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Maasai Warriors and nulla-nullas

Maasai warriors at Lord's
Maasai warriors at Lord's

In my time working in museums I’ve had some odd experiences - including having my hands inside Lord Grantham’s trousers and hoovering bears.

But one truly "did that really happen?" moment was when I tried to show the Maasai Warriors, who came to Lord’s to play cricket, our fantastic AL Ford scrapbooks.

The scrapbooks, which are from the late 19th and early 20th century are enormous leather bound books, and some of them are kept in the Writing Room in the Pavilion.

They contain newspaper clippings and cartoons related to cricket and the news of the day, and a collection of paintings produced by asylum inmates of cricket grounds around the world.

I did try to explain the concept of scrapbooking to the warriors, but I have no idea what they made of the large leather books. I’m not sure if ‘collecting scraps of stuff that interest us’ is a common pastime on the African plain, and these particular books need a wheelbarrow to carry them about.

It definitely flagged up the many differences between different nations, but also how we are brought together by the quirkiest of things - cricket.

Carrying on the theme of indigenous people and cricket I recently had the pleasure of meeting two young Aboriginal visitors.

I often get visitors with questions directed to me by the stewards, because as well as being based in the museum, I also have quick access to the object catalogue and can check if we have Hammond’s hat or Compton’s hip joint in the stores.

In 1868, an Aboriginal Australian side toured England for the first time, playing at Lord’s, and the two visitors wanted to find out more about the historic team. I was able to find a nulla-nulla (Aboriginal hunting stick) that belonged to one of the players, called Dick-a-Dick.

Dick-a-Dick (traditional name Jungunjinanuke) is also pictured holding what appears to be our nulla-nulla in one picture I found, and I was also able to find a team photo of the Aboriginal side.

The visitors were thrilled to see members of the first ever Australian team to visit these shores and it is very satisfying to produce something not normally on display.

Last week we also had a visit from a Curator at the British Museum, who is researching the nulla-nulla, and she explained how the weapon was usually used. I was able to show her the same photo and she also pointed out the shield that would have accompanied it, with its possum skin wrapping.

For more information about the 1868 tour I highly recommend the books ‘Lord’s Dreaming’ by Ashley Mallett and ‘Cricket Walkabout’ by John Mulvaney. Both these books are available in the MCC Library.

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