DaintyArchie Mac |
Author: Bonnell, Max
Publisher: Cricket Books.com.au
Rating: 4 stars
There can often be an air of melancholy when reading a biography of an old cricketer. Melancholy since so many of them, although rarely the English amateurs, fall on hard times in later life. ‘Dainty’ is no exception although he does not appear to have become as destitute as some of his contemporaries. He certainly struggles with money and requires charity from his cricket club in his twilight years.
Before we reach the end of Ironmonger’s journey, author Max Bonnell provides a comprehensive narrative of his subject’s life. The story itself is one that will almost certainly never be repeated.
Ironmonger, who appears to have had no real formal cricket coaching, and after years of struggling to make the Queensland team was suddenly whisked from obscurity into the Victorian side. He decided to shave four years off his age and was one of the oldest players to make his Test debut at age 46. Ironmonger had only just started and went onto play Tests into his 50th year. Another reason, apart from age, that would stop ‘Dainty’ gaining selection today was his poor fielding and batting. So bad was his batting that his other nickname was the ‘Ferret’ because he came in after the bunnies.
Bonnell, discusses all of the controversial moments, quirks and mostly apocryphal stories that surround ‘Dainty’. The biggest controversy was the action of Ironmonger. As Bonnell points out, and is typical in such situations, the Aussies mainly thought his action fair and the Poms that he threw. This appears to be the reason that Ironmonger never tours England despite all agreeing his bowling style was perfectly suited to English conditions.
One problem with cricket historians is they love to research and debunk old cricket lore. I still remember my hurt when Jack Pollard proved Arthur Mailey’s story about bowling to his idol Victor Trumper to be of doubtful authenticity. Well this time Max Bonnell dispels one of Mr Pollard’s stories as a fake. Pollard had Ironmonger losing his finger in a sawmill accident and then when showing his Forman how it happened cutting off another finger. Turns out that ‘Dainty’ only lost one finger and it wasn’t even in a timber cutting accident. After reading that, I felt like Mailey’s boy who killed a dove. Bloody cricket historians!
In fact the above is just one of many pieces of research and thought provoking analysis that Bonnell provides. He does, at least reassuringly, state that ‘Dainty’ may well have said the famous words “don’t worry son, I won’t let you down”. This happened when he came in at number 11 and joined Bradman who was on 98* in the famous Bodyline series.
Bonnell even provides a description of how the nickname ‘Dainty’ came to be, and how it replaced the less politically correct nickname ‘Darky’ that was previously Ironmonger’s moniker.
This is a really enjoyable book, with a fine stat section and lovely photographs throughout. There are also hardly any typos and Bonnell writes in an easily accessible style.
The book has two editions. One a limited edition of a 100 signed copies for AUS $75 and a standard edition at AUS $50. Copies can be purchased from Cricket Web’s friend Ken Piesse, who was kind enough to provide us with a review copy. The book will be released in September 2019.