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The evolution of Australian cricket literature: with emphasis on the period up until 1900.

Sir Robert Menzies, the former Australian Prime Minister and avid cricket enthusiast once said 'cricket is a summer game for the player and the observer, but a winter game for the reader and thinker who sits by his fireside and evokes unperishable memories'.

For the cricket purist, one can play the game and should one have an all inspiring passion, collect the game in the form of 'cricket literature' and 'cricket memorabilia'.

According to Whitehead (in Science and the Modern World, Cambridge, 1929, pages 93-94):
 It is literature that the concrete outlook of a country receives its
 expression. Accordingly it is to literature that we must look ... if
 we are to discover the inward thoughts of a generation.

Even though we are talking about literature in the 'pure' sense we can by looking at the development of cricket in Australia gain an insight into the development of literature, even though it is bordering on the primitive. There is no record in the annals of Australian literature or writings as to whether cricket was a game pursued by the early settlers immediately after the arrival of the First Fleet; however we do have recorded details of a cricket match from the Sydney Gazette on January 8 1804, where it is written:
 The late intense weather has been favourable to the amateurs of
 Cricket, who have scarcely lost a day for the last month. The
 frequent immoderate heats might have been considered inimical to the
 amusement, but were productive of very opposite consequences, as the
 state of the atmosphere might always regulate the position of
 exercise necessary to the ends of this laborious diversion was
 originally intended to answer.

This record in the official publication of the Colony of New South Wales is the first reference to the game in Australia and hence has the distinction of being the first piece of Australian cricket literature.

The first books that can be considered Australian, that is books that arose out of the beginnings of settlement were those of the chroniclers and analysts. The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay which was printed in England in 1789 is considered the first Australian book. On the other hand the first locally published book as distinct from documents did not appear until the 14th year after settlement and this was The New South Wales General Standing Orders, selected from the general orders issued by former Governors, which was published in 1802 in Sydney, two years prior to the first reference of cricket in the young colony.

As for the sporting prowess of the early colonists, one can only guess that such pursuits as punting, running and ball games ensued as pastimes for the oppressed convicts and settlers who toiled on the land which in the infant days of the colony was often barren to say the least

Having recognised that the first settlement of Australia commenced on the 26 January 1788, one uses that as the commencement date in the record of the start, albeit unrecorded, of cricket. The Hambleton Club, which had been founded in 1767 in England was the principal driving force for cricket at that time. Amongst its players were those that had natural skill and others who sought to play the game for pleasure but as well for financial benefit, hence the large wages and purses which were then played for.

Having earlier made mention of the first record of cricket in Australia one has set a backdrop for a sport which has perhaps had more books written on it and about it let alone the players who have participated than any other sporting activity in Australia. Unfortunately we have no record of any further cricket or for that matter sport in the early colony until the Sydney Gazette of 28 April 1810 mentioned a further match played at St. Georges Fields. Cricket is mentioned in various forms and in various ways subsequent to that date culminating in a letter dated 22 August 1821 which records details pertaining to cricket bats and balls.

The Governor of New South Wales Lachlan Macquarie was ordering bats from His Majesty's Lumber Yard for his son Lachlan, then a student at the Rev. Thomas Reddall's School at Macquarie Fields. In this order to the Lumber Yard, the Governor directed that the bats and ball, together with some gardening tools be for the use of his son while at school, and should then become the property of the school. One could perhaps suggest that the bats would have been quite tough.

The first recorded cricket match that was played in Australia was between two teams who played on the race course, Hyde Park, on Monday 7 August 1826. A sketchy report appeared in the Australian newspaper on 2 August 1826

A famous match of cricket was played off on the Old Race Course, Hyde Park, on Monday. The men on both sides mustered strong and exerted all their most active faculties during the continuance of this manly and healthful diversion. The match lasted several hours. Some of the aspirates suggested the propriety of forming a club, to be called the Australian club.

Subsequently, further references are made of cricket matches which appeared to have been played in a most competitive manner, some between civilians and military teams and others between regimental teams. The formation of club teams took place in the 1830s when teams such as the Amateur Club and the Australian Club pitted their skills against one another. Matches between currency born 'the native born' and home born 'sterling players' brought together like-minded individuals who were singularly intent on demonstrating their prowess on the cricket field.

Regular fixtures took place between teams such as Civilians v Military, Amateur Club v Australian Club who were all endeavouring to make their mark in early Sydney. The first cricket match of a 'first class nature' played in Australia was played in Melbourne on Wednesday and Thursday 26 and 27 March 1856. The Australian Cricketer's Guide for 1856-7 which was edited by H. Biers and W. Fairfax was published in Melbourne by W. Fairfax and Co. at a price of two shillings and sixpence and is the first publication exclusively devoted to cricket. These two Melbourne businessmen who were the founding fathers of Australian printed cricket literature were not to realise the impact they were to have on the game in Australia by the publication of that small 72 page booklet which had over 40 pages of advertisements in it to assist in defraying the costs. The editors in their preface said: "in this guide we have endeavoured to include all that is absolutely necessary to be acquired as regards the practice of the game of cricket, combined with such information which might necessarily be interesting to the colonial cricketer". The Guide recorded 'the Grand Match' won by New South Wales by 65 runs; and extracted from the English Annuals of James Lilywhite and James Pyecroft instructions for young cricketers.

Fairfax had arrived in Melbourne from England in 1852 where he had attempted in the previous year to formulate a scheme for sending an English team to Australia. His enthusiasm for the game was reflected in his desire to see it well publicised but was seemingly not shared by the 70 odd clubs playing in Australia. In the edition only twelve provided batting averages and five provided bowling averages. His co-author, H. Biers, was a well known land and estate agent, auctioneer and land surveyor who occupied premises in Elizabeth Street, Melbourne.

The lack of support from cricket players and officials was reflected in what the editors had to say:

We had intended to include remarks upon the most prominent players in many of the clubs: but the criticism sent in by the various secretaries did not include those of some of our principal clubs, and we thought it best to exclude this intended portion of our work altogether, rather than cause such an anomaly as would be created by the omission of the names of many who are among our best players.

The success of The Guide in 1856-7 saw Fairfax again produce, without the assistance of Biers, the 1857 edition of the Cricketers Guide for Australasia which again contained 72 pages at what was a fairly restrictive price of two and sixpence. It was noted by Fairfax that 'future issues would be printed uniformly so that subscribers could get them bound together'. In relation to subscribers it would appear that the idea was to pre-sell copies of the publication so as to defray the costs by printing only those that were required. The Guides contents included the history of cricket in England, details of matches between New South Wales and Victoria, Tasmania and Victoria and club cricket in Victoria.

For a third year the publication was produced by Fairfax this time known as Australian Cricketer's Guide but titled inside Cricketer's Guide for Australasia. The support and interest for the game had seen great changes taking place with 94 pages being produced for a cost still of two and sixpence. Cricket was now thriving.

These early days of Australian literature were somewhat difficult with Fairfax noting 'both first two issues of the guide lost substantial sums because of inadequate patronage from those to whom the editor felt he had the right to look for support, but he has not shrunk from again incurring the risk of its publication, and the form embraced in the quality of matter that the first issue contained'.

With coverage including cricket in New Zealand, England, South Australia, Tasmania, and Moreton Bay, the book was seeking to capture an increasing cricket market. Unfortunately for Fairfax the third issue was the last to be published, failing to win the support that he hoped a cricket publication could provide in the early days of inter-colonial cricket.

To Fairfax's surprise James Thompson, a Yorkshire man and Cambridge graduate as well as a university player, and later to become a Victorian Eleven player, produced a cricket guide known as Sands and Kenny's a Cricketers Guide, a publication of 250 pages which it is thought sold for three shillings. Thompson was a class player in his own right. He was described as: a good bat but a little too sweet on his back-play, hopes to be cured of this distemper, not so vigilant a field as could be wished, and a bad judge of distance, a hard hitter, who shows equal neatness and position to both fast and slow bowling, has the capacity to fairly criticise cricket for the current positioning in Australian sport.

Sands and Kenny's a Cricketer's Guide was most detailed in that it included information on players of note, averages for the year, details of intercolonial matches, the laws of the game, details of Victorian and country clubs, and a small section devoted to football hints. Thompson by virtue of his playing background and sound literary skill was able to provide well documented records of the inter-colonial matches that were played during the season. It is interesting to note that his comments and articles on the intercolonial games had initially been intended for publication in Bell's Life in Victoria certainly recognition of his skills.

The opportunities afforded Thompson enabled him to report on the Victorian team's journey by steamship to Sydney for the inter-colonial match against New South Wales.

His reporting of cricket in Australia as a player marked him as the first in a long line of first class cricketers who put their names to articles in journals, newspapers and other tabloid papers.

In 1860-61 a 112 page edition of Sands and Kenny's Guide was edited by J.C. Brodie, another first class cricketer, who was described as being 'inelegant but effective' as a batsman. The Guide changed its name to the Victorian Cricketer's Guide, concentrating and being mainly involved with Victorian cricket, New South Wales as yet not having its own journal.

It was not until 1876 that another edition of a journal appeared outside Victoria with South Australia having produced the Cricketer's Guide and Annual.

It is difficult to understand why Victoria was the only state producing guides and annuals but one can perhaps suggest that publishers were prepared to risk their capital in the hope that they would be financially successful. With the Victorian establishment finding its feet in the post gold-rush days there was the support not only of clubs but of individuals who were prepared o see the game develop as they felt it rightfully should.

A review of the early Australian cricketing guides and annuals tends to suggest that perhaps the most and important and valuable as far as information was concerned was the Victorian Cricketer's Guide published and edited by W.J. Hammersley for the season 1861-62. Hammersley was a well known Australian journalist and his first hand at editorship saw 169 page being produced, by far the largest guide to date. It is interesting that the Guide was published by Sands and McDougall by virtue of the fact that Kenny who had previously published the guide under the name of Sands and Kenny had sold his interest in the publishing company.

Hammersley, an Englishman, had previously been the sporting editor of The Australiasian and had played cricket for Cambridge University, Surrey and the MCC. His career was not all that spectacular with only 83 runs being scored at an average of 3.3 and 5 wickets with his medium paces at 6 runs per wicket. It may be that his cricket suffered due to his work, hence the comment 'a brilliant style of drive became somewhat scientific because of his irregular practice attendance.' Writing in the preface, he commented, 'The late appearance of the Guide this year is not owing to any neglect on my part, as it was not until the last moment, when it appeared probable a very interesting season would pass away unrecorded, that by special request, I ventured to add my name to the list of editors.'

It would appear that J.C. Brodie had elected not to continue as the Editor, and Hammerseley, due to his literary and journalistic skills had been asked to edit the Guide at short notice. It was interesting that in the early days of the game, secretaries failed to "send in scores of all games".

Some sixty pages of the Guide were devoted to the all England Eleven in Australia, a review of the season just concluded, the rules of the game and instructions for young players. Victorian Club Cricket in the country also rated a mention whilst such matches as "married versus single" and "Jan Juc versus Freshwater Creek" also were recorded in the score sheets.

Back in the early days of colonial cricket matches were being played for winnings and it is highly likely that the match between Sam Cosstick and J. Huddlestone of the Richmond Cricket Club against the Dandenong Eleven, that is two versus a team of eleven was one whereby 'betting took place.' The Richmond pair won the match by three runs in what was probably a match against the odds. The Guide continued to be published but changed its name to Cricketer's Register for Australasia for the years 1862-63 and 1863-64. These works again recorded the fixtures played during the year and made comments concerning the players, rules of the game and details of the English team that toured Australia in 1863-64. Unfortunately for no apparent reason, the Register was not published after the 1863-64 edition and it was not until T.W. Wills of Australian Rules and Melbourne Cricket Club fame published his Guide in 1870-71 that another work appeared.

The deeds of Tom Wills have been recorded elsewhere. However one should note along with his brother-in-law, H.C. Harrison, he founded Australian Rules Football. He was born in Australia in 1835, and educated in England at the famous Rugby School and upon his return to Australia in 1856 was able to bring to the game of cricket such interesting innovations as over-arm bowling and shots on the leg side. Playing for Victoria in 1868 against New South Wales he took 10 wickets in the match.

For Victoria in matches between 1857 and 1876 he took 80 wickets at an average of 9,9 and scored 323 runs at 12.42. He was also responsible for coaching the Aboriginal team which toured England in 1868 and met an untimely death when it is alleged that excessive drinking saw him commit suicide at the relative young age of 44 in 1879.

The Australian Cricketer's Guide produced by Wills, whilst not up to the standard of Hammersley's, did allow details to be succinctly recorded during the formative years of Australian colonial cricket.

The first test series played between England and Australia took place during the season 1876-77 and it was this that prompted John Conway, an Australian first class cricketer, to edit the work known as Conway's Australian Cricketer's Annual. In seven games in Victoria he took 28 wickets in an average of 11.03 and was also the Manager of the 1878 Australian team in England. Due to illness and injury in the team, he played on a number of occasions for the Australian Eleven. The first Annual which he published in 187677 contained over 230 pages but was not well laid out. The print of The Annual was small and had not been thoroughly edited. The fact that Conway had played first class cricket enabled him to read the game and reproduce his thoughts a little better on paper than some of his predecessors as editors. He gave full and complete coverage of the first test match played between England and Australia. He also said in his editorial:
 In looking back on the departed season, it is not our intention to
 allude to any of the dissensions and petty squabbles, which are,
 and ever will be, the bane of the cricket field ... the special of
 The Annual is to record the doughty Deeds of the Cricket field ... .

The Annual recorded Club Cricket in Victoria, New South Wales, New Zealand, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania and provided details of the English team's tour of Australia together with a history of inter-colonial matches since their inception.

An enormous volume was produced by Conway in 1877-78 when 400 pages recorded the deeds of cricketers in England, Australia, America and other far flung places. Although it did not reach the bookshops until 1879 it was worth waiting for as the volume provided 100 pages on the Australian tour of England and America.

Interestingly the New South Wales section of this tome was put together by F.J. Ironside who was later to publish the Ironside's Australiasian Cricketing Handbook and other cricketing books such as Ironside's Cricket Programme and Ironside 's Cricket Fixtures.

The most distinguished Cricket Guide to be published between 1857 and 1900 was Boyle and Scott's Australian Cricketer's Guide. The first edition was published by Harry Boyle the Victorian and Australian fast bowler and his business partner, David Scott, who was a Club cricketer in Melbourne. Only five editions of the Guide were published, the first running to 184 pages and the last in 1883-84 reaching 229 pages. Boyle had a distinguished career in Australian Cricket representing Victoria in inter-colonial matches on 25 occasions, appearing between the years 1872 and 1888. He played for Australia until 1879 and made 12 test appearances including two tours of England.

Writing in the first Guide Boyle said:
 Widespread interest manifested in cricket throughout the Australian
 colonies has caused us to issue a record of the game, which we hope
 will meet with the approval of our readers. ... In placing this our
 first issue of the Australiasian Cricketer's Guide before the
 public, we hope to have the generous support of all lovers of
 cricket in the colonies and to receive that encouragement which
 will stimulate our exertions in the future ... .

Albeit that they used other journals to compile their Guide, they were able to present the work in a readable manner and covered the essential parts of Australian cricket continuing over the years to maintain a high level and standard of reporting. A feature of The Guide was a well compiled and set out club section which detailed performances around Australia. They were also able to engage well regarded writers with 'Felix' of The Australiasian providing averages, 'An Old Warrior' putting together a story of the relative merits of England and Australian cricket and the Australian captain W.L. Murdoch, giving hints on batting. Spofforth and Boyle also provided details on bowling which is probably the first authoritative record of coaching from such noted players in Australia.

Boyle played his final test against England in 1884 and this in turn was the last year that The Guide was published. One can speculate that with Boyle's failure to win a place in the Australian team his popularity and marketability for the work had been lost.

A number of other annuals and guides were published but only had limited circulation and life. In South Australia the Cricketer's Guide and Annual and the South Australian Cricketer's Guide were published in the years 1876-77. Both were slim volumes of 52 pages and 60 pages respectively. The latter was published again in 1877-78 under the title South Australian Cricketers Guide and Footballers Companion. One would suggest that that despite the prices of one shilling--and one shilling and six pence, that the South Australian public was not disposed to see guides continue and hence their demise.

In 1884 P.H. Gilbert published in New South Wales, the N.S.W. Sporting Annual. Sports such as Football, Cycling, Athletics, Lacrosse and cricket were featured with cricket receiving more than half of the 170 pages. In addition to the Sydney Grade Cricket results, the Association rules and the laws of cricket were also reviewed. Queensland also published an annual known as the Queensland Cricketer's Guide and Annual for 1884-85, but unfortunately not much is known of the work except to suggest that it probably dealt with Queensland club and district cricket.

It was not until the redoubtable J.C. Davis published his Australian Cricket Annual--A Complete Record of Australian Cricket in 1896 covering the season 1895-96 that we have another world documented Annual of Australian Cricket. John Davis who wrote under the pseudonym 'Not Out' in the Australiasian newspaper, put together a most meticulous work from his good connections in the sporting world and his love for the game of cricket. In his first editorial he wrote concerning the Annual:
 It will tell its own story of a summer on the cricket fields of
 Australia authentically, briefly and I hope, acceptably to lovers of
 the game the wide world over ... this Annual is intended to supply a
 want--if one that is not universal, still a public and much felt

John Davis went on to record the fact that he had desired for an annual similar to a 'Wisden' or a 'Lilywhite' be available in Australia and went on to say 'finding it necessary to keep the records for my own use and pleasure, it has occurred to me just as well to have them published for reference, and perhaps pleasant perusal by others.'

The first edition of the Annual was well received with the former cricketer, Tom Garrett, commending it. The Annual provided several features on such people as C.T.B. Turner, E.J. Briscoe and E.J. Gregory. The interesting part concerning Davis's editorship of the Annual was that he fairly treated cricket in other first class centres. Davis had over the years met a great many players, mixing in cricketing circles and this is reflected by the Annual recording details such as 'birthdays of cricketers'. The publication by Davis of the Australian Cricket Annual in 1898 which provided an account of the MCC Tour of Australia in 1897-98 was the last published by him and brings to an end at the turn of the century cricket annuals in Australia.

With regard to published cricket literature one is mindful of the fact that there were many clubs that had been formed in Australia after inter-colonial cricket commenced in 1856. In many instances copies of annual reports have survived. Some of the better reports that have survived are those of the Melbourne Cricket Club, Sydney University and the Southern Tasmanian Cricket Association, whose Annual Reports are available from the 1866-67 season.

In reflecting on the evolution of Australian Cricket literature up until the turn of the century one is mindful of the need that was seen by editors and writers of the various annuals, guides and books for information not previously available. Virtually every book written about cricket, from scores and other statistics to biographies of players and examinations of technique, is, in essence, historical.

In looking at the definition of literature, one is conscious that 'writings of country or period whose value lies in beauty of form or emotional effect' is only partly true in respect of the works on cricket. Whilst there may be some reservations about the former qualification, excepting the best of its time, surely there are none regarding their emotive power. The long standing continuing affair between bat, ball and pen shows no sign of abating--in fact quite the reverse.

Cricket literature has paused for reflection over periods of time and 1900 was one of those pauses. It was in the middle of the "Golden Age", so called, of cricket and as in history saw a drawing together of the old and the new. The evolution of Australian cricket literature was just about to burst open. Perhaps the thought of the noted cricket poet, Edward Blunden is something to reflect upon as far as cricket literature is concerned: 'Have you not ever felt the urge to write of all the cricket that has blessed your sight?' Was this the underlying thought process that was the catalyst for the early Australian cricketer writers who perhaps never fully appreciated the impact or significance that they had on the game as we reflect today on their contributions.


"A History of Australian Literature" by HM Green, Volumes 1 and 2 published by Angus & Robinson Ltd, 1961 Sydney.

"Australia's Colonial Culture" by George Nadel, published by FW Cheshire, 1957 Melbourne

"A graphy of Cricket" compiled by E W Padwick, second edition, revised and enlarged to the end of 1979, published by the Library Association, 1984.

"The Catalogue of Cricket Literature" by Alfred Taylor, published by SR Publishers Limited, 1972.

"Bat and Pad--Writings on Australian Cricket 1804-1984" compiled by Pat Mullins end Philip Derriman, Oxford University Press Melbourne, 1984.

"Early Cricket in Sydney" by Jas Scott, edited by Richard Cashman and Steven Gibbs, published by New South Wales Cricket Association 1991.

"Australian Cricket ... A History by A G (Johnnie) Moyes", published by Angus & Robinson Limited, 1959 Sydney.

"Cricket ... A History of its Growth and Development Throughout the World" by Rowland Bowen, published by Eyre and Spottiswoode--London, 1970.

"The Formative Years of Australian Cricket ... 1803-1903" by Jack Pollard, published by Angus & Robinson, 1987.

"The Australian Cricketers' Tour through Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain", by "Argas" by PE Rennalls, published by J W MacKenzie, 1980.

Also consulted the Cricket Book Collection of Ronald Cardwell, relative to pre 1900 Cricket Annuals.
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Article Details
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Author:Cardwell, R.L.
Publication:M A R G I N: life & letters in early Australia
Article Type:Critical Essay
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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