Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Old Clay Patch: Victoria College’s poet-cricketers

After our College days are done,
And our Hall with ivy grown,
Back from the fields where their fame was won,
We’ll gather to cheer them home.
We’ll sing the praise of strong and true,
Wherever such men are seen,
We’ll raise a shout for the faithful who
Have worn the gold and green.
- F A de la Mare, from the song ‘Green and Gold’

Recently, I was researching New Zealand poet, teacher and cricketer, A E Caddick. In an earlier post, I presented a cricket-related poem by one of Caddick’s students at Wellington College, the late poet and chemist Ronald B Castle.
That particular poem references Castle’s student days and describes Master Caddick as ‘declaiming passionate verses’ and ‘ignoring his wound’ fresh from the trenches. Caddick who had returned from the First World War and by then become a teacher at Wellington College was also a former student at Victoria University College. It was at Victoria that Caddick wrote verses, edited and contributed to The Spike (the student magazine) and appeared in the influential anthology of verse and song, The Old Clay Patch, edited by fellow undergrad students, F A de la Mare and S Eichelbaum. Cricket poetry references abound within the pages of this book.
The Old Clay Patch contained a significant amount of university capping, extravaganza and sporting songs as well as verse. My cricket poetry anthology, A Tingling Catch, took its title from a line by one of the Victoria songwriters of the period, Seaforth Simpson Mackenzie, a future lawyer: ‘For the wicket true, and the field in fettle, / and the man who’s safe for a tingling catch’ (‘Sports Chorus’, 1907).
Eichelbaum, de la Mare, Mackenzie, A F T Chorlton and others like women poets Erica R Fell (later Erica R Wilson), Esma North (a future Headmistress at Wellington Girls’ College), Mary E Heath (later Mrs Ballantyne) and Marjory L Nicholls (later Marjory L Hannah who died early in a bus stop accident) formed a literary group at Victoria in the early 1900s.1 The older Hubert Church2 (from Tasmania via Oxford, England) was also part of this group, but he was not a sportsman. He suffered a blow to the head from a cricket ball at the age of 12.
Chorlton later described the group’s ‘halcyon days’ as forming a pre-World War I ‘Golden Age’ replete with alluring barmaids and set against the backdrop of the developing city of Wellington:

It was all different in 1907; the city growing and growing fast, electric trams, wood-paved streets, a new Town Hall, and new buildings going up everywhere, including Victoria College on its “old clay patch”, where the “top floor” was still the “hop floor”, and The Spike flourishing, with contributions in prose and verse that are still worth reading.

The best of their contributions to The Spike3 (a group-initiated literary outlet and inclusively-minded student paper) which began in 1902 came to form The Old Clay Patch in 1910 - an anthology which had a second edition in 1920 and a third edition in 1949 mainly to commemorate respectively the end of the First World War and the Second World War. The 1949 edition included ’40s student-poets Alistair Campbell, W H Oliver, Lorna Clendon, Hubert Witheford and Pat Wilson.
Little known, however, is that editors de la Mare and Eichelbaum and contributors Caddick and Chorlton were also keen sportsmen as well as scholars. I’ve researched their names and found much of sporting interest in their lives. Perhaps de la Mare is the most significant of the four. De la Mare was a schoolboy athletics champion, and at Victoria was a runner, cricketer, swimmer, rugby footballer and tennis player. He represented New Zealand Universities at tennis in the doubles and combined championship in 1906 and at rugby vs. Sydney in 1908. Eichelbaum was born in San Francisco and was educated at Wellington College. While at Victoria, he was a tennis and hockey player and played cricket for the Wellesley Club. Caddick (educated at Mt Cook Boys’ School and Wellington College) was a member of the Victoria Debating Society. He also played rugby and tennis at Victoria, competed in swimming, and was a cricketing enthusiast for the First XI. He had earlier played Junior rugby: 4th Class for St James. In annual inter-college cricket matches, Caddick’s Victoria team came up against Sir Arthur Donnelly’s Canterbury College team. Caddick often bowled, and in the 1913 match (after Donnelly was well set and scoring quickly) had him reaching forward, only to tickle one behind into the gloves of the keeper, Howe; out for 38. Chorlton perhaps the least significant of the four, in sporting terms, had a rugby and cricket interest; he may have played both games as a young man. Chorlton, a classical scholar, was a ‘scion of a wealthy Manchester family steeped in the Liberal tradition’. He arrived from overseas in 1901 finding work as a farmhand then teacher after being unable to complete his degree at Oxford for family reasons.

Victoria College cricket team 1908
After Victoria, de la Mare (d. 1960) and Mackenzie (d. 1955, Melbourne, Australia) became lawyers. De la Mare, who became an officer 2nd Lieutenant, continued to publish editing a troopship journal while at war. Entitled The Waitemata Wobbler (and co-edited with poet Dick Harris and H E M Rowland), it was printed in Capetown and included prose and verse. It was noted in The Observer (9 June 1917) for its ‘very special excellence’. His interests included the Howard League for Penal Reform (along with poet Blanche Baughan and others) and the Save the Children Fund. Among his other publications were a privately printed tribute to G B Lancaster, the popular colonial fiction writer, and legal publications on matters such as gambling, prison reform, academic freedom (which included a foreword by his former Professor G W von Zedlitz) and ethics in industry.
F A de la Mare, 1949
(Photo: The Spike Golden Jubilee Number)
Eichelbaum (d. 1952) after a brief stint as assistant to a Professor in English at Victoria was admitted as a barrister and solicitor in 1912 but did not practice, preferring to sit instead after war ended on the Victoria University College Council for 29 years and also on the Senate of the University of New Zealand for 10 years. Wellington College awarded the ‘S Eichelbaum English Prize’ in the 1930s. At the time of his death, he was New Zealand director for S Oppenheimer and Company, New York - the sausage casing manufacturers. Eichelbaum also worked with German refugees in the 1930s and 1940s. 

S Eichelbaum, 1929
Photo: S P Andrew
Caddick (d. 1960) became a teacher, author of a secondary school English text, Schoolmaster and Headmaster (West Christchurch High, Christchurch Boys’ High). Chorlton (d. 1963), not finishing his degree, became a journalist for the Evening Post from 1907, working with the like-minded literary and sport-orientated C A Marris (who left briefly for The Sun and also edited The Referee but rejoined The Post till his retirement in 1945).

A E Caddick, 1940
Photo: Evening Post
This quartet of poet-cricketers (Eichelbaum, de la Mare, Chorlton and Caddick) kept up their cricket interest. Caddick played cricket for the Victoria University College Cricket Club for many years (1908-mid 1920s) and was a member of the Schoolmasters’ Sports Club. He became a stalwart for the Victoria club, also a team selector and club captain and was a life member in 1922. Caddick while at Wellington College also coached the rugby team, which was undefeated during his time as coach. Eichelbaum, after his playing days were over, became a patron for both the Victoria tennis and cricket clubs for many years. (His father Max Eichelbaum and the Wellington College Headmaster and cricketer J P Firth were also committee members of the Victoria cricket club in the early 1900s.) De la Mare (seriously wounded at Passchendaele in the First World War) later represented South Auckland at cricket, and lived for many years in Hamilton before retiring to Eastbourne. Chorlton (serving in the British army) must’ve been wounded with de la Mare as he mentions the ‘great Frank A’ in his poem, ‘To a Night Nurse’, while they were both recovering in hospital; de la Mare’s poem ‘In a Hospital in France’ (1918) seems to confirm it. Chorlton in post-World War I days became captain and selector of The Evening Post press club in the Walter Blundell Cup competition in 1923 (he turned in a match-winning performance of 5-30 bowling against NZ Truth and 2-2 vs. The Times). He played in earlier press club matches for them in 1914 against the City Council and the Wellington Corporation staffs. Chorlton also kept up his rugby interest as reporter for the rugby matches in the Evening Post and later published a book after his retirement about his memories as a young man, The Wandering School: Memories in Prose and Verse (1960). His first publication, however, was a coffee table motoring book, Motor Pioneers Through the King Country (1913) indicating he was a car enthusiast, and claiming it was the ‘first car from Wellington to Auckland’.
Significantly, Eichelbaum and Chorlton also wrote about cricket in their verses. Caddick’s only known poem publication was a war poem, ‘Reverie’, in the 1920 and 1949 editions of The Old Clay Patch, and I’ve not found cricket verses by him, although he is said to have contributed comic sporting verse to NZ Truth in the 1920s. Niel Wright has also found a possible poem translation by Caddick in The Spike signed ‘C’. De la Mare does not write about cricket in the songs I’ve seen by him.
Here are Chorlton’s and Eichelbaum’s cricket-related verses; neither are autobiographical, both are satirical. A reviewer in The Evening Post noted Chorlton’s satire after Horace when it appeared first in The Spike in 1908: ‘Mr. A. Chorlton has a paraphrase, “Antipodean Horace,” of the eighth ode of the first book, wherein he charges a lady with responsibility for the disappearance of Strephon from the field of athletics.’ Young Strephon sounds alarmingly similar to de la Mare (tennis, cricket and rugby):


From Antipodean Horace

Carmen VIII

Come, Chloe, tell me, pray,
By all the gods, why you with too fond wooing
Young Strephon lead astray
To his undoing.

Say why he loathes the field,
Who once of dust and heat was so enduring,
And does to softness yield,
All sport abjuring.

’Tis said he never tries,
In Tennis Tournament ‘neath sun that mellows,
To bear away the prize,
Among his fellows.

Who does he fear to plunge
Into the tide, or through what aberration,
Like poison, shun the sponge
And embrocation?

Where are the bruised limbs
Once black and blue with standing at the wicket;
What is the cloud that dims
His fame at cricket?

Why is he never seen
A footballer at Miramar, together
With wearers of the green,
Chasing the leather?

Say why the fair youth shirks
His round of manly sport, and what his plea is,
Who, like Achilles, lurks
With what Briseis.

Chloe, you are to blame,
That Strephon now has lost all zeal athletic;
He owns it to his shame,
Captive pathetic.


Eichelbaum, on the other hand, rediscovers an old sportsman Percy’s belt and the sporting memories it conjures in his mind:


To a Recalcitrant Belt

From your seclusion come, my belt,
And seek your once accustomed channels,
And feel once more the joy you felt
At sight of jersey, shorts, or flannels.
A belt that once decked Joan or Sue
Might like to lie and rest in camphor,
But surely that’s a thing that you
Don’t care a damn for.

Most like your relative afar
Who clasps the waist of slim Orion,
You too embraced a shining star,
Or shall we say Olympic lion,
Who, be the foeman wild or meek,
Would, drawing you a little tighter,
Into the middle of next week
Despatch the blighter.

Remember, those spectator folks,
Who have us always at their mercy,
Would greet my usual brilliant strokes
With shouts of joy and “Well played Percy”.
And if by chance I made a duck,
Then Bertie would explain to Freddy,
That it was awfully rotten luck,
I wasn’t ready.

Remember too those glorious tries
Achieved by runs both fleet and dodgy,
Which hallowed me within the eyes
Of maidens coy and mothers stodgy!
How, when the hostile lines I sent
To taste defeat’s most bitter doses,
You shared, my belt, my subsequent

But that was nearly half a score
Of limping years agone, old leather,
And now they ask us just once more
To try our old-time luck together.
So round you go, we’ll show at least
Our ears aren’t deaf to such entreating.
What’s this? Your ends, you graceless beast,
Refuse the meeting!


It’s now a hundred years since Eichelbaum’s satire was written and more than a hundred years since the first publication of The Old Clay Patch; together these four young sportsmen and scholars (Caddick, Chorlton, de la Mare, Eichelbaum) and Mackenzie, Nicholls and others have all made a lasting contribution to New Zealand literature and culture. In particular, as one reviewer of The Old Clay Patch pointed out in the Marlborough Express, 6 December 1910: ‘Victoria College owes a deep debt of gratitude to Messrs de la Mare and Eichelbaum’.
An article giving an overview of the group’s achievements in The Evening Post (17 April 1924) is similarly complimentary calling The Spike ‘a precocious youngster from the start’ and noting that

the magazine brought to light much that would otherwise have been hidden. In New Zealand, there is little scope for the publication of verse except by the volume. The pages of The Spike were open to budding versifiers, and a glance through The Old Clay Patch shows the influence of the magazine has been considerable.

Another aspect of The Old Clay Patch’s success is that, as A G Stephens4 commented in The Evening Post (24 December 1910), it touched a nerve with the public being ‘in tune’ with New Zealand life at the turn of the century. There is much in the book to make it still a lively read today.

Victoria University College, c1910
1The group at Victoria is not unique. In a national sense, there were other young poets and contemporaries with like-minded sport and literary values all writing in similar forms to The Spike group. Others who shared similarities with the Spike group include: Ernest L Eyre, from Auckland, a rugby player and wandering bard, who wrote lively satire and popular ballads in The Weekly News (Auckland) and other papers; Arnold Wall in Christchurch, author of the famous cricket poem ‘A Time Will Come’ along with rugby poems; cricketer W H Winsor in Dunedin, newly arrived from Tasmania, whose only known poem is ‘A Cricketer’s Lament’ (1902); and S G August in Invercargill, busily trying his hand (like the Spike group) at French forms: triolets, ballades, villanelles, rondels, roundels and rondeaus in the Otago Witness, 1908-09, under the pseudonym of ‘L von Kaulbach’. In a debate against Rev. Ayrton (entitled ‘Is too much time given to sport?’), August once defended the attention given to sport quoting from a poem by Norman Gordon, whose poem stated that ‘if sport were taken out of life, it was farewell to the Norman race, and Anglo-Saxon blood’ and ‘advocated everyone to take an active part in sport, as by so doing the nation would not have much time to indulge in industrial revolutions’. After voting, August’s argument proved favourable over Rev. Ayrton’s (Otautau Standard and Wallace County Chronicle, 11 May 1926).
2Church (b. Hobart, 1857) died in Melbourne in 1932. In Wellington, he worked in the Treasury for 33 years. He held a reputation as a poet until the 1950s (an article in the New Zealand Listener, 1956, praises his poetry). A number of his poetry volumes were printed and his poems were anthologised in national anthologies, including Harvey McQueen’s more recent colonial verse anthology, The New Place (1993). After his death, his name continues to live on with the annual Hubert Church Fiction Award for best first book.
3The Spike’s aims were: ‘Firstly, to make The Spike an official record of the doings of the college and of all the clubs and institutions in connection with it. Secondly, to bring out the dormant talent, perhaps even genius, in both art and literature that cannot help but exist and too often lie hidden amongst two hundred University students. In so doing it is our ambition to attain as high a standard of literary excellence as possible. Thirdly, and perhaps our chiefest ideal, is to strengthen the bonds of union and good fellowship amongst us, to help us to take more interest in the social life of the college and our fellow-students, to foster that brotherly comradeship which, to our mind, is the chief charm of studentdom.’ The first issue appeared with these intentions in June 1902, edited by H Ostler and assisted by Fanny L Smith and F A de la Mare. H Ostler became a lawyer and Fanny L Smith the chief Spike prose writer whose only book, The Streets of My City, ran in to several reprint editions under her new name of Fanny L Irvine-Smith. De la Mare is noted in The Evening Post (17 April 1924) as the chief encourager of Mackenzie (who won the Macmillan-Brown Memorial Prize in 1903 for his Kipling-inspired ‘Empire’ sequence). Other members of the original Spike group (1902-15) included: rugby player, debater and swimmer F G Hall-Jones, a future Invercargill Rotarian, author and historian; Ms Fannie Hall-Jones (who wrote the witty ‘Eich and I’ about her friendship with Eichelbaum); H L Fowler; C H Taylor; future solicitor and amateur golfer Philip Grey; athlete, cricketer, and all-round sportsman, A H Bogle, a future surveyor/town-planner; G R Hutcheson; Nena M Newell (later Nena M Daniel); cricketer V B Willis, Victoria club delegate to and later secretary and life member of the Wellington Cricket Association; sportsman and chess player G M (George Max) Cleghorn, author of Lawn Tennis (1935); and barrister G H Nicholls, brother of Marjory. Erica R Fell married Colonel Wilson after World War I. She was also part of a club called ‘The Readers’ (1912-17) instructed by Mr H E Nicholls (Marjory’s father), who met to read drama in Kelburn. Mr Nicholls, a harbour board secretary, was an actor with the Wellington Amateur Dramatic Club (1880-1890), Wellington Dramatic Students (1904-14) and the Wellington Shakespeare Club (1903-13). The Spike group has many close connections, not just in their friendships and family linkages, but also in allusions to each other in their writings. Eichelbaum also wrote the foreword to Marjory Nicholls’ first collection, A Venture in Verse (1917). After Victoria, very few of the Spike group continued with their verse. A further generation who emerged in Spike after World War I included: the noted J C Beaglehole, Mary E Pumphrey, Eileen Duggan, Edith R Davies, W E Leicester and Quentin Pope, later editor of Kowhai Gold (1930). Kowhai Gold includes Pope’s fellow Spike contributors Mary E Heath, Marjory L Nicholls, Seaforth Mackenzie, Mary E Pumphrey, J C Beaglehole, Eileen Duggan, Hubert Church as well as Pope himself. Mackenzie (with rugby and fishing poems) and Church are also in Alexander and Currie’s New Zealand Verse (1906 and 2nd edition 1926 as A Treasury of New Zealand Verse). Erica R Wilson, Eileen Duggan and Quentin Pope appear in the 1926 edition too.
4A G Stephens (1866-1933) was an Australian literary critic, poet and editor. He edited The Red Page for The Bulletin in Sydney from the 1880s and helped to print in book form New Zealand/Australian poets, including Hubert Church and Arthur H Adams. He was one of the advisers to Alexander and Currie’s New Zealand Verse anthology. From 1907, he became a freelance writer and book critic for The Evening Post working with Chorlton on their literary staff.

Poet bibliographies

A E Caddick (1889-1960)

English course for junior and middle forms / by A.E. Caddick. Christchurch, N.Z.: Simpson & Williams, [1932?].
English course for junior and middle forms / by A.E. Caddick. Christchurch, N.Z.: Simpson & Williams, [1935].

A F T Chorlton (1880-1963)

Motor pioneers through the King Country: with the first car from Wellington to Auckland, via Taihape, Taumarunui, Ohura, Aria and Te Kuiti / story by Arthur Chorlton; pictures by Ernest Gilling. Wellington, N.Z.: Printed at the Evening Post Office, [1913].
Te Rauparaha, Rangihaeata and Tamehana Te Rauparaha: articles / by Eric Ramsden and A.Chorlton. [1946].
Wandering school: memories in prose and verse / by A.F.T. Chorlton. Wellington [N.Z.]: Printed by Harry H. Tombs, 1960.

Chorlton’s papers are held by the Alexander Turnbull Library.

F A de la Mare (1877-1960)

Academic freedom in New Zealand, 1932-34: a statement of the facts / collected by F.A. de la Mare, with a foreword by G.W. von Zedlitz. Auckland [N.Z.]: Unicorn Press, 1935.
Better business : an excursion into the ethics of industrial organisation / by H. Valder and F.A. de la Mare ; illustrations by Kennaway Henderson. Hamilton [N.Z.]: Waikato Times, [1925].
G.B. Lancaster / by F.A. de la Mare. Hamilton, N.Z.: Printed for private circulation, 1945.
Old clay patch : a collection of verses written in and around Victoria (University) College, Wellington, N.Z. / edited by F.A. de la Mare and S. Eichelbaum. Wellington, N.Z.: Whitcombe & Tombs, 1910.
Old clay patch : a collection of verses written in and around Victoria University College, Wellington, N.Z. / edited by F.A. de la Mare and S. Eichelbaum. Auckland: Whitcombe & Tombs, 1920.
Our educational system: a series of articles written for and published in “The Waikato Times” (Hamilton, New Zealand) during September, October and November, 1918 / by F.A. de la Mare. Hamilton [N.Z.]: Printed at the Waikato Times Office, [1918].
People in prison by T.I.S.: review. Hamilton [N.Z.]: F.A. de la Mare, [1938?].
Problem of industry : a discussion concerning profit-sharing and co-partnership / by F.A. De La Mare. Hamilton [N.Z.]: Waikato Times, 1924.
Spirit of renunciation in industry: a controversy / between Angus Watson (England) and F.A. de la Mare (New Zealand); with an article by T.A. Hunter. Hamilton, N.Z.: Employee Partnership Institute (N.Z.), [1930].
This gambling business / by F.A. de la Mare. Hamilton [N.Z.]: Printed by A.O. Rice, [1946].
Three articles entitled: The interest system; The wages system; The share system / by Harry Valder and F.A. de la Mare. Hamilton, N.Z.: Employee Partnership Institute (N.Z.) Ltd, [1933].
Waitemata wobbler : N.Z. Exped. Forces, XXI Reinforcement. Capetown: Cape Times Ltd., printers, [1917].

De la Mare’s papers are held by the Alexander Turnbull Library.

S Eichelbaum (1884-1952)

Old clay patch: a collection of verses written in and around Victoria (University) College, Wellington, N.Z. / edited by F.A. de la Mare and S. Eichelbaum. Wellington, N.Z.: Whitcombe & Tombs, 1910.
Old clay patch: a collection of verses written in and around Victoria University College, Wellington, N.Z. / edited by F.A. de la Mare and S. Eichelbaum. Auckland : Whitcombe & Tombs, 1920.

Eichelbaum’s papers are held by the Alexander Turnbull Library.

(Sources: The Spike; The Old Clay Patch: A collection of verses written in & around Victoria University College edited by F A de la Mare and S Eichelbaum (Wellington: Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd and New Zealand University Press, 1910, 1920 and 1949 3rd ed.); The Evening Post obituaries for
S Eichelbaum, F A de la Mare and A F T Chorlton; Dominion obituary for A E Caddick; The Oxford Companion to NZ Literature eds. Roger Robinson and Nelson Wattie (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1998); Papers Past (National Library of NZ’s digital archive), Timeframes (National Library of NZ's digital image collection) and the National Library of NZ catalogue; The Wandering School: Memories in Prose and Verse by A F T Chorlton (Wellington: Harry H Tombs Ltd, 1960); and An Account of the Comic Poet A F T Chorlton and Notes on Alfred Edward Caddick, 1889-1960, as poet and Headmaster in Aotearoa by F W N (Niel) Wright (both Wellington: Cultural and Political Booklets, 1998 and 2001))

Article © Mark Pirie 2012