Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Guest article: The first cricket match

My friend Diana Masters, previously mentioned here in relation to her book "Maria Ellen -- the Other Mrs. Kinder", has very kindly given permission for me to include her previously-published article on New Zealand's first ever cricket match, at the northern end of Horotutu Beach in the Bay of Islands, 1832.

Thank you, Diana.

The First Cricket Match

For those cricket fans visiting the Bay of Islands, you may want to pay tribute at the site of the first cricket match in New Zealand.

The missionary William Williams had ordered a set of cricketing equipment from England, and it arrived in time for Christmas, 1832. On the 20th December the Rev Henry Williams wrote in his journal that he “turned the boys out to play cricket by way of a finish…Very expert, good bowlers”.

Edwin Fairburn (b.1827), son of the missionary, in his recollections (MAHARATANGA, Reminiscences of Edwin Fairburn [1901] NZMss91. APL), written seventy years later, described the excitement of the match.

The only ball game with which he had been familiar was ‘round trap’, rather like rounders. He thought that the new game must have some connection with green insects with long legs. The afternoon of the match was bright and calm, and all the inhabitants of Paihia and the Bay of Islands went to the northern end of Horotutu Beach.

Some 40 or 50 played for each side, there were no overs, but the ball was thrown to the bowler nearest to the fielder, or which ever end the fielders chose. The fielders pleased themselves as to the position they took and ‘things were carried out in a very independent manner’.

The 5 year old Edwin and his friend John Williams were allowed to play, but they were the youngest. Edwin describes his innings.
“Mr W Williams who bowled to me saying “we mustn’t be too hard on the youngsters” – or something to that effect, delivered me a very nice ball which I hit over the bank (about eleven yards off) on to the beach where it rolled down some distance on the hard sand – and I got a run – at which our side applauded – while the other side grumbled and called out for short work to be made of me – the ball was thrown up to the opposite end bowler, who straightaway bowled me out – but I got in a run in the first game of cricket played in New Zealand.”
Edwin included a map of Paihia where the site of the wicket is clearly marked, although his remembered date is a year out. He wrote “I think I could mark it out now within 10 feet of the actual. The northern end of the wicket was about a chain from the base of the steep hill and the side about 35 feet from the edge of the firm bank next to the sand”.

It can be easily seen today – at the northern end of Horotutu Beach (that’s the beach with the wharf) on the beach side of the junction of Bayview and Marsden roads, just before the rocky outcrop.


  1. How very cool to capture all these firsts :-) They can be so easily lost in history.

    A while back i discovered that my ggg uncle William LODGE built an undercover cricket pavillion. c1889 in Christchurch...how unique!

  2. How cool to find out something like that about your ancestor, Sandy! Having an indoor winter cricket training building next to a pub was a stroke of genius.