In the late summer of 1862, Hobart Town residents awaited the arrival of the first ever All England Eleven to play against a Tasmanian Twenty-two team.
The game was played over three days at the cricket ground on the Domain, near Government House, on Friday, 21st, Saturday, 22nd, and Monday, 24th February.
The English visitors proved to be so popular that an additional game was played on Tuesday, 25th February.
On the eve of the first day of play, crowds welcomed the visitors with an enthusiasm bordering on hero worship. After a rousing reception held at the Horse and Jockey Inn at New Town, coaches for the two teams started towards the city.
“The road was crowded with spectators, and as the procession neared the city the throng became more dense. Elizabeth Street was lined with people, who cheered lustily as the cortege moved, whilst from the windows and balconies ladies waved their handkerchiefs. Liverpool Street, from Elizabeth Street to Murray Street, was rendered almost impassable from the throng of human beings, and in front of the Union Club Hotel, in Murray Street, several thousands had assembled. On the coaches driving up to the Hotel, the cheering was tremendous, and so great was the crowd, that it was with difficulty a passage was cleared for ‘The Eleven’ with the [official] Committee and the Tasmanian players to pass into the Hotel.”
By the last day of play, an extraordinary crowd attended the Domain ground, estimated at no less than 2,500 – 3,000 spectators (in a city of fewer than 20,000 people).
The night before the England team’s departure, the Mercury newspaper devoted two full columns to the after-match public dinner in their honour, hosted at Basstians Hotel, Argyle Street. The newspaper editor published the text of the dinner speeches chaired by a Tasmanian cricket aficionado, William Henty.
At the end of the last day’s play on the Domain ground, the English Eleven and the Tasmanian players boarded their respective coaches to be conveyed to their hotel in the middle of Hobart Town. The sheer numbers of the adoring crowds actually forced a change of route for the coaches.
“The corner of Liverpool Street was too much crowded to allow the coach a passage down that street, and therefore it took the Collins Street route, which the crowd no sooner perceiving than they all poured down Liverpool Street into Elizabeth Street, and as the coach passed gave three more deafening cheers, which the people up Elizabeth Street took up; and all along the road, up past New Town, did the applause of the Hobartians sound upon the ears of [the] honoured Eleven.”
The English Eleven departed Hobart Town on Wednesday, 26th February 1862.
On the same day of the English Eleven’s departure, a magistrate, V. Walpole, paying a visit to the Aboriginal Establishment at Oyster Cove, entered into the Visitors book:-
“26th February 1862
Visited the aborigines station this day and found the blacks at home in good health, and enjoying themselves, with their Superintendent playing cricket.”
Source: TAHO, CSO89/1/1, page 65
It appeared that the Superintendent of Aborigines, John Strange Dandridge, had encouraged the aboriginal residents to play “bush” cricket. Appointed as Superintendent in July 1855, Dandridge was paid a salary of £140 in 1861. Source: TAHO, Statistics of Tasmania for the year…
On Wednesday, 12th March 1862, Dandridge was so keen on developing cricket at the Establishment that he wrote to the Colonial Secretary:-
The two men ‘Jack Allen’ and ‘William Lanney’ have requested me to forward the accompanying requisition on their behalf.
Hitherto they have been playing with bush wickets and bats, which, of course, are continually breaking, and a ball I bought for them when in town which is now knocked to pieces.
Besides being a fine healthy exercise for them, it has kept them very much at home; the cost I think will not exceed £2.13.0.
I have the honor to be Sir your very obedient Servant…”
The letter was notated with the decision on the requisition as follows:
“The Ball may be allowed but the Bat and Stumps might be made sufficiently good for the purpose by Mr Trappes, out of Deal and stringy bark.
The Colonial Secretary sent a formal letter, dated 17 March 1862, confirming the decision almost word-for-word.
Source: TAHO, CSD4/1/23, B231
Who was this Colonial Secretary?
It turns out to be the same William Henty who “chaired” the English Eleven’s farewell dinner at Basstians Hotel.
Henty was the main speaker who seemed intent on conveying the adoration of the Colony of Tasmania towards the mother country.
As the man who consented to the provision of a cricket ball to the aborigines (whilst refusing new cricket bats and stumps), did Henty say anything revelatory at the English team’s farewell dinner? More broadly, what did any of the speakers say about cricket and the impact of the game on the Tasmanian colonists?
In his speech, William Henty reminisced about cricket in “old England” and deferred to the English superiority at cricket, expressing how mere colonists had much to learn from their guests. Henty proposed a toast to the English cricketers proclaiming that they had received a “cricketers’ welcome”; he also hoped that “they feel that we desire something more, to show them a welcome of fellow-citizens, and fellow members of the empire of Great Britain…”
The English cricket captain, Mr H. H. Stephenson, responded to Henty’s toast:
“We shall always be ready on our return to England to rectify any error, and to contradict any wrong statement as to your position [of perceived inferiority as a colony] (applause) and we shall be able to convince persons who are likely to come out, that there was not the slightest chance of their being devoured by cannibals (hear, hear) and we shall give them every reason to expect that they will meet thorough Englishmen, men loyal to the Queen, …”
Two days previously, at Luncheon on the second day (Saturday, 22nd February), Hobart Town’s Lord Mayor, Alfred Kennerley, made a speech.
“Cricket is a game in which all can unite; the nobleman and the peasant, the officer of the highest rank in the service, and the private soldier, all join together in the game of cricket. It is a noble game; it encourages brotherly feelings; it induces patriotism, and as such is a benefit to society at large (cheers).”
The English captain responded to the toast in like spirit, noting that:
“Cricket brings all classes on a level; it induces a social feeling, and is productive of great benefit to society.”
It’s likely that the English cricket captain was referring to a “society” of Englishman, transplanted to foreign soils, who strove to retain their racial pedigree and entitlement to citizenship in a great empire.
By the mid-1860s, the skills of aboriginal cricketers were lauded in the other Australian colonies.
In 1867 and 1868, an aboriginal team toured Victoria, New South Wales, Hong Kong, and England.
The press heralded their skilful performances on the cricket fields in distant lands.
In late January 1867, a Tasmanian team played against a Victorian team. The game marked:
“the first appearance of aboriginal natives in the field on behalf of the colony [of Victoria]. The absence of Mallagh, who like several other members of the aboriginal team is suffering from measles, was felt as a serious loss by the Victorians. His place was supplied by Bullocky, the emergency man, and Cuzens was the other aboriginal who took part in the match.”
In early 1862, Jack Allen and William Lanney were keen to play cricket.
So far, records of the nineteenth century have revealed nothing extra about Tasmanian aboriginal cricketers.
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[Please be advised that selected quotations in this blog post may contain words and descriptions that may be culturally sensitive, which reflect the attitude of the nineteenth century originator of those words and descriptions, which may be considered inappropriate today.]