The Glory & The DreamArchie Mac |
Author: Sissons, Ric
Publisher: Campaign City
Rating: 4.5 stars
This is a book about the MCC’s (Marylebone Cricket Club) first officially sanctioned tour to Australia in 1903/04. Previous to this, tours were organised between private parties, and most often through the players themselves.
The book is split into three sections. The first provides a brief synopsis of the last two Ashes battles; Archie MacLaren’s team to Australia in 1901/02, and the Aussies in England in 1902. These descriptions are fairly perfunctory. The real interests in the first section are the machinations around the touring squad makeup and the payments to the professionals.
Author Ric Sissons includes correspondence between a few of the professionals, which provides great insight into how the negotiations were carried out in the Golden Age. The professionals were offered £300 plus expenses. As the Australian players had cleared £800 after expenses on their 1902 tour, it’s not surprising that some of the pros pushed for £400. The MCC captain, ‘Plum’ Warner, urged the pros to accept the terms and all but guaranteed they would receive a generous bonus based on the expected gate takings. In the end the MCC lost money and no bonuses were forthcoming.
The second, and largest part of the book features the newspaper articles written about the tour by one of the professional tourists – Albert Knight. These articles are well written and a real treat to read. Knight demonstrates a fine understanding of the finer points of cricket and the impact of the game on the publics of both competing countries.
Knight’s descriptions of the travels between matches and what seem to be the never ending speeches at each location, makes for enervating thoughts. The trip across the Tasman took 24 hours by barge and was then followed by a six hour train trip. Golden Age cricketers were definitely a hardy lot.
Sissons does not interfere too much with Knight’s writing and when he does his comments are perceptive and materially add to the storyline. Sissons also quotes passages from R.E. Foster’s diary of the tour. Where Knight is considerate and measured, Foster pulls no punches. He criticises the captaincy of Warner, the standard of umpiring, the English fielding, and even the cricketing IQ of that master tactician Wilfred Rhodes; “Rhodes out again having a slog… he plays the game with very little brains”.
The third part of the book sums up the fallout from the tour and the fate of the main protagonists. This section is again informative and well written. You develop a real interest in the main participants throughout the book and Sissons’ wrap up is done with sensitivity, which finishes off the book in fine style. It seems many in Australia thought the reason the MCC lost money was due to the lavish lifestyle the tourists enjoyed, including staying in only the best hotels.
I am not sure how many tour books I have perused; what I do know is that this is one of the very best. It lost a half a star because there were no full scorecards provided and I had to hop on the internet to find them. This is a minor criticism, as everything else you want in a cricket book is there. There are great illustrations throughout The Glory & The Dream, which are made the better to view due to the large format of the book. Some of the pictures are taken from the private album of tourist and cricketing great George Hirst and will be unfamiliar to most readers.
Full credit to all of those involved in the production of this book, if only every tour book could be produced in the same manner. It is set out beautifully and is easy to navigate.
Probably the only unfortunate part of this book is the short print run with only 135 signed and numbered editions available. Cricket Web’s friends Roger Page Cricket Books & J.W. McKenzie Cricket Books are joint publishers of this fine book. Copies can still be obtained from both publishers.
I fully agree with your high rating of this handsome book. A great complement to the official celebration of the tour published by the captain, Plum Warner, soon after its end. My signed copy, bought recently from Mackenzie, is 128 out of 135. Let’s hope there were/are more than seven left, from him and Page combined – and that more can be run off, if needed.
One small frustration. The diary of one of the two other amateur tourists, R.E. Foster, of 287 fame, is said to be available on the website , but I can’t find it there (though the original evidently remains accessible at Lord’s). The quoted bits, critical of Warner and others, make one impatient to read more!
Comment by Charles Barr | 7:13pm GMT 22 February 2023