Sunday, May 27, 2012

W H Winsor’s 1902 NZ cricket poem

Early this year, a contact and researcher in Australia, Graeme Lindsay, emailed me a poem that he came across in the Emu Bay Times, a Tasmanian newspaper in 1902.
The author is William Hinnels (Billy) Winsor (1876?-1936), builder, city councillor, Tasmania, Otago and Canterbury cricketer and later a cricket administrator with the New Zealand Cricket Council. Winsor was born in London and educated first in London and then possibly Melbourne.
At some point, Winsor moved with his family out to Melbourne and then Tasmania where he began to make an impact as a local sportsman in football and cricket (1898?-1901 [age 21-24]). The Launceston Examiner notes a ‘Winsor’ as playing football (Launceston 1899 and St Kilda 1900) and cricket (Meander 1898, Dalebrook 1898/99 and an appearance for Social Circle 1900 and next Burnie 1900/01).
The cricket Winsor is “W Winsor”, but there is also an “H Winsor” playing cricket with him for Dalebrook - a brother? For Dalebrook, ‘W Winsor’ performed some heroics. In one match against Chudleigh in April 1899, he took 7-27 with the ball and scored 34 not out with the bat; in another match for Dalebrook in December 1898, ‘W Winsor’ made 73 and took 3-37; ‘H Winsor’ scored 18.
His later club Burnie is on the northwestern coast of Tasmania. Burnie was formerly Emu Bay.
Winsor’s poem-elegy ‘A Cricketer’s Lament: The Late Trooper Cowell’ (about his playing days in Tasmania) is a rare find, especially as it is a New Zealand poem published overseas. There may possibly be more New Zealand cricket poems published in Australian papers like The Bulletin in Sydney. I have not found further poems by Winsor. Is it a one-off poem? His only other publication seems to be a building survey on the uses of imported timber: ‘Uses of timber: Government inquiry - problem of importation’, NZ Architectural and Building Review, 31 August 1927; vol.1 no.14: p.33-34.
The poem by Winsor written in an Elizabethan poetic form (according to Niel Wright) is on the death of a trooper, F G (Bertie) Cowell, and fellow cricketer in the Boer War, 1899-1902. In a search of historical Tasmanian newspapers, Cowell appears to be a local club cricketer who played for East Wellington, Cam and Free Yeoman from the late 1890s-1901. He could open the batting and bowling so was an all-rounder; his brother L H Cowell was also a noted club cricketer. In one match in November 1898, the two brothers combined to take 9 out of 10 Cam wickets for their Free Yeoman team; F G is “Bertie” in the match report.
Here is the poem by Winsor:

W H WINSOR

A Cricketer’s Lament
[The Late Trooper Cowell]

Written on reading a report of the death and burial of Trooper F. G.
Cowell, T.I.B., at the
Dunedin Athenaeum, February 14, 1902.

And so he too has gone,
  A victim of the war,
From this dark scene to that far bourne
  Where battles cease to roar.

I read the news, alas!
  Why sinks my heart with pain?
I see that form before me pass,
  I hear that well known name.

Enteric claims its own,
  And far on Afric’s sands,
Away from his loved Tassie home
  Are snapped life’s feeble strands.

I see him as of yore,
  When on the cricket field
He stayed the Burnie batsmen’s score,
  And taught us how to yield.

I see his nimble form,
  The pride of Yeomanland:
And then behold him - weak and worn
  And dying on the Rand.

Old England’s foes are braved
  By many a gallant man,
Who died not, where the pennon waved,
  And battle fiercely ran.

So Bertie’s toils are o’er;
  His last life link is rent:
And may he on a peaceful shore
  Find rest, and calm content.

Dunedin, N. Z.

(From North Western Advocate and Emu Bay Times (Tasmania) Saturday 1 March 1902)

Poem © W H Winsor 1902

Winsor’s poem refers to memories of the match played between Winsor’s team Burnie and Cowell’s team Free Yeoman (Emu Bay Times, 26 November 1900) resulting in a victory to Winsor’s team on first innings points by 23 runs. Burnie made 71 all out and Free Yeoman 48 and 92.
Winsor top scored for Burnie with 24 despite Cowell ripping apart the batting with a devastating spell of 6-18. Winsor was not ‘taught to yield’ by Cowell, however, and was out ‘hit wicket b. H. Gale’. Winsor also clean bowled Cowell for 9 in the second innings. The two must’ve been well known cricketers in their State and tough competitors as well as friends.
In March 1901, Cowell is in the news once more after being summoned to war:

CAM. Mr F. G. Cowell left here on Friday morning on his way to Hobart. He was summoned by wire with a view to his inclusion in the sixth contingent. Should he be chosen Yeomanland will be well represented at the front, as his brother Harry is already fighting with the New Zealanders.
(Emu Bay Times, 9 March 1901)

Later in the year, Cowell is confirmed dead:

DEATH OF A TASMANIAN TROOPER COWELL, OF SOMERSET: A VICTIM OF ENTERIC.

Hobart, Thursday. — The Premier has received an advice to the effect that Trooper F. G. Cowell, of No. 2 Company of the last contingent, which left this State on March 27, died of enteric at Delfontein on Nov. 18. It will be remembered that Trooper Cowell was reported dangerously ill a few days ago. He is a son of Mr A. H. Cowell, of Somerset, and well-known as a cricketing enthusiast.
(Emu Bay Times, 29 November 1901)

Winsor must’ve learned of his friend’s death and penned his poem at the Dunedin Athenaeum, which in those days was moving from becoming an educational facility to a private subscription library. Winsor wrote his poem in February 1902 so news of Cowell’s death would’ve taken a few months to reach him. The troops of No.2 Company returned to Hobart on 16 June 1902 and war soon ended; the unlucky Cowell was one of just six casualties of a 253 strong contingent.
In January 1901 near to the war summons of Cowell, a player named Winsor turns out for the Emu Bay Times office staff in a friendly game and takes four stumpings but does not bat at No. 11. H Winsor, or W H Winsor? It certainly explains why his poem found publication in the Emu Bay Times, if he had a relation working there. It could’ve been W H playing but he is not known for keeping wickets or batting at No. 11 and four stumpings is a good effort for a fill-in. He did not sail for Bluff, New Zealand, till 24 March, where he was aboard the Westralia, s.s., 2,884 tons vessel (25 March 1901 in The Mercury, Tasmania).
I’ve researched Winsor’s name in the National Library of New Zealand’s Papers Past and discovered he was playing Dunedin club cricket for Albion at the time his poem for “Bertie” Cowell was written/published. (Albion later boasted the legendary New Zealand cricketer Bert Sutcliffe in its ranks.)When he eventually arrived in Otago [at age 24], Winsor’s name created a pre-season buzz in local cricketing circles:

Some prominent members of the Albion Club were to be seen preparing the pitches last Saturday afternoon. The drains which were put in last year have greatly improved the ground, which is in a better condition now than it has been for some years past. There is every prospect of the club having a successful season, several new members having already joined, among the number being Mr E. [sic] Winsor, of North Tasmania. All the old members appear eager for practice.
(Otago Witness, 11 September 1901)

This is the first mention of Winsor in New Zealand.
A few weeks later, his name is again touted with interest, suggesting he was a batsman:

Winsor, the young Tasmanian, reported in a recent issue as about to join Albion, had an average of 22 in Tasmania, including one innings of 124. Winsor was third in the averages for senior elevens.
(Otago Witness, 2 October 1901)

A check of the Burnie season averages in the Emu Bay Times (September 1901) states Winsor was in fact fourth on the batting averages. The club compliments Winsor’s performance for Burnie, where in 11 innings he scored 247 runs at an average of 22.46 with a High Score of 124 [retired, against Emu Bay, in a record club score of 302]. His bowling average was in fact better: 246 runs for 26 wickets at 9.42 and 3rd on the list.
The most memorable match Winsor played for Albion was undoubtedly the game against Grange in January 1902 where a ‘crowd of enthusiasts watched the falling of Grange wickets like Autumn leaves’. There is a lively description of Winsor’s lasting impact on the game in a regular column by Long Slip - Grange needing 96 for victory:

With three wickets down for 69, the task seemed hopeless but after Baker, Downes, and Johnston were dismissed, then Albion played with renewed vigour, and chiefly through the instrumentality of Winsor, the last wickets added very few runs to the score.
Dawes, usually a very cool player, must have had his nerves tested to the full when he walked to the crease and 11 runs were still wanted. The Grange supporters still pinned their faith to him but Dawes made one of his famous wind cuts, and Winsor made no mistake, shattering his stumps the first ball with a beauty. The enthusiasm of the Albion supporters was unbounded, and many were the congratulations showered on the various members of the team. Winsor, in particular, was called out of the pavilion by the spectators, who gave him three ringing cheers.
(Otago Witness, 22 January 1902)

In a match-winning performance, living up to his hype, Winsor made his highest score of 16 not out and took 3-4 and 4-12 to finish with bowling figures of 7-16.
By the end of the season it was clear Winsor was a bowler who could bat anywhere from No. 3 to No. 9 and his name appears regularly in the Otago Witness newspaper from 1901-1903 and in the season averages for his club. In 1901/02 season he topped Albion’s bowling averages with 14 wickets for 150 runs at 10.71.
The following season he was appointed to the Albion club committee (the first signs of his administrative vent) and became one of two practice captains (Otago Witness, 17 September 1902). That same season he also had his most significant batting partnership against Dunedin No. 2, batting at No. 9, and adding 51 runs in quick time for the eighth wicket; Winsor scored 26.
An article in the Otago Witness in July 1903 announces that the late Otago Cricket Association secretary D H Thomson ‘intends joining Lancaster Park with another ex-Albion player W H Winsor’.
Winsor must’ve moved on to Christchurch where he established Winsor and Maynard Builders at Spreydon and where he contributed much to Canterbury and New Zealand cricket as the Secretary of the New Zealand Cricket Council (1920s/1930s).
After his death, his friend and colleague Sir Arthur Donnelly, chairman of the cricket council, elected to honour his service by naming the Winsor Cup after him.

Postscript

Winsor’s birth date is unclear: The England Census 1881 lists Winsor as ‘b. January 1877’. The Press [Christchurch] Obituary [for Winsor], 29 December 1936, gives his lifeline as b. 28 Dec 1876, d. 29 Dec 1936, a day after his 60th birthday. His New Zealand death certificate records him as ‘d. 1936, aged 60 years’. Was he 59?

Article © Mark Pirie 2012

This article is an extract from a work in progress W H Winsor 1876-1936 a cricket monograph by Mark Pirie

(Sources: 100 Years of Cricket: A History of the Canterbury Cricket Association, 1877-1977 by R.T. Brittenden (Christchurch, N.Z. : Canterbury Cricket Association, 1977); Albion, 1862-1962 (Dunedin, N.Z.: Albion Cricket Club, 1962); Cricket Archive; England Census 1881 online [www.ancestry.com.au]; Index New Zealand and Papers Past [National Library of NZ’s digital archive]; Launceston Examiner [Tasmania, Australia]; New Zealand Historic Places Trust website; North Western Advocate and Emu Bay Times [Tasmania, Australia]; Te Ara online encyclopedia of New Zealand; Australian Trove [National Library of Australia’s digital archive]; Otago Witness; The Mercury [Tasmania, Australia]; The Summer Game: An Illustrated History of New Zealand Cricket by D.O. Neely and P.W. Neely; and emails from Graeme Lindsay and Niel Wright)

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