A Centenary History of Maitland and District Cricket Association
(formerly Hunter River District Cricket Association).
1844 – 1994
Written by Lindsay Wood.
In memory of a true cricketing friend
who inspired me along the way but sadly did not live to see this book in print.
“Cricket is always the memory of cricket” – Brian Jones.
A hundred years marks an important milestone in the history of any organisation.
In 1994 the Maitland and District Cricket Association celebrates its Centenary, marking a hundred years since its predecessor, the Hunter River District Cricket Association, was formed following a meeting at Kerrigan’s Centennial Hotel on 10th September 1894.
As such, it is an appropriate time to pause and reflect on past achievements and progress, while at the same time looking to the future.
Over the years the fortunes of the Association have fluctuated. There have been times when the very existence of the Association has been called into question.
However, the Association has weathered the crises and can look back on a proud record of achievement and growth, as it moves with confidence into the next century.
The Association’s competitions have produced many outstanding cricketers, a number of whom have gone on to high representative honours. At the same time the Association has catered for the many “run-of-the-mill” cricketers who, regardless of their level of ability and age, have turned out on Saturday afternoons in a variety of grades to enjoy the game and the fellowship that goes along with it.
In the course of its history there have been many individuals who have given outstanding service to the administration of the Association. This, too, is a time to pay tribute to their dedicated efforts and contributions to the organisation of the sport.
Obviously, in such a history it has not been possible to include every noteworthy achievement or to do justice to every individual. To those who feel that they may have been given little weight or overlooked, I apologise but trust that they will appreciate the limiting demands of selection in a work of this scope.
Unfortunately, the Association’s own records of the period prior to the 1960s are virtually non-existent. Most of these were destroyed in 1949 when the floodwaters of the Hunter River entered the Horseshoe Bend home of the Association Secretary, Frank McMahon.
To reconstruct the history of those early years, I have therefore had to rely heavily on the newspaper reports of the Maitland Mercury. Fortunately, these reports of matches and meetings were very detailed and provide an invaluable source of information.
In compiling this history, I am indebted to a number of organisations and individuals who have given me a lot of practical help and assistance.
I would especially like to thank the staff of the Maitland Regional Public Library and the Goold Local History section of the Newcastle Region Public Library; the sports and photography staff of the Maitland Mercury; and the many individuals, too numerous to mention, who helped to answer various queries and provide archival and photographic material from their personal collections.
A special word of thanks must go to Col Johnston, who has been so much a part of the Association’s history. Col kindly consented to read over the original manuscript as it developed, chapter by chapter. His rich storehouse of cricket memories helped to clarify many points and bring to life many of the characters referred to in the early chapters. For his inspiration, advice and encouragement I am most grateful.
In some respects, the compilation of this Centenary history has been “a labour of love”, since it has enabled me to combine my interest in both history and cricket. There is no denying that it has consumed a lot of time and effort.
However, if I have helped those who read this publication to relive some of their cricket memories as they look back clown that century long lane, and if I have helped to preserve the local cricket heritage of those years for future generations, I will feel satisfied that the time and effort have been worthwhile.
Harold Butler, the Waverley fast bowler, was clunking up and down the Belmore Hotel’s wooden verandah in his army boots at six o’clock in the morning outside the bedroom of the world’s greatest bowler, Bill O’Reilly.
“What do you think you’re doing?” the great bowler asked.
“I can’t sleep,” said Harold.
“Well,” said Bill, “go down to the ground and roll the wicket.”
No one argued with the “Tiger”, especially at 6 am. So off went Harold and rolled the wicket.
This happened during one of Jack Chegwyn’s team visits to Maitland. Those Sunday games were popular with the players due to the hospitality of the Maitland people and in particular the Saturday night parties thrown by the Johnston family.
Back in the old days such quick trips from Sydney could not have taken place. Dreadful roads and horse and cart transport made it hard going for the visitors.
Indeed, when George Parr’s English XI was due to play at Maitland in 1864, they declined at very short notice to make the trip from Sydney owing to the “fearful condition of the ground and roads” following heavy rain.
Many famous cricketers have graced the cricket arenas of Maitland from Mullagh, Dick-a-Dick and his fellow team mates of the famous first Aboriginal team to tour England to those of more modern times, all time greats such as Charlie Macartney and Doug Walters who both played junior cricket in Maitland.
The district has produced many outstanding players, some of whom have gone on to gain State honours. Among these were William and Leon Moore in the 1890s, Charlie Andrews and Frank Cummins in the 1930s, David Johnston in the 1970s, and Michael Cox who represented Western Australia in the 1980s Country districts have made enormous contributions to NSW and Australian cricket and Maitland is no exception.
Lindsay Wood is to be congratulated for putting together this most interesting and readable chronicle of Maitland and Hunter District cricket from its beginnings in the middle of the nineteenth century to the present day.
It is a tribute to those cricket lovers who have contributed so much to Maitland and cricket in general, often in the most difficult and daunting circumstances.