Monday, March 3, 2014

Special Collections Fossickings 32: Trumper comes to town – part 1.

Did you enjoy the cricket over the summer? Did you raise a stubbie to celebrate the triumph of the baggy green and “the urn’s return”?  There’s nothing like an Ashes series to bring out the tales of past heroes of the game and by any measure Victor Trumper, whose Test career spanned the years 1899-1912, must rank as a giant among them. Many considered his abilities surpassed even Bradman’s. The great cricket authority, Neville Cardus, maintained Trumper was a soaring eagle compared to Bradman’s more prosaic jet plane. Yet, despite his talents, Trumper was known for his modesty and generosity on and off the field.

Imagine the excitement that must have been generated by the announcement in early April 1906 that Trumper was going to bring a touring team to Queensland. Now Queenslanders could witness for themselves the flair and grace of his batting, and local players would have the chance to test their skills and their wits against Trumper and his first-class team, containing two other Test players: pace bowler “Tibby” Cotter and all-rounder Bert Hopkins.
Front cover of John Hawkin's book "Trumper's Team in Queensland 1906" showing a painting of Trumper created by the author.
A sketchy, and not entirely accurate, account of two matches is included in a 1973 publication by a Charters Towers resident using the nom-de-plume, “Merlin”.  But in 2012, more than a century after the Queensland tour, a specialist British publisher produced a detailed account in a limited edition.  Copy number 130 of John Hawkins’  “Trumper’s Team in Queensland 1906” has just been acquired for the North Queensland collection.  It includes descriptions and scores for all matches, gleaned from newspapers of the day, and photographs of the players. Most intriguingly the book includes a facsimile of the original souvenir booklet of the tour and of the initial agreement drawn up between Trumper and the entrepreneur Edwin Geach, with Trumper’s hand-written notes. 

Page of draft agreement between Trumper and Geach from John Hawkin's book, "Trumper's Team in Queensland 1906".
The team left Sydney on 17 April and proceeded up the coast via Brisbane and smaller ports. A photograph dated 24 April, shows the team relaxing with Mayor Betzel and others at “Woodlands”, a private home in Bowen, their last port of call before Townsville. Arriving in Charters Towers by train for their first match the team was mobbed by a large and boisterous crowd, many lingering outside their hotel until long after midnight.
Trumper and team mates at G.M.Kent's "Woodlands", Bowen 24/4/1906.  On the far right hand side, Trumper is 4th from the top with catch of window shutter appearing above his hat. Bowen Historical Society Album, NQ Photographic Collection, ID 8166.
Two matches were scheduled to be played in Charters Towers, as well as one each in Ravenswood and Townsville. As it turned out the Ravenswood match did not go ahead – the town was coming to the end of its boom period and possibly, as Hawkins suggests, Geach felt it could not provide a large enough ‘gate’. Nonetheless it was a tribute to Charters Towers’ sporting enthusiasm that it was the only town outside Brisbane to host two of the ten matches that were played in seven regional centres. 

In the north, one of the positive outcomes of the tour was Trumper’s support for the formation of a North Queensland cricket association which became a reality a few months later. Next week’s Fossickings will bring you accounts of these historic matches which pitted local talent against some of the nation’s best.

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