The Dundee Clowns Cricket Match 1879

Published: 2023
Pages: 48
Author: Miller, Richard
Publisher: Private
Rating: 4 stars

Forgotten for many years the concept of ‘Clown Cricket’ has had a new lease of life in the last year thanks to Eric Midwinter’s Lords of Mischief, a well received book that I reviewed here, and which Archie has just reviewed here.

Richard Miller of Dundee has, thanks to his Scottish Cricket Memories series of booklets, featured in our reviews on a number of occasions. That continuing project involves bringing back to life old writings on the subject of cricket in Scotland, an area of research that clearly fascinates Richard.

And it turns out that however much ‘Clown Cricket’ might have been forgotten in England before Midwinter’s intervention it had been remembered in Scotland. In Dundee in 1879 a match had been played between a side raised by prominent local solicitor Archibald Paul and one composed of members of Samuel Watson’s circus, a troupe who were to play to packed audiences in Dundee throughout September of that year. That there was at least some memory of the match is demonstrated by the fact that as long ago as 2014 local cricketers in Dundee re-enacted the match.

The 1879 match was arranged, as a number of such events were, to raise money for good causes, in particular the local hospital. At least that was certainly Archibald Paul’s intention.

Richard begins the booklet with background information on the concept of ‘Clown Cricket’, the history of the game in Scotland and of the two main characters, Messrs Watson and Paul. He then goes on to reproduce the text from a programme that was issued for the event, and reports of the play from local newspapers. That the contents of the booklet should consist of such is hardly unexpected, and were pretty much what I anticipated seeing.

There are however additional aspects of this tale which raise the story well above the mundane. For a start there were in fact two matches, the first one being abandoned early on because of the number of spectators at the ground made the match impossible to play, and so a second one was arranged for a week later at a different venue. That match was again well attended but, lessons learned, this time was successfully completed.

And that was that? Well actually no, because when it came to divvy up the proceeds of the day things got messy, and the entirety of that unexpected (certainly to Paul) turn of events is, naturally, set out in full as well.

As is only to be expected from a man with a whole series of successful projects behind him Richard has done a thoroughly professional job with The Dundee Clowns Charity Match 1879. In the manner of Scottish Cricket Memories he has made extensive use of lengthy passages from contemporary writings, but there is also a great deal more of his own narrative in this one as he skilfully weaves together the various aspects of what, in the final analysis, is a fascinating story, complete with the sort of twists and turns which, in the right hands, could be turned into an entertaining television drama.

Rightly anticipating a bigger demand for this one than the 25 copies of each of the Scottish Cricket Memories booklets that are printed The Dundee Clowns Charity Match 1879 appears in an edition of 100 copies, and is being distributed by Max Books, publishers of Lords of Mischief. The cost of the booklet is £12 inclusive of UK postage and packing.

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