Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ellesmere 1920s NZ cricket poems found

Cricket poetry turns up in surprising places. It gives cricket historians a vivid picture of local cricket play. One such instance of local cricket poetry recording history turned up in a Canterbury, New Zealand, paper recently: The Ellesmere Guardian.
From August-November 1927 a local ‘Poet’s Forum’ existed between various local poets of this rural Ellesmere area going under pseudonyms like ‘Mudlark’, ‘Doyleston’, ‘Leeston’, ‘Springs Herald’, and ‘Lakeside’.
Two of the poets wrote cricket poems on the local Shield competitions between local cricket clubs: Doyleston-Leeston, Irwell, Dunsandel, Springston, Southbridge, College, Weedons and Tai Tapu.
They played their matches at locally produced grounds. I’m unsure of the names and quality of the players. These pitches look to be of varying quality, some without matting, but the better wickets and fields were well kept and mown by local groundsmen.
The first poem by ‘Doyleston’ is about a match between his team Doyleston and Irwell, October 1927.
Here’s the scorecard:


Doyleston played Irwell at Osborne Park and a very enjoyable game resulted in Irwell being victorious. The ground was in good order, being a credit to Mr Osborne, who put in all Saturday morning mowing the grass.

Mottram, b N. Heslop 45
Rasmussen, c J. Coe, b N. Heslop 29
Gurnsey, c H. Gardiner, b P. Chamberlain 19
J. Smith, b N. Heslop 32
F. Frampton, c J. Coe, b P. Chamberlain 6
D. Brizzle, c J. Heslop, b N. Heslop 2
H. Smith, b N. Heslop, b P. Chamberlain 10
W. Brizzle, not out 2
G. Cooke, c and b J. Chamberlain 7
R. M. Robertson, b P. Chamberlain 16
H. Reid, c Hoskins, b P. Chamberlain 0
Total 168

Bowling.—Doak 0 for 52, J. Chamberlain 1 for 40, N. Heslop 4 for 43,
P. Chamberlain 5 for 33.

J. Coe, b Gurnsey 37
J. Chamberlain, retired 60
W. Doak, b Smith 10
P. Chamberlain, retired 50
H. Gardiner, retired hurt 0
J. Heslop, c Rasmussen, b Reid 51
C. Hoskins, retired 27
S. McLaughlin, c Rasmussen, b J. Smith 2
N. Heslop, c H. Smith, b W. Brizzle 1
L. Doak, c Rasmussen, b G. Cooke 4
McPherson, not out 1
Extras 13
Total 256

Bowling.—Mottram 0 for 32, H. Smith 1 for 68, Gurnsey 1 for 47, J. Smith
1 for 22, W. Brizzle 1 for 4, Rasmussen 0 for 5, Frampton 0 for 21, Robertson 0 for 27, Cooke 1 for 5, D. Brizzle 0 for 14, H. Reid 1 for 6.

Of interest in this scorecard is that all XI of the Doyleston-Leeston team turned their arm over without success, three batsmen retiring.
This match report was followed by the following poem by ‘Leeston’ (Ellesmere Guardian, 28 October 1927):



(By “Leeston”)

Oh, you gallant Doyleston men who handle bat and ball,
What the mischief has come over you? you cannot play at all;
Even with the help of Leeston men, old Irwell done you brown,
You’d better put some school kids in, they may not let you down.

Your field it is a credit, and the wicket is quite true.
But you cannot pile a score at all, no matter what you do.
The Leeston men that you roped in put up a decent score,
But your five crack batsmen only added forty-seven more.

You had a good innings, but it didn’t last long,
And you knew that your bowlers weren’t too strong;
The Leeston men here did not at all shine,
And some of them bowled for the very first time.

One Irwell old-timer made nearly half of your score,
He retired with a grin, for your bowlers were sore;
Then another made fifty, that was old Peter the Great,
He retired also, for it getting quite late.

Only one made a “duck” on the whole Irwell side,
(You didn’t quite kill him, though you jolly well tried).
For the second-top scorer you sent your field deep,
But he pasted your trundlers, and made them look cheap.

There’s a few still in Leeston that you haven’t tried;
They cannot bowl “wrong” 'uns, but may help on your side;
You must come and collect them, for they won’t walk that far,
And after the match you must bring them home in a car.

I’ll ask a wee question, but one within reason,
Will you publish your averages at the end of the season?
They’d be quite interesting, as history you know,
Of how Doyleston played cricket in the days long ago.

Every team has a day off, and play against luck,
Even the redoubtable Hobbs may go out for a “duck;”
But your batsmen fail badly in all sorts of weather,
And all that they’re good for is hunting the leather.

Take a small hyphen and place it between
Old Leeston and Doyleston, for 'tis plain to be seen
That, alone and unaided, you are in for a dishing
From every old team in the Shield competition.

Earlier, ‘Doyleston’ wrote a humorous cricket poem (Ellesmere Guardian, 18 October 1927) about the match between Doyleston and College, a heavy defeat, so this must’ve provoked his friend ‘Leeston’ to write in the next week as well:


(By “Doyleston”)

Dear Mudlark, I’m O feeling well, my tale is O too nice to tell,
I can O write coherently, when O but duck eggs I can see.
Our Cricket Club, I’m sad to say, has shown us that they can O play
The ancient game with bat and ball — they can O win a match at all.

They can O bowl they can O bat, on a pitch that has O got a mat,
They say they were O all asleep, although they followed on like sheep.
You see, they went on Saturday, a team of College boys to play,
And now they’re O but “ifs” and “buts” — methinks they can O play for nuts.

They did O have their usual luck, for many did O break a duck —
The score, I’m told, is O too tall — some did O even see the ball!
Which prompts some very sound advice, I hope they’ll O think it O nice,
Do O aspire to cricket fame, — but stay at home and play — marbles.

By these examples, pavilion poets served the local country Doyleston-Leeston XI well that season, attempting to rev up their players.

Article © Mark Pirie 2013

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