NIGEL Heap, a larger-than-life local cricketer, has died at the age of 70 following a battle against cancer.
A formidable all-rounder, Nigel spent 44 years playing the game he loved for Greenfield, where he began in the juniors, Moorside, Uppermill where he enjoyed great success, and Delph before returning to Greenfield for a second spell.
While Nigel, who lived in Uppermill for most of his life, was a fierce competitor on the field, he was also renowned for his sense of humour and being a practical joker.
Nigel was best man at the wedding of team-mate David Robinson who had known him since their early teens.
David recalled: “We first came across each other in junior cricket aged 13/14 when Nigel was at Greenfield, and I was at Stayley.
“We played together for the Saddleworth League representative team in both junior and senior cricket where we won the Lancashire Inter-League Trophy against the Northern League at Old Trafford.”
It was a measure of Nigel’s ability that he became professional at Greenfield aged 20.
“As a quick bowler, there was not many better than Nigel and at first slip he was as good as anyone,” he said.
The pair became team-mates for the first time at Uppermill where a formidable team was assembled to challenge Delph’s dominance.
David continued: “Nigel was brought in from Moorside and I had been playing in the Bolton League as had Cec Wright who was also signed.
“We dominated Delph for a period of about four years, one year winning the league and Tanner Cup double.”
Later the pair played together for Delph and Greenfield.
And in the days when local cricket attracted Test cricketers, Nigel was able to challenge himself against great players like Gary Sobers, Joel Garner, Farouk Engineer and Carl Hooper.
Apart from being cricketing friends, Nigel and David worked together as engineers at Cunnington and Cooper.
“Nigel worked on things for the nuclear power industry and was a very good engineer who loved to solve problems as well as having an inquisitive mind,” David continued.
David also recalled Nigel being a talented footballer in his younger days, a centre half for Queensway in the 1960s and 70s.
He remembered Nigel’s sense of humour and one never-to-be-forgotten story when they were at Delph.
David said: “Chairman John Bacon introduced us to Allison Johnson our new West Indian opening fast bowler.
“When he heard Allison, he retorted that it was a girl’s name around here. He said you better be quick, and he certainly was. That was typical of Nigel’s humour.”
Jim Bradbury, a former team-mate at Uppermill, added: “Nigel played for us through some of our most successful years in the 1980s.
“He was a good batsman, good quick bowler, good cricketer and a keen competitor.
“Nigel was also quite a character and had a cunning plan to put something in your bag or play some trick. Her was a joker.”
Les Harrison, who played second-team cricket with Nigel when they were both in their 50s, added: “Nigel returned to Delph for a second spell in the early 2000s and we were two old blokes.
“Nigel was always cheerful and liked a joke but was very serious about his cricket. After the game, though, he was the life and soul of the party and I have lost a good friend.”
Nigel was, however, most synonymous with Greenfield where he came through the junior ranks and where his father was a prominent figure in the club.
And following the death of his father, Nigel continued to sponsor the Norman Heap Trophy which ran until recently years to promote cricket in local primary schools with Greenfield hosting the annual tournament.
A third generation of the family was at a Greenfield as Nigel’s son Andrew also came through the junior ranks.
Nigel leaves son Andrew, daughter Emma and grandchildren Jake and Oliver.
His funeral is Oldham Crematorium on Tuesday, July 20 (2pm) and later at The Commercial Hotel, High Street, Uppermill, where friends and former team-mates and work colleagues, are invited to share a celebration of his life.
- Uppermill Cricket Club is mourning the loss of another former player, Steve Cooper who has died suddenly aged 49.
Steve, who was from Uppermill, was a junior and second-team wicketkeeper who later served on the committee at the club after finishing playing.