Sunday, November 7, 2010

John Reid’s Sword of Willow

John R Reid was one of New Zealand's great cricketers. From 1949-65, he played and for a time captained and defined New Zealand Test cricket. His stats (3428 Test runs at 33.28 and 85 Test wickets at 33.35) may not amount to that of a great cricketer but ‘legacies and cold stats’ don’t always tell the truth of a player’s worth.
As an attacking batsman, Reid held a world record for hitting 15 6s while batting for Wellington against Northern Districts. Reid made 296 that day. He might have fitted in well with current 20/20 format.
A good article about Reid’s playing career is on ESPN Cricinfo: ‘Hit Machine’ by John Mehaffy. The link is
I was thinking about Reid again recently when I picked up a copy of his autobiography, Sword of Willow (1962), at the Waikanae Book Fair. It’s still a good read and the quintessential Reid book to own. The back cover includes photos of his leg side batting technique where he used to play many of his attacking shots.
I also wrote a poem mentioning the book when I returned from the fair. Reid’s Sword of Willow got me thinking of my own bat, sitting in its cover awaiting use. Reading it now, Reid's book certainly gives that air of a love lost as it describes in detail some of the great days in New Zealand cricket.
Here’s my poem:



Driving out to the book fair
whites on a green field

remind me of a love now lost.
It’s a while since I last played.

I long for their summer field,
can smell the whiff of leather,

the feel of stitch and seam.
At the fair I pick up John Reid’s

Sword of Willow. He knew.
And when I arrive home, my bat

lies in the corner propped against
the dresser, hidden by shadow.

© Mark Pirie 2010

1 comment:

  1. This poem appeared later in The Wellingtonian, 17 February 2011. A reader wrote the following response in next issue of 24 February 2011: 'I should like to congratulate Mark Pirie on his magnificent poem 'Lost'. I am sure it will have struck a chord with all those, like myself, who have played and love the game of cricket, but whose playing days are over.' - Michael Hesp, Kelburn