Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Was It All Cricket?

Chapter 4 — Apprenticeship Completed

page break

Chapter 4
Apprenticeship Completed

The next twenty months were to be the most strenuous of my young days. There was at this time a great boom in gold dredging in New Zealand. The most famous dredge, the Hartley and Riley, operating in the Otago district, was winning gold every week in such quantities that it was an easy matter for promoters to launch dredging companies onto the market, and find ready and eager investors.

There was far more money being put into the ground than was ever taken out of it, but it took some years for investors to learn, to their sorrow, that while the Hartley and Riley continued to be a successful venture, there were many wildcat schemes launched. It will be readily appreciated that the building of many dredges meant a boom in engineering, and Andersons were being pressed for delivery of several new dredges. The firm had no chance of coping with all the work offering. As it was obviously a flash in the pan, there appeared to be little justification in enlarging their plant. The Andersons therefore chose, instead, to work overtime. We started at 7 a.m., and worked until 6 p.m., with a break of only three-quarters of an hour for lunch. In the winter-time it meant starting work at day-break, and finishing in the dark of the evening. As I was now in the advanced classes at Canterbury. College, struggling with Applied Mechanics, Hydraulics, Electricity, etc., it meant hurrying home four nights in the week to bath, have dinner, and then attend lectures from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The year's term ended early in December, and started early in March. From this it will be seen how these long hours encroached upon the cricket season. The match Canterbury v. Otago, this season, was in Christchurch, and the wicket on the soft side throughout the game. As usual, Sims and I opened the innings to Fisher and Downes. I dashed into Fisher at once, hit him for two or three 4's, and when I was caught in the outfield off him, after a short, merry innings, had scored all the runs, the board reading: 17–1–17. In the second innings I repeated the performance, scoring 26 out of a total of 28. Some of our players considered page 57 I had thrown my wicket away, caught each time at long-on up against the fence. Perhaps I did, but there was some satisfaction in knowing that my 26 was top score in our second innings. At any rate I relished the change from struggling for runs against this redoubtable pair of bowlers when they were operating on a wicket that gave them assistance.

In this same season the Melbourne Cricket Club team toured New Zealand. Trumble, just back from the English tour, was, of course, their outstanding player. When they arrived in Auckland, an advertisement for the local match read—“Come and see Trumble., the world's greatest bowler.” No wonder New Zealand batsmen thought he was about eight feet high, and a demon beyond their ability to play. Assisted by a left-hander named Cave, a member of the professional staff of the Melbourne ground, Trumble was to go through New Zealand sides in a way that made us despair of ever approaching the Australian standard of play. Trumble was laughingly to tell me later that the advertisement got him a lot of wickets.

I failed in the Canterbury match, but struggled hard to get 26 in the Test Match at Christchurch. In this game, C. A. Richardson, our captain, was to score 126, the first century ever scored for New Zealand against an overseas team. It was a painstaking innings, and going in first, he withstood all Trumble's wiles. This team, representing the best type of young man of Melbourne, also proved a great success socially, and they were entertained royally wherever they went. At Christchurch, they were given a dance at the home of one of our leading citizens. It was a beautiful warm night, and of course the couples found their way into the grounds. Harry Graham and his partner, to get away from the crowd, wandered round the garden and entered the summer-house. Yes, summer-house, they thought, until the fowls began to fly off the roost!

Altogether this was one of the most unsatisfactory seasons I ever had, for it was a severe handicap to be unable to get much practice, I began to pick up my real form towards the end of the season, but too late for big matches.

The winter of 1900 was to see the end of my football career. I had started to play again in earnest after the Australian cricket tour, and at the age of twenty was elected captain of the Sydenham First XV. My entry into senior football had been somewhat similar to my first appearance in cricket. When page 58 only seventeen years of age I was selected at the last minute on the morning of the match, to play centre three-quarter against the old East Christchurch Club, famous in the early days of Canterbury football. This was the last game of the season, and my brother, “T. W.?” who had for years been captain of the Sydenham team, was playing his last game. He was a clever centre three-quarter, but this year had gone to wing three-quarter, and chiefly by his own opportunism had scored a try in every match., With about ten minutes to go he still had not scored, when the ball came out to me, and racing to the opposition centre served him the dummy, then passed to my brother who scored at the corner flag. I suppose my extreme youth made it appear unlikely that I would dare to use the feint pass first shown to New Zealanders by Stoddart's famous English Rugby team in 1888.

The following year I played full-back at the beginning of the season, the first match being against Ngai tu Ahuriri (The Big Tribe). This was a Maori team, with its ground at Wood-end, about fourteen miles from Christchurch. The Maori pa at Tuahiwi was but a mile or two away, and this always ensured a good attendance of Maoris at all their home matches. In this Maori team were three brothers Uru. They were young men of magnificent physique, all over six feet, and all over fifteen stone. Billy played centre three-quarter, Harry half-back, and Hape (Happy) in the centre of the scrum. To those who know the characteristics of the Maori, it will not surprise them to learn of the tricks of these native players. They used a sticky substance like bird lime on their fingers; the two front row forwards used not to shave for a couple of days before the match, and in a dozen other ways they brought in the light-hearted cunning of the Maori. However, with all this, they were not as clever as their city opponents, who generally outwitted them in team tactics more than in individual cleverness.

These Maoris played football with the joy and abandon of schoolboys, and were a popular and picturesque side. Billy Uru, their captain, was a real Maori chief in sport, if not in blood. He was also a representative cricketer, a champion wrestler, and in field games at athletic meetings outshone all others in his time. He was leader, with the rank of Captain, of the Maori contingent to Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897, and again of the contingent to the celebrations in con- page 59 nection with the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.

In this particular match, when playing against a fresh breeze, I was standing well back. Presently Uru broke through and came straight at me. Imagine fifteen stone against about ten stone! Just as he reached me he passed to the wing three-quarter who scored behind the posts. As they were getting the ball from the scrum at this stage, it was not long before Uru was through again, with thirty or forty yards to go to the youngster at full-back. This time he did not pass! The Monday morning's newspaper report of the match said of this incident—“… young Reese bounced off like an indiarubber ball!”

When the Urus' football days were over it was the end of this Maori team. Many an exciting incident took place on the Woodend ground. The Maori women used to get wildly excited, and in close contests have been known to attack, with umbrellas and sticks, supporters or barrackers of visiting teams. In one particularly hectic game when play was becoming rough, an excited old Maori woman on the side-line, urging on the men of Tuahiwi, shrieked: “We ate 'em before—eat 'em again!”

This famous Billy Uru has been known to place-kick a goal from ten yards outside the half-way. Sometimes he would discard his boots, for he could punt great distances off his instep. When it came to a place-kick—and he was a great goal kicker—he would be heard to call aloud, “Wher'th ma booot?” A laugh would go up all round the ground as he sat down and laced them up. Later in life both Billy and Harry became members of Parliament as representatives of the native race. All three brothers became enormous men. The last time I was to speak to this big, genial, kind-hearted Billy Uru, he told me he weighed twenty-three stone.

William Garrard, our wicket-keeper in that first cricket match I played in at Wellington, later to become one of the great Rugby officials and referees in New Zealand, told me of a rebuke he got from Uru which exemplified the kindness of the Maori's nature. Garrard always believed in the hard, rugged play of Rugby. On the steamer going to Wellington, where Uru was to play in his first match for Canterbury, Garrard was telling him how he must use all his weight against his opponent opposite, and crash straight into him. Uru replied, “Oh no, Mr. Garrard, I will not play rough!” The latter said later that page 60 while he was taken aback at the answer, he saw something in the character of this great Maori that won his immediate and warm respect. As a cricketer, Uru was a fast bowler and on one occasion when he could not make the ball lift from the pitch he said of the wicket, “Tooo smoooth!”

The season following my cricket tour to Australia was to be an auspicious one for my old football club that had for years been near the bottom of the ladder. In 1900 we gradually climbed to the top, and had only to defeat the lowest placed team in the competition to win the championship. Kaiapoi, our opponents, had themselves been the champions a few seasons previously, but most of their best players had now retired. Smarting under their low position on the list, they decided, unknown to us, to bring back some of their old players just to show that they could still play football.

Kaiapoi, the country town they represented, is twelve miles from Christchurch, so it meant going out by coach, leaving about mid-day. Another coach-load of supporters went, no doubt expecting to wave the flag and be in at the kill. But what an awakening we were to get! These husky country lads just tore through our ranks as if we were junior players, and although we rallied in the second half, we were well beaten by 17 points to 3. This now made us level with Christchurch. In the play-off at Lancaster Park, before a record crowd, the match ended in a draw; 6 all. It was a hectic game. Playing again on the following Saturday, before a still bigger crowd, the score, with ten minutes to go, was again 6 all. Christchurch then scored at the corner flag, and Eric Harper, of All Black fame, converted with a beautiful kick and they won by 11 to 6. Christchurch played better football than we did, but the play of our forwards in the loose was always a source of trouble to all the teams we met.

I was then picked as centre three-quarter for Canterbury, to play against Wellington at Wellington. To my surprise I was refused leave that would enable me to go with the team on the Thursday night and return Sunday morning. I suppose my employers considered that they had been liberal enough in letting me off so much for cricket, and of course they had been generous. On the other hand, I felt that my previous refusal to ask for leave to tour the North Island with the Canterbury Rugby team because of the approaching cricket tour to Australia page 61 in 1898 had balanced the ledger. There were also the long months of overtime I had worked, which seemed to give me some claim. But no! They were very busy and would not let me off. This was a nice position for me. The Double Blue was an attraction, and as I was arranging to go to Australia shortly, in search of experience, I knew it would be my last chance ever to play football for Canterbury. I had already completed my apprenticeship, so took the law into my own hands, and went to Wellington with the team. Throughout the earliest years of my cricketing career, Mr. Wilding, who was a personal friend of the Andersons, had always arranged for my leave for big matches and cricket tours. I should have remembered this when deciding to ask off.

There was a howling southerly blowing and pools of water on the ground, so it was not a very pleasant game in which to play my only football match for Canterbury.

Thus ended my strenuous but happy six years with the firm to which I have always felt indebted for a sound training. The four Anderson brothers had all been representative footballers, and must, I am sure, have felt as vexed as I did at the manner of my going. At any rate they showed no animosity when I announced that I was going to Australia, and gave me a good reference covering my services with them.

My earlier reference to Stoddart's English football team reminds me that Alec Downes, our great bowler, was an outstanding footballer, in fact, the best centre three-quarter in New Zealand in those days. Had there been combined New Zealand sides when he played, he would certainly have been an All Black. In the match Otago versus the native team just returned from England, when the latter was leading by 10 points to 9, and time was nearly up, Downes potted at goal, his left-foot kick hitting the cross-bar and bouncing back into play. Only a few years ago, Downes was to tell me that in the first twenty minutes of this game the natives played the finest football he ever saw: this is something for Rugbyites to argue about.

Stoddart's tour was the first visit of an English football team to this country. Although I was but nine years old, I remember my father taking one of my brothers and me to see the match against Canterbury. I have no recollection of any other players but Stoddart, and Paul, the full-back, who later played cricket page 62 for Lancashire. This team romped through New Zealand, overwhelming all sides with their fast, open play; they were the first to show New Zealanders how to heel the ball out of the scrum, and also introduced the dummy pass. As each side was meeting them for the first time, they were unprepared for these tricks. After beating Otago, the Englishmen remained in Dunedin for a return match. This gave the intelligent Dunedin lads sufficient time to embody some of the English team's tricks in their own play. In an exciting game, the visitors won by the narrow margin of 4 points to 3. Pat Keogh was Otago's halfback. His name has been handed down over the years as being the greatest half-back ever seen in this country—old players never conceding more than that Freddie Roberts of the 1905 All Black team to England was a close rival. In the match in question, Keogh served the dummy pass and scored close to the posts. Now, Keogh was a real larrikin in private life—a devil-may-care sort of young man. On scoring this try, he sat on the ball and put his fingers up to his nose. One can picture the sensation of that moment! Stoddart was loud and generous in his praise of the play of Otago, then the best provincial team in New Zealand.

Pat Keogh was also a fair cricketer, and was to figure in a humorous incident. Playing in a club match, he was called upon to umpire, as players are often required to in junior grade cricket. With Keogh at the bowler's end, the batsman taking strike was the son of the local policeman. Presently there was an appeal for l.b.w. “Out!” said Keogh, loudly and emphatically.

As the batsman walked past the umpire, he said, “I wasn't out.”

“No,” said Keogh. “And I wasn't drunk when your father put me in the lock-up last Saturday night!”

I had always intended to proceed to England on completion of my apprenticeship. This had been the practice of many young New Zealand engineers, for the overseas shipping companies had, in those days, a system of allowing them to work their passage Home. They were signed on as assistant engineers at one shilling per month. It required some courage to go abroad and face the world in this way, and yet it was only what our fathers and grandfathers had done forty and fifty years earlier, when they faced the uncertainty of life in the Colonies. It was probably the cricket of Australia that was part of the page 63 attraction when I decided to go to Melbourne for a year or two before going to England.

The celebration of my twenty-first birthday saw more than half our family grown up, and as we were all working, our total income was such that the earlier anxieties of our slender family purse had been overcome. It was particularly hard to face leaving the happy surroundings of my home life. My brave mother, undaunted by the years of anxiety following my father's death, showed little outward sign of the strain she had been through since she was left with the responsibility of rearing such a large family. She was the first to see that going abroad would open up opportunities greater than any likely to occur at home; my brothers and sisters all looked upon my going more as an adventure, and applauded the idea. And so it came to saying good-bye, which was more heart-rending than I had anticipated. I remember my mother's final words, “Now, be a good boy, Dan,” quietly spoken, and with a trust that was most touching. I was to hear those simple words in every part of the world. Those who know the atmosphere of a Scottish home will be aware of the standards of their family life, and appreciate the influence of a mother of the Victorian era.

One often reads of the achievements of Scotsmen in all parts of the Empire. Seldom is reference made to the women of Scotland who migrated to Canada, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, to play a noble part in transplanting the home life of the Old Country, and maintaining the character of the peoples of our race. If anyone should wish for a better picture of our family circle, I would refer them to J. M. Barrie's beautiful story in Margaret Ogilvy. There you will see my mother as the same mother that Barrie depicts, with her gentle, kindly, and self-sacrificing way of caring for her children.

I was later to see the leadership of men in its truest sense, as exemplified on the cricket field by great captains, but I have seen none finer than was shown by my mother in her handling of five sons and four daughters.