in them and who come along to support us. You can’t do that in a big city. But you can in a wee village like Freuchie.”
The club has struggled in recent years, and several of the victorious team have died, but the Christies are one of the most famous families in their domain.
That explains why the news of Brian’s death evoked such sadness.