Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Tingling Catch in PANZA Newsletter

A Tingling Catch appears in the latest Poetry Notes Spring 2010 newsletter from PANZA (Poetry Archive of New Zealand Aotearoa). I am one of PANZA's co-organisers and members. PANZA reprinted my October blog post on J H E Schroder's New Zealand cricket poems. The newsletter can be downloaded from Here's the contents:

The third issue of the newsletter from Poetry Archive of New Zealand Aotearoa is available now for download as a pdf. Inside Spring 2010, volume 1, issue 3: Mark Pirie on J H E Schroder’s New Zealand cricket poems; Rail poems by John Maclennan; classic New Zealand poetry by Walter Charman; Niel Wright on Mark Pirie as Romantic Satirist; new publication by PANZA member: ‘A Tingling Catch’: A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864-2009: an anthology edited by Mark Pirie; recently received donations; about the Poetry Archive.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The man who played cricket with Wilson Pickett

When I was putting together A Tingling Catch, I came across a number of poems I didn’t end up using for one reason or another. Here’s one I didn’t use. It’s by David Flynn, an American-based poet, and was published in New Zealand’s leading poetry journal, Poetry NZ a magazine edited by poet/novelist/critic Alistair Paterson in Auckland. I felt as Flynn wasn't a New Zealand poet, New Zealand publication didn’t really qualify it for inclusion in A Tingling Catch. It’s a very enjoyable poem though and worth sharing here:


The man who played cricket with Wilson Pickett

Saturday night at the financial news annual ball in London,
the bureau employees in black tie and gown.
After a formal dinner,
a band ran onto the stage at The Brewery.
The men, middle aged every one,
wore gold lame jackets and sunglasses,
while two women sparkled in blue sequined dresses.
Soul revival.
The Commitments on a money gig.
Songs were Motown by the numbers:
Stop – the two women held their palms out like traffic cops –
in the name of love.

The face of Danny was glazed as he walked back and forth among the dancers in what he thought was dance, but what the employees thought was: Danny’s drunk again. His fiancé stood in one spot and danced, as it were, alone in her apartment. I had seen the foreign exchange specialist twice before: glazed in his kitchen trying to put together words to welcome me, and glazed while five of us stood during a Squeeze concert in Blackheath. A drunk. And a sad drunk at that. He didn’t smile, seemed not a Soul Man, and him only, say, twenty-five.

   By contrast, the summer before I sat in a Lewisham café when
Kevin, mid-20s, happened to park his mountain bike by the door.
Whatshisname, he greeted me.
Oh hi, I said, not remembering his name either.
A week before, the banker had joined us at an Italian place in the West End. He drank three beers before the waitress delivered the pizza. Keep ’em coming. You want a beer, David wasit? By closing, the waitress sang along with him: Olay olayolayolay, and the owner stayed late to cook us special slices, just like Kevin wanted.

On the train from Charing Cross to Lewisham Station he introduced women to men, men to women – Georgia wasit?, you know Timothy here? He’s just back from Spain – until strangers stood holding poles, slow dancing to the sodden sounds of Kevin the Drunk – When a man needs a woman. He knew two tricks, but they were popular. As long as he kept moving, the man would spread joy. But at the Lewisham cafe a more workaday banker smiled in his striped suit. When I looked down his mouth, through his throat, and inside his stomach, he still laughed and drank. He was saturated with silly.
A serious expression among the freckles: I never feel so British, he said, as when I play cricket. That’s the only thing I care about. I know who I am, you see.
Then suddenly: Waitress bring me another beer. Have you met Marshall here (introducing a pimple-faced man in the booth behind us)? He’s between girlfriends you know.
By the time Kevin died he would be responsible for half the marriages in Kent.

About at the financial news annual ball
the baldfatsquat lead singer
– That’s the sound of the men
working on the cha-ain gang –
introduced his band.
The drummer was:
‘the man who played cricket
with Wilson Pickett’
– Mustang Sally,
you better slow that Mustang down.
Even the bureau manager with his grey hair
sort of danced with his wife.
The editor of exchanges (Footsie, Dax, etc.)
raised hell in heels,
and a correspondent,
who had talked European stock derivatives all night,
hopped round and round the parquet.
The next Monday they would be all-money again,
even Danny, poor man,
swirling down his private toilet,
while somewhere else in London
Kevin spent another two hours
with a waitress and her boss.
He was a Soul Man,
British style.
A long life for Kevin.

Poem © David Flynn 2007

(from Poetry NZ 35 guest edited by Owen Bullock (September 2007))

Monday, November 22, 2010

Joseph Romanos' article on A Tingling Catch

I was really pleased when one of my favourite sports writers, Joseph Romanos, asked to interview me for A Tingling Catch.
Meeting Joseph was a great experience. I’ve admired his sports column in The Wellingtonian for a while now, reveling at his almost encyclopedic knowledge of sports history. I like how Joseph resurrects forgotten sporting names, e.g. his ‘Top 10 All Blacks Hookers’ includes Hika Reid - a nice touch!
Joseph has written many books, including an autobiography of Martin Crowe and a lovely book on New Zealand cricket families.
Here is the article Joseph wrote on A Tingling Catch, which was accompanied by a nice photo of me at the Basin Reserve by Jim Chipp:


A tingling collection of cricket poetry

Mark Pirie compares the works in A Tingling Catch, his collection of New Zealand cricket poems, to a cricket team.
"Like any team, there are a few greats and a few making up the numbers. You need them all," he said.
Pirie has produced what is believed to be the first national collection of cricket poems of any country.
With his dual loves of cricket and poetry, he was the right person to attempt this book.
He has been a keen cricket follower since his days with the Onslow junior cricket club and at Wellington College.
Pirie said he got into cricket in the 1980s when the one-day game was exploding.
"I got excited by the day-nighters, and by Lance Cairns hitting all those sixes. These days I follow test cricket more. It's more a game for purists."
Poetry has been a continuing influence in his life. He got into it, he said, through the lyrics of popular music. At university he studied arts and poetry. He became a DJ for Active 89FM and gradually turned his attention more towards poetry.
"People used to tell me I wrote good song lyrics and that I should put out a book, so I gradually got more involved in looking at lyrics in terms of poetry."
But pulling together the collection in A Tingling Catch was a massive undertaking.
"When I was younger I used to read some of Brian Turner's cricket poetry. And at university I was taught by Harry Ricketts, who was cricket-mad.
"That got me thinking it was possible to write cricket poetry. Under Harry Ricketts' influence I wrote some cricket poems as a student."
Since then his cricket poems collection has grown massively.
"I dug deeper. I'd go to the Alexander Turnbull Library and search key words, such as "cricket", "batsman" and "bowler".
"There are about 4000 New Zealand poetry books. I've probably read half of them, so I knew what to look for when I went back to them.
"Sometimes the searching got tedious. You'd go through 10 books and get one poem. But it's like walking along a stony beach and suddenly turning up a gem."
Pirie turned up at the Turnbull Library one day and asked for all the copies of New Zealand Cricketer magazine. "That got a few funny looks. But I turned each page of them and uncovered a few more. You have to do the work."
His favourites? "I like Brian Turner's sonnet about [wicketkeeper] Ken Wadsworth, who was so young when he died. It was read at his funeral."
One poem that had drawn much attention, he said, was Arnold Wall's World War I poem 'A Time Will Come'.
Pirie said cricket seemed to lend itself to poetry. "The terminology helps. All those descriptive words, such as `slips', `square leg', `covers', `sweeper', `silly mid-on' – they're a dream for a poet."
A Tingling Catch is 188 pages long, yet Pirie had to exclude many poems. And since his book was published, more have come to light.
"I've started a blog [Tingling Catch], and added new poems there."
About a dozen of Pirie's own poems are included.
One of the curiosities of the book is that there is work from many noted writers not normally associated with cricket, and occasionally not even with poetry – David McGill, Denis Glover, Elizabeth Smither, Kevin Ireland, Alistair Campbell, Peter Olds, John Clarke [aka Fred Dagg] and Kendrick Smithyman among them.
The earliest work is Samuel Butler's 'The English Cricketers', from a letter to The Press in 1864 about George Parr's touring team.
Even when Pirie had identified the poems he wanted to include, which took five years, it was another year before he gained copyright clearances. These included the front cover illustration of a cricket match at the Basin Reserve, drawn by Jocelyn Galsworthy in 2002.

Avid collector: Cricket poet Mark Pirie at one of his
spiritual homes, the Basin Reserve. Photo © Jim Chipp 

A Tingling Catch, by Mark Pirie (HeadworX), $34.99.

Article © Joseph Romanos

(From The Wellingtonian, 18 November 2010, p. 23)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Otago Daily Times review of A Tingling Catch

The following brief review of A Tingling Catch appeared in the Otago Daily Times last Saturday:


Collection of cricketing poems delivers the goods

In my childhood it seemed that Dad’s transistor played undertaker in the summery garden, blaring out the sad tidings every summer in the days when New Zealand’s team was bowling fodder for the Windies, Australia, England and just about anyone else.
A Tingling Catch resurrects some of the names from 40 years ago along with some much earlier ones. Those bearded worthies include colonial politician William Pember Reeves, nationalists Thomas Bracken and David McKee Wright, and mid-20th century poet and broadcaster Arnold Wall. The more recent poets include editor Mark Pirie, Brian Turner, Harvey McQueen, Kevin Ireland, David Eggleton, Elizabeth Smither, Michael O’Leary and (naturally) Harry Ricketts.
Pirie organised his book thematically around topics such as players, matches and tours, songs, satires and parodies, watchers and listeners, and social cricket.
I particularly enjoyed Michael O’Leary’s contributions. In ‘Hey man, Wow!’ O’Leary has Jimi Hendrix batting against New Zealand. Two pages on, Bob Marley is also batting:

Is it four, is it four, is it four
That I’m scoring
Is it four, is it four, is it four
That I’m scoring

Later he has the poets out on the pitch, Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde and James K. Baxter.
Many poems recall personal experiences, or tributes such as Brian Turner’s to Ken Wadsworth or Harry Ricketts’ ‘Epitaph for an old cricketer’:

Death’s sharp offcutter
has bowled you through the gate.

Old controversies are resurrected, none more infamous than the great 1981 under-arm bowling incident, with Whim Wham (Allen Curnow) poking fun at Rob Muldoon and Malcolm Fraser’s verdicts on the Chappells’ sportsmanship.
I’m no expert, but I felt that Mark Pirie has judged line and length just right. A Tingling Catch offers a crowded gear-bagful of work and is well-supported by explanatory notes and a thorough index of poems.

Dr McLean is a Wellington historian and reviewer

(from Otago Daily Times, Saturday, 13 Novembe 2010, p. 53)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Gregory O’Brien’s NZ cricket poem

When I published A Tingling Catch, I knew I wouldn't find every cricket poem written in New Zealand. Here’s a great one that got away.
Gregory O’Brien told me he once wrote a cricket related poem-letter to a friend Nicholas Jones while taking his son Jack-Marcel Haddow to the Basin Reserve. It was first collected in O'Brien's 7 Letters (Animated Figure, 1997 [a limited edition of 36 copies]) and later anthologised by Andrew Johnston and Robyn Marsack in Twenty Contemporary New Zealand Poets (VUP, 2009).
O’Brien comments:

‘Whole forgotten days' is an informal letter-poem, the manner of which owes a lot to Baxter’s poems from his late Jerusalem period. In the early 1980s I spent a year or two in Sydney, where I started avidly reading the Australian poets Laurie Duggan and Ken Bolton...This poem is part of an ongoing correspondence with those exemplary figures (TCNZP, p. 118).

The poem appeals to me as cricket is often the backdrop for the poem and at the same time, the metaphors of cricket are behind the life-actions of the people in the poem. The humorous portrait of ‘a day at the Basin’ is expertly painted. The poem shows in profound ways how cricket affects people’s daily lives:


Whole forgotten days
A letter to Nicholas Jones concerning a day spent with Jack-Marcel
Haddow and Anand Gaskin at the Basin Reserve

A fine day for the cricket. Which means for everyone
apart from the poor fool who has to fetch these balls,
which probably means
     me. The fanaticism of children is what amuses

then frightens me. After all we're only watered down
versions of them, perched on the edge of the
non-members stand between two beer cans, reading a book

about the Australian painter Brett Whiteley, about whom
I am, like my two accomplices, m two minds. Or, more
appropriately, a
grandstand of minds. (Apart from 'The Cricket Match' -1964 –
           which is a great painting.)

The trouble surrounding yourself with small children
is you find yourself
   in the First Eleven
without even knowing the rules, then spend your summer

there. As well as bowling the best balls
children spin the best lines ... Jack-Marcel last month
orienteering in the wilderness at Port Waikato

'miles from the nearest adult' -
       some of the children got so lost they actually found themselves
in suburbs. The thing about getting lost, he says, is
what you discover ... The year ends, children walk past

the front wall of our property, grabbing the flaking paint
then continuing down the road, peeling strips
     the length of the wall, like streamers,
ribbons, while we lie a few feet away on our well-tended lawn,

talking with our neighbours who were once 'reliably' informed
           a layer of old carpet was just the thing
to enrich their garden soil, only to discover
           later it had to be
wool carpet. For years now they have been unearthing nylon

from their garden, along with patches
     of lino. Another year, another ill-founded theory.
Heroic moths of the mind! I had every reason to exclaim, the day
a moth flew into my ear drum, went crashing around

the left hemisphere of my brain (the same morning
there was a sparrow inside the house,
   beating against the front window)
and later the doctor's predictable remark, 'we could just sit here

and wait for it to fly out the other ear', before finally
floating the intruder out on a tide of
warm wax. A time of marvels - Jack-Marcel present at the birth of his
sister: 'the amazing thing, you know, was

it was so
realistic’. The best lines, as someone else said, are ours
on loan. Or ours alone? My nieces are back home
in Rarotonga, clinging to an atoll, enjoying the weather,

the odd, distant explosion. They do not write
                 but send teeshirts.
In Zimbabwe, according to Jack-Marcel, you're more likely
to be hit by lightning
    than die in a road accident. Which makes
cricket a hazardous sport, and brings us back around

to the Basin Reserve like a Mexican Cheer circling the ground
followed by carloads of hoodlums. Then queuing outside the
Baxter's Caravan for a filled roll, half expecting James K. to

hand it over. A role he could fill,
                   you would have laughed -
like my mother who, every time a rubbish truck drove past
would say, 'Greg, that's the kind of job you could do.'

Late afternoon, a shadow
crosses the lawn: the crowd on the embankment
standing. Then, Just as suddenly, it is earlier in the day
again. Between the last ball of the over and
the end of the over. The moth that flew into my ear last

week, the experts inform me, I should have seen it coming,
          should have fielded
that one. And even if Chris Cairns says cricket is his religion,
you'd like to think it meant more to him

than that. The day ends, but the questions remain
like what was the score and
      who were we
During the break, I follow the two boys across

the in-field for signatures, mob someone I have never heard of
as clouds shuffle about on the grandstand roof and
the play of rain on the pitch
    ends play.

December 1995

Poem © Gregory O’Brien

(from Twenty Contemporary New Zealand Poets, selected by Andrew Johnston and Robyn Marsack, VUP: Wellington 2009)
TCNZP = Twenty Contemporary New Zealand Poets

Saturday, November 13, 2010

John Ansell’s NZ cricket poems

In early 2003 I went along to poetry nights at the Angus Inn in Lower Hutt and Selby’s Poetry Café in Porirua. On these nights a poet called John Ansell would get up to read in the Open Mic. His poems brought the house down. With a measured reading voice and superb comic timing, his nonsense rhymes struck an immediate chord with listeners. Very soon he was the guest poet himself and people were asking for copies of his poems.
I was delighted when John later collected his rhymes in book form. His book, I Think the Clouds Are Cotton Wool, came out near the end of that year in November 2003. I even bought extra copies of it to give to friends at Christmas time.
The book includes a great section called ‘Thoughts on Sports’ with witty observations on cricket and rugby. The cricket poems, which were originally written as radio ads, were of particular interest to me, and I included John in A Tingling Catch. ‘Cricket Initials’ (John's contribution to A Tingling Catch) was read by John at the launch of the book at the Basin Long Room. It has a neat use of the stumps as an image in the poem.
‘Cricket Initials’ was one of 16 radio ads made in 1992 during Shell’s sponsorship of cricket on Radio New Zealand. The voice John cast was Jim Hopkins, so they called the series Hopkins’ Half Minute. Each of the poem-ads mentioned the sponsor Shell with some improvisation by Jim Hopkins in the studio.
Here’s the other two cricket-related poem-ads that John wrote:


Cricket is a Funny Game

Cricket is a funny game,
For who'd believe a tale
Where a pointy stick is called a stump,
And a stumpy one, a bail?

And it gets much more confusing, folks,
For nowhere but in cricket
Could a set of sticks
And a grassy strip
Both be called a wicket.

These wickets of the greener kind
Are also known as pitches,
Which is also what the ball does
When it bounces on its stitches.

So what's it all about folks?
And where's this poem headed?
And why is it that the last three words
Are Shell Ultra Unleaded?

Cricket is for the Birds

A cricket is a species of insect, much enjoyed by birds. Which suggests that cricket is for the birds. And it is.
  I mean, where else can a Crowe go in for a bat and get out for a duck – often given out by an umpire called Dickie Bird?
  Now of course, before a Dickie Bird can become an umpire, it must first come out of its Shell. Which is what you should be coming out of if you’ve just been buying petrol.
  A petrel is another kind of dickie bird, but it doesn't give a toss about cricket. So I won’t mention it.

Author's Note: An ornithological (not to mention apoetical) collaboration, where I supplied the Crowe, the bat and the duck, Jim Hopkins weighed in with the Dickie Bird, the petrol and the petrel, and Shell brought the money.

'Cricket is a Funny Game' and 'Cricket is for the Birds' © John Ansell, 2003

(from I Think the Clouds Are Cotton Wool, Padded Sell: Porirua, 2003)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Noeline Gannaway's NZ cricket poem

Noeline Gannaway sent me her poetry book, Nicolo's World (Craig Printing Co. Ltd: Invercargill, 1978). It contains a children's poem about a cat, Nicolo, who likes watching cricket. The book is beautifully illustrated by artist Sheila Natusch. Here's a scan of the poem with Sheila's illustration:

Thanks Noeline

Poem © Noeline Gannaway; illustration © Sheila Natusch, 1978

Monday, November 8, 2010

Helen Rickerby's blog post on A Tingling Catch

Helen Rickerby posted a blog comment on A Tingling Catch. Helen, a publisher herself with Seraph Press, was kind enough to look after the bookselling for me at the launch in the Basin Long Room. Here's the link to her post discussing Scott Kendrick's poem 'Catches I Have Dropped':
Look out for Helen's new Seraph Press title: Crumple by well known writer Vivienne Plumb.
Thanks Helen

Michael O’Leary’s Māori cricket poem

Earlier I wrote an article on Māori cricket in New Zealand. In addition to that article I’d like to share with you a cricket poem written in Māori. There can’t be many cricket poems in Māori (if any) so Michael’s O'Leary's poem is innovative and highly original.
It’s from O’Leary’s 1987 cricket novel Out of It (ESAW: Auckland). New Zealand is playing Out of It in a One-Day match on Eden Park, Auckland, 1980s. The poem is a monologue by the Out of It captain and hero of the match, the famous chief Te Rauparaha. (Titokuwaru, a Māori warrior who became a legend for his guerrilla resistance in the Land Wars of the 1860s, also gets a mention in the novel, however, he didn’t make the Out of It starting XI on the day.) It’s fiction so I guess these two didn’t play cricket but it would be nice to think that they had picked up cricket bats. Te Rauparaha features as a dashing, attacking batsman in Michael’s novel. I presume Titokuwaru would be similarly aggressive as a batsman.
Here’s the poem in Māori, a monologue lament after Te Rauparaha is finally dismissed for a blistering 50, including a number of sixes hit off Sir Richard Hadlee:

Te Rauparaha’s Lament as an Opening Batsman

Kei te anake au
Kei te mokemoke au
Kore rawa hui atu mokemoke
                                    me kia au puritia koe
Taua kia haere ra muringa he haerenga
                                    e hoki ki whare kirikiti
Anei taku momoe mongamonga
                                    i aro i te mana ma kaupapa
Kei ahau he poke
                                    i roto i taku manawa a wairua
Kei te anake au, no reira
Kei te mokemoke au
Kore rawa hui atu mokemoke
Kei te whakama ahau
                                    me kia au puritia koe
                                    e taku taonga porangi, e!
                                                Aue, aue, awatu ...

When I asked Michael for a translation, he kindly sent me the following English version:

Te Rauparaha’s Lament as an Opening Batsman

I am lonely
I am alone
Never more lonely
than when I held you
On the long journey
back to the Pavilion
Again my dreams shatter
with the illusion of reality
There is a hole, a sadness
in my heart and spirit
I am lonely, what is more         
I am alone
Never more lonely
Never more ashamed
than when I held you
my crazy treasure cricket bat
how lamentable …

Thanks Michael.
See also my related blog posts: ‘Māori cricket in New Zealand’ and ‘Michael O’Leary’s cricket novel to be reprinted’.

English and Māori versions of 'Te Rauparaha's Lament as an Opening Batsman' © Michael O'Leary

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

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Kathryn Gilkison’s NZ cricket poem

Today I bought a copy of Kathryn Gilkison’s poetry book, Dear Shelley, written in memory of her daughter Shelley Mather (also the niece of New Zealand poet Bernadette Hall) who died in the London bombings of July 7, 2005. I hadn't come across the collection before but it's of interest to cricket people.
The book contains a poem called ‘Cricket Gang’ and on the back of the book is a photo of her daughter Shelley in a New Zealand cricket shirt. Shelley played indoor cricket and was a cricket lover. The poem states that her cricket team honoured her with ‘a cricket bat guard of honour’ at her funeral (St Mathew-in-the-City, Auckland, July 30, 2005).
Kathryn’s book and the story of her daughter’s life in which cricket played an integral part moved me. My own father and sister were in London the day of the bombings and were unhurt. My heart goes out to Shelley’s family and friends. I’d like to share Kathryn’s poem for Shelley in honour of a fellow cricketer’s life:


Cricket Gang

they stood fast and true
the gang

honoured you
with a cricket bat guard of honour
as Ramon played the pipes

one phone call fits all needs
I simply rang Donna

and “abracadabra”

a multitude of tasks done
they set up the church
  we needed four people
  they gave us forty

they handed out the service order
and ushered people to their seats

they were truly amazing

we had you home
the night before the big event

  they all came
  sat round your coffin
  told stories, laughed, cried,

  the anger was palpable

  that you had been taken
  from them

so much part of their lives
for so long

they looked out for you from the beginning
they were there for you in the end

© Kathryn Gilkison, 2006

(From Dear Shelley, Pukeko Publishing, 2006)

See also Shelley Mather memorial website:

Māori cricket in New Zealand

Little has been known about Māori cricket teams in New Zealand. In Australia, however, a famous Aboriginal team, the ‘All Blacks’, toured England in the 1860s. A poem about them appeared in Leslie Frewin’s The Poetry of Cricket anthology (1964) and the scorecards for their matches are on the English Cricket Archive website ( Here’s the anonymous poem about the ‘All Blacks’:


Aboriginal Cricketers of 1868 – The “All Blacks”

To Britain they came from the land of the South
   As strangers for honour and glory,
And now as true heroes intrepid and bold
   Will their names be recorded in story.

For not with the sword did they covet renown,
   The battle they fought was at cricket,
In lieu of grim weapons of warfare they strove
   With the bat and the ball at the wicket.

A further poem on the ‘All Blacks’ tour is by Rikki Shields and is anthologised in ‘A Breathless Hush’: The MCC Anthology of Cricket Verse (2004). Shields' poem, ‘The Last Over’, is written in memory of King Cole, ‘an Aboriginal cricketer who died on 24 June 1868’. It also names the other players in the team: ‘SUGAR, NEDDY, JELLICO, COUSINS, MULLAGH, BULLOCKY, TARPOT, SUNDOWN, OFFICER, PETER and CAPTAIN.’
Was there anything similar in New Zealand? I don’t think so - but recently I came across a photo of a Māori cricket team (Prefects Cricket XI, Te Aute College, Hawke’s Bay, 1880). It was published on the cover of the New Zealand Cricket Museum Newsletter, Summer/Autumn Newsletter 2009-10, by curator David Mealing. David tells me he discovered the photo in the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington (Ref No. ½-061582-F).

Prefects Cricket XI, Te Aute College, Hawke's Bay, 1880

Further to this, in 2009 I wrote and published a poem in Landfall 219 about Māori cricket. The poem compares New Zealand to other countries where cricket flourished and notes that the sport was never as popular with Māori in New Zealand to the same extent as it was in India and elsewhere. Here’s the Landfall poem of mine:


Islands of Cricket

When cricket came to India,
the natives were at first left out,
then, after watching the English
play, looked to join in.

The English let them, as
something of a novelty. The Indians
soon grew competitive, seeing a chance
to beat their English rulers.

After a while cricket spread from Mumbai
to Kolkata like a virus, infecting most of
the locals. The English were content;
they were hooked, and it was easier to rule.

I think of how cricket first came to
New Zealand through the settlers,
but, unlike India, the islands
here did not effect the same results.

Māori didn’t take to cricket
like the other colonial countries. Whereas in
Australia a famous team of Aborigines
toured England in the 1860s,

Aotearoa offered no such
colourful touring party for the game.
I often think of what it would’ve been
like to have had a Māori cricket team,

or even one active in world sport today,
linking itself with other indigenous
teams in the Windies, Africa, Sri Lanka,
Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.

These Māori teams might have formed
warrior islands in the currents of
the cricket mainstream, bringing their
haka to Lord’s and the monarchy.

© Mark Pirie 2009

The discovery of the Te Aute College photo by David suggests there were Māori cricket teams active in New Zealand schools, if not at a national level. The full extent of Māori participation remains unknown but Adam Parore, the most well known Māori cricket player, played Test cricket for New Zealand. Parore, one of our best wicket keepers, remains the first Māori cricketer to make a Test hundred as poet Michael O’Leary has observed: “PARORE / Awha, nearly made a century, tipuna of Adam, first Māori to do so’.

Article © Mark Pirie 2010

Sources: New Zealand Cricket Museum Newsletter, Summer-Autumn 2009-10; A Corner of a Foreign Field by Ramachandra Guha (Picador: London, 2002); Leslie Frewin’s The Poetry of Cricket (Macdonald: London, 1964); Hubert Doggart and David Rayvern Allen’s ‘A Breathless Hush…’: The MCC Anthology of Cricket Verse (Methuen: London, 2004); the online Cricket Archive; Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington; Landfall 219 (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2009); and Michael O’Leary ‘WAIATA: a chant…’ in David McGill’s The G’Day Country Redux (Paekakariki: Silver Owl Press, 2009).