Cricketing McCosker’s – The Early Years

Summer and the Ashes have been won in 2017. We got a TV in 1960 and Dad, Cyril Ross “Tipo” Adams, a McCosker descendant, would be glued to to the Cricket on the screen for the season, ie when he wasn’t watching the Tennis. Dad had been fairly good at Rugby League, Tennis and Hockey, though I don’t recall him talking about playing Cricket. Dad even turned Mum into a Cricket Tragic too – and of course I’ve married one as well. I worked in the Port Kembla Steelworks for decades and there was the Steelworks Cricket Comp – and at one stage the most complicated Cricket Tipping Competition – which left the Rugby League one’s for dead. Mum used to give us tickets for the One Day matches of a younger Australian Bradman XI side against a team from a touring International side at the beautiful Bradman Oval in Bowral in mid January as Christmas presents. The Bowral community got right into the spirit of it – so many volunteers would chip in to make it a great day. There was only one proviso with our tickets,  that we drove Mum up there to watch the match. It was a sad day when those OD matches ended – it was lovely to watch all the older male fans troop out  during the lunch break to inspect the beautifully prepared turf wicket – hallowed ground. The English Barmey Army were there for the final match we saw played there, these matches seemed to evaporate from the cricketing fixtures calendar. The fixtures programme was too intense too full they said.

What about Cricket and the McCoskers ? Check out Trove ?

Lots of Cricket stories/mentions in Trove – there’s about 5.5 million in fact ! Cricket started very early in the NSW Colony – there were mentions of Sydney Cricket in the Newspapers by 1810. But none for the McCoskers till 1875, nearly 40 years after the family of Bernard and Ellen had arrived in Australia in 1837.

Apparently the Irish in Australia were slow take up what some have described as the quintessentially English game of Cricket.

From a Wikipedia article on Irish Australians : “Their resistance to the elite Anglocentric establishment has keenly marked the development of sport. Mostly working class, the Irish played sports such as rugby league and Australian Rules football, while the Protestant majority often preferred cricket, soccer, rugby union and boxing.” Maybe some of those “Protestant” sports have since become more working class in Australia these days ?

Apparently cricket had been introduced into Ireland as early as 1730, though some claim it was not until the 19th Century. The first “official” match is said to have been played in 1855 – nearly two decades after the McCosker’s had departed their Irish homeland in the Adam Lodge – Wikipedia Ireland Cricket Team.

So Cricket in Ireland was a Protestant Anglo-Irish affair  – in Australia it has been said that in the past that the Irish regarded it a foreign game and beneath their dignity (Bill O’Reilly). Though there had been very early pressures that Cricket should become a game that united different groups. (The Changing Face of Cricket : From Imperial to Global Game  – Dominic Malcolm et al.). And of course there was the pressure in Ireland in 1884 from the Gaelic Athletic Association for Gaelic Sports, not English games – by 1901 it banned playing or watching foreign games like Cricket.

And while Irish Australians like the McCoskers did eventually take up the game of cricket, in Ireland the game did not really seriously re-emerge as any sort of force until the early 21st Century. And like Australia, the Irish became ever eager to beat the Poms at their own game.

It seems that Morpeth is considered to be the site of the first recorded cricket match in the Hunter, according to the Maitland and District Historical Society – November 2016 Newsletter. Undoubtedly there were probably earlier matches that went unreported ?

But the Maitland Mercury reported in 1844, that Cricket was not quite ready to be played around Maitland, at that stage – though many were ever hopeful of a club forming soon, and so were still practising. Enthusiasm for Cricket must have blossomed as by January 1845, the Maitland Cricket Club had been formed at Henry Reeves’ Albion Inn in High Street West Maitland. The first cricket match in Maitland was apparently played in Febraury 1845. Way too early for the Irish McCoskers to participate in the English game ? Apparently they played on the space next to the Honeysett Flour Mill, on Windmill Hill – presumably the Windmill was for the Flour Mill? This site is part of today’s Elgin Street in West Maitland. Today there is a Maitland and District Cricket Association, MDCA,  which is proud of its long history and the history of cricket in its region.

In the words of the MDHS November 2016 bulletin :

“One has to admire the enthusiasm of these early Maitland cricketers. They were prepared to travel considerable distances under difficult conditions for their game of cricket. The “roads” that they followed on foot, on horseback and in a variety of horse-drawn vehicles were often little more than bush tracks. The grounds that they played on were frequently rough paddocks with long grass where fieldsmen had to dodge cow pats when chasing the ball and where “lost ball” came into play. Wickets that were under-prepared or not prepared at all must have been real “horrorstretches” for batsmen – no wonder that scores were generally low and that any batsman who got to double figures was rated a hero. Yet these difficulties and hardships did not deter these early cricketers – they were of little concern when measured against the fellowship of the match and the love of the game.”

Singleton Cricket Club existed by the mid 1840’s also. Matches were being played against the Singleton and East Maitland Cricket Clubs by the early 1850’s. There were other clubs by 1860, called the Morpeth Cricket Club, Maitland United Cricket Club, the Northumberland Club and the Maitland Marleybone Cricket Club. The Newcastle District Cricket Association was formed at the Ship Inn, Hunter St Newcastle in 1854. Apparently in the 1860’s, the Newcastle would travel by steamer upriver to play Morpeth.

There was a lot of excitement when theAll England XI were slated to play a match at West Maitland in March 1864.

In 1869, there were lots of other activities at Cricket matches in Maitland including races, where a P McCosker won a walking race over about a mile.

By 1875, the local newspapers were reporting the participation of McCosker’s in cricket matches, initially mainly around Singleton, but over time they were enjoying their cricket at other places across northern NSW, as the McCosker’s spread beyond the Hunter Valley – especially to Inverell. It seemed that as their appearances on the cricket grounds increased, that the McCosker appearances in the Court houses plummeted  ?? Not a bad thing perhaps ?

  • 1875 – McCosker playing for Stanley Cricket Club in Queensland and had best batting average for the season
  • 1876 – McCosker playing in Zingari side against a Sydney side in Warwick – and then against Brisbane sides in 1876
  • 1876 – a McCosker was playing for the Albion Club against the Singleton Cricket Club. The Maitland and District Historical Society considered that Albion was the club that had put Maitland Cricket on the map a decade earlier in 1866. Apparently the club had been rather exclusive, and consisted of some of the area’s elite. It was reputedly run along the lines of an English County Cricket Club. No wonder the Irish McCosker’s had been slow to take up the English Gentlemen’s game of cricket before the 1870’s !
  • 1877 – a match in Singleton where C McCosker captained the Young Australian side which included T McCosker against the Scotts Flat side, for whom F McCosker and T Power played. C McCosker must have been a handy leader as he was responsible for five of the dismissals of the Scotts Flat side – though F McCosker was not amongst the five.
  • 1878 – T McCosker was listed in the Sacred Heart Cricket Club – an indication that Cricket was being embraced by the RC mob ?
  • 1878 – a McCosker played for the winning Belvedere side against Singleton Grammar School
  • 1879 – C McCosker played for the Singleton Cricket Club
  • 1879 – A McCosker was elected Captain and Committee Member for the Moore & Co Cricket Club in Singleton
  • 1881 – C McCosker was playing for the Advance Cricket Club and noted for his bowling – and also played with the Singleton Cup Eleven
  • 1883 – Singleton Cricket Club presented Cornelius McCosker with a silver mounted inkstand for the best batting average of the season
  • 1885 – B McCosker played for the Singleton side against Morpeth – later that year F Morpeth also played for Singleton against a Morpeth side
  • 1885 – at the Singleton Lilywhite Cricket Club AGM, F McCosker was elected Vice President – later that year the Lilywhite side included F McCosker, B McCosker, T Power and W Power. Had they chosen their name in honour of James Lilywhite who had led the English XI in Australia ?
  • 1891 – B McCosker played for the Belford Cricket Club
  • 1891 – W McCosker was playing for the Boggabri side against Gunnedah – but alas Boggabri was sent back in by Gunnedah after their first innings – losing to Gunnedah by an innings and 9 runs
  • 1894 – a McCosker playing for the Gunnedah against Quirindi – and his yorker got a mention in the match reports
  • 1896 – a McCosker played for the Railwaymen’s side against the Springwood side at Faulconbridge in the Blue Mountains
  • 1897 – a match was played between a Queensland Border side against a NSW Border side. J Brennan and D Brennan were in the Queensland side – with PJ McCosker in the NSW side
  • 1902 – at Gravesend near Inverell there was  a match between Gravesend and Bell’s Creek – a McCosker was in the Gravesend side.
  • 1903 – B McCosker played for the Wyan side against Myall – reported in the Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton)
  • 1904 – Cricket at Graman north of  Inverell – E McCosker played for Bannockburn
  • 1904 – Robertson played Singleton with T McCosker in the Singleton Team
  • 1905 – Glendon played Branxton – T McCosker was in the Glendon side
  • 1905 – At Inverell – E McCosker played for the Half Holiday side against Cansdell & Co
  • 1906 – E McCosker was busy with more cricket – playing in  a HH 2nd side against the Fisherman at Armidale
  • 1907 – McCosker played for Glendara against Gravesend
  • 1909 – Branxton played Greta where H McCosker played for Greta
  • 1912 – A friendly match at Inverell between Rob Roy and Glen Rose – McCosker played for Rob Roy

Cricket continued to be played especially around Inverell across the remainder of the decade – though things slowed during the WW1 years.

And so it seems that McCosker’s have been playing Cricket ever since !