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The first Indigenous cricket tour of England in 1868

 A legendary tour

Aboriginal people first began to learn cricket by playing socially with Europeans on the cattle stations in western Victoria, where some worked as stockmen.  

In 1868, 13 cricketers from Victoria's western districts sailed from Sydney to become the first Australian team to tour England.  They played local, amateur English teams. Over six gruelling months, they played 47 two-day games. At the completion of each game the Australian team was required to give an exhibition of 'native sports', including boomerang and spear throwing.  

Under the captaincy of Charles Lawrence, the team produced one legendary player, a young man called Muarrinim. Known on tour as Johnny Mullagh, he scored 1698 runs and claimed 245 English wickets over 45 games. He went on to play for the Melbourne Cricket Club.

Aboriginal cricket team of 1867

Tiger
Dated from reference to publication of image in Warrnambool Examiner 8 October 1867
Presented by Sir William Dixson, 1951
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Digital ID: 
a1564004
Cuzens
1867
Photographed by P. Dawson, Hamilton, Victoria
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Digital ID: 
a1564007
Twopenny
photographed by P. Dawson, Hamilton, Victoria
Digital ID: 
a1564012
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Sundown
Photographed by P. Dawson, Hamilton, Victoria
Digital ID: 
a1564011
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Beyond the tour

After the tour most of the players died in obscurity with only a few playing top class cricket again. Johnny Mullagh played for Victoria against Lord Harris' English team in 1879 top scoring in the second innings. He became a professional at the Melbourne Cricket Club and died in 1891. Johnny Cuzens also played for Melbourne as a professional before going bush in 1870. He is believed to have died the following year. The only other player to appear again in big cricket was Twopenny who played for NSW against Victoria in 1870.

From this first tour, a tradition was established which continues to this day. In 2001 the most recent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island squad, the 'Downunders', played nine one-day games, including four 're-enactment' games to commemorate the original 1868 tour.

The Scorebook of the Aboriginal Cricket Tour of England is a copy, in Charles Lawrence's hand, of the original scorebook. It records names of both teams for all innings, scores, results, umpires' names and other details for every match. The scorebook also includes scores for 22 of Dublin v United Ireland Xl, 1856 and United Ireland XI v 22 of the North of Ireland, 1860.

Scorebook of the Aboriginal cricket tour of England in 1867

Scorebook of the Aboriginal Cricket Tour of England being a copy in Charles Lawrence's hand, 1868
Charles Lawrence
Digital ID: 
a358009
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Scorebook of the Aboriginal Cricket Tour of England being a copy in Charles Lawrence's hand, 1868 pg 10
Charles Lawrence
Digital ID: 
a358010
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Captain Lawrence

Charles Lawrence captained the first Australian team to tour England. He was born in London in 1828 and became a professional cricketer at the age of 17. He played in Ireland during the 1850s and formed the United All-Ireland XI. In 1861-62 he toured Australia with the first England Team under H.H. Stephenson. At the end of the tour he remained behind to coach the Albert Club in Sydney. In 1868 he captained a team of 13 Aboriginal cricketers to England. After returning to Australia Lawrence continued playing and coaching. He played his last game at the age of 70 and died in 1916.

This metal watch fob was presented to Charles Lawrence by Peter Curtis in 1868. It is designed as a cricket ball with a hinged lid. Mounted on the lid in a tripod formation are three cylindrical stumps, a cricket bat, and a single stump.