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