Cricketers, croquet players, or just plain old rubbish footballers? The Bon Accord mystery

This weekend, I published an article on Cricinfo about the strange, sporting double-record held by the city of Aberdeen.  The first is the biggest winning margin in a one-day international, which was recorded there in 2008, when New Zealand hammered Ireland by 290 runs.  The second is the Aberdonian team - Bon Accord - who suffered the heaviest defeat in professional football history when they lost 36-0 to Arbroath in 1885.

New Zealand batsman Ross Taylor smacks a boundary, Mannofield, Aberdeen, 2008

To ensure a cricketing theme throughout the piece, I stated baldly that Bon Accord were a cricket team (and that the name lives on in another - though sadly unrelated - cricket team, one I used to play for).

Shortly after the piece was published, however, two dissenting voices emerged, both arguing that my claim was 'bollocks'.  Bon Accord were not a cricket team, I was told, and I had just perpetuated a myth that had no basis in fact.  Being a stickler for accurate research, I was rather concerned as I began to read the opposing views.

Unfortunately for any hope of resolution, the two dissenting voices didn't agree.  Indeed, they were fairly diametrically opposed to each other.  One argued vehemently that Bon Accord were simply a rubbish football team, nothing more, nothing less, whilst the other claimed they were, in fact, a croquet team.  Rather than being clearer, the picture was now rather muddier.

So, let's look at the three opposing theories:

1. Bon Accord were a cricket team

See, e.g. Mismatches like Bon Accord always recalled, by John Inverdale:

"The invitation back then should have been sent to Orion FC in Aberdeen, but in a heartening reminder that misdirected post is not an invention of the recent past, it was sent inadvertently to the Orion Cricket Club. Obviously eyeing a spot as a trivial pursuit question in perpetuity, they decided to accept the offer of an away trip to Arbroath, called themselves Bon Accord FC, and arrived without kit or, as history recounts, much talent."

Bon Accord: definitely a cricket team in 2008.

2. Bon Accord were simply a football team

This theory doesn't appear online anywhere that I could find.  However, I was emailed a copy of some text from an ESPN On This Day In History article for September 12th (the day in 1885 that Arbroath beat Bon Accord):

"the myth persists that Bon Accord were really a cricket team called Orion who turned up by mistake.  But they can't have been that stupid, and anyway they'd played [a previous] football match with Aberdeen Rovers."

3. Bon Accord were a croquet team

See Arbroath FC: A Miscellany by Fraser Clyne:

"Bon-Accord were not a cricket team: a combination of impenetrably broad doric, no doubt made worse by the fact that they had in one of their player's own words "teen a bucket on'a wye doon" and a poor command of French pronunciation, meant that they were misconstrued. The truth is that Aberdeen Bon-Accord were in fact a croquet team." (Link)


I'm afraid I don't have one.  The argument that Bon Accord were a cricket team is widely published, and I haven't helped in this regard, but direct evidence seems to be missing.  For the second theory, however, the argument is even flimsier.

The third story is crazy-sounding, so I really want it to be true, but is there really any evidence of a Bon Accord Croquet Club?  I guess I will just have to speak to Mr Clyne.

And in the mean time, in the absence of anything definitive, I'm sticking to my guns.