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Was It All Cricket?


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As a general rule, a book that takes the form of a personal narrative is accompanied by a prefatory note of explanation; this one appears to come within that category.

Many times over the years, friends have urged me to record the story of a fairly varied career, particularly that period when I visited many outlying parts of the world. When an occupation takes one over diverse routes and to unusual places, experiences of travel are often different from those gained by the ordinary tourist. Although my early reputation in New Zealand was that of a cricketer, this book is brought into being to relate travels as a marine engineer, and subsequent adventures in the business world, as well as experiences in first-class cricket in England, Australia, and New Zealand. What claims I may have to write with authority on these subjects must be decided by the reader. A brief summary of events may be of some assistance.

It was in 1898 that I first represented New Zealand; two years later I was a member of the Melbourne Cricket Club XI, under Hugh Trumble's captaincy; in 1903 a member of Dr. W, G. Grace's London County team, which also included W. L. Murdoch, the famous Australian; and in 1906 a member of the Essex County XI, captained by F. L. Fane.

Returning to New Zealand, I captained all New Zealand's XI's from 1907 to 1914. On the administrative side of the game I was for more than twenty years a member of the Management Committee of the New Zealand Cricket Council—three years as Chairman—and after these activities was elected President.

Relating to travels, I was at sea for three years as a marine engineer—part of the time on tramp steamers—trading to many distant lands. This book tells of journeys round Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope, of visits to the Far East, the West Indies, North, South and Central America, also to many ports in Europe, the United Kingdom and Australia. Travelling with touring cricket teams also enabled me to see many places of interest. Experiences in the shipping, commercial and industrial life of New Zealand will complete the story.

When turning from delightful experiences on the cricket page 12 fields of England, and sight-seeing and exploring in London, to the humbler but more venturesome life of a marine engineer sailing to foreign parts, I am reminded of my old friend, the late Andrew Ross Kirk, who is in some measure responsible for these memoirs being written. He was a very old friend of our family, and his father was a friend of my father. I was brought into closer touch with Mr. Kirk late in life, when, as a solicitor, he became a trustee for an estate interested in our sawmills on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. On one occasion, returning from Greymouth by the slow night train, Mr. Kirk, some ten years my senior, said, “Tell me something about those years when you were abroad playing cricket in England, and at sea as an engineer.” On such a tedious journey, lasting twelve hours, we were glad to have something to talk about. When I had told many of my stories, and the happenings of those years, Kirk said, “Well, I'll never leave you alone until you have put that in writing!” He added, “If you're too modest to publish the book, leave the manuscript to your family.” About a month later he said, “I've got the name for your book, and don't allow anyone to persuade you to change it—Was It All Cricket?!” The title impressed me, and I have taken his advice, for it suits the story I have written. Every time Mr. Kirk met me, he would laughingly say, “Have you begun it yet?” I regret to say that he died some years ago, and did not live to know that my half-promise would be fulfilled.

On another occasion, when discussing biographies, Mr. J. S. Barrett, well known in cricket circles as Chairman of the Council, and in the racing world as owner of Count Cavour, a New Zealand Cup winner, turned to me, and said, “I'd read your book, if you wrote one!” I was surprised at his remark, which may also have influenced my decision to write these memoirs.

I believe that in parts this narrative may interest cricketers and engineers, as well as those who feel attracted by stories of travel or of business venture. It is my hope that the reader will enjoy more than one section.

D. R.

Cashmere Hills,
New Zealand.