Given the continuing success of the Irish team in the 2015 Cricket World Cup, it seems timely to look at cricket in the old days.
In Ireland, for a period in the nineteenth century, cricket was the most widely played sport in the country. In the 1860s there were cricket clubs in every county, and cricket was played by all classes. Although Siggins (2005:26) maintains that cricket in rural areas was largely under the patronage of landlords, Hunt (2004:28-29) disagrees that it was an elite-sponsored sport, and argues that players were ‘essentially young, single and Catholic’ from local villages and parishes, with cricket providing working people with their primary opportunity to participate in sport.
After the Famine, many emigrants took the game to their new homes, and it seems reasonable to assume that the Irish arriving at Baker’s Flat would have had some knowledge of it. Indeed, in the collection of metal artefacts from Baker’s Flat, there are 13 sporting buckles, 12 of which are for cricket – two are shown in the images below.
Sport played a central role in South Australian colonial country towns. Sporting clubs offered social prestige and strengthened the sense of community. The team sports of cricket and football cut across boundaries of class, ethnic origin and religion, with the cricket field being noted as a place where classes could interact and ‘feel themselves equal’ (Kapunda Herald and Northern Intelligencer 1869:2).
The cost of cricket equipment was quite reasonable, the amount of equipment required was minimal and it could all be communally owned, further reducing the cost. Just as cricket in Ireland offered players from poorer backgrounds an opportunity to display their skills and earn prestige, cricket on Baker’s Flat may have done the same. Interestingly, there was only one ‘national’ team in Kapunda, and this was the Hibernian Cricket Club. So, the playing of cricket may have operated at different levels – in one sense, it helped to cut across ethnic, religious and class boundaries, and in another, its Hibernian associations would have worked to maintain ethnic boundaries.
So, come on you boys in green, and let’s hope that when Ireland play Pakistan on 15 March at the Adelaide Oval, they make their way into the quarter finals.
Daly, J.A. 1982 Elysian Fields: Sport, Class and Community in Colonial South Australia 1836-1890. Adelaide: J.A. Daly.
Hunt, T. 2004 Classless cricket? Westmeath 1880-1905. History Ireland 12(2):26-30.
Kapunda Herald and Northern Intelligencer 1869 The revised estimates. 8 October, p.2. Retrieved 11 March 2015 from http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/108265888.
Siggins, G. 2005 Green Days: Cricket in Ireland 1792-2005. Stroud: Nonsuch Publishing.