Two men and a presentation cricket bat

In this post, Madonna Grehan, guest blogger and John Oxley Library Fellow for 2015, explains how an unidentified and undated photograph of two men and a cricket bat came to be held in the collection of the Centaur Memorial Fund at SLQ.

Photograph from the Centaur Memorial Fund collection, State Library of Queensland

Photograph from the Centaur Memorial Fund collection, State Library of Queensland

The autographed, first-class cricket bat in this photograph was the major prize in a raffle run by the Centaur Memorial Fund in 1952. The bat originated in Townsville where the only regional committee of the Centaur Memorial Fund continued in the wake of 1948 campaign which financed the purchase of a property for the nursing profession. The Townsville Committee of the Centaur Fund had done well with fund-raising during 1948 and was keen to establish a holiday hostel for nurses at Magnetic Island, under the auspices of the Centaur Memorial Fund.

An anonymous donor, later known to be Mr Jalland, provided the cricket bat to the Townsville Cricket Club in December 1950, with instructions to raffle it. The bat made its way to Brisbane, possibly because several of the Centaur Fund’s Executive had cricketing connections. Robert Charles Hancock, the Chairman, was a club cricketer for 50 years and was Treasurer of the Queensland Cricket Association. Hancock had lived in Townsville and played there with the Club later known as the Wanderers. The Centaur Fund’s Treasurer, Archibald Heaton Blackman, had played competitively.

In February 1951, the bat was freighted by Trans Australia Airlines from Brisbane to Melbourne. It was transferred to the Melbourne Cricket Ground where the Australian and England Teams were about to play the fifth test. Lindsay Hassett, the Australian Captain, was prevailed upon to arrange the signing of the bat. He was aided by Major General Clive Steele, Acting President of Victoria’s War Nurses Memorial Centre at St Kilda Road.

The bat was duly signed by both teams and returned to Brisbane in March, to be raffled on 15 May 1951 during a Grand Centaur Concert at City Hall in Brisbane, but personnel changes at the Fund led to the concert being postponed to September. That concert did not attract the audience numbers of previous years, reportedly because of drought across the state and a polio epidemic. The raffle of this prized piece of sporting memorabilia was postponed yet again.

Eventually in late 1952, the Centaur Memorial Fund’s Ladies Social Committee organised the raffle. They made almost £100, with the proceeds going towards the building of the Centaur House Hostel for nurses, on Magnetic Island. First prize was the bat autographed by the Australian and England Teams in February 1951. It was won by Mr Trimble of Eagle Terrace, Auchenflower. Second prize went to Mr A McGinn of Ferny Grove. This was another bat, purchased from TC Beirne’s Sports Store in the Fortitude Valley at a cost of £7, and autographed by the West Indies and Australian Test Teams during the 1951-1952 series.

Centaur House Hostel for nurses, on Magnetic Island. From the Centaur Memorial Fund collection, State Library of Queensland

Centaur House Hostel for nurses, on Magnetic Island. From the Centaur Memorial Fund collection, State Library of Queensland

By searching digitised newspapers, it has been possible to place and date the photograph as well as identify both men pictured. On the right is Major General Clive Steele handing the bat to Mr N Mahoney, a TAA driver who delivered the bat to Essendon airport. The image was taken in Melbourne and published 9 March 1951 in The Age.

Major General Clive Steele handing the bat to Mr N Mahoney. Published in The Age, 9 March 1951.

Major General Clive Steele handing the bat to Mr N Mahoney. Published in The Age, 9 March 1951.

Madonna’s previous blog stories on the Centaur Memorial Fund can be found here: