Cricketers at RestArchie Mac |
Author: Somerville, David
Rating: 3.5 stars
What a fantastic idea for a book. David Somerville has found the final resting place for Australia’s first 54 Test cricketers. Tracking them down must have been a labour of love and with some of them no easy feat, especially for the few buried outside of Australia.
I imagine Somerville must have trawled through old newspapers and genealogy search engines to discover where each cricketer’s story ended. While he does provide some information about his research efforts at the start of the book, I would have enjoyed more insight into his travails. There certainly must have been some interesting stories about how he found, documented and then photographed the graves of his subjects. This is a pity as you imagine some of Australian’s earliest Test cricketers must have been difficult to locate.
What Somerville has done is present a beautiful book with a colour photo of each player’s grave. He also includes details of the cemetery and a key to the grave location. Apart from a photo of the grave, Somerville includes the Wisden obituaries and a contemporary newspaper article. As far as it goes, both are interesting, although I would have preferred a more neoteric piece. This is especially true of those cricketers who, apart from a single Test, did not have an overly decorated cricketing career. In these cases Wisden is brief and I often found myself on the ‘Net’ looking for further information.
Some of the newspaper articles are also difficult to read, and do not note the author or newspaper they are taken from.
Somerville writes in the ‘acknowledgments’ section that he believes the Wisden obituaries included in Cricketers at Rest, “creates and enhances the theme behind the meaning of what is being presented”. He has a point and perhaps I have misunderstood his vision in this review.
There is one cricketer out of the 54, that we do find the most up to date information. That is for Cap #7- John Robert/Robart Hodges, who is often referred to in Wisden ‘as presumed dead’. Somerville includes a piece written by South African cricket historian Rodney Ulyate. This original piece on the life and death of Hodges is fascinating and makes me eager to read Ulyate’s book on the first Ashes Test match of 1877, which Hodges played in. Ulyate informed me that he expects to have his book published in early 2023.
Back to Cricketers at Rest – Somerville tells us in the introduction to his book of some of his trials and tribulations in discovering the graves of the 54. He also laments that some have fallen into disrepair or in some cases have no tombstone at all. This is certainly a sad state of affairs and it’s good to see that some have had repairs carried out. George Giffen’s grave for example was restored by the Cricket Society of South Australia in 1991. Hopefully, Somerville’s book will inspire more to be done to address the poor state of many an old cricketers resting place.
Also in the introduction the author informs that he has completed his research to include all the cricketers who played Tests for Australia up to 1938, and adds that he has two more volumes ready to print. I imagine like Cricketers at Rest they will be limited editions of just 30 numbered and signed copies. I have already reserved my copy and suggest you do to. Cricketers at Rest can be ordered through the author at – email@example.com