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Was It All Cricket?

Chapter 2 — First Cricket Tour

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Chapter 2
First Cricket Tour

In 1897 the Canterbury team toured the North Island, playing Hawkes Bay, Auckland, Taranaki, and Wellington. I was so seasick on the trip to Wellington that it was decided to send me overland by train to Napier, while the rest of the team went on by steamer.

Against Hawkes Bay we had a real fright, Hugh B. Lusk, a fine batsman, making a century. Rain overnight made us struggle for runs, and we were behind on the first innings. In the late afternoon, on an even more difficult wicket, Pearce and I bowled them out in their second innings for 42, and we finally won by four wickets, not without a hard battle. It would have been a blow to our pride had we been beaten, for Hawkes Bay was rated on a lower level than the other teams of the major provinces.

A singular incident in this match was to cause much amusement throughout the tour. Pearce, our medium-fast bowler, opened, and the first ball of the match went for four byes. Fowke, our wicket-keeper, muttered something about a butterfly, and at the end of the over, Johnnie—as he was always called—walked down the wicket repeating, “That damned butterfly!” By evening it had become a story. When asked, and he was repeatedly, to explain those four byes, this is how he told of the happening: “Well, it was like this: Hugh B. Lusk was batting” (he always called him Hugh B.), “and ‘Biffer’ Pearce was bowling, and just as the ball was about to land on the pitch …” then hesitating, unable to find words to explain, the genial Johnnie used to burst out laughing and say,“… that damned butterfly!” We nicknamed Fowke “Butterfly Johnnie” for the rest of the tour.

In Auckland I was to see R. B. Neill, one of the very best slow bowlers we ever had in this country. He took nine wickets in our first innings, so we had reason to remember him. I was taught to chase the slow bowlers, and was going well in each innings when the wily Bob trapped me with his subtle change of pace and flight. A lesson for youth. We had a hard fight in page 29 this match, for the Aucklanders were always redoubtable opponents. Towards the end of the game they recovered much leeway and fought back, but without avail.

This was my first game against Auckland, the side that over the years has been Canterbury's most formidable rival, and the taking of nine wickets in the match ranks as one of my best bowling performances.

It was but a short train journey to Onehunga, on the other side of the narrow neck of the Auckland Peninsula. We left by steamer for New Plymouth. Oh, what a trip! Peter B. Kyne's graphic description in Cappy Ricks of the Quickstep forcing her way over the bar at the mouth of the Humboldt River, exactly describes this voyage of the Mahinapua. Some of the passengers were terrified as she ploughed through and over mountainous seas on the Manukau bar, in her struggle out of harbour against a southerly gale.

Only two members of our side were able to make the deck throughout the journey. On arrival at New Plymouth we at once took the train to Hawera, some fifty miles away. Shortly after arriving at our hotel, Fowke was found in a chair in the smoking-room, absolutely exhausted from seasickness, but still holding in his hand an orange that had been given him on the ship. It was not until next day that he was fit to start off again with his, “Well, it was like this: Hugh B. Lusk was batting, and ‘Biffer’ Pearce was bowling….”

We were too strong for Taranaki—our bowlers had a real harvest.

To reach Wellington was a twelve hours' journey in the train, but it was decided to stop at Wanganui. In the railway carriage, Raphael, our manager, gave us much entertainment with his portable phonograph—now gramophone—one of the first to be heard in New Zealand. Besides regaling us with popular music and songs, he always set it going and opened a window just as the train was running into a station; soon there would be a crowd around. The Maoris caused us much amusement when they kept saying, “Pi kori, him the feller!” We visited a Maori pa just outside Wanganui, and their excitement over the phonograph was unbounded.

Against Wellington we were to suffer our first defeat of the tour. They started off with the score of 400, and we never looked like catching up. It was in this match that C. A. Richardson page 30 made his first appearance in New Zealand cricket. He had just arrived from Australia, where he had captained the crack New South Wales XI of this period. Richardson was a sound batsman, and his partnership with Holdship, which yielded 150 runs, paved the way for the big opening score that enabled them to win by an innings.

I was to learn a valuable lesson in this match. Wellington did not begin as though they were going to amass such a big total, and lost three wickets for less than 50 runs; two of these had fallen to my bowling. There was a strong, northerly wind blowing straight down the wicket, and my captain, believing that it was too much to expect so young a player to keep on bowling against the stiff breeze, changed me to the other end. This reduced the effectiveness of flight, and my next two wickets cost over 100 runs.

In these four matches I took thirty-one wickets, and in batting, although my highest score was 44, rarely made under 20. People said I should have made more runs, but for a youth of eighteen, I suppose I did fairly well. It was now said that I had developed into an all-rounder.

This touring side was a very good Canterbury XI, being strong in all departments of the game. Charles Clark made an admirable captain, and was a fine influence with his team. He was an Oxonian, having been up at Exeter College in the years when C. B. Fry was so famous at Oxford. It is worth telling that when elected captain, Clark told us that he would accept the appointment only on condition that Mr. Wilding made all the speeches on the tour. As Wilding was probably the most polished speaker we have had among cricketers in New Zealand, it will be seen we were well served both on and off the field.

While I was having some success against our North Island opponents, I was, during these years, to share the fate of so many in my appearances against Otago, more especially at Dunedin. They had a magnificent combination of bowlers in Fisher and Downes; the former a medium-paced left-hander, and the latter a medium-paced right-hander—a slightly slower edition of Haigh, the Yorkshireman, but with a more pronounced off break. These two were supported by Lawton, a professional from Lancashire, and Hope, another left-hander, but faster than Fisher. The Carisbrook ground in those days was a real bog after heavy rain, and on this type of muddy wicket Otago page 31 batted and bowled better than we did. On one occasion the ground was so soft in the centre of the field that the wicket had to be made across the ground in front of the pavilion. Sent in to bat, we were all out in less than an hour for 27; Downes seven for 12. Otago made only 49, so the batsmen's difficulties may be understood. We did a little better in our second innings, but lost by six wickets.

On our return to Christchurch, we were met at the railway station by a number of cricket friends and humorists who, forming themselves into a band, marched up and down the platform playing tin whistles to the tune of “See, the Conquering Heroes Come!” As each of us stepped off the train, he was presented with a tin sword. We all joined in the humour of this satirical greeting. That 27 still remains Canterbury's smallest score.

Canterbury v. Otago has been an annual match since 1864, thus nearly equalling the period of the New South Wales—Victorian matches, and far exceeding in time the games between Victoria and South Australia. The latter, in fact, did not become a first-class cricketing State until 1880. Considering that in the years before the through railway was completed it took two days by steamer to go from Lyttelton to Dunedin, the feat of maintaining this as an annual fixture is, indeed, a noteworthy one.

A dinner and smoking-concert on the Saturday night were a feature of these visits. Otago had some splendid talent among their performers at the concert; the handsome A. C. Hanlon, noted advocate, whose acting of Shakespeare was outstanding, and Robert Brown, reciting Burns, were above the average among amateur entertainers. As the evening wore on, old Bob Brown would become more and more like what Bobbie Burns himself must have been, when reciting some of his own poems to cronies in the tavern at Ayr. On our side, Tim Raphael, who usually managed Canterbury teams on tour, was our principal performer. He could sing, play a cornet solo, and tell excellent stories. At these gatherings Johnnie Fowke never missed singing his old “hardy annual”—“For I Have Been a Warm 'un In My Time”—With its rollicking chorus:

Oh, those dark, bright hours are nice,
For I've been in them once or twice,
So I know what it is to be there….

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He may not have been a tuneful singer, for his songs provided more mirth than melody, but he was certainly a jovial entertainer.

There was always a Sunday picnic. A four-in-hand coach would pull up at our hotel at about ten o'clock, and both teams would go out for the day. Is it any wonder that a delightful spirit prevailed, or that lifelong friendships were made in these matches? It should be said that despite all this happy fraternizing between the players of both teams, the games were always sternly contested, for there was great rivalry between the two provinces.

Two stories of Johnnie Fowke on the cricket field will round off this tale of the fun and humour of cricket tours of nearly fifty years ago. He was a first-class wicket-keeper, but as a batsman was a stonewaller, pure and simple. In one match, when manfully holding his end up against the redoubtable Fisher and Downes, his block, block, block, tried the patience of some of the spectators. Soon one heard, “What's the bat for?”… “Why don't you hit the ball?” and he would be ironically cheered at the end of a maiden over. One man, standing against the fence at deep square-leg, was most insistent with his barracking. Presently, the batsman got a half-volley on his pads, and whang! it went to the fence, straight to where the offending spectator was standing. In a flash the barracking now came from the centre of the field, for Fowke, turning to his tormentor, called out at the top of his voice, “How does that suit you, old man?” The crowd saw the humour of the incident and laughed heartily. In similar circumstances, E. M. Grace, who was far from being a stonewaller, took much more drastic action, for, with bat in hand, he ran across the field, jumped the fence and chased the fellow who had been annoying him.

In another match at Dunedin, the visiting team, with runs to make on the last day, appeared to have a chance of winning. The captain, wanting his team to go to bed early, tried to induce Fowke to turn in about 9.30 p.m. However, Johnnie scorned what he called a “sissy” idea. In the end, only four of the team retired early. Next day, Downes bowled these four “early-to-bedders” with four successive balls! Johnnie Fowke lived until he was in his eightieth year, and when in reminiscent mood loved to tell this story, which, I believe, was his best. The way he associated the tragedy of page break
Two Midland Clubs XIs, 1894 C. Cross. E. Fitzsimmons. S. Forsyth. W. G. Garrard. A. Blacklock. H. Ogier. W. J. Salmon. R. W. Barry. F. Taylor. A. T. Washer. E. P. Barnes. C. W. Garrard. R. V. Blacklock. T. W. Reese. W. McGirr. S. G. Tucker.A. E. White. W. Roberts. M. Naughton. D. Reese. W. Robertson. F. Lash. W.C. Pearce. K. H. Tucker.

Two Midland Clubs XIs, 1894
C. Cross. E. Fitzsimmons. S. Forsyth. W. G. Garrard. A. Blacklock. H. Ogier. W. J. Salmon. R. W. Barry. F. Taylor. A. T. Washer.
E. P. Barnes. C. W. Garrard. R. V. Blacklock. T. W. Reese. W. McGirr. S. G. Tucker.
A. E. White. W. Roberts. M. Naughton. D. Reese. W. Robertson. F. Lash. W.C. Pearce. K. H. Tucker.

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Fifty Years Ago—The Author with A. Sims

Fifty Years Ago—The Author with A. Sims

page 33 Downes's disastrous over with the overnight comedy always provoked a hearty laugh.

Canterbury's most tragic performance against Otago was on our own ground at Lancaster Park. Left with 193 to get on a wicket which, though slightly worn, was still a good and hard one, we cut a sorry figure. With the score at 19, Fisher bowled our captain. I followed, only to have my middle stump knocked back first ball. Sims came next, and the first ball survived an l.b.w. appeal, then down went his leg stump with the next: three wickets in four balls! Fisher bowled as if inspired, and we were all out for 46—Fisher seven for n. Such figures could be understood when Downes secured them on a treacherous wicket at Dunedin the previous season, but, on a hard wicket, well, who would have thought it possible? Fisher was a fine bowler, and this was one of his greatest performances.

Lockwood and Hearne once dismissed the Australians at Lord's on a perfect wicket for 53; the West Indians, in 1906, did the same to the Yorkshire XI for a similar score, so these things do happen, even in the sphere of big cricket. As a matter of fact, we had been telling ourselves that we should play back more to Fisher and Downes, for they were terrors to us in Dunedin. This time, with the wicket fast, and Fisher quickening his pace a little, we paid the penalty for playing back too much.

As I also got 0 in the first innings, it was my first experience of getting a pair of specs. My being in the Provincial XI caused the employees of Andersons to follow closely the doings of our team. Dick Thorpe, the elderly foreman of the millwright shop, was noted for his chaffing or barracking of all the youths in the works. While no doubt-he would be pleased at any success I might have, he could not resist a tilt at me over these two ducks. He got a nimble lad to climb high on to one of the roof principals and paint “Reese bowled Fisher o. o.” -Every time I happened to go into his shop, he would fold his arms, and stand staring at the two noughts. No chance of getting a swelled head when surrounded by such men! Ten years later I dismissed Fisher in both innings for o: we both enjoyed the joke, but of course I relished it most.

I remember one of old man Thorpe's sayings when he was on his favourite topic of chaffing youths about young women—“Have a good look at the mother first!” There was also an old page 34 Yorkshireman in the foundry who, when on the same subject, used to quote the old adage of his county—“Always pick one out of a bunch”—for in the North of England they do not favour the only child, or the one they call “granny-reared.”

This good-humoured banter, typical of the times, was as unceasing and subtle as could be heard on the Clyde; the reason no doubt being that with this firm, founded by a Scot, all the foremen and many of the workmen came from Scotland.

On my first day at work I began hammering and sawing with my left hand, but old Jimmy Paterson, my foreman, came along and said, “No, no, you must use the other hand I” I could be a left-handed cricketer, but I must be a right-handed mechanic.

One form of initiation to which new apprentices were subjected was to be sent to another department to borrow a tool — some ridiculous thing. I was told to go and ask Dick Thorpe for the loan of his “bowser”—a fictitious name for the occasion. The red whiskered Wheelwright pointed to a casting that was both heavy and awkward to handle. It-was as much as a lad could carry, and as I struggled through the blacksmith's shop I noticed everyone laughing; it was the same in the machine-shop, and when I dumped my load on the floor of the pattern-shop, in which department I began my training, all crowded round to laugh at and chaff the credulous youth. Yes, they waste no time in putting a lad in his place when he joins the staff of a big engineering works!