This Week in Port Phillip 1841: 9-16 September 1841

Once the worst of winter had been left behind, thoughts turned to CRICKET! Of course, there was no VFL footy to fill in September, so let the cricket season begin!

The season has now set in for cricket playing, and we are right glad to see that the Melbournites are bestirring themselves to carry on the game with something like spirit.  The tradesmen, we learn, are about forming a cricket club; and we learn, also, that the members of the Melbourne and Port Phillip Clubs are about establishing another. This is as it should be: the two clubs will, we hope, have several matches during the season and may the best men win, say we.  We would strongly recommend these clubs to the attention of our fellow-colonists, as cricket is not only the very best description of gymnastic exercise, but even in a moral point of view it has its pleasures, by carrying the mind back the “the days of former years” in “merry England” and by “the association of ideas” bringing before us the companions of our youth, in whose society our cares were forgotten and our joys increased.  His Honor Mr La Trobe is known to be passionately fond of cricket, and we feel confident (as ‘a Batsman’ remarks in another column) that he will willingly follow in the footsteps of Sir Richard Bourke, and set apart a portion of land in the immediate vicinity of the town as a cricket-ground. A deputation should wait on him for that purpose immediately.” (PPH 10/9/41 p.2)

The aforementioned ‘a Batsman’ (who may well have been one of the writers of the Port Phillip Herald themselves) wrote in a letter to the Editor:

SIR- As I have with much pleasure observed that you take considerable interest in Cricket, and as the season for its practice is approaching I trust I need make no apology for affording, through the medium of your columns, a few remarks with may prove acceptable to all who feel anxious to see this manly, healthy and truly British game fairly established amongst us.  I would suggest to the gentlemen of the town and district the propriety of forming a Club, who should establish regular days for play, and who should make the laws of the Mary-le-Bone Club their guide, and adhere to them strictly at practice, as well as when playing matches.  The necessity of strict attention to the laws, even at ordinary practice, must be apparent to all who know any thing of the game.

In the event of the establishment of such a Club, I should hope that our much respected Superintendent might be induced to follow the example of Sir Richard Bourke, who appropriated a piece of ground in the town of Sydney for the use of players, and might ultimately patronize an institution formed for the encouragement of this noble game.

The want of public amusements has long been felt and acknowledged, and I feel assured that an attempt by the gentlemen of Melbourne to establish a manly and rational recreation, will be imitated by the humbler classes of the community, and will have the effect of enrolling amongst it supporters many who would otherwise have wasted their health and means in less legitimate sources of enjoyment.  I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant, ‘A Batsman’.  (PPH 10 Sept p.3)

Edmund Finn, writing as ‘Garryowen’ tells us that the first informal cricket match took place on 22 November 1838 on the flat land at the foot of Batman’s Hill (i.e. roughly where Southern Cross Railway Station is now).  Following this match a number of the gentlemen from the Melbourne Club decided to form a club, with a subscription of one guinea which served well to keep the riff-raff out. Familiar names emerge here: A. Powlett, George Brunswick Smyth, William Meek, William Ryrie and William Highett and Peter Snodgrass.  An opposing club, the Melbourne Union Cricket Club was formed from men involved in retail lines of business and tradesmen and on 12 January 1839 the Gentlemen of the District took on the Tradesmen of the Town and were soundly beaten.  A second series in March 1839 pitted the Marrieds against the Bachelors.

These murmurings in September were to bear fruit on 1 November 1841 when the Melbourne Cricket Club was formed at the Exchange Hotel. In case I overlook it in November,  this club had a rather illustrious committee of management, chaired by  F.A Powlett as President,Henry F. Gurner as secretary and George Cavenagh the editor of the Port Phillip Herald (who always gave racing and cricket generous attention in his newspaper columns) as secretary. The committee included, among others, D.S. Campbell and Redmond Barry. They continued to play on the flat below Batman’s Hill until they took over a “more commodious and convenient” spot on the south of the Yarra, between the river and Emerald Hill (i.e. South Melbourne) [Garryowen p. 737-9].

Not completely the dog’s fault

Richard Broome, in his book Aboriginal Victorians, reminds us that indigenous people were a common sight in Melbourne during these first years of settlement.  The Port Phillip Herald of 10 September carried a report about a bulldog attacking a group of Aboriginal people in Flinder’s Lane- and, while reporting on the injuries sustained by a young indigenous woman, the article reveals quite a bit of sympathy for the dog:

FEROCIOUS BULL DOG: On Monday last a number of the natives, who daily throng the town, were congregated in Flinder’s-lane.  Unfortunately for humanity, a large and ferocious bull dog, excited by their yells, made a rush at them.  One of the Aborigines, a woman of about 20 years of age, was very seriously injured: her face, throat, neck and limbs being dreadfully lacerated: and it is more than likely that she would not have excaped with life had it not been for the timely and energetic assistance rendered by District Constable O’Neil who was passing at the moment.  The unfortunate woman was immediately conveyed to the hospital, where her wounds were dressed, and every assistance afforded her.  The bull dog was a splendid animal of the kind, and very large. (PPH 10/9/41 p. 2)

Wanted

I’ve been fascinated by an advertisement that appeared in several consecutive editions of the Port Phillip Herald:

WANTED: a Female Kangaroo.  Apply at the Herald office

A pet perhaps? Or did the advertiser have plans to send the kangaroo back ‘home’ as a curiosity – dead or alive?

How’s the weather?

Windy, it seems.  On 14 September the Port Phillip Herald reported that

The equinoctial gales have set in this season much earlier than usual.  On Saturday night, the storm was so severe that several large trees were blown down and the William lying in Hobson’s Bay drifted from her anchorage, but, we are glad to state, suffered no damage.  The gale was only partial not have extended even so far as Heidelberg but was in some places the severest felt for the past two years. (PPH p. 2)

The official weather report for 8th-14 September described it as

Fine, agreeable weather with light winds 8th, 9th, 10th, strong winds and gales with cloudy and rainy weather afterwards.

The top temperature for the period was 64 degrees (17.7), and the lowest 35 degrees (1.6- that’s cold for September), with the coldest day of the month falling on 13 September.

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