Tributes have been paid to a much-loved player and official who dedicated more than 60 years to Lancashire cricket.

Dr Mike Foley was recovering from a hip replacement operation while at home but died on February 21, aged 86.

Mike was a long-standing servant of Salesbury Cricket Club, initially as a player and then since the late 1960s as junior team manager. He was well known throughout Lancashire cricket and received an MBE in 2003 for services to Salesbury Cricket Club and to young cricketers.

Mike was described as one of the most respected men in cricket and known for his ‘knowledge, dedication, gentle manner and politeness within the sport’.

His career spanned more than six decades during which time he helped to rejuvenate his local club and inspire a new generation into cricket.

Mike is first mentioned in the cricket club minutes in 1957 when he supported a vote of confidence in the club's selection committee following unease among the club members which forced a club EGM (extraordinary general meeting).  

In 1959 he was one of 16 club members who were committed to selling football sweepstake tickets for 6d, in order for the club to raise funds to purchase the ground. 

Through that and other fundraising efforts, the ground was eventually brought into club ownership. In 1960 he joined the main club committee. He stayed on the committee until 2007. 

In his playing days, he was part of the 1st team that won the club’s first league title in the Chorley and District league in 1968. In 1969 he undertook the position of second team captain, a position he held until the end of the 1978 season. During that period he was supported by the club president, John Mather, as his vice captain.

In 1972 he led the second team to their first league title. 

In 1969 the club took the decision to level the ground and Mike formed a sub-committee to oversee the works. He later formed a sub-committee to oversee replacement and installation of drains to improve the ground. During his time on the committee he kept a keen eye on the club's machinery and ensured the club maintained and replaced it as required. 

Mike continually looked for grants or methods of fundraising to support the club and specifically support junior cricket at Salesbury. He continued to sell football cards and in 1978 raised £145 by holding a junior cricket ball throwing competition. 

From the 1970s onwards there was an annual expression of thanks at the club's AGM for all the work that Mike was doing to support the younger members of Salesbury Cricket Club. In 1979 the club appointed Mike the club's junior cricket manager, a reflection of the work he had been doing for a number of years. It was a post he enjoyed and held to this year. 

During the 1980s and early 1990s, the juniors made regular appearances at Old Trafford in age group finals. 

Mike was always on the lookout for sponsorship for the teams to help with the travel costs. To try and support juniors transition to senior cricket, Mike was among those in the club that pushed in 1979 to form a third team that could play in the Ribblesdale League third division. The Chorley and District league, at the time, only had two Saturday divisions.

As well as supporting the juniors in the 1980s, Mike took on the role of finding match sponsorship for the senior teams and also preparing the “Red Book” of fixtures. 

In 2001 he was elected chairman of the club’s selection committee.  

He was granted honorary Life Membership of the club in 2015.

Always on hand to support others in the sport

Salesbury Cricket Club President, John Mather, said: “I first met Michael Foley when I started at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School; he was a few years ahead of me. 

“We all know what a likeable and friendly person Michael was. His parents were just the same and, kindly on occasions, took me home by car, after a cricket or football match. In addition to his passion for cricket, probably not many people would have known that Michael was also useful as an ‘outside left’ (forward) on the football field.

“Michael was one of a small group of people who managed in 1962 to persuade the Committee of Salesbury Cricket Club to allow me to become a playing member, despite the fact that I lived in Osbaldeston, just outside the permitted playing membership boundary. 

“I have therefore always been appreciative of Michael’s support. I was one of the first, if not even the first, to have enjoyed that privilege, enabling me then to enjoy 20 wonderful years as a playing member. 

“Without Michael’s support, my very fond memories of the cricket club may well never have been achieved. Michael’s commitment to Salesbury Cricket Club, and in particular to the recruitment and development of junior members was truly outstanding. 

“I recall often being amazed how much time he spent on the field during summer evenings, in the sixties and seventies, not to mention all the ‘off-field’ effort he put into the organisational aspects. It’s hard to imagine that there could ever have been anyone more committed, over so many decades, to cricket youth development.”

Sharing the 'spirit of cricket'

Stan Heaton and Simon Lord, LJCL Executive of Salesbury Cricket Club, paid this tribute: “Mike would spend as many nights as possible down on the ground, coaching, umpiring and supporting juniors of all ages.

“He was keen for cricket to be coached and played whenever possible, regardless of the weather. If it was safe to play he was happy to umpire and score underneath his golf umbrella. 

“Parents could either get a little damp or watch from their cars. The spirit of cricket was instilled in all the juniors that came into contact with him. Shirts needed to be white and tucked in the playing trousers. 

“Caps, if worn had peaks to the front. He gave everything to junior cricket. In the later years when he was unable to attend to coach, he would still continue to spend the spring arranging all the junior fixtures. 

“On home match days, he would always ring to check ground conditions if it had been raining and to ensure that a wicket had been prepared. Whenever possible he would drive to the ground and park his car as close to the boundary edge as possible.

“He would check the ground was fit before driving round to the score box. If he needed to park by the club house he would bring his binoculars (also used for another of his pastimes, bird watching) so he could watch the game and make judgements on players. 

“After each season he would prepare all the statistics for the junior teams, ready for awards nights and inclusion in the following season’s ‘Red Book’.”

'Influential in the development of junior cricket'

A message from Lancashire Junior Cricket says: “It was always a pleasure to deal with Mike and to meet up with him at our junior matches. As one of our elder statesmen, Mike was an invaluable source of common sense and understanding of the game and so very influential in the development of junior cricketers . 

“Indeed over the years hundreds upon hundreds of junior cricketers have benefited from Mike's wisdom, teaching and insistence on the game being played in the correct spirit. We have been contacted by many within junior cricket already. 

“It is clear that Mike will be very much missed within the junior cricket community for both his contribution to the sport, and the children and for his humility and humanity.”

Away from cricket, following attending university Mike worked at Crown Paints in Darwen until 1988 and then moved into his passion of natural history. 

He gained his PhD in 1998 and became an Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Biological Sciences at Lancaster University in September the same year. He was an enthusiastic botanist and an expert plant taxonomist and as mentioned before a keen bird watcher, often loading pictures online of UK and European birds.

For all but his first four years Mike lived in the same house in Salesbury. 

In the 2003 New Year Honours, Mike was awarded the MBE for his services to sport following the 30 years of being coach and manager to Salesbury Cricket Club juniors. 

A junior team member he had coached had paid tribute at the time saying: "One thing that really stood out about him was that he wasn't just interested in the good players. He wanted everyone to do well. He gets everyone involved and he created an enthusiasm for the game in every young player.”

Mike's funeral will be held at St Peter's Church, Salesbury on Tuesday 15 March at 11am. The service will be followed by burial in the churchyard.