Overcoming Stigma in Victorian Cricket

Published: 2022
Pages: 60
Author: Musk, Stephen
Publisher: Red Rose Books
Rating: 3.5 stars

The sub-title of this one is The Remarkable Story of Francis Terry, Canada’s Mad Vicar, which is a rather blunt observation, but one which seems to be entirely accurate, Terry having spent much of his life as a patient in what in his time were known as asylums.

Stephen Musk, a man with some knowledge of issues relating to mental health, encountered Terry when researching his and Roger Mann’s splendid recent biography of the Philadelphian, Bart King. As he learned more about Terry he became increasingly interested in him and the result is this extended monograph from Red Rose Books.

Sadly for Musk and his readers Terry never married and there are therefore no descendants, nor any personal archive to assist us in getting to know Terry well, but the length of time that he spent living in institutions is testament to the fragility of his mental health. The precise nature and extent of his problems we unfortunately do not know, but more than one contemporary source described him as ‘insane’ and there was also an early diagnosis of ‘dementia’.

Terry came from an upper middle class background and went to Oxford University. Always a decent cricketer he did not succeed in playing for the University but did do enough to interest Somerset for whom he played ten First Class matches in the early 1890s. A decent batsman Terry scored one century for the county. He must have also been a competent wicketkeeper although, given the not inconsiderable number of byes he conceded, it is difficult to say anything more than that.

After University Terry went to Theological college, and was eventually ordained. He made several attempts to follow that calling both in England and later in Canada, but his mental health broke down each time and after the first such breakdown, in 1891, he relocated to Canada.

In Canada Terry continued with his cricket, both whilst an inpatient and when not.  Despite his problems Terry went on, and this of course is how Musk’s interest developed, to become very possibly the best batsman in Canada and he played several times against the USA in the International Series. Terry died aged 75 in 1936, the cause of death being stated to be senility.

For the purposes of Overcoming Stigma in Victorian Cricket Musk has tracked his subject’s life through contemporary press reports, of which there are many. In a lot of ways his narrative asks as many questions as it answers, but the story is a thoroughly researched one, and holds its reader’s interest.

The booklet ends with three appendices, all of which add colour to the story. The first deals with two North American contemporaries of Terry who took their own lives. The second reproduces a couple of pages on the subject of cricket that Terry contributed to a book published in Canada in 1895, and the third is the text of an article first published some years ago in the International Journal of the History of Sport dealing with the way in which the two asylums in which Terry spent time, and for whom he played cricket, were run.

As with all of Stephen Musk’s work Overcoming Stigma in Victorian Cricket is well outside the mainstream of cricket literature but, like his previous efforts* is well worth reading. This one can be bought directly from the publisher for £12 including UK postage and packing for the standard softback. Alternatively if you get in swiftly enough one of the 15 signed hardbacks, which cost £40, might still be available.

*Reviews of some of the author’s other publications can be found here, here, here and here.


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