Sunday, March 18, 2012

Don Bradman’s 1932 New Zealand visit and poems

Last year, I was reading Alan Eason's A to Z of Bradman and found a humorous entry on Bradman’s disappointing visit to Wellington in 1932.
As the story goes, the Australian team was on their way back from a tour of Canada and the United States and stopped by Wellington where an exhibition match at the Basin Reserve was scheduled. Bad weather, “a wash out”, saw their game cancelled, and so the next morning Bradman was up early to go sightseeing in the Wairarapa with his wife. Rooming away from his team meant Bradman didn’t realise that their match had been hastily rescheduled for later that day () before their ship was due to sail.
Unable to contact Bradman or Fleetwood-Smith the Aussie “googly” bowler (no cell phones back then), thousands of fans turned up at the Basin to catch a glimpse of Bradman only to find their hopes cruelly dashed.
Wellington made 43/1 in their limited half hour’s play with Jack Lamason (who later toured England in 1937) getting most of their runs: 26 not out. The rest of the time was for a display of aggressive batting from the Australians (Nutt, Tolhurst, McCabe, Kippax, the stylist, Richardson and Rofe). All-rounder Stan McCabe prior to this match had already broken a woman spectator’s leg on tour with a powerful hit, so expectations must’ve been high for some big hitting.
The Australians certainly entertained the crowd despite Bradman’s non-appearance and they made 155/4 in their 78 minutes with McCabe carrying his bat for 78; Lambert taking 3-72 for Wellington (from The Evening Post report and scorecard, 20 September 1932).
Bradman returned later that day, miffed and most apologetic for missing the match. He later tried to make amends and made plans to bring a team of young Australian players for an exhibition match the following season but that idea seems to have been ruled out due to player restrictions by the Australian Board of Control. They advised Bradman to take medical rest at the close of the season, and so Bradman never did light up New Zealand cricket grounds or please his fans across the Tasman.1
A. Varney of the Wellington Cricket Association had expressed enthusiasm for Bradman’s idea of bringing a team of young players over and A. T. Donnelly of the New Zealand Cricket Council had made further approaches to the Australian Board of Control (The Evening Post 30 December 1932). Due to Bradman’s fatigue of “too much cricket”, however, the idea did not eventuate.2
I decided to look up Bradman’s unfortunate Wellington visit further in the National Library of New Zealand’s Papers Past digital archive. There I uncovered, in Percy Flage’s popular column “Postscripts” (The Evening Post, 17 & 21 September 1932), a barrage of remarks and verses in response to his visit and his perceived no show at the Basin.
On 17 September, Flage publishes a poem before the Bradman game (mentioning popular Wellington player Herb McGirr):


Would it please you, oh my brother, if, before he had a smack,
Don was skittled for a "blob" – or would you want your money back?

And if Herb. McGirr clumped Mailey twice or thrice into the stand,
Would you take it hard, or would you shout and howl to beat the band?

Then on 21 September, Flage prints a vivid display of disappointment from local cricket fans after the match:


Miniature flood of metaphorical brick-bats for Bradman, who did not appear at the Basin yesterday. However, it is reported that it was no discourtesy on Don’s part; his absence was due to a misunderstanding.

Dear Percy,—Can you tell me a use for the ancient eggs I took down to the wharf for Don Bradman?

“Spy Glass”—

Enter cricket ground at .
Hero, Mr. Bradman.
Exit ground at ,
Zero d—n that Bad-man.

“Allured’s” comprehensive curse—

May the pangs of mal der mer disturb him right across the Tasman.
May his mother-in-law come to stay with him for three years.
Whence he puts his cricket boots on may his corns hurt so he becomes as slow as a tuatara with the sciatica.
When he misses one of Larwood’s fast ones, may the wind blow his bails off.
When he is waiting to catch a ball in the outfield may his trousers commence to fall down.
May he be as cold all through the summer, as I felt about to-day.

From L.D.A.—

Absent Bradman Certainly Debarred Enthusiasts From Going Home Infectiously Jovial; Keen Loyalty Made Nine-tenths Of People Querulous; Recriminative Spectators Think Unutterable Vituperation When ‘Xtirpating Yesterday’s Zest.
And I was one of ‘em, Percy.

“Rosie Neath” returns his gold brick—

We went to the Basin
Celebrity chasin’
Not fearin’ a trick.
We found we were “had,” man—
“No appearance of Bradman.”
Now we look for the bad man
Who sold that gold brick.

“Mac” passes on a note from: youthful “Flannelled Fool,” with this explanation:—Yesterday my boss’s son, called at the office and complained bitterly that he had been lured to the Basin under false pretences. Jokingly I suggested that he should write to “the papers” about it. This morning he brought the enclosed note to me with the request that I should see that it went to the right quarters.
And here’s “F.F.’s” wistful plaint— nearly all the boys of our school, that is Wellington College went to the Basin to see Mr. Bradman play, as we were granted time-off. I bought a new autograph book to get Mr. Bradman to sign. We were very disappointed when we found out Mr Bradman was not there, and it was in the paper he would be—I think the Cricket people might have told us so that we would not have been disappointed. Please, excuse my writing, but my autograph book cost 5s, and I am cross that I did not get Don’s name in it.

As can be seen in the responses above, Bradman’s visit seems to have unwittingly occasioned New Zealand cricket verse on the matter. “Rosie Neath” and “Spy Glass” as far as I can tell were regular contributors to the column in searches for their names on Papers Past. “L.D.A” is L. D. Austin.
Niel Wright informs me that Percy Flage was in fact journalist and editor, C. A. Marris, who edited among other things the Best New Zealand Poems series of the 1930s and ’40s. Ruth Gilbert (who had poems included in “Postscripts”) told Wright that Flage was Marris.

1 Bradman when interviewed for the ABC series, The Don Declares, said his not playing in New Zealand was ‘an extraordinary thing’. He wasn’t picked in 1928, did not play in 1932 (thought this visit isn’t mentioned), and did not tour in 1946 for health reasons. The 1946 visit was an attempt to get cricket started again after World War Two. He would've loved to have played in New Zealand and pleased his fans.
2 This would’ve been near the time of the Bodyline series 1932/33 in Australia so it’s understandable as he suffered ill health for a year or two after this.


As a postscript to the Bradman visit, I’ve uncovered a further poem on Bradman also in the “Postscripts” column (The Evening Post, 3 February 1932) in relation to his status prior to the Wellington visit. It’s a celebration of popular Wellington cricketer and all-rounder Herb McGirr:


This rhyme is Isidore McFlage’s way of protesting against the continual adulation bestowed on Don Bradman while that bane of bowlers has yet to meet Herb. McGirr. Precisely. Gangway for Izzy.

This chap Bradman must we all
Toss our derbies up, and bawl
Every time he lands a score
Of three figures, say, or more?
No doubt he is pretty good
When he’s laying on the wood,
But I want to warn you, sir,
Wait until he meets McGirr!

Don has slammed the Springboks well—
Quinn, McMillan, Vincent, Bell;
Pasted Larwood, Voce, and Tate
At a most prodigious rate.
While his critics bowed the head,
And would not be comforted.
Still … I think there’ll be a stir
When he takes on Herb McGirr!

If one man his dash can curb
You can bet your life it’s Herb.
He is game to take all on—
Hobbs and Duleep, Woodfull, Don.
Let them play the rock, or hit,
Mc. just doesn’t care a bit.
“Wizard with the willow”… brrr!
Wait until he meets McGirr!

I’m unable to find out who Isidore McFlage is. He was a regular contributor to “Postscripts”, had an interest in politics, verse, sport and gardening, and lived in “the Glen, Kelburn”. Flage also refers to him as his “cousin McFlage” but that is no more helpful. Marris did live in Ngaio Road, Kelburn, in the Glen so it could be him writing under another pseudonym.
A further cricket poem by McFlage (also in “Postscripts”, The Evening Post, 14 September 1932) pokes fun at the Australian Ashes team, naming 12 players of the period, and includes Bradman:


Isidore McFlage, in dear dead day beyond recall our sister Camou’s “steady,” spins this “wrong un” of his at those terrifying English cricket critics.

Bradman’s trembling at the hocks,
Woodfull’s far from cheerful,
Grimmett, the unorthodox,
Grows a trifle fearful,
Stan McCabe is thinking hard,
Fleetwood-Smith moans pensively
Kippax in his own back yard
Practises intensively,
Darkling doubts assail Ken Rigg,
Also Ironmonger,
Richardson feels not so big,
Wishing he were younger,
Oldfield’s lost his savoir faire,
Ponsford’s got the “willies,”
Wall is nearly in despair—
Aren’t they all sillies?

Article © Mark Pirie 2011

(Sources: The Evening Post [1932] from Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand digital archive; and the A to Z of Bradman by Alan Eason; foreword by Gideon Haigh (Scribe, Melbourne, 2008))

This article was first published in Poetry Notes (Poetry Archive of New Zealand Aotearoa Newsletter), Vol. 2, No. 4, Summer 2012; and republished as a booklet by Cultural and Political Booklets, Wellington, New Zealand, 2012.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Philip Grey’s 1913 NZ cricket poem

Earlier, I posted a substantial piece on Victoria College’s poet-cricketers in the early 1900s. I also found a cricket-related poem by Philip Grey that could well do as an Epilogue to that article.
Grey, a contributor to the Spike at Victoria College, was included in the post-WWI anthology, The Old Clay Patch, in 1920.
His full name is Philip Oswald Grey, son of Ellen and George Grey. He was born in 1891, presumably in Taranaki, and was educated in New Plymouth at St Joseph’s School and then New Plymouth Boys’ High School before moving to Wellington where he gained a university scholarship to attend Victoria College (1910-12). At Victoria, he studied Law, English, Latin and History.
After Victoria, Grey was on the WWI Reserves Roll (1916-17), received a Military call up in 1917 while living in Nelson, and after became a solicitor in New Plymouth in the firm Grey & Grey with George Grey, his father.
Rowan Gibbs informs me that he was married to Mary Louisa Russell (1906-1994) in 1930. The couple had no children.
The poet/lawyer Philip Grey was also a sportsman and after the war an amateur golfer who appeared in the 1927 National Golf Championship. In 1923, the New Zealand Golf Council gave him a handicap of 10.
Reviewer’s comments on Grey’s poems say that his verses ‘give pleasure’ (The Evening Post, 3 August 1920) and are ‘marked by keen appreciation of Nature’ (The Evening Post, 17 April 1924). Perhaps critics see him as a pastoral poet; both cricket and golf are pastoral games.
Five of his poems written at Victoria College (‘Eugenie’, ‘Victoria College’, ‘Summer Dreams’, ‘Winter’ and ‘L’Envoi’) are included signed Philip Grey in the 1920 edition of The Old Clay Patch and three in the 1949 edition of The Old Clay Patch but only two remain from the 1920 edition. ‘L’Envoi’, ‘Eugenie’ and ‘Summer Dreams’ are the poems by Grey omitted from the 1949 edition.
Seven of the eight original publications of Grey's writings 1911-13 (one piece of prose) in The Spike were under the pseudonym of Piri Kerei. This is a transliteration of Philip Grey in Maori.
I have not found any further book publications by Grey after Victoria; however, he has one more poem in The Spike. Rowan Gibbs found it: 'Changed Skies', written in New York (1922) and online in The Spike 1923.
Grey’s ‘Victoria College’ is also in quotation in the editorial to The Spike (1920), next reappears in the 1934 issue of The Spike and is in quotation in the notes to Chapter Six of Rachel Barrowman’s Victoria University of Wellington 1899-1999: A History (VUP, 1999).
About his law career: In 1950 Grey & Grey amalgamated with Hughes Hughes & Clark forming Hughes Grey & Ross, later becoming Hughes Grey & Co.; and that firm was absorbed by N H Moss Greiner Till & Co. After various amalgamations and splits, it became Dennis King Law, one of the oldest firms in Taranaki that can trace its roots back to 1870.
Grey died in 1976. He is in the New Plymouth City Council cemeteries database (cremation). He was 85 years old and noted in the cemetery record as a ‘solicitor’.
I was unable to find an Obituary for him in NZ Biographies at the National Library of New Zealand.
Here is Grey’s cricket-related poem:



When November’s toil is over, and life is all aquiver
With the joy of hope and labour overpast,
We will wander where your heart would, by the lakeside, by the river,
And forget the toil of term-time o’er the cast.
We have known the joy of effort, we have toiled long nights together,
We have quested north and south at Eastertide.
There’s a whisper in your heart now: ’tis the call of bat and leather;
’Tis the lure of racing waters overside.

And although our ways be different, though our paths shall lie asunder
In the dawn of summer days that are to be;
Though you wade where waters murmur, though you dream where rollers thunder –
Follow back along the trails of memory,
Follow back until you find us; we’ll be waiting there to meet you
By the halls and by the playing fields you knew,
Though you wander, don’t forget us; we’ll be waiting there to greet you
In the light of laughing days that live anew.

Poem © Philip Grey 1913, 1920

(From Spike 1913 [Victoria College magazine]; and The Old Clay Patch: A Collection of Verses Written in and Around Victoria University College, 2nd edition 1920)

(Sources: Papers Past [National Library of NZ digital archive]; The Spike [1923,1937, NZ Electronic Text Centre online]; email from Rowan Gibbs; Dennis King Law website; Births, Deaths and Marriages website; New Plymouth City Council cemeteries database; and [genealogy database site])

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Tingling Catch contributor Cyril Childs dies

Sadly, another contributor to A Tingling Catch passed away in January this year.
Cyril Childs (1941-2012) was a cricketer, scientist, leading haiku poet and editor of national haiku anthologies in New Zealand.
Childs had a keen interest in sports such as rugby and cricket and in 2010 I was in touch with him to use his cricket haiku for A Tingling Catch.
I wrote on Childs’ cricket haiku for this blog. Childs also contributed a Second World War cricket poem to this blog by Jack Gallichan (brother of New Zealand cricketer Norm Gallichan).
Childs, himself a promising cricketer, played as a right-hand batsman and leg break bowler for Otago Under 20s in 1960/61 in the Brabin Tournament and in 1961/62 in the Rothman’s U23 tournament as well as representing Southland against Fiji at Queen’s Park, Invercargill, that same season. (The Cricket Archive in England has a player page for Cyril.)
Childs was living in Dunedin at the time of his death.
I’d like to offer my condolences to Cyril’s friends and family at this time.
Here is Cyril’s ‘Cricket Song III’ from A Tingling Catch in memory of him:


Cricket song III

    nicks a thigh-pad –
    the umpire’s finger

french cut for 4 –
    the new batsman hastens
    to adjust his pads

close of play –
    shadows of trees
    seep over the pitch

Poem © Cyril Childs

(From A Tingling Catch: A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864-2009 edited by Mark Pirie [Wellington: HeadworX, 2010])

Cyril Childs (1941-2012)

Mark Pirie’s new cricket poem Merv Wallace

Last year I wrote a review of Merv Wallace: A Cricket Master by Joseph Romanos. It’s a fine book and I’ve added it to my List of Favourite Cricket Books down the side of this blog.
I also wrote a poem based on the book and Joseph’s research in tribute to his excellent work at bringing Merv’s life back into focus and reassessing his standing in NZ cricket.
The poem has just been published in Poetry NZ 44, ‘New Zealand’s foremost poetry magazine’:


Merv Wallace: A Cricket Master

For Joseph Romanos

At Lord’s, 1937, a young
man with a silver fern across
his cap, looks to leg and drop-kicks
Hedley Verity up into the stands,
then walks down and apologises
to his captain. His name
may not be remembered now,
but he counts among our greats.

On the’37 and ’49 tours
of England, he was among
our best bats, and he’s still among
our best bats ever. Like all
the greats, he timed the ball
superbly, hit hard, had sound technique,
footwork, played an array of strokes,
and was severe on anything loose.

It made sense, after play ended,
that he was to influence so
many in New Zealand cricket, first
as selector then as coach. Like Hobbs
(in England), he kept a profile in
a sports shop. In Auckland, he was
always helpful, dishing out advice:
generous, sincere, ever-loving of cricket.

Poem © Mark Pirie 2012

(From Poetry NZ 44, March 2012)

The latest issue of Poetry NZ features emerging writer Maris O’Rourke and a high quality selection of poets, guest edited by Auckland poet Siobhan Harvey. More on the magazine and how to subscribe is at:

(Poem source: Merv Wallace: A Cricket Master by Joseph Romanos, Joel Publishing, 2000)

Poetry NZ 44, guest edited by Siobhan Harvey

Mark Pirie’s Martin Guptill poem

I hope I haven’t put the kiss of death on Martin Guptill’s excellent season with the bat. He had a rare failure in the Dunedin Test against South Africa just finished.
I published the following salute to Guptill in The Wellingtonian newspaper following his 78 not out in the first T20I against South Africa in Wellington. The innings included two big sixes, one of which landed on the roof of the stadium.
Guptill has certainly been a fine performer with the bat this season and is an attractive stroke player to watch:


Martin Guptill

Guptill is our new star,
He gets the runs by far.
He’ll add by six or four.

Guptill is our new star,
He flashes to the score,
Strokes it clean, hard and far.

Guptill is our new star,
He gets the runs by far.

Poem © Mark Pirie 2012

(From The Wellingtonian, 23 February 2012)

The poem is a French triolet with repeated verse lines.
Thanks to Joseph Romanos for printing it in response to his article on Martin Guptill as a new hero (Wellingtonian, 18 January 2012).

P S Cottier reviews A Tingling Catch

With the First Test between NZ and South Africa in Dunedin rained off, I'd like to mention that a good and generous review of A Tingling Catch appeared in Cordite Poetry Review (20 February 2012) in Australia, an online review site for Australian and other miscellaneous books.
The review was written by the Australian poet Penelope Cottier, one of the Top 20 finalists for the 2011 Cricket Poetry Award.
Cottier’s review is the 12th review notice for the book. See the full Index of reviews.