So many wandering sides have greatly enjoyed playing on the historic ground at Sevenoaks Vine. In the post-war era, the scorebooks of enthusiastic schoolboys around the boundary would have included ….The Romany, Sussex Martlets, The Buccaneers, Bluemantles, Incogniti and many more. The Dragons were one such club but with a long-standing connection to the Vine through the Golds family and through other Vine members that have played for the Dragons – particularly in the 1960s and 70s. The Dragons remain the oldest of cricket`s `touring clubs` ie. those that only play on tour.
The Dragons are the Old Boys of St George`s Harpenden in Hertfordshire. They were founded when the cricket captain, Robert Nelson, and vice-captain, Norman Golds left school in 1930. After much planning the first tour took place in 1933. Robert Nelson, an inspirational leader, became captain of Northants and was selected for England`s 1939 tour of India before war broke out. Sadly, his death at Dover in the early days of the war brought his flourishing career to an end.
Norman Golds resurrected the Dragons Tour after the war in memory of his great friend – also naming his second son after him. St George`s was one of only two co-ed boarding schools at that time so it was no surprise that the early tours included a feminine presence (and still do). Indeed, the ladies took on most of the administration, ensuring that sufficient car owners were on tour, providing all catering and keeping the cost to £10/person for the week!
The initial tour took place during the second week of August – due to availability of their best bowler – and has continued on this week ever since. The connection with St George`s remains strong and there are often a couple of schoolboys on tour. However, other guests and family members have been invited to tour and subsequently to be elected as Dragons. This has enabled the quality of cricket to be maintained and the fixture list remains as strong as is possible.
The Dragons Tour was captained and run from 1946 – 1970 by Norman Golds and then by his son Robert (Bob) from 1970 – 2000. During this time, particularly in the earlier years, it was natural for guests to be invited from the Vine where both Norman and Bob had played so much of their cricket. Such guests included:-
- George Downton
- Simon Lee
- Guy & Peter Hollamby
- Jeremy Tavare
- Derek Preston
- John Hornsby
- Jamie Fife
- Peter Ellison
- Rex Divall
- Roger Alwen
- Ezra Martin
- Mike Goulden
…..and many others.
The Tour HQ, initially at Herne Bay and Broadstairs, moved in the early 1980s to Elvey Farm, Pluckley where the tour developed into a larger, family week – partly due to the idyllic rural setting and also the fast-increasing Dragon offspring. It quickly became a very attractive week`s holiday – excellent cricket, a pub at the end of the farm lane that served food and drink from a late hour to an even later one, a tented village next to the oast house and cards till the early hours. A week that the young wrote into their parents diaries.
Junior fixtures were played against a number of the opposition teams, including the Vine, and now they have progressed to the senior team….including Tash Farrant who played for Kent at all ages and in 2013 was selected for England Ladies and the Ashes Tour of Australia.
The Dragons Tour is as healthy as ever and the club greatly appreciate the hospitality afforded by Sevenoaks Vine and their other hosts. The first fixture against the Vine was played in 1946 and it remains one of the oldest and most valued.