Ahead of the second Ashes Test, MCC Archivist Rob Curphey explores some of the historical items in the collection related to the infamous 'Bodyline' tour in 1932-1933.
Along with the D’Oliveira affair, the topic of Bodyline is one of the most frequently asked research topics that visitors to the MCC Library – particularly university students – wish to study as part of their dissertation for example. So much so, in fact that when faced with such a request, I no longer need to double check what shelf the items are located on within the archive.
In addition to 22 books discussing the topic on the shelves of the MCC Library, we hold correspondence from MCC regarding the matter, as I had discussed in my very first blog for the website back in 2013.
Additionally the archive holds reactions to Bodyline from the Australian Board of Control and James Henry Thomas, Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, an article by P F Warner who expressed the opinion that Bodyline bowling be outlawed, and a copy of a cable from Lloyd Dumas of the Adelaide Advertiser to Sir Alexander Hore-Ruthven, Governor of South Australia, asking Hore-Ruthven to use his influence in maintaining good relations between Australian and English cricket.
Recently I catalogued a series of volumes of telegrams that were donated to MCC by the Exchange Telegraph Company in 1977. The Exchange Telegraph Company was created originally to distribute financial and business information from the London Stock Exchange, but had expanded by the 1930s to include parliamentary news and sport. MCC was one of many companies which had a ticker tape telegraph machine which could receive information – this was usually held in the scorer’s box at Lord’s.
The telegrams contained reports on MCC tours from not just the Bodyline series but MCC tours to Australia in 1924-1925, 1928-1929, and 1936-1937. The volume contains copies of telegrams sent from across Australia and New Zealand, reports and score updates on matches including all five Tests in Australia and both Tests in New Zealand, reactions to the 'Bodyline' Test match in Adelaide between Australia and England, and reports on non-cricket activities undertaken by the team including the farewell lunch to MCC.
Further primary source material held in the archive includes the official scorebook of the tour, compiled by W Ferguson. The picture below shows the scorebook open at the infamous Adelaide Test match, and highlights the incident where Bert Oldfield was retired hurt after being hit on the head by a ball from Harold Larwood during the match. This scorebook is also notable for the lovely handwriting style and the pencil drawings of each venue in the top left-hand corner – both of which are rare among our huge collection of scorebooks!
The scorebook records in detail what happened to Bert Oldfield when he was hit on the head by Larwood during the Adelaide Test, reporting as follows: ‘Oldfield got smack on head 3.17. off field for a while. Crowds kicked up big noise against Larwood’.
Finally, the Gubby Allen scrapbooks, held in the archive, contain a lot of newspaper cuttings on the tour – particularly from Australia, which researchers are welcome to come and view. These also contain reports on the matches, fixture cards, telegrams and photographs. So if you want to write a study on the tour, we would be happy to help and have the sources to assist!
Please contact the MCC Library if you wish to make an appointment to view these sources. We are open Monday-Friday, 10-5 (closing at 4pm on Fridays) except between Christmas and New Year.