Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Nelson cricketers’ victorious return and poem, 1876

This week I did a poetry reading down in Nelson (with Laura Solomon) at the Yurt (a Mongolian hut) in the front yard of the Freehouse pub. It was a fun meeting and good to see some local Nelson poets there, including Cliff Fell who shares a cricket interest with me.
As well as reading my own poems, I did a small presentation on A Tingling Catch and shared an excerpt about the return of the Nelson Interprovincial cricketers after victory over Wellington in the Marlborough Express, 29 March 1876 (found by book collector Rowan Gibbs).
Rowan came across it while reading through the National Library’s digital archive of old New Zealand newspapers, Papers Past, and emailed it to me.
I looked up the match in New Zealand Cricket’s online Archive of First Class fixtures. All the player names in the report are correct, including the unfortunately named "Greenfield". The game at the Basin Reserve on 19 March 1876 was won outright by Nelson in a low-scoring affair, typical of that time when bowlers dominated the bat on wet pitches. Nelson bowler Eden took 9-43 and 5-20 to finish with 14-63 in the match. H R Parrington, for Wellington, top scored for the whole match with 26 in their Second Innings.
I’ll share the humorous newspaper report with you here:

NELSON CRICKETERS – “Autolycus” in the Nelson Times has the following anent the return of the Nelson cricketers the other day: — I was aroused from slumber yesterday by the soul-inspiring air of “See the Conquering,” and from my bedroom window by turning back the corner of the blind, I observed our cricketers returned from their victorious tour through the Provinces. As success always proves merit, I was not surprised an hour afterwards to hear Brown declaring that “It was decidedly the best team that had been sent to Wellington,” and I agreed with him, and added in reference to the latter part of his assertion, “Why for fear they should not be able to find a suitable piece of ground, the precautionary measure was adopted of sending a Greenfield with them.” Brown pretended not to see the pun, but I know he noticed it, for on the spur of the moment a desire for revenge filled his soul, and he took a manuscript from his pocket and with the preliminary remark that he would read a little composition hurriedly written for the occasion, he started off at a score as follows:

Sound the loud bugle and hammer the drum,
Pour out the libation (mine’s good strong old rum),
And whoever he is, may the man ne-er grow fat,
Who refuses to welcome the Knights of the Bat.

So fill up the goblet, I’ll shout till I’m hoarse,
For Sellon, and Eden, for H. and C. Cross,
For Halliday, Fowler, Greenfield, and the Knapps.
Let the glasses be brimming; allow no heeltaps.

   NOTE —
I tried to work Coles in, but found ’twas no use,
So his health for a fresh glass shall be the excuse;
And the Wellington men, foemen worthy the steel, —

Here the manuscript compelled Brown to turn to the next leaf, and I took the opportunity to turn the corner. I have not seen him since, but if any of my readers really wish to hear the remainder of the verses, I know his address, and he will be only too happy to obtain a victim.

(From the Marlborough Express, 29 March 1876)

I am unable to track down who the versifier is by the name of “Brown”. Nothing for a “Brown” comes up in a search of 19th century poetry books in the National Library of New Zealand catalogue. He doesn’t seem to be a Nelson cricketer either, perhaps a local bard at the time or maybe he’s been made up by “Autolycus” the satirist behind this report.

Postscript
Here is some further information I tracked down on Autolycus, with thanks to Rowan Gibbs for his research help and the National Library of New Zealand's Papers Past digital archive:

Autolycus” appears as a common name in New Zealand newspapers from the 1870s to early 1900s including the Nelson Daily Times, the Marlborough Express, The Colonist (Nelson) and the Nelson Evening Mail and other New Zealand newspapers like The Waikato Advocate’s literary section in searches for the name in Papers Past.
Most often “Autolycus” has been used for the purpose of reviewing books, writing letters to the editor, writing short humorous columns on political and social events and penning satirical verses here and there.
However, the “Autolycus” of this cricket piece is almost certainly H. (Harry) M. Moore (or Moor), born 1840. An obituary appeared in the Grey River Argus stating he was an esteemed journalist, “a native of New South Wales”, who in earlier days worked with the miners on the West Coast of New Zealand “and took a leading part in the matters affecting the welfare of the [mining] community” (Grey River Argus, 21 January 1879). Here is another obituary for him from the Auckland Star:

The late H. M. Moore, editor of the Christchurch Globe, whose death was chronicled in our telegrams last evening, was a very old and experienced journalist. He was employed on the staff of the Otago Daily Times during the time that paper was edited by Mr, now Sir Julius Vogel, and at a later period was connected with several journals on the West Coast [Grey River Argus, Grey River Times and Evening Star]. He edited the Nelson Daily Times for some time, and made his mark as the author of a well-written weekly sketch with the signature of “Autolycus”. From Nelson he succeeded Mr E. T. Gillon, as manager and editor of the New Zealander, but at the close of last session was appointed to the editorial chair of the Christchurch Globe. Mr Moore was an extremely clever and industrious labourer in the field of journalism, and was generally esteemed on account of his genial and social qualities, and his dry caustic humour. Mr Moore leaves a widow and three children. His death makes another blank in the fast thinning ranks of the oldest journalists of New Zealand.

(Auckland Star, Volume X, Issue 2729, 21 January 1879, Page 2)

I gather that “Autolycus” did pen satirical verses (as a letter was published in The Colonist, 24 July 1877, in response to his verses, “Rhymes from Riwaka”, published in the Nelson Daily Times) and as I’m unable to confirm any poet by the name of “Brown”, it’s possible “Autolycus” may have written the verses as well as part of his sketch. Moore died from rheumatic fever when he was nearly 40.

Article © Mark Pirie 2011

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