The following is taken from Roy Cavanagh's Centenary History of the league Cotton Town Cricket published in 1988.
"Countless thousands of people in Bolton & district owe them a debt of gratitude for the enormous pleasure the Association has given to player & supporter alike....
Whilst many local clubs existed before 1888, the idea of an organised league was novel, and originated with a Mr R Richardson, who, at that time was resident at Starrcliffe Street, Moses Gate, and connected with the now defunct Great Lever Cricket Club. Mr Richardson became the first Association secretary, was re-elected in 1889, 90 & 91, but resigned in mid term in 1891 for reasons unreported. Little is known of Mr Richardson, other than a sports shop which existed at the time in Trinity Street is assumed to be his.
The first treasurer was Mr Johns Russell, of Tonge, who served in the capacity for over 30 years, until 1920.
Mr Richardson was suceeded by Mr James Scowcroft, who proved to be one of the pillars of the Association. A member of the very first committee, he held office as Secretary from 1892 until his death in 1926, and "devoted his life to the cause of cricket". A yeat merchant by trade, Mr Scowcroft played for Bolton United, Bolton Collegiate and Bolton Old Boys and in his day "was one of the few bowlers able to make a new ball swerve".
At the 21st Anniversary Dinner in 1910, the President (Col. Greg) presented inscribed presents to Scowcroft and Russell "as a token of respect and esteem and for faithful service...". In his reply Scowcroft referred to the first four Association Presidents and stated "No other Association in the town, or indeed the county, could boast such distinguished gentlemen at it's head..."
The first of these was Mr Frank Hardcastle MP, of Firwood Hall, a member of the Hardcastle dynasty which founded Bradshaw and Firwood Bleachworks, and whose grandfather, Thomas, was a partner in Hardcastle, Cross & Co, Bolton's first bank. He bacame MP for the Westhoughton constituency (which surprisingly at the time embraced Bradshaw, Tonge, and much of North Bolton - and hence many Association clubs) in 1885, and served until ill-health forced his retirement in 1892.
Hardcastle was succeeded by Ald B A Dobson JP (later Sir Benjamin Dobson) of the world-famous Bolton textile machinery engineers, Dobson & Barlow Ltd., thus underlining the inextricable links with the local textile industry. Next, (from 1898-1906) came the Rt Hon Lord Stanley MP, (son of the Earl Of Derby, whose ancestor's historical connections with Bolton are part of national history), who interestingly, succeeded Frank Hardcastle as MP for the Westhoughton division in 1892, and, went on to become Junior Lord of the Treasury, Under Secretary for War, and HM Postmaster General.
The first trophy donated to the Asociation following its inauguration was "The Senior Challenge Cup" given by Mr Edward Cross JP CC, of Bradford House, Great Lever. Mr Cross was a member of the well-known local mill owning family, and, like Hardcastle, his predecessors had been partners in Bolton's first bank. Intriguingly, Cross was Hardcastle's defeated liberal opponent in the 1885 General Election! A cricket lover, he was a playing member and secretary of Bolton Cricket (the leading club in the area at the time) and one of the Association's first vice presidents. No doubt his patronage of the Association was due to his concept of it as a "nursery" for Bolton CC, as evidenced by the "affiliation" notice which appeared in Association handbooks up to 1940. (Basically an invitation to trial for any player deemed worthy, and a request that should he felt worthy his club honour a request for him to play!). Sadly, r Cross died in 1891 at the early age of 55 and, at best, could only have witnessed two Cross Cup finals.
The Junior Challenge Cup (for junior, or 2nd Division clubs) was also donated in 1889, played for in the first season and warded annually in every single year since. Its donor was Mr Samuel Isherwood Jnr., a partner in G&J Slater Ltd (Dunscar Bleach Works), a playing member of Eagly CC, and a vice president of the BDCA, who died in 1901, aged only 42. Links with Hardcastle family (great patrons of Bradshaw CC) continued via Lt Col Henry Marmaduke Hardcastle JP of Bradshaw Hall (nephew of Frank) who was an Association vice-president from 1905-48 and donated the Hardcastle Shield in 1914.
having mentioned some of the leading figures in the Association's early days, full tribute must now be paid to a man who, with due respect to the others, was a colossus of a figure in Association affairs, and who, without doubt, lays claim to the title of BDCA "Man of the Century" - Ernest Grant. The first Association handbook included an entry "Auditor: Mr E Grant, Collegiate Cricket Club". Little could anyone have realised that the same Mr Grant, a member of the inaugural committee, would go on to serve the Association for over 61 years, dying whilst still holding the officeof President, at the age of 83. A press article in 1945 gave an indication of his various offices (including a record period of 33 years as Chairman), and the names of the 11 different clubs for whom he played in a career lasting from 1880-1937, by which time he was nearly 72! Ernest Grant, in addition to his many other duties, was, for many years, the Association's record-keeper, statisitician, handbook compiler etc. He kept very detailed records and regularly submitted interesting facts and figures to the press and compiled the league and cup records for the handbooks. It is largely thanks to Mr Grant's care that the Association has a priceless collection of (in 1988) 86 of the 89 hanbooks which we believe had been published over the (then) century (missing are 1889, 1891 and 1894), the vast majority still being in excellent condition.