Saturday, December 14, 2013

Robert J Pope's King Willow reissued

This month I reissued Wellington, New Zealand, cricketer/poet/songwriter Robert J Pope's poetry collection, King Willow: Selected Poems, as a free ebook pdf download from my website:

King Willow was originally produced as a small run archival limited edition in the HeadworX Publishers Classic Poetry Series in 2012.

Here's the link to access the free version of the book:

Reviews of this book appeared in a previous blog post.

Keith Westwater’s NZ cricket poem

Occasionally poems are submitted to me for this blog. I try to include as many poets as possible who have written on cricket.
A poet I was in contact with recently had written a poem that was cricket related. He submitted it to me, and here it is.
Keith Westwater uses cricket and the idea of a batting run out in relation to a possible road accident. The hesitations and confusions of cricketers running between the wickets are vivid in Keith’s poem, and make for a powerful ending.


Road Cricket

Driving through town
listening to the cricket
I saw a man
in the road’s grassy middle
about to thread a three-lane needle
with his body

glass, metal, flesh, blood

He danced ahead
like a batsman at the bowler’s end
just before the leather leaves
the bowler’s hand
then scuttled back
to bide another chance

walk, run, dive, swallow

You fool, I thought
you bloody bunny
as my own life’s risky runs
replayed for me right then
though I knew on his far crease
there was no-one looking out to call

YES! NO! WAIT! …sorry

Poem © Keith Westwater

Keith Westwater lives in Lower Hutt, New Zealand. His debut collection Tongues of Ash (IP, 2011) was awarded ‘Best First Book’ in the publisher’s IP Picks competition. More of his poetry can be found on his blog ‘Some place else’ at

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Reviews of Robert J Pope’s King Willow

Last December I launched/published a book of poems, King Willow, by the late, forgotten Wellington poet, cricketer and songwriter Robert J Pope (1865-1949).
Pope’s neglect is common enough for New Zealand poets. Their reputations exist during their lifetimes and very few are enduring. However, more increasingly digital texts of these early poets are available online. I am now working on making a digital ebook pdf of Robert J Pope’s poems for distribution online.
In the meantime, watch this space. Here are two excellent reviews received on publication of Pope’s book this year, showing he still has plenty of relevance as a poet to today’s readers:


Review of King Willow: Selected Poems by Robert J Pope, edited by Mark Pirie, HeadworX Publishers.

Robert J Pope’s poem ‘King Willow’ appeared in Mark Pirie’s book A Tingling Catch: A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864-2009 (HeadworX, 2010). It talked of the opening of the 1932 cricket season.
Pope was a well-known Wellington poet, cricketer and songwriter. He was born in 1865 and died in 1949. Pope wrote the famous school song ‘New Zealand, My Homeland’. Pirie has put together many of his poems. This selection gives a picture of the man and his times and restores a significant New Zealand poet.
These poems are not old, dusty stuff. King Willow traces a time when Pope began writing and publishing during the Edwardian era and spans two world wars. He put together sporting verse on the 1924-25 All Blacks Tour of Great Britain and France.
Growing up in Dunedin, Pope says in ‘Memories’:

…Twas there by the fireside my father sat
And I upon his knee,
Enthralled by the wondrous tale he told
Of the Old, Old Man of the Sea.

There my mother plied her needle oft—
Sure toll our rents supplied:
And yonder the spot where my sister fell—
She was the first that died…

King Willow is fascinating, even with the rather mannered quality to some of these poems.
(Otago Daily Times, 16 February 2013, p. 49)


Review of King Willow: Selected Poems by Robert J Pope, edited by Mark Pirie, HeadworX Publishers.

King Willow, Selected Poems, Robert J Pope, edited Mark Pirie, is a scholarly piece of research - a timely and substantial publication.
It presents much of the work of Robert J Pope (1865-1949) who had largely dropped out of sight and might otherwise have remained so, as have many other poets who preceded Allen Curnow's 1945 A Book of New Zealand Verse and became overwhelmed by the latter's new orthodoxy.
In this respect, Mark Pirie has done stupendous work in rediscovering him (as he has many other writers) and bringing him back into notice. Pope certainly deserves such discovery and recognition.
A long term and substantial writer, he 'deserves' as Pirie says, 'recognition ... as a significant precursor to the urban 1950s Wellington Group'. This is an enlightening and extremely worthwhile publication. (Poetry NZ 47 (August 2013))

The Journal of the Cricket Society also reviewed it:

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Anonymous 1902 England Ashes poem

The first Ashes test between Australia and England got off to a cracking start. Australia stormed back with a comprehensive victory over England at the Gabba in Brisbane.
This defeat by England reminded me of this anonymous 1902 Ashes poem. The England team in the poem also defeated. They lost the Ashes 4-1 after registering a resounding victory in the opening match of that series in Sydney. The Australian side included Warwick Armstrong and Victor Trumper.
The writer of the poem obviously thought A C MacLaren and Co. were better off taking up a different sport altogether.
Could there be a similar turnaround for England in the 2013/14 series as there was for the Australians in the 1901/02 series?


Thus the London Globe to MacLaren and Co. (with apologies to Rudyard Kipling)

A New Ditty

And ye flaunted your glory at cricket,
And your power to shoot at the goal;
And ye went to a younger nation,
Who have taught you to bat and to bowl.

But when you return to your muttons,
And hope to make trial at Lord’s
Of the skill the Australians taught you
On Sydney and Melbourne swards,

Ye will find it a fond delusion
You will find you’ve been wasting your fame,
For in England we’ve promised to practise
Another and nobler game.

It is foolish to field and “deliver,”
To stand at the wickets or slips
It is idle to strive with Australia
In mutual annual trips.

But, obey the behest of the season,
And know that your past is all wrong
And surrender your football and cricket,
To challenge the world at ping pong.

(Manawatu Standard, 5 March 1902, page 2; and in Wairarapa Times, 8 March 1902, page 4)

(Sources: Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand)

Article © Mark Pirie 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Riccarton Russell’s 1896 NZ cricket song

In late 1896, an Australian cricket team visited New Zealand, and were greeted with a song composed by George Warren “Riccarton” Russell, M.H.R, (1854-1937). Parts of it appeared in The Bruce Herald (Otago) during the match between Australia and Otago in November.
Russell had published his sheet music with a photo of the Australian team on the cover.
Newspaper reports stated that there was a huge attendance of 4,000 persons for the match between Otago and the visitors in Dunedin on the first day. The Government had granted all civil servants a half-day to go to the cricket. Otago fielded 15 players to Australia’s 11.
“The Australians batted first, and totalled 130, Iredale (34), Hill (34), [Harry] Trott (31), being top scorers. Four members of the team failed to score. The bowling of Fisher and Downes for Otago was much admired. A number of members of the local club went down to see the match, and I noticed one Milton enthusiast hard at work before the match started bowling to Iredale, Darling and Co. Locally the game is rather quiet, every one being too busy with other things to play at present [Bruce Herald report].”
The visit of the Australians had coincided with election week in New Zealand.
The game was extremely close: Australia making 130 and 95 and Otago 144 and 64 to lose the game by 17 runs. There had been rain overnight for the final day’s play and with Otago requiring 70 runs to win, the dampness worked in the Australians favour. The Australian bowler McKibbin developed a tremendous “break” on both sides of the wicket and his partner Trumble took 9 of the Otago wickets to fall.
Russell was a well-known Christchurch politician, then representing Riccarton for the Independent Liberal Party. He was defeated in the 1896 election so his cricket song didn’t help him. At the time, he was an advocate for women’s rights introducing a woman’s disabilities bill into the House of Representatives, then was re-elected in 1899 but became controversial falling out of favour with local voters in 1902. He later became a Minister of Internal Affairs and Public Health in the Mackenzie Government. He represented Riccarton and Avon for 17 years. He died at Eastbourne, Wellington, in 1937 at age 82.
Russell’s cricket song was called ‘Hurrah for the Bat and Ball,’ and had “a good swinging melody as well as vigorous words”.
It’s odd that there’s no copy of the song in the National Library of New Zealand’s sheet music archive.
Here’s the text of Russell’s song, four verses, a semi-chorus and chorus:


Hurrah for the Bat and Ball

On England’s smiling sward,
Or ’neath Australian skies,
Where’er the British tongue is heard,
Or proud our standard flies,
There’s heard, with loud acclaim,
As sounds a trumpet call,
The glorious fame of the grandest game,
The Battle of the Ball.

Here’s to grand old Cricket,
Great England’s greatest game;
O’er the wide, wide world, where the Flag’s unfurled,
They sing its lasting fame.
We’ll fight for home and duty,
But let what may befall,
This song we’ll sing, while the echoes ring,
“Hurrah for the Bat and Ball !”

Hurrah for the Bat and Ball
For the grandest game of all
O’er the wide, wide world,
Where the flag’s unfurled,
“Hurrah for the Bat and Ball !”

With eye so clear and bright,
And strong and sinewy hand,
The Batsman to the wicket steps,
And boldly takes his stand.
No sickly youth is he,
No fears his mind appal,
He’s there to fight with skill and might
The Battle of the Ball.


And now the field outspreads,
The Bowler takes his aim,
A drive for four goes o’er their heads,
And cheers the runs proclaim.
With stroke, and cut, and slip,
And caution with it all,
He fights with skill and real good will
The Battle of the Ball.


But if you’re not in luck,
If down your wickets go,
If all your score is but a duck,
Why, take that duck and go.
And when you’re in the field,
Whatever may befall,
Be brave and fight with skill and might
The Battle of the Ball.

(Full text with sheet music is in the National Library of Australia collection and is online at:

An Obituary appeared for Russell in The Evening Post, 28 June 1937, page 11:


The death occurred at Eastbourne this morning of the Hon. G. W. Russell, a former Minister of the Crown, at the age of 82. Mr. Russell, who had been ill for some months, had been living in retirement at Eastbourne for the past seven or eight years.
The late Mr. Russell, who was born in London, was educated at the Launceston Grammar School, Tasmania, and privately in New Zealand. Selecting journalism as his profession, he served his apprenticeship with the “Evening Post,” Wellington. Afterwards, for three years, he was a probationer for the Wesleyan Ministry, but he resigned, and again decided to devote his energies to journalism. In 1878 he became sub-editor of the Wellington “Chronicle,” but retired to establish the Herald.” Subsequently he owned the “Manawatu Times,” and established the “Waikato News.”
During his residence in the North Island he took a lively interest in politics and municipal affairs, but his efforts to enter the House of Representatives were unsuccessful. In 1889 Mr. Russell removed to Christchurch, and for some time was a contributor to the “Lyttelton Times.” Later he established the firm of Russell and Willis, printers, and was publisher of the “Spectator.” In 1890 he was a candidate for the Heathcote seat in the Liberal interest. The Labour Party nominated Mr. W.W. Tanner, and the Conservative nominee was Mr. R. H. (later Sir Heaton) Rhodes. After conducting a vigorous campaign, Mr. Russell, in order that the Conservatives should not win the seat, withdrew in favour of Mr. Tanner, who was returned with a majority of 212 votes. Three years later Mr. Russell was Liberal candidate for Riccarton, his Conservative opponent being Mr. W. Boag. Mr. Russell won the seat with over a hundred votes to spare. In the House he quickly established a reputation as an incisive speaker and a keen critic. The Hon. William Rolleston opposed Mr. Russell in 1896, and defeated him by 391 votes. When another election came round Mr. Russell threw down a challenge to the ex-superintendent, whom he defeated by a single vote in one of the keenest contests ever fought. In the 1899-1902 Parliament Mr. Russell showed much independence in his criticism of the Government, and this caused dissatisfaction among his constituents, with the result that at the 1902 election the Liberals of the district brought out Mr. George Witty to oppose him, and Mr. Russell was defeated by 285 votes. Mr. Witty again defeated him in 1905. In 1908 Mr. Russell stood for Avon against Mr. Tanner, in whose interests he had retired from Heathcote eighteen years before. Two other candidates were also in the field. Mr. Russell won at the second ballot by 542 votes. At the 1911 election he defeated three other candidates, his principal opponent being Mr. James McCombs. It was then that he took Ministerial rank, in the Mackenzie Cabinet, and during the war he held the portfolios of Internal Affairs, Marine, and Health. He left the House of Representatives in 1919, when he was defeated by Mr. D. G. Sullivan. Though Mr. Russell is best known as a politician, particularly, in his administration of the Health Department, his most lasting work was probably done in other fields, education and authorship. As a member of the Board of Governors of Canterbury College he sacrificed his own private affairs to set those of the university in order, discovering forgotten endowments that meant much in money to the institution.
“A New Heaven,” which he wrote at the turn of the century, but did not publish till 1917, is a remarkable exposition of the ideal ethical life. His other published works are “A Manual of the Duties of Life,” “New Zealand Today” (1919), and “Citizenship” (1922).

(Sources: Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand; The Trove, National Library of Australia)

Article © Mark Pirie 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mark Pirie's cricket poems Slips reissued

This month I reissued my cricket poetry collection, Slips, as a free ebook pdf download from my website:

Slips was originally produced as a small run limited edition in the Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop Mini Series in 2008.

Here's the link to access the free version of the book:

A review of this book appeared in a previous blog post by Tim Jones.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Anonymous 1881 NZ cricket poem

19th century cricket poems emanating from New Zealand are nothing short of real mystery. We don’t know enough about our authors from that century to ascertain who could possibly have been their author.
One such example turned up in a Thames newspaper in Papers Past at the National Library of New Zealand, and it is not an isolated case.
All we know is that the editor of the paper prefaced it, and stated that the post mark indicates it is from “the Whau”.
I Googled “Whau” and note that it is in the North Island of New Zealand and that it is commonly known as the Whau River.
In the 19th century, at the time of writing the poem, European settlers had been using the Whau for marine transport, and a few local industries like a tannery were there. There was also a well known ‘lunatic asylum’. It is now an estuarial arm near the Waitemata Harbour and is within the Auckland metropolitan area.
The editor’s comment could be a joke on the part of the paper. Another anonymous poem ‘from the Whau’ called ‘Poor Old Shanghai’ and headed “A MAD POET” appeared in the Thames Star, 15 May 1880, obviously the same person/joke.
Clues given in the poem by the names: “…Lawless, Buttle, and Frater, / Burgess, Steedman, and Law,” indicate that these are local Thames cricket players. The poem seems to be from one of their players, but is it one of the XI that played? W W Robinson (who was known to compose verses) was an early Thames player before moving to Auckland around 1877 and could be another likely suspect, except that he was visiting England and didn’t return till early February 1881 (in Rowan Gibbs' W W Robinson on the Cricket Field, 2013). There were other Auckland cricketer-poets around like W F Buckland and William Outhwaite. Could they have sent in the poem? But it is surely someone who knew and played with the Thames cricketers.
For now, it all remains a mystery. Enjoy the poem.


The Deserted Cricket Field

The following has been forwarded to us by an embryo poet. From the post-mark it appears to have emanated from the Whau:—

Not a sound was heard, not a cricketer’s shout,
As forth to the field we proceeded;
No more was kicked up the devil’s own rout —
The requisites all lay unheeded.

Then spake an ancient cricket ball,
Who’d braved the willow’s strokes:
Said he, “Oh what’s become of all
Those jovial cricketing blokes?

“Time was when we were worked to death,
And driven from square-leg to long-off,
But now, alas! we idly draw breath,
And are sorely tried with the cough,

“For our owners they leave us unheeded,
And let us catch cold in wet grass
’Tis no use, howe’er much we pleaded,
Our master he is such an ass.”

And then the ring did sore lament,
And wailed with anguish sad,
And swore a judgment had been sent—
’Twas enough to drive em’ mad.

Then up and spake a stalwart stump
And loud did curse his fate,
Said he, “By Jove my swag I’ll hump
And clear before ’tis late.

For how can I, who’ve lived a score
Of innings through and through,
Remain content to work no more;
I’ll off for pastures new.”

And as he spake he left the ring,
Who chanted the “Dead March in Saul;”
And the tears they fell as they solemnly sing
Both the bail, the bat and the ball.

“Come Lawless, Buttle, and Frater,
Burgess, Steedman, and Law,
Come, for the season is late,
The time for cricket is o’er.”

With this chorus the dejected ones finished,
And lifted their heads up and wept,
Let us hope their prayers will be answered
That the cricketers have not all slept,

For if all their energy’s gone,
Whate’er will become of the game,
And the folks will cry out every one,
“No cricket, By Jove, what a shame.”

(Thames Star, 18 January 1881, page 3)

Article © Mark Pirie 2013

Sunday, November 10, 2013

J Haughey’s 1923 NZ children’s cricket poem

I haven’t found many New Zealand children’s poems and stories on cricket. A past post includes a children’s cricket poem by Noeline Gannaway, an adult, which I photocopied and gave to my nephew for Christmas 2010.
Recently, when researching the Christchurch Star newspaper for the journal broadsheet, I came across a poem by a ‘Master J Haughey’. The poem came second in the Star’s children’s poem competition, 14 December 1923.
It’s evocative of life on the farm for children growing up in rural parts of New Zealand as well as showing the importance of cricket in their lives. There’s a similar poem to this in A Tingling Catch in a section called ‘Boys’ Songs’ by the adult Tom Bracken (also author of the New Zealand National Anthem ‘God Defend New Zealand’) called ‘Bush Children’ from Not Understood and Other Poems (Wellington: Gordon & Gotch, 1909).
Bracken similarly views cricket as a worthwhile pastime for children:

‘Willie, give the lads a call,
We must have a game of cricket;
Jack and you can stop the ball,
I will stand to guard the wicket.’
Play your game, ye merry crew,
Now’s the time for recreation,
By-an-bye there’s work to do,
You have yet to build a nation.

J Haughey’s verses form a lovely poem worth sharing here. I’m sure many cricketers old or young can relate to the child’s joy at playing cricket after schoolwork and farm work has been done.


The Boys Out on the Farm

I rise up in the morning,
Soon after break of day;
Then off right down the paddock,
For the cows are far away.

To get them to the cow-shed
It takes some little time:
Then milking starts in earnest,
For school work starts at nine.

My four cows are the quietest,
There’s Brindle and old Bess,
And Snowball too, and Judy
Are soon milked with the rest.

The milking now is finished,
And the morning’s nice and cool.
Now for breakfast and our school bags
And off we go to school.

The schoolwork that we’re doing,
Seems always just the same.
I like, when it comes playtime,
To go and have a game.

And home again at four o’clock
To start the evening run;
For, after milking’s finished,
We’re going to have some fun.

Then in the evening twilight,
When all is still and calm,
The fun we have with bat and ball,
The boys out on the farm.

Poem © J Haughey 1924

Article © Mark Pirie 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

George Kaye’s 1974 NZ cricket poem

A cricket poem I found recently is in a book donated to PANZA (Poetry Archive of New Zealand Aotearoa). It’s in a hardback, beautifully produced collection Boots and Pack by George Kaye, printed in 1974.
There are no biographical details given for the poet but he appears to have grown up in Lower Hutt and the Hutt Valley in the Wellington region of New Zealand.
Included in the book are illustrations by Peter McIntyre (1910-1995, the WWII New Zealand artist) and it is well printed by Wright & Carman Ltd, Trentham, Hutt Valley.
PANZA has a second book by Kaye titled Hills of Life (1978).
A search of the National Library online catalogue brings up several other books by this author who was born on 14 March 1914 and was a war correspondent and photojournalist for the press. Kaye served with the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Forces in World War II. He has also authored history books about Lower Hutt and the WWII New Zealand campaigns in Greece and Italy and contributed photographs to other books. Kaye died in 2004. Peter Kitchin wrote a tribute for him ‘War seen through a lens’, The Dominion Post, 15 July 2004.
In Kitchin’s obituary he focuses mainly on his war period and the 7,000 images that Kaye took during WWII, including a well-known photo of General Bernard Freyberg. Kaye commenting on his time at war said: ‘I felt death pass me by and that scared me. You have got to experience a brush with death before you experience a war.’
Bruised in to poetry by the death of his son tramping at age 16, poetry became another avenue for his snapshots of life.
I did not find any mention of his cricket interest. His other interests were cornet playing with the Lower Hutt Municipal Band, and he was a noted public speaker. There are, however, references to a “Kaye” playing Junior grade cricket in the Hutt 1930-32 in Papers Past searches at the National Library of New Zealand. It is inconclusive that this is George Kaye himself.
Besides his obvious love of the outdoors and tramping, Kaye’s Boots and Pack contains the rhyming cricket poem I found that I’ll reproduce here. It’s a well-worn theme, the metaphor of cricket and life, but the poem has a good ending: ‘Though if we’ve scored but poorly, / Does it really matter? / For in the end, the bowler, / Always beats the batter.’



For every one that’s in,
There’s always one that’s out;
Life’s a game of cricket,
Or something thereabout.

And standing at the wicket,
We watch every ball;
Some we miss and some we hit,
If we try to play them all.

We may not last an over,
We may not even bat;
Though some play on for ages,
At least it seems like that.

And when they face the bowler,
There’s very little doubt,
They’ll last a long, long innings;
But in the end they’re out.

And when the score is added up,
Of every run that’s made,
There may be satisfaction
In the way the game was played.

Though if we’ve scored but poorly,
Does it really matter?
For in the end, the bowler,
Always beats the batter.

Poem © George Kaye 1974

(From Boots and Pack by George Kaye, self-published 1974)

Article © Mark Pirie 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

Mathew Sinclair retirement ode

This year saw the retirement of New Zealand and Central Districts batsman Mathew Sinclair.
He was a favourite player of mine who I was sad to see become an under-achiever at international level. Many good first class players have gone that way, but he could always plunder runs at first class level.
I can recall others like Sanjay Manjrekar for India, Allan Lamb, Mark Ramprakash and Graeme Hick for England or a number of West Indians like Ramnaresh Sarwan.
Sinclair was a New Zealand equivalent of these players, so he is in good company you could say.
Sinclair scored two double Test hundreds for New Zealand averaging 32.05 (on par with Graeme Hick’s 31.32 Test average for England; Hick’s first class average was way better than Sinclair’s of course at 56.78 with High Score of 405 not out but it is still an interesting comparison).
In Sinclair’s first ever first class innings for Central Districts he was bowled for a golden duck v Canterbury, 1995/1996 season.
Sinclair also took a famous one-handed diving catch in a one-dayer at the Melbourne, Telstra Dome, close to the boundary, 2004/2005 season, to dismiss Australia’s Matthew Hayden.
I’d like to mark Skippy’s retirement, as I did for Chris Martin this year, with a short ode:


Ode to “Skippy” Sinclair
(Mathew Sinclair)

“Skippy” made the grade: at best at
first class play. With his bat, “Howzat!”,
He scored a double on Test debut.
His first innings tho’ was when he threw
away his wicket for nought.
But mostly he wasn’t bought
by bowlers. In first class play
he went his own stolid way.
He endures like a Kiwi Hick,
few could match when in good nick.
Remember his catch, diving full length,
A one-handed beauty. He had strength
on the pull, swatting through mid-wicket;
Standing tall, he could rattle any picket.

Poem © Mark Pirie 2013

Mathew Sinclair (1999/2000-2009/2010): 1635 Test runs at 32.05. High Score 214 v West Indies, 1999/2000 season. 3 Test hundreds.
13717 first class runs at 48.64. High Score 268 for New Zealand A v South Africa A at Sedgars Park, Potchefstroom, 2004/2005 season. 36 hundreds.
ODI runs: 1304 runs at 28.34. High Score 118 not out v Sri Lanka, Sharjah, 2000/2001 season. 2 ODI hundreds.

Anonymous 1919 NZ cricket poem

The following humorous soliloquy based on Shakespeare’s play Hamlet was sent in to me by an Australian researcher who came across it whilst reading Papers Past at the National Library of New Zealand.
It was first published in the New Zealand Free Lance and appears to be a New Zealand cricket poem. The editor of the column published it with the following note: “The following item after William Shakespeare has not been hitherto published, but it is worth a place in my columns:--”
Cricket poems after Shakespeare are popular in cricket poetry. A Tingling Catch includes Don Neely’s ‘To walk or not to walk: that is the question;’ also after Hamlet. Don’s poem was written as an introduction to his cricket column in New Zealand Cricketer, 14 December 1970, on whether a batsman should stay or walk after appearing to have nicked a caught behind chance.
This poem is about a leg-before decision. I’ll include the anonymous writer’s poem here for your enjoyment.


Out Or Not Out

(Showing Hamlet’s latest soliloquy on being given out leg-before when
playing for Denmark against an eleven from the adjacent States)

Hamlet – Am I out, Horatius?
Horatius (batting at the other end) – I fear so, sire; methinks I heard
the man say “Chuck her up.”
Hamlet (retiring): Then must I go.
Yet ’tis a monstrous thing
That all this great and momentous issue
Should hang upon a churlish umpire’s nod.
How now, my lords? The ball had bias on it,
And, if my leg had been in front, as ’twas not,
’Twould ne’er have hit the sticks – no, not by yards.
It did not pitch straight – it was rising high –
Besides the man is bowling round the wicket;
Yes: I can summon up a million reasons
Which, on being pondered on, conspire to show
The verdict of yon purblind idiot false.
Well, well:
The thing’s an allegory,
How accident doth wait on carefulness
And all precautions used. I took one leg;
I wisely questioned if my toes were clear.
And all for this. Oh, sirs, the pity of it!
I was firmly set
As any oak tree in the sylvan glade;
I saw the bowling well; the ball appeared
To me as large as the full harvest moon
Sailing above the strawstack. I had meant
To score a hundred when that echoing yell,
Both from the bowler and the wicket-keeper,
The pre-arranged duet of knavery,
Checked me in mid-success and cut me down.
What weak-kneed umpire could resist that roar?
There’s not a doubt on’t. I was bustled out.
Give me a pipe; I’ll drown my grief in smoke.
This cricket is a passing beastly game.

(From New Zealand Free Lance, Thursday 20 February 1919, page 21)

The Short Stay Anthology of Shorter Cricket Rhymes

Here’s a bit of fun.
A fellow known only as “Short Stay” has started sending me in very short cricket rhymes.
I like the idea of a pseudonym for cricket rhymes, a well-known tradition in cricket poetry of olden times.
Here’s the start to his expected anthology:

From The Short Stay anthology of Shorter Cricket Rhymes


NZ v England, at Lord’s, 21 May 2013


A Short Stay




You blind?


Poems © The Short Stay anthology of Shorter Cricket Rhymes 2013

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Chris Martin retirement ode

This year saw the retirement of one of New Zealand’s best Test bowlers: Chris Martin.
Here’s a short ode in sonnet form to thank him for his great work for New Zealand over the years.


Ode to the “Phantom”
(Chris Martin)

The Phantom “Tom” couldn’t handle a bat
He wasn’t the brave bunny: that was Chats!
Yet he deserves a line or two all the same;
Quite often he helped us stay in the game.

“Tom” the Phantom was the work horse
Of our team, charted a lengthy course
In his Test career, and came up trumps:
A dependable bowler, quiet, no bumps.

Injuries seldom kept him back. They say he
Was first a Hippie with long hair, but Let it be!
“Tom” took over two hundred wickets
that few will better; he was the man we
all want in our side – admirable to a tee.
His ride’s now over, let me clip his ticket!

Poem © Mark Pirie 2013

Chris Martin (2000/01-2012/13) took 233 Test wickets at 33.81. BB 6-26 v Zimbabwe, 2011/12 season. 10 5wI; 1 10wM.

Chats = Ewen Chatfield

Martin Wilson’s 1969 Polynesian cricket story

A book recently donated to PANZA (Poetry Archive of NZ Aotearoa) is a collection of self-published poems and stories by a New Zealand author, Martin Wilson (1924-1980).
It was published in Rarotonga in 1969, and I don’t think I’ve come across his name before. Inside is a cricket story, and as the author describes, it’s a “gem”.
It tells the tale of a village match in Polynesia and is a wonderful evocation of cricket in the Pacific.
Aside from Michael O’Leary’s cricket novel, Out of It, which features Te Rauparaha as the hero and Lino Nelisi’s children’s cricket fiction written in Cook Islands Māori, it’s unusual to find a Polynesian cricket story. Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, Michael O’Leary and Vaughan Rapatahana are among those who’ve written cricket poems in English.
I’ll share Wilson’s story with you here:

Martin Wilson (aka Rākamamao)

A Polynesian Cricket Match

It was four o’clock when Harry entered the ground by the opening in the thick coral and limestone wall and joined the village supporters beneath the au tree on the left of the gate. The greetings and handclasps over, he leaned over Rangi’s shoulder to look at the scoresheet. Surprisingly, the enemy’s pair had put together only a dozen runs, and their innings had obviously just commenced.
The game should have started at one o’clock: that is, it would have done so had both teams been ready; or as soon afterwards as late arrivals would have permitted. Harry wondered when play had in fact begun. The village side must have made a huge score, thought Harry. “How did we get on?” he asked.
“Not bad,” said Rangi, grinning up at him. “101. They scored 52 in their first innings.”
“They’re following on?” said Harry with a whistle. “What’s the local rule on the follow on?”
“Just the same; half the other side’s score,” said Rangi. He added, “They didn’t have to follow on, but their skipper agreed to do so.”
“Good oh,” said Harry.
He climbed up the wall. Perched on its pitted top surface he surveyed the field.
A sylvan setting: the Adelaide Oval, the Sydney Cricket Ground, and Georgetown, Jamaica, may be better known and more picturesque thought Harry, but you’d go a long way to find a more delightful setting. Two rough ‘road’ paths debouched from inside the gate, one running round to a house on the left, the other passing the wicket on the right and some twenty feet from the pitch. From time to time a truck, coming out from the hinterland on the right or entering the gate, rattled round the field causing a momentary stoppage of play.
The heavy shower which had accompanied Harry’s arrival had not affected the matting-covered concrete wicket or stopped play, but because of it the flamboyants at the far end of the ground stood out, a fresh, flaming red over pale iridescent green against the darker green of the sharp-edged volcanic mountain backdrop.
A few feet in from the undergrowth a row of wands indicated the left-hand boundary. A fold in the ground, at right angles to and in front of Harry, contained a scattered collection of middling-height shrubs, running out towards the wicket and ending about twenty-five yards from a square leg pull by a right hander at the road end.
One of the local picture theatres formed part of the boundary on Harry’s right. Trees and houses made up the rest. As this boundary was a bare forty yards from the wicket runs came somewhat easily.
Harry looked round the field: a good number of his senior village rugby team, an unaccustomed sight in white shorts and local style white shirts decorated with village names met his eyes. Two of the fieldsmen, one of them a member of the school committee, were in long whites. The village second five eight, an ex-League player of some renown, was bowling out of the flamboyants: fast-medium, quite a good length and accuracy and lifting nippily from the matting. Every now and then, dropping one short of a length on the off stump he was pulled viciously round through the leg-side shrubbery, leaves flying as the ball thrashed through the trees, the umpire signalling four by raising four fingers, and the batsman disputing the decision on the grounds that if the shrubs hadn’t been there it would have been six.
The over came to an end and the field changed over. Harry gazed in astonishment: the wicket keeper and the batsman had bent down and were pulling the matting wicket right down against the stumps at the flamboyant end, leaving a good six feet of bare concrete at the oncoming bowler’s end.
The popping crease was marked at each end of the wicket by short twigs pushed into the hard ground. The fieldsmen took up their positions and the lock forward of the winter lumbered in for deliveries which were surprisingly fast if short of a length.
The opposing captain, cross-batted, swung the second ball hard but not high towards the mid-on boundary. Mid-on, fielding just inside the boundary a few feet from the theatre wall, picked the catch from the air into his lean brown hands like a citrus fruit from the tree and threw the ball casually yet delightedly into the air. Harry applauded the catch. A hand-clap rippled round the fieldsman and under the au where Harry sat, and good natured comments were hurled at the departing captain. Dead silence prevailed on the right-hand side beneath the enemy’s tree. “That’s more like it,” said Harry happily.
The enemy’s silence was normal good manners: in winter a try was greeted with delirium on one side of the field, while stony silence and blank faces were to be seen on the other. Local custom decreed that you never applauded a fine try – if it happened to be scored by the opposition.
Harry decided that the cross-bat pull and hook were the reasons for the extra-ordinary on side field placings: long on, deep mid on, square leg, and fine leg were all within a foot of the boundary; the rest of the on side being bare of fieldsmen. Anywhere else in the world this would have been regarded as a defensive field, but in Polynesia it was a different matter.
Some overs later the remaining opener attempted a glide to a high one, got an inside edge, played it down onto his pad and off through slips to the boundary. A loud, confident appeal came from the bowler. Plum Warner might have hesitated, but the village umpire was made of sterner stuff – his finger jetted upwards and a howl of untuneful applause mingled with appreciative laughter greeted this very proper decision.
Wickets continued to fall: in the following over there was another appeal for lbw, from the road and bowler. The enemy umpire slowly raised his hand.
Stunned, the village supporters forgot to applaud, but Harry clapped loudly; he agreed with that decision!
When the sixth wicket fell to a well-judged return from the depths of the shrubbery, the enemy captain came onto the field and protested that the ball had been patently over the boundary. Five minutes were spent while the committee man showed the umpire the exact spot where he had fielded the ball, a good fifteen yards inside the boundary. To applause from the au tree the umpire upheld his run-out decision. With loud witticisms the village barrackers told the enemy’s supporters what they thought of their captain’s appeal. The game proceeded.
At 5.25pm, with the score at 96 the last enemy wicket fell to a straight ball on the leg stump which the batsman attempted to hit out of the ground, over the road, and into the lagoon.
Harry consulted Rangi’s scorebook again; the village was 47 runs behind: 48 to win in roughly half an hour. No one had told Harry that in their first innings the first five village wickets had fallen for 12 runs, so Harry was quite as confident as the three batsmen strapping pads on to well turned limbs.
Harry returned to his patch and looking up saw a knot of white clad figures gesticulating round the two captains and the umpire. He listened carefully but could make little of it. He turned to his neighbour on the wall and asked him what the argument was about. “The other side say they didn’t have to follow on,” said his neighbour. “They’re claiming an outright win.”
“What! With 47 runs on?” gasped Harry.
He turned curious eyes to the field again. Punctuated with full-flowing gestures the flood of Maori swept like a reef-race from one side to the other. The village captain, his shirt stained with red from many dryings of the wet ball after the earlier shower, was obviously hurt and deeply puzzled.
Time was passing. Harry lit a fag, drew on it, and began to feel annoyed. Couldn’t they see that this time-wasting was deciding the match for both sides? The village captain marched off the field towards the au tree and saw Harry for the first time. A smile spreading over his face he came over to the wall and they shook hands. “Trouble?” asked Harry.
“They agreed to follow on,” said Tangaroa. “Now they’re saying they’ve won outright.”
“What did you say?” asked Harry.
“I told them this wasn’t the place to argue about it,” said Tangaroa. “They’ll have to take it up with the match committee. I told them we are going to bat again right now. If they don’t come out we’ll claim the match outright by default.”
“Fair enough,” agreed Harry.

The openers strode out: only two of them thank heavens thought Harry, and the enemy reluctantly took the field. The enemy captain opened the bowling from the road end. The first ball was a nasty bumper, the batsman ducked making no attempt to play a shot. The wicket keeper took it high over his head. “Howzzat?” yelled the bowler to his own umpire. But the umpire, moving his straw from port to starboard in his fisherman’s mouth sternly shook his head.
Three overs had been bowled, one single had been scored, and both openers were back beneath the au. “Good grief,” groaned Harry.
But the stocky figure of the village captain had joined the senior lock forward, a fellow with strong wrists and strong arms. A mighty pull from this champion rose high in the air on the leg side from the flamboyant end. Harry scrambled off the wall excitedly. Fieldsman converged yelling on the leg side. But that ball, continuing to rise high as it crossed the boundary sailed over the picture theatre and disappeared from sight. The au trembled to the roars, hoots, cheers and yells and the umpire signalled six. The fieldsman, dropping to a leisurely walk strolled unconcernedly round the back of the theatre. The hunt for the wall took three precious minutes.
Excitement mounted. Harry found himself shifting about on the wall unable to sit still. The second enemy fast bowler was dropping them short on the off side, trying to tempt the village captain to touch one down to third man or gully. The last ball of his over rocketed straight through on a length. Tangaroa took a mighty sweep for the shrubbery but missed. The ball shaved over the top of the bails. The enemy wicket keeper, in pads but with no gloves or shoes and standing right up behind the stumps took the ball cleanly and swept off the bails. “Howzzat?” he roared triumphantly.
The village captain was well out of his crease: his bat was well inside the crease but at least two inches from the ground when the bails flew. Harry groaned and looked at the shrubbery. The enemy umpire emerged from the surrounding backdrop and strode forward to replace the bails. “Not out,” he said, spitting out the words on separate footfalls. Harry stared. The au trembled again. An expressive silence spread from the right-hand corner.
Harry’s watch said three minutes to six. The captains conferred with the umpires; the last over began.
A four from the first ball thumped against the wall of the theatre leaving a dirty circular mark. “It can’t be done,” announced Harry to his neighbour, “there’s just not enough time.”
“Another over would have done it,” said his neighbour.
Harry lit a fag and found himself holding the butt of the other one. “Damn,” said Harry, throwing it down.
A loud yell from the enemy’s side signalled a leg stump knocked clean out of the ground. “Blazes,” muttered Harry. “Five for 30.”
The next batsman ran in and took strike, waving away the umpire’s attempt to give him middle and leg. The enemy captain sped in; the ball flashed down the pitch. A perfect scythe stroke sent it soaring over the theatre again and the umpire signalled six. “One ball to go,” said Harry’s neighbour. “It’s been a good match.”
“Very exciting,” agreed Harry.
The last ball not only happened to be straight it was also a Yorker and quite unplayable; the middle stump fell flat.
“Six for 36,” said Harry, “a jolly good attempt.” Back home, New Zealand might have been moving to their second ever test victory against the West Indies, but it was nothing to this match! Harry jumped off the wall and joined the players coming off the field. “Well done,” he said, gripping the village captain by his brawny hand.
“Another over would have done it,” said Tangaroa with a wide smile. “Never mind, we got the first innings points.”

Harry climbed on his Honda, started up and set off contentedly for home. ‘The village is still leading the competition,’ he told himself. He was well pleased: he hated to see the village beaten.
The old stirring in the blood had come back again: the smell of new-mown grass; raw linseed oil on a new bat; the comfortable feel of a pair of well-fitting cricket boots; the rubbery bite of batting gloves, and the clang of the metal plates on the scoreboard pile – these and other memories flooded over Harry from the past. “Next Saturday,” said Harry to himself, “someone else can time-keep at the Sailing Club: I’ll be at the cricket!”

© M G Wilson 1969

(From Collected Poems and Short Stories, Rarotonga, 1969 self-published)

Author biography:

Martin Gordon Wilson (aka Rākamamao) was born at Moutere Private Hospital, Ōtaki, on 3 January 1924. He was educated at Ōtaki State Primary (1929-36), Levin District High School (1937-39), Horowhenua College (1940), and Victoria University of Wellington (post-war) where he took a Master’s degree in English and a double Bachelor’s degree in English and History.
A trained teacher, he taught in Sarawak (1966-67) as a Colombo Plan Expert, and then became Head of the English Department at Tereora College in Rarotonga, Cook Islands.
Wilson’s stories and poems first appeared in the NZ Listener and the Weekly News in Auckland in the 1960s. His memoir, In Search of the Great Fleet (1962) about the great Māori canoe voyages to Aotearoa/New Zealand, and his poem ‘Leaving for Aotearoa’ (NZ Listener, 17 July 1964) appeared under his given Māori tribal name of Rākamamao.
Much of his best poetry is collected in his Collected Poems and Short Stories of 1969. The book features work from 1939-69. The first poem in the book was written at Levin District High School aged 15 years and the collection takes in the Second World War, as well as his teaching time in Sarawak, Malaysia, and Rarotonga, Cook Islands.
An Anglo-Catholic, he married and had four children.
He was a well-known opera singer outside of teaching and writing.
Martin Wilson retired to Kerikeri, Northland, New Zealand, where he was active in swimming and life saving. He died in 1980 aged 56 years.

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

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Michael Walker’s new Richard Hadlee poem

When I put together A Tingling Catch, the name that recurred most frequently in New Zealand cricket poems was none other than Sir Richard Hadlee.
Hadlee himself often included some of the poems written for him in his collections of cricketing humour and anecdotes, a nice touch. One of the poems I didn’t seem to have in my collection though was a poem on Hadlee at the Gabba.
Just recently, the Auckland poet Michael Walker, who wrote a poem on the NZ-England Eden Park Test in March this year, sent me a new sonnet on Hadlee at the Gabba.
The poem gives a good record of one of the most remarkable bowling feats in our Test history during that famous win over Australia, which I saw on TV highlights.
I saw Hadlee bowl mainly with his shortened run in in the '80s. He started as a tearaway fast bowler in the '70s, with a long run-up. Walker asserts in the last line “the greatest fast bowling” based on statistics re: Test wickets taken in one innings. The few above Sir Richard on the list were either spinners or medium-pacers. Jim Laker’s all-ten against Australia remains the benchmark. Walker recalls Bill Lawry referring to Hadlee as “the great fast bowler” at the end of Australia’s first innings.
I’ll share the poem with you here:


At The Gabba
I was at The Gabba while on holiday in Brisbane in July, 1996,
reflecting on New Zealand’s win here in the First Test in November, 1985
by an innings and 41 runs – the prelude to a 2-1 series win:
a loss in Sydney by four wickets; a win in Perth by six wickets.

I saw Richard Hadlee, bowling off his smooth, shortened run-up,
getting close to the stumps, swinging the ball both ways in the
humid, cloudy conditions, take all four wickets on the shortened
first day, then five more the next morning – figures of nine for 52.

In reply, New Zealand amassed 553 for 7 declared, a lead of 374,
Martin Crowe scoring a luminous 188; J.F. Reid an invaluable 108;
I saw most of the Australian batsmen succumb to Hadlee again (6-71)
and Chatfield (3-75), except Matthews’s century and Border’s 152 not out.

It was all over early on the fifth day, New Zealand’s first test win in Australia,
and the greatest Test fast bowling, by a tall man who ran in like a
June 2013

Poem © Michael Walker 2013

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Anonymous 1928 NZ cricket poem

Over the weekend, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading Ron Palenski’s recently published anthology of rugby poetry, Touchlines (NZ Sports Hall of Fame, 2013).
The book is well worth having on your bookshelf. It contains poems from the 19th century up to the 2011 Rugby World Cup, from Samuel Sleigh to John Bryan, a Dunedin rugby follower at the 2011 World Cup.
I’m a contributor to the book, and helped with its compilation.
Other poets include: Harry Tillman, Max Boyce, William Pember Reeves, John Carrad, Banjo Paterson, Brian Turner, Allen Curnow, Ernest L Eyre, Bill Sutton, Seaforth Mackenzie, N A Fenwick, Leo Fanning, Sir Richard Wild, William Robert Wills, Robert J Pope, C A Marris, Claude Olsen and Andrew Paterson. Some of these are unknown in the poetry world but all were rugby enthusiasts with a genuine love of the game.
Cricket, another of its compiler Palenski’s enthusiasms, is included in a few poems and bio notes on the poets.
19th century poet and writer Samuel Sleigh includes cricket in his rugby poem (‘Glorious is the forward drive / From the wickets where you stand, / When the bat is all alive, / When it tingles in your hand’), Wellington lawyer John Carrad was a collector of cricket scorecards, Wisdens and memorabilia and N A Fenwick once wrote advice for Don Bradman in the New Zealand Sportsman magazine.
One of the rugby poems found by its compiler Ron Palenski may well pass for a cricket poem too as it combines both cricket and rugby. I’ll include it here. Some of the cricketers named are batsman Roger Blunt, bowler Bill Merritt, Aussie wicketkeeper Bert Oldfield (of Bodyline series fame), Dicky (tail-ender and bowler George Dickinson?), wicketkeeper Ken James and bowler Reg Read.
The poem is anonymous and written in 1928 (from a University of Otago capping magazine):


The Open Road

The Aussie cricket team was here;
  They kept their nose in front;
Our bowling had no Merritt,
  The attack was mostly Blunt.

Their batting in the latest test was
  A Dicky show indeed;
New Zealand’s bowling average looked
  A decent thing to Read.

Their keeper Oldfield was a beaut;
  He saved them many games;
New Zealand’s not downhearted –
  Not a bit of it, by James!

New Zealand’s best have donned their boots
  And pants and jerseys black;
We hope their belts are lined with scalps
  When they come sailing back.

O’er scorching veldt and hill they go,
  Though many a hefty Alley;
And one thing to SA they’ll show –
  A half must never Dalley.

We trust their cherished hope to bring
  A dull and sickening thud
And neck and crop their best to sling,
  Our best crop is our Spud.

Our boys will Lucas well next year.
  All fit and Brownlie tanned;
Their Nicholls will be spent, I fear,
  And Carleton will be Grand.

The All Blacks named include Geoff Alley, Bill Dalley, Syd Carleton, Mark Nicholls, Fred Lucas and captain Maurice Brownlie. One of the interesting things about this poem is that it notes the comparison between cricket and rugby.
Rugby was our national game then and particularly successful following the Invincibles tour of 1924/25, cricket on the other hand (our foremost game early on) was still looking for international status.
The same kind of national sentiment continues now in the public’s mind. So when New Zealand’s cricketers fair poorly: ‘New Zealand’s not downhearted – / Not a bit of it, by James!’ For they at least have All Black tests to savour, in this case the 1928 South Africa tour after a cricket series loss to Australia.
This was again noticeable in 2013 with the recent May test series loss to England followed by the All Blacks securing good victories in their June test series with France.

Article © Mark Pirie 2013
Touchlines compiled by Ron Palenski
(NZ Sports Hall of Fame, 2013)
Copies of Ron Palenski’s Touchlines: An Anthology of Rugby Poetry can be purchased direct from the NZ Sports Hall of Fame, Dunedin. Price $22.00NZ. Email: Tel: 64 03 477 7775 (for purchases by credit card).

Monday, June 3, 2013

Anonymous 1938 Ashes poem

The big event on this year’s cricket calendar is the 2013 Ashes series between England and Australia.
Kevin Pietersen is back from injury for England, which is good news for their Ashes chances. With Joe Root, Cook and Trott, they have a good batting order in store for the upcoming Tests.
A cricket poem I found recently is incidentally an Ashes poem from 1938. It was an advertisement for “Minties” confectionery in the Auckland, New Zealand paper, The Weekly News.
Minties’ hilarious ads became well known in New Zealand for their ad campaigns based around the idea that when things go wrong, one can always reach for a Mintie. Some of the TV commercials in New Zealand during the ’80s featured bad moments from New Zealand cricketers such as when John Bracewell during an ODI (4 March 1990 v Australia) ducked a full toss and was clean bowled when the ball from Simon O’Donnell dipped in flight. O’Donnell took 5-13 that day. New Zealand, featuring most of their future 1992 World Cup squad, were all out for 94 after being 79-2 at one stage. 8 wickets lost for 15 runs. How does that compare to recent batting disasters? Other Minties ads often had catches embarrassingly put down.
I haven't seen Minties around for a while. Maybe they've stopped making them?
This particular Minties ad refers to a dropped catch by New South Welshman Arthur Chipperfield. Chipperfield split his finger in the 1938 Lord’s Test trying to catch Wally Hammond who went on to make 240.
I once tried to catch a scorching drive myself and split the webbing around my middle finger in a club match. I still had to bat No. 11 with my arm in a sling but I wasn’t needed as we won the match. The team had put my pads on for better or worse...
Here is the poem or ad:


Hush, hush! Mourn for the match!
The Aussie bowler dropped a catch;
Hammond’s drive was full of ginger,
And poor old Chipperfield split his finger.
Does Stan McCabe or Bradman swear,
Or Chipperfield mumble in dumb despair?
Not they! With hearty acclamation
They turn to MINTIES for consolation.

(From The Weekly News (Auckland), 2 July 1938)

It’s universal. You could change the names for any international, provincial or club team worldwide on a bad day, and amuse your mates.

Article © Mark Pirie 2013

(Sources: The Weekly News, Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, ESPN cricinfo)

"Minties" advertisement 1938

Friday, May 31, 2013

Day five at Headingley and tour review

As you know, rain failed to deny England on the final day.
England take the series with a 2-0 whitewash, and New Zealand will be wondering where it all went so wrong after scrapping so valiantly in the three Test home series in March.
Credit must go to Alistair Cook and his team, particularly the bowling of Anderson and Broad at Lord’s and Finn and Swann at Headingley. They played to the conditions on both occasions and dominated our batsmen. For the upcoming Ashes series, England, however, may have found their own batting to be as problematic as New Zealand’s outside of Cook, Trott, Root and Bairstow.
It’s hard to hide the disappointment as a New Zealand cricketer or cricket fan after making some real strides since South Africa.
Unlike the South African tour, we fronted up to England with our strongest current team minus Daniel Vettori.
But that’s international cricket. Fortunes change like the weather.

A mystery for me these past post-Test days has been the name, Hiddleston. He’s in the 1937 poem I posted during the Headingley Test.
I hadn’t come across the name before but it’s John Hiddleston. He was a popular and solid bat for Wellington at first class level and once scored a double hundred. He was a North Island and New Zealand rep batsman (before official Test status) after the First World War and during the 1920s.

When I started writing this diary, I told friends I would stop at the end of the first class tour fixtures.
I also mentioned at the outset the fine team of ’49ers led by Walter Hadlee. After their humiliation in the 1946 Basin Test v Australia, Hadlee, Merv Wallace and Co. set about building a team and were determined to put New Zealand cricket back on the map during the 1949 England tour. They succeeded.
For these very reasons, I can’t write off Brendon McCullum and Mike Hesson just yet, nor do I wish to suggest whole scale personnel changes. The team of 2013 has some fine talent still to work with and develop further. We may begin to see this during the ODI series and the Champions Trophy and over the next few years.
Ken Rutherford, another mentioned in the course of this brief tour diary along with Brian Close (who did appear at Headingly with John R Reid), said in his 1995 autobiography that he similarly believed in nurturing all the talent that’s there by showing selection faith in players. Stephen Fleming took a while to get going in the Test arena but was among our most talented batsmen since Martin Crowe’s retirement.
After the 1992 World Cup success, cricket suffered a slump until the late 1990s. There was a rise for a while with Fleming as captain of a good crop of players: Chris Cairns, Dion Nash, Daniel Vettori, Roger Twose, Shane Bond, Nathan Astle, Adam Parore, Craig McMillan, Mark Richardson, Chris Harris etc. England will never forget Astle’s sensational ‘master blaster’ innings of 222. Who’d have predicted Astle’s emergence in the centenary season of 1994?
Rutherford confidently stated during a period of cricket’s declining popularity in 1995 that : ‘…within a decade I believe New Zealand will be among the top four or five nations in the cricket world.’ New Zealand cricket rose again. It may happen too with McCullum’s team. Ken’s son Hamish may well be among our future stars.
The upcoming ODI series, Champions Trophy and Twenty 20 games don’t interest me so much as Test cricket but I will watch them.
This, however, will be my last post on the current England tour.

Perhaps it is fitting to end with an ode to Brendon’s team in review:


To McCullum’s Thirteen*

Thirteen players from New Zealand
Flew off to tour Old England.
Their fortunes have suffered,
But let’s not leave them coffered.

Yes, in review, let me inscribe
Their names with Ferns of the past.
I’ll be this team’s loyal scribe.
Even tho’ cricket’s at half-mast.

*          *          *          *

Fulton, made the runs at home
He didn’t add to his tome;
Still he can rest on laurels
For now, when he arrives home.

Ruds, no not Ken, it’s Hamish now
He secured his spot to end any row.
May he bat on with his willow blade
And make good his run-plough.

Kane did not quite cane the Poms,
But still shows dormant class
As yet untapped. He might surpass
Some records yet, I let him pass.

Rosco again proved his mettle.
He played the best knocks
For that I offer humble tribute.
Rosco with wood guitar clearly rocks.

Guppy has a way to go yet
To be in the bracket of “world class”.
He has the style, can come good yet.
Runs are the key but for me “no pass”.

Brownlie, no Maurice, on this tour.
Mighty was he, but Dean derailed.
Can he lift his play, not become dour;
His bat speed, I lament, failed.

Brendon’s the skipper, as such
He needs to do much more
Than he did this tour and much
Admiration depends on his score.

Watling had the gloves at Lord’s.
He impressed in warm-up matches
But in cricket’s home of Lords
Injury meant he played in snatches.

Southee’s really come good, a hero
At Lord’s, a 10-wicket haul,
His batting’s now handy, no zero
To his name, he’s the heart and the soul.

Boult arrived on the world stage,
5 wickets at Headingly; his name
was made on this tour. With the cage
around the batting, he was not tame.

Doug a cricketer with distinctive tats,
Nice to see him back and playing well.
I won’t bore you with feeble stats.
His name he didn’t disgrace: Bracewell.

Martin was competent without flair;
His batting was missed on this tour;
It’d be hard to see a place and compare
To Vettori if his spin turns sour.

Wagner is still coming on strong.
With his passion, others could learn.
He makes strides and toils on,
While batsmen crash and burn.

*          *          *          *

There you have it, lots of work to do.
McCullum’s building a team and intends
To deliver. And we may yet have a team
To be proud of. Can they tighten the ends?

Poem © Mark Pirie 2013

*Tom Latham and Mark Gillespie also toured but didn’t play in the tests.

Article © Mark Pirie 2013