Tom Lowry – Leader in a Thousand

Published: 2010
Pages: 170
Author: Francis, Bill
Publisher: Trio Books
Rating: 4 stars

Tom Lowry - Leader in a Thousand

In a vintage year for New Zealand-published cricket books, the titles include a full-length study of Bert Sutcliffe, the outstanding New Zealand cricketer in the immediate post-war years, Tony McCarron’s biographical register of all the country’s first-class players and a review of the “First 50 Tests” played at the Basin Reserve. But by far the most significant volume is this in-depth biography of Tom Lowry.

It is a belated recognition of this larger-than-life character, often compared with the famous Australian all-rounder, Warwick Armstrong. As the author states in his introduction, Lowry laid the foundations “for the development and acceptance of New Zealand cricket in the international scene”. Just look at his achievements. He was the country’s first Test captain, “a leader in a thousand”, as R.C. Robertson-Glasgow put it, considered by discerning judges to have out-smarted none other than Douglas Jardine during the 1931 Test series in England. He led the side on the inaugural England tour of 1927, was captain manager in 1931 and manager in 1937. He dominated New Zealand cricket in the inter-war period.

The author, Bill Francis, a retired sporting radio and print journalist, has certainly immersed himself in his subject! Spending time at the family homestead at Okawa, interviewing dozens of relatives and friends, many of whom contributed authentic stories and quotes, and researching contemporary newspapers has enabled him to present a rounded, complete picture of this influential person.

Lowry’s two sisters, “Beet” and Marion, both characteristic figures in their own right, famously married two celebrated cricketers, Percy Chapman, who captained England in 17 Tests and Reg Bettington, the first Australian to captain Oxford University respectively. The chapters on both in-laws are most enlightening.

Equally fascinating and informative are the descriptions of the three England tours which took place despite seemingly impossible financial hurdles – that of 1927 only by floating a public company!! – and all of which could be counted as successful thanks in no small part to Tom’s astute leadership and force of personality.

All in all, a most readable account of the life and achievement of a great New Zealand character and sportsman.

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