The Barracker At BayMartin Chandler |
Author: A Barracker (RT Corrie)
Publisher: Keating Wood
Rating: 3 stars
The front cover suggests that this pamphlet is going to be nothing more than a rant against all things English, and having chosen to invest a not insignificant amount of money in what is an uncommon little publication I expected to find it amusing rather than informative. In fact however, despite my not having been able to find out anything of substance about who RT Corrie was, and whilst his agenda is clearly communicated on the cover of his little book, his analysis of how and why the furore developed is a succinct and well written one.
The motivation for Corrie choosing to publish his views is clearly the disdain shown by some of the Englishmen, and their captain in particular, for Australian spectators. Corrie is clear in his acceptance that what he considers a minority of about 1% of spectators were loutish individuals that he did not speak for. He expresses the view, although not with any obvious direct experience, that English crowds were the same. He also makes clear that around 30% of those at the ground had no opinions they wished to express, so it is the remainder, a significant majority, for whom he felt he was writing. As to the moral basis of his entitlement to be heard that is the simple one that the point of view of those who contributed to the tour’s financial success to the tune of 70% of its turnover deserved a voice.
Corrie his analysis by referring to the huge popularity of the first three post war English captains, Johnny Douglas, Arthur Gilligan and Percy Chapman, and the fact that Douglas Jardine had, when touring with Chapman, had a difficult relationship with Australia then. Nonetheless he is at pains to point out that in the early part of the tour the Australian press and public alike were, in the main, effusive and welcoming to Jardine.
In terms of Jardine’s response to Australian magnanimity Corrie asserts that he then antagonised his hosts by, apparently, insisting on drinks breaks being taken during play (he suggests that Jardine called for them tactically although sadly he does not set out what the playing conditions were). He also dwells on an incident in Tasmania between the first and second Tests when Jardine didn’t want to play on a pitch he felt was unsafe for his bowlers and that, when overruled, he proceeded to bowl, in the main, himself, Les Ames and Eddie Paynter.
These two incidents undoubtedly occurred, as did two more referred to by Corrie, those being one where Maurice Leyland accused Ironmonger of using resin, and another when Harold Larwood, playing against Queensland, was clearly incensed when an appeal for a catch at short leg went against him. But whilst Corrie may set out the barracker’s perspective on these two as with the ‘drinks’ and Tasmania incidents he does not stop to consider what the counter arguments might be, nor do the facts as he sets them out always coincide entirely with some of the more mainstream accounts of the famous tour.
After dealing with ‘the facts’ the rights and wrongs of Jardinian leg theory are then rehearsed, Corrie naturally coming out very much against the sportsmanship of the tactic. He recites quotations from many of the great and the good of Australian cricket to support him, and he had clearly read the English press too as the views of Neville Cardus (from afar) and Jack Hobbs (from the press box) are quoted as well.
Interestingly a major catalyst for Corrie’s writing seems to have been Larwood’s ghosted account of the tour, Bodyline?, and the largest single part of The Barracker At Bay amounts to Corrie’s reply to that. In truth he does a pretty good job of rebutting all that was said in Larwood’s name, although he does seem to have taken at face value a book that was certainly ghosted and, in truth, a book that it is unlikely its “author” had a great deal of input into.
The Barracker At Bay is very much ‘of its time’, but is certainly one of the better contemporary views I have read on the famous Bodyline series. It is a great shame however that we do not know more about Mr Corrie*, how old he was, his background and his occupation. It would also be nice to know if his views ever changed, and in particular what he thought of Larwood’s decision, a couple of decades later, to emigrate to Australia.
*Such was my curiosity about this that I decided to see if David Frith, author of the definitive book on Bodyline, and Australian book dealer Roger Page (who is based in Melbourne) were able to help – I did not get answers to all my questions, but their combined wisdom is worth knowing, so I shall quote them in full:-
Have just checked my copy of The Barracker at Bay and it’s inscribed “With compliments from one of your countless admirers R.T.Corrie”.
Needless to say, it wasn’t inscribed to me . . .
A further cutting (I’ve always filed appropriate cuttings in books) is by way of a delayed review of the booklet and reveals that his first name was Raymond, a young Melburnian, and he died “15 years ago” (the cutting is undated). It goes on to say that RTC sent a copy to every player in the 1932-33 series. His son Ralph is quoted: “My father wanted to present the view of the bloke on the other side of the picket fence.”
The son was in possession of a letter from Larwood thanking RTC for sending him the booklet: “always interested to hear other people’s [views], providing they are not biased.”
He also had a note from Jardine, who was still awaiting the booklet’s arrival: “I can at least congratulate you on your courage in claiming to speak for 95 per cent of so large and varied a country”. Very clever, though you can almost hear the sneer.
A few bare facts on R.T.Corrie:
Full name: Raymond Thomas Corrie.
Born: 1900 (in Victoria)
Parents: Thomas Henry Corrie & Susan Corrie (nee Girwan)
Marriage: 1924 to Rose Annie Marhey
Died: 1967 (in Victoria)
Judging by letters published in Melbourne papers on unemployment and taxation (26:1:1938) and the treatment of Germany(12:5:1945), he was public spirited and a social activist.