Peter Pan’s First XI

Published: 2010
Pages: 344
Author: Telfer, Kevin
Publisher: Sceptre
Rating: 4 stars

What a time the Golden Age* must have been for the cricket lover. Cricket was not only the number one sport in England it was also the favourite sport of the period’s great writers. Men like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, E.W. Hornung, A.A. Milne, P.G. Woodhouse and E.V. Lucas enshrined the sport in some great writing and also played the game. Some, like Doyle, to first class level and others; well they just played.

One of those who ‘just played’ was J.M. Barrie, who quipped that he bowled so slowly that if he didn’t like the look of a delivery he could run down and pick it up before it reached the batsman.  While he wasn’t a great cricketer, Barrie loved the game and by inviting his writer friends to make up a team he established a great link with cricket.

The name of Barrie’s team was the Allahakbarries and although they didn’t play that many games, thanks to the personnel and their indefatigable captain they are perhaps the most famous of all ‘scratch’ teams.

Kevin Telfer provides a biography of Barrie with his love of cricket the omnipresent thread throughout his book. He also covers the lives of the other authors who played with the Allahakbarries and the family that inspired Peter Pan. Telfer’s research appears impeccable and the fact he uncovers previously unpublished letters from Barrie helps make Peter Pan’s First XI both an entertaining and educational read.

Telfer doesn’t just tell the story of Barrie and cricket, he offers his own opinions on some of Barrie’s writings and hypothesises on the possible impact on Barrie’s health of a number of tragedies. Barrie lost many loved ones in a short timeframe especially during and immediately after the Great War and the chapters about this period are the best in the book.

The author clearly has a strong interest in cricket and displays knowledge of the finer points of the game. The only annoyance is his habit of spelling Test cricket with a lower case ‘t’ as in test cricket. He also has Bradman scoring 37 boundaries and a six in a score of 160. This is one of the rare typos in the entire book, which is some achievement in a book of its size.

This is the second book on J.M. Barrie and cricket, the other published in 1988, Peter Pan and Cricket by David Rayvern Allen, which was also well researched and written. While both are quality reads, perhaps on balance Telfer’s book just earns the nod as the better read.

*the Golden Age was considered to have started in 1890 and certainly to have ended in 1914. It was anything but a golden age for many players who played in the period. Telfer touches on this, as well as most other aspects of cricket and life at the time.







Leave a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they have been approved

More articles by Archie Mac