Tom Horan (courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Tom Horan (courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

In his article The “Green” and the “Gold”: the Irish-Australians and Their Role in the Emergence of the Australian Sports Culture, Peter Horton explains how, with the large volume of the Catholic Irish influx into Australia, particularly from the 1850s, “the population of the cities of Australia began to swell dramatically. Sydney’s population in the forty years from
1860 to 1900 grew by over 500 per cent with similar trends being recorded in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne.” The largely anti-English attitude of the Catholic Irish population and their significant contribution in the field of sports in Australia arefactors postulated to be reflected in the typically Australian attitude to sports. The attitude of playing hard with no quarter given and none asked for in a relatively easy-going and fun-loving, yet fiercely independent national character, is thought to have percolated down from the Irish psyche.

Horton, from his extensive research, reveals that: “from an analysis of the birthplaces of Australian First-Class Cricketers from 1850-51 to 1940-41, it can be seen that cricket during this period was very much the game of Australian-born nationals. Eighty-two per cent of all First-Class players during this period were Australian-born; the number of Irish-born was just eight. The game in Ireland had always been viewed by working-class Irish Catholics as being a ‘big house’.” This is the story of one of those 8 per cent who were the Irish-born Australian cricketers.

Ged Martin, writing about East Cork’s Australian Heritage Trail, informs us that Cobh was “the emigration port on Cork harbour. In the 18th century, it was simply known as ‘the Cove of Cork’. When Queen Victoria visited in 1849, it was renamed Queenstown. After Ireland won its independence in 1922, the town reverted to its old name, in its Irish-language spelling. It seems that “The story of Irish-Australia began at Cobh on 16 April 1791, when the convict ship Queen sailed for Botany Bay, carrying 133 male prisoners and 22 females, accompanied by four children.” Indeed, according to Jon Gemmell, it is estimated that “between 1840 and 1914, about a third of a million Irish emigrated to the Australian colonies and up until the first World War, they were the second largest immigrant group, behind only the English.”

The first Irishman to play Test cricket, Thomas Patrick Horan, was born on 8 Mar/1854, at Midleton, the unofficial capital city of East Cork. In his early years, his parents shifted base to Australia, taking Tom and the rest of the family along, leaving Ireland through Cobh, the emigration portal of County Cork. However, when the Lady Milton had berthed at Melbourne in 1857, Tom’s father James had not been on the boat. James, a builder, had arrived at Melbourne some time later, and had built a house for his family at 186, Fitzroy Street in 1859. The family lived in that house till 1884. Tom and his brother James were both educated at Bell Street School, Fitzroy, both developing an interest in cricket and acquiring the basic skills of the game during this time. Jack Blackham was a school contemporary.

Carlton Cricket Club, formed in 1864, was a relative newcomer to the cricket club culture of Melbourne, the Melbourne Cricket Club being already in existence by about 1855. In 1870, on the initiative of Melbourne CC, the East Melbourne, and the South Melbourne Cricket Clubs, a Challenge Cup was instituted, with an entry fee of £5 5s. Carlton, however, were strangely reluctant to join in the tournament initially, despite already having a group of very promising young cricketers in their ranks in John McCarthy, 15-year-old Jack Blackham (an excellent fielder at point in his early days before he became Australia’s premier wicketkeeper in his prime), and the 16-year-old Tom Horan, none of the colts having ever played on a turf wicket before coming under the Carlton Club banner.

1870 was to be an important one for Carlton as they undertook the first of their many trips to the country. The game against Bendigo United at Sandhurst over Easter brought two future Australian players in Harry Boyle and Billy Midwinter into prominence, both being Bendigo players. Even this early, the nucleus of a future Australian representative team began to gradually crystallise from among the colts. Carlton added another feather to their collective caps when four of their players, Horan, Blackham, Fred James, and Curtis McFarland were selected in the Colts team of XV to play against Melbourne CC in 1871-72. Joining the Carlton group in the Colts line-up were Boyle and Midwinter.

In later years, Horan was to move on to South Melbourne, and then to East Melbourne, before making his First-Class debut with Victoria. Boxing Day of 1873 provided an important landmark in Horan’s gradual development. The team of Englishmen led by WG Grace played a game at Melbourne against XVIII of Victoria. The Victoria team was led by George Robertson and included in the ranks the names of such future Australian cricketers as Bransby Cooper, Boyle, Midwinter, and Horan. John Conway, about whom we will hear shortly, was also a member of the team. The Victoria team won the match by an innings and 21 runs despite Grace capturing 10 for 58.

In a game between XI of Victoria and XVIII of South Australia (elevated to First-Class status only in 1877) at Adelaide in 1874-75, Horan came into his own as a valuable bowler. Victoria won the game by 15 runs, and Horan had figures of 2 for 10 and 11 for 29, bowling unchanged throughout the innings to bowl out the South Australia XVIII for a mere 67 in the second innings. Along his cricket journey, Thomas Patrick Horan somehow acquired the nickname of “Dutchy”.

Horan made his First-Class debut playing for Victoria against traditional rivals New South Wales at Melbourne from the Boxing Day of 1874. Two other future Australian luminaries also made their debuts in the same match, Blackham for Victoria and Fred Spofforth for NSW. NSW won by 6 wickets; Horan scored 3 and 22 and took a wicket.

In a First-Class career spanning 1874-75 to 1891-92, Tom Horan played 106 matches, scoring 4,027 runs with a highest of 141* and an average of 23.27. He had 8 centuries and 12 fifties, and held 39 catches. He also captured 35 First-Class wickets in his round-arm fast-medium style, with best innings figures of 6 for 40 and a bowling average of 23.68. He had 2 five-wicket hauls.

Horan’s highest individual score in any form of cricket came in a Second-Class game for East Melbourne against Tasmania at Melbourne in 1879-80. He remained undefeated for 250 out of a total of 742 in a game in which Tasmania did not get a chance to bat. The match notes, quoting from Arthur Haygarth’s Cricket Scores and Biographies, Volume 6, report as follows: “On Saturday (the match commencing early) only three wickets fell for 384 runs and on Monday the innings lasted till 20 minutes past 6 o’clock. Horan was about 10 hours at the wickets, (3 on Saturday and 7 on Monday) scoring at the slow rate of about 25 an hour, using great patience and impregnable defence, though dash, brilliancy and hard clean hitting were wanting. He gave, it was stated, no chance. It was said that the innings of East Melbourne was the longest on record.”

In his tribute to his friend Horan, the ex-cricketer Dave Scott, who used to write a syndicated cricket column under the name “The Almanack”, estimates that Tasmanian bowler Henry Bayly, who had bowled 97.2 overs during the innings, must have walked about 7 miles during his two days of walking to and from his bowling mark.

Meanwhile, an epochal change was about to take place as far as cricket between Australia and the Home Country was concerned, with the arrival in Australia of the fourth team of English players, under the leadership of the 35-year old James Lillywhite Jr of Sussex. The 12-member group consisted only of professional cricketers, and the tour was jointly financed by a wealthy young farmer named Arthur Hobgen and Charles Stride, both members of Chichester’s Priory Park Cricket Club, with Victorian cricketer John Conway acting as the local agent for the Englishmen and arranging their matches.

It would prove to be a very profitable venture for the professional English cricketers, each of whom taking home about twice the promised £150. There was one slight blip in the smooth organisation of the tour, however, in the form of a short tour of New Zealand inserted between two sections of the Australian games.The Guardian was to remark later that: “Lillywhite’s eleven contained the cream of English professional cricket of the day; only Ephraim Lockwood… was missing from the ranks of the grizzled band of simple-hearted cricketers.” Becoming involved in a gambling fracas at Christchurch, England wicketkeeper Ted Pooley was imprisoned, and Lillywhite’s team had perforce to return to Australia with only 11 players.

While the Englishmen were across the Tasman Sea, wheels began to turn in the cricket circles of Australia. This was at a time when Australia was not even a sovereign country (they would become officially federated on January 1, 1901). Plans began to be made for a Combined Colonies XI to take on Lillywhite’s XI at Melbourne, tentatively, at some time in March. The selection process was long and not a very harmonious one. Eventually, however, a squad of 12 members was arrived at, six each from Victoria and NSW, each Colonial group keen to put it over the other in the proposed match. The controversy began well before the game got underway.

Ted Evans, the NSW off-spinner, though selected, turned down the offer, stating that he would be unable to make the 600-mile journey from his country property.  Spofforth steadfastly refused to bowl for any team that did not have his NSW teammate Bill Murdoch behind the stumps. That was a problem for the selectors, with Blackham, the local Victoria man, already selected and willing to take the field. The limit was probably reached by Frank Allan of Victoria, who declined the offer because he needed to attend the Carambola Carnival in his capacity of an officer of the Crown Lands Department, and that he expected to meet many of his acquaintances during the show. The fact that several horse races had also been scheduled at the same time may also have influenced Allan’s decision. Deeming the excuse to be more than ridiculous, the media of the times were highly critical of Allan, feeling that it should have been a duty for Allan to play in the game.

In the end, there were six representatives from NSW and five from Victoria in the host team. The final line-ups for what would later be known as the very first Test match of all were as follows:

Australia

England

Charles Bannerman (NSW) Tom Armitage (Yorkshire)
Jack Blackham (wk) (Victoria) Harry Charlwood (Sussex)
Bransby Cooper (Victoria) Tom Emmett (Yorkshire)
Tom Garrett (NSW) Andrew Greenwood(Yorkshire)
Dave Gregory (c) (NSW) Allen Hill (Yorkshire)
Ned Gregory (NSW) Harry Jupp (Surrey)
John Hodges (Victoria) James Lillywhite Jr (c) (Sussex)
Tom Horan (Victoria) John Selby (wk) (Nottinghamshire)
Tom Kendall (NSW) Alfred Shaw (Nottinghamshire)
Bill Midwinter (Victoria) John Southerton (Sussex)
Nat Thompson (NSW) George Ulyett (Yorkshire)

On Thursday, the Ides of March of 1877, there were about 4,500 eager spectators at the Melbourne Cricket Ground when Dave Gregory won the toss for the home side and decided to take strike. After a slightly delayed start, the English players filtered onto the field of play, followed soon after by the local opening batsmen, Bannerman and Thompson. The English bowling was opened from the Eastern end by Shaw, Bannerman taking strike, and Test cricket was born.

In later years, primarily on the initiative of Australian skipper Steve Waugh, a chronological enumeration of all Australian Test cricketers had been carried out, each player being allotted a Baggy Green number, many of them retrospectively. In an attempt to formulate some sort of a feasible algorithm for such a monumental task, it was decided to number the caps retrospectively in batting order from the very first Test of all. Bannerman and Thompson, therefore, had the honour of being the numbers 1 and 2. Horan, the first Irishman to play Test cricket for Australia, was allocated Baggy Green number 3. The dismissal of Thompson (1), bowled by Hill, brought Horan to the crease, cheered on lustily by his home crowd. Horan set the tone of the match by cutting a ball from Shaw for a boundary, the very first in Test cricket from the bat of the man born at Midleton, County Cork.

As has been described in exquisite detail by numerous cricket historians, Australia had won the inaugural Test match of all by 45 runs. Horan had contributed 12 and 20, batting at No. 3 in both innings. Great deeds had been performed by the heroes of both sides in the match, some of them the stuff of legends.The proprietors of The Australasian had announced an award of a silver cup to the best bowler of the match, while a generous but unnamed benefactor had pledged an amount of £5 5s to the best batsman of the match. Each Australian player received a gold watch in appreciation of his contribution in the historic win. A general subscription initiated for rewarding outstanding performances in the match netted Bannerman nearly £100.

This Test was to be the first of 15 played by Tom Horan up to 1884-85. He had the honour of captaining Australia in two of them. He aggregated 471 runs, had a highest of 124, his only century, and an average of 18.84. He also claimed 11 wickets at an average of 13.

Horan was not in the team that played the second Test of all, also at Melbourne, the Englishmen winning the contest by 4 wickets, and thus squaring the series. The two matches, later to be recognised as the first two Tests, between the visiting Englishmen and the Combined Colonial XIs, had whetted the appetites of the cricket aficionados of both the Australian Colonies as well as England. It was felt that it would be only a matter of time before a representative team from Australia would be making a tour of the Mother Country. Sure enough, the Evening Journal (Adelaide) of August 7, 1877 carried the following notification: “arrangements have been completed for sending a team of Australian cricketers home to England to play there during the season 1878.”

It may be remembered that the first cricket team from Australia to tour England had been the 13-member group of indigenous cricketers from the Western District of Victoria under the care and captaincy of the Englishman Charles Lawrence. That team had played 47 games against middle-level amateur English teams in 1868. The team of Aboriginal cricketers of 1868 therefore had not been a truly representative team from the Australian Colonies. It had taken 10 years for the first truly prototypical squad of cricketers chosen from among the Australian Colonies to visit England to play cricket. The tour was being viewed in the Antipodes as a pioneering step for Australian cricket.

The 1878 Australians in England (courtesy: Wikimedia Commons) Back, from left: Jack Blackham, Tom Horan, George Bailey, Dave Gregory, John Conway (manager), Alec Bannerman, Charles Bannerman, Billy Murdoch Front, from left: Fred Spofforth, Francis Allan, William Midwinter, Tom Garrett, Henry Boyle
The 1878 Australians in England (courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Back, from left: Jack Blackham, Tom Horan, George Bailey, Dave Gregory, John Conway (manager), Alec Bannerman, Charles Bannerman, Billy Murdoch
Front, from left: Fred Spofforth, Francis Allan, William Midwinter, Tom Garrett, Henry Boyle

The prime mover for the tour was the Victorian, Conway, who, along with the Wollongong-born Dave Gregory, captain of the Australian team in the first 2 Tests, selected five men each from NSW and Victoria and one from Tasmania. An additional player, Midwinter, was to join the team in England. In The Strangers Who Came Home, John Lazenby gives a graphic description of the tour which encompassed England and North America.Although the tour did not involve any Test cricket, the ‘strangers’ as the Australian team members were referred to in England, played 43 matches, of which 15 were of First-Class status. There were only three men at the Sydney railway to see the pioneering Australian team off on their journey. When the same team returned to Australia, the media reported the presence of a cheering crowd of some 30,000 who welcomed their heroes back with rapturous acclaim.

Horan played in all 15 First-Class games on the tour, scoring 285 runs with a highest of 64 (his only fifty of the tour) and an average of 10.96. He also took 7 wickets at 14.28. While Horan’s cricketing feats may not have set the Thames on fire, another of his accomplishments began to unfold as the tour progressed. He began to report on the progress of the tour for the media back in Australia, particularly for The Australasian, under the by-line “One of Them”. Many of these notes and reminiscences from the tour were later collated and published under the title Cricket: tour of the Australian Eleven, 1878, one of the very early tour books by an active participant of the tour.

There were two very remarkable events on the tour, one of them in the second match, the First-Class match between MCC and the Australian XI at Lord’s. The Australian media reported inclement weather on the morning of the match, with “heavy storms, lasting about an hour each” sweeping over London at 10 o’clock and again at noon. By 2 o’clock, however, the weather had settled enough for the toss to be made and the game to be begun.

Having won the toss, skipper WG came out to bat in the company of ‘Monkey’ Hornby. Taking strike, WG hit the first ball of the match, from Allan, for four to square leg amid loud cheers. The second ball of the game disposed of WG, caught by Midwinter. His partner’s batting style was described as follows: “Hornby, who hits at everything, takes no guard at all, and when playing, his bat is fully 4 inches from the leg stump.” The third wicket, that of Hornby (19, the only double figure score of the innings), fell at 27.

The following gives the actual description of the next passage of play: “Now came Spoffoth’s triumph, for he delivered 23 balls for 4 runs and 6 wickets, and the fielding was so good all round that the applause became tremendous … and when Spofforth returned to the pavilion (3 successive balls having disposed of Hearne, Shaw, and Vernon) he received a perfect ovation.” Spofforth’s hat-trick made the score 32 for 9, and the innings was over in about 75 minutes of batting for a total of 33. There were 6 individual ducks in the innings.

The Australian innings commenced at half past one on the first day, and they scored only 41, Midwinter (10) being the only one in double figures. Horan had 4. The Nottinghamshire pair of Shaw and Morley captured 5 wickets each, bowling unchanged. The MCC second innings was a pathetic procession as one English stalwart after another bit the dust, the first 2 wickets falling without any runs on the board, with The Champion and Webbe registering ducks. Wilf Flowers (11) was the only man with double figures in a second-innings total of 19. Harry Boyle delivered 33 deliveries for only 3 runs and snared 6 wickets. Spofforth chipped in with the other 4 for 16.

Set a winning total of 12, the Australians won the match by 9 wickets, Horan, the one-drop man, remained undefeated on 7 and made the winning hit of two runs at about half past 5 on the first afternoon of the eagerly awaited contest between the cream of English cricket and the first representative team from the Antipodes. The match was over in one day, and 31 wickets had fallen, the 43rd instance of a First-Class match being completed on the first day. To quote the media: “The news spread like wildfire, and created a sensation in London and throughout England.” The proud British lion had been bearded by the colonial kangaroo in the very heart of the Empire.

The other notable event of the tour was the unsavoury incident involving the abduction of Midwinter by Grace and his Gloucestershire teammates on the morning of the game between Middlesex and the Australian XI at Lord’s. By all accounts, the problem seems to have begun during the match between the Gentlemen of England and the Australians at Chelsea. Conway and the Australian team management had taken strong exception to Grace and his cousin Walter Gilbert each receiving £60 for playing in the game as ‘amateur’ or ‘gentlemen’ cricketers. When the issue had been raised, it was learnt that WG, Gilbert and GF Grace were invariably paid ‘appearance’ money in these games. The Australians were left wondering about the amateur status and the propriety of the three Grace brothers and Gilbert turning out for the Gentlemen of England team in the match.

The relations between WG and the Australians, already strained, were further confounded when WG and the amateur player James Bush, close friend of WG and the wicketkeeper of the Gloucestershire team, were seen in the Australian dressing room at Chelsea in animated conversation with Midwinter. Till this point of the tour, Midwinter had played in all the games for the Australian team, having joined the group in England. It was also true that the 6’ 2 ½” tall and 14-stone all-rounder WJ “Billy” Midwinter had been in an arrangement with WG’s Gloucestershire team, being the first full time professional cricketer for the Welsh county. The next engagement for Gloucestershire being the game against Surrey at The Oval on the same dates as the match at Lord’s between Middlesex and the Australians, and given that both the teams would be in London at the same time, WG and Bush were in the process of requisitioning the services of Midwinter for the Surrey game. The conference left Midwinter a very confused man, and one unsure of his allegiance. Not on the most cordial terms with the Australian team members, WG was reported to have turned to them and remarked, “you haven’t a ghost of a chance against Middlesex” as he was leaving the pavilion.

What happened at Lord’s on the morning of June 20, where the Australians had lost the toss and been put into bat, is best reported in Wisden, as follows: “Their opening pair, Bannerman and Midwinter, were padding up, unaware that a storm was approaching them through the cloudless summer sky. On the other side of London at The Oval, W. G. Grace had found his Gloucestershire team a man short. The Champion, 6ft. 2 in., wicketkeeper J. A. Bush, 6ft. 2½ in. and the Coroner, E. M. Grace, 5ft. 8in. — to do the talking, no doubt — burst into Lord’s, persuaded Midwinter he should be playing for Gloucestershire, bundled him into the waiting carriage and were gone … The dust had hardly settled in the St. John’s Wood Road when an Australian posse set off in pursuit of the Gloucestershire hijackers. In the posse were the Australian Manager, John Conway, Midwinter’s friend, Harry Boyle and David Gregory, the captain. An unhappy altercation took place at The Oval gates where W.G., in front of bystanders, called the Australians a damn lot of sneaks.”

As can be well imagined, the effrontery of the action by the Gloucestershire group and the vituperative language used by WG caused a major diplomatic impasse between The Champion and the Australians, and particularly with Conway. The heated confrontation between WG and the Australian trio of chasers, and the intemperance of the language used by WG on the occasion, has been described by cricket historians, with Tom Horan contributing his own inputs about the incident. The Australians steadfastly refused to play their match against Gloucestershire at Clifton unless they received a written apology from WG. The English Leviathan required much cajoling and counselling from the saner elements of Gloucestershire cricket before he apologised for his actions in a letter addressed to skipper Dave Gregory dated July 21.

The Almighty works his wonders in mysterious ways. Gloucestershire, even with Midwinter in their ranks, were defeated by Surrey at The Oval by 16 runs despite 40, 4 for 43, 31, and 6 for 70 from WG. At the same time, a fired-up Australian XI beat Middlesex by 98 runs. Towards the end of their tour, the Australians beat Gloucestershire at Clifton very decisively by 10 wickets. Spofforth was almost unplayable in the game, returning figures of 7 for 49 and 5 for 41. This was Gloucestershire’s first ever defeat on a home ground. Cricket history is greatly indebted to Horan, in his ‘One of Them’ avatar, for much of the inside information about this tour.

Back home from the tour, Horan married Kate Pennefather in 1879 and raised a family of four sons (two of them, James and Thomas, became noted First-Class cricketers for Victoria) and four daughters. Being essentially an amateur cricketer, Horan joined the Civil Service in Melbourne as a junior clerk. The tenure was to last for about 43 years, and he gradually rose to become one of the Chief Clerks of the Audit Office. He always arranged his leave so that it coincided with international and colonial matches, so that he could take part. He received unpaid leave for the two tours of England that he took part in. This practice continued after his retirement so that he could watch the games.

In 1880 Horan scored his maiden First-Class century (113) against South Australia at Melbourne. There was an interesting aspect of this match. Both George Coulthard and Patrick McShane, the only persons ever to umpire a Test match before playing in one themselves, made their First-Class debuts in this game, for Victoria. Victoria won the match by 7 wickets.

The third Test-playing team from England, an 11-member, all-professional group under Shaw, and having Midwinter in their ranks, arrived at Sydney on November 16, 1881, having played 5 Second-Class fixtures in North America on the way. This team played only 7 First-Class matches on the tour, 4 of them being Tests. Between the two sections of the Australian tour, Shaw’s team of Englishmen made a short tour of New Zealand, playing 7 Second-Class fixtures there.

Shaw won the toss in the first Test at Melbourne. There were ten debutants in Dick Barlow, Billy Bates, Arthur Shrewsbury, William Scotton, wicketkeeper Dick Pilling, and Ted Peate for England, and Hugh Massie, George Giffen, Edwin Evans, and William Cooper for Australia. The Test was drawn, the standout individual performances being by Horan (124 and 26) and 6 for 120 by Cooper. Australia won the 4-Test series 2-0.

In the meanwhile, Horan began to assert himself with the bat against the old rivals NSW, scoring 95 and 23 at, 0 and 102 at Sydney (NSW scored 775, the first 750+ team total in history, with Murdoch scoring 321 and becoming the first Australian to score a triple-century in First-Class cricket). At the end of 1881-82, Horan had scored 477 runs from 8 matches at an average of 34.07. It was no surprise, therefore, that when the RMS steamer Assam reached Plymouth on May 3, 1882 for the second Test-playing tour of England, Horan was a part of the 13-member team under Murdoch.

By 1879, pursuing a parallel skill, Horan had begun writing the column Cricket Chatter for The Australasian, a weekly journal from the Melbourne Argus stable under the pseudonym of Felix. His first-hand experience on the cricket field at the highest level helped him to bring rare insight regarding the mental processes associated with First-Class and Test cricket into his columns. He was to regale cricket enthusiasts for about 37 years with his cricket columns. Gideon Haigh, in his appreciation of Horan’s journalistic skills, and while commenting on cricket scribes before World War I, had this to say: “Only Horan, however, had represented his country, at home and abroad. There was no television to apparently drop the fan into the middle of the game; on the writer fell the entire responsibility for bringing the game to the fan, and no one in their time was on such intimate terms with cricket at the top level. It wasn’t merely out of Hibernian loyalty that Bill O’Reilly (another Australian cricketer with an Irish heritage) described Horan as ‘the cricket writer par excellence’; it was, he explained, because Horan was ‘a writer who really did know what he was writing about’.”

There was, of course, only 1 Test played on the 1882 tour, at The Oval, with Australia winning the second ever Test played in England by a heart-stopping margin of 7 runs. Spofforth, fired up by the unsportsmanlike running out of Sammy Jones by Grace, covered himself with glory with figures of 7 for 46 and 7 for 44, helping Australia to wrap up the game in 2 days. Horan’s contributions in the game were 3 and 2. This was the Test that had generated the famous death notice of English cricket in The Sporting Times with the addendum that “the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia,” thus spawning the legend of The Ashes, with its attendant mystique about the famous cricket rivalry between England and Australia.

Horan had 2 centuries on the 1882 tour. The Australians journeyed to Chichester to play a United XI. Perhaps the presence of WG (never very popular with the Australians), his brother EM, and cousin Gilbert in the United XI may have inspired a crushing defeat for the home team. The Australian XI won by an innings and 263 runs after scoring 501, Horan scoring 112. They then dismissed the United XI for 166 and 72, Spofforth capturing 4 wickets in each innings.

The Australians were still not done with WG. Against Gloucestershire at Clifton, WG and his men were overwhelmed by an innings and 159 runs, even though Spofforth was not playing in this game. Horan scored 141* (his highest First-Class score) from the middle order in a team total of 450.

Horan’s next 2 First-Class centuries were both against NSW at Melbourne, 129 at Melbourne in 1882-83 and 126 in 1883-84. Indeed, an analysis of Horan’s figures reveals that, in his completed career, he had scored 1,295 runs against NSW from his 27 with a highest of 129 and an average of 26.97. He had 3 centuries and 4 fifties and held 15 catches. Tom Horan holds a special place by being the first Victorian to score a thousand runs against NSW.

In the aftermath of the nail-biting finish of the Test at The Oval in 1882, Ivo Bligh (later to become Lord Darnley) arrived at Adelaide for the fourth Test-playing England team on November 10, 1882. Before leaving England, Bligh had vowed to “bring back the Ashes.” It was to be, in effect, the first ever Ashes series. Australia won the first Test, played at Melbourne, by 9 wickets, though Horan registered a duck. He was in good company: Bligh, making his debut, was also dismissed for a duck in his first Test innings.

England won the second Test, also at Melbourne, by an innings and 27 runs. Horan had scores of 3 and 15. Bates was outstanding for England, capturing 7 for 28 and 7 for 74. England also won the third Test, played at Sydney, 69 runs. Horan had scores of 19 and 8.

The scheduled 3-Test rubber, then, went to England. Bligh not only won the first Ashes series, but also the hand of a maiden who would, in later years, be the Dowager Lady Darnley after his passing away. The series having been already decided, the teams took a joint decision to carry out a novel experiment to play a match with the proviso that the four innings would be played on four different strips. Australia won this last game at Sydney by 4 wickets. Horan contributed 4 and 0.

Horan was not a member of the Australian team led by Murdoch to England in 1884. England won the 3-Test series 1-0 with their victory in the second Test at Lord’s, the very first at the Headquarters of cricket, by an innings and 5 runs. The first Test, the inaugural Test at Old Trafford, and the third, at The Oval, were drawn.

The first ever 5-Test series in history began in Australia when Shaw arrived with his English team, landing at Adelaide on October 29, 1884. Horan did not figure in the first Test played at Adelaide, England winning by 8 wickets. Meanwhile, there were rumblings in the Australian camp regarding money matters, Murdoch and his men demanding fifty per cent of the gate money for the second Test at Melbourne. The Melbourne CC authorities took a very serious view of this and promptly dismissed the dissidents from the team for the second Test.

Horan thus found himself going out to toss for Australia for the first time in his Test career in his newly acquired capacity of skipper, at the head of a completely new Australian team from the one that had played at Adelaide. It was not a happy baptism in the leadership role for Horan. He lost the toss and the Test, by 10 wickets. Although Horan himself scored 63 and 16, his inexperienced teammates succumbed to the expertise of the Englishmen, Johnny Briggs scoring 121.

The third Test at Sydney saw Massie, in his last Test, captaining Australia. Horan scored 7 and 36, and regained some of his flair with ball, capturing 6 for 40 in the England first innings of 133. Australia won the Test by a slender margin of 6 runs. They also won the fourth Test at Sydney by 8 wickets, Giffen (7 for 117 in the first innings), and Spofforth (5 for 30 in the second) being the major factors in the victory. Horan scored 9 and 12*. England won the fifth Test at Melbourne by an innings and 98 runs, taking the series 3-2. This was the second and last Test for Horan as skipper of Australia. His contributions were 0 and 20. Patrick McShane made his debut in this Test after umpiring in the previous Test of the series.

Haigh informs us that in 1893, The Australasian persuaded Horan, as Felix, to write a supplementary column called Round the Ground. Horan was also the writer for a very popular weekly column called Under the Elms. Horan was often in the habit of strolling round MCG. It is reported that it was during one such saunter in 1902 that the idea of committing a description of the last dramatic moments of the Oval Test of 1882 to print had occurred to him. This was the passage that has been cited by Harry Altham in A History of Cricket, and quoted by numerous historians and story-tellers since, so that it has become one of the favourites of keen students of the game ever since.

Here is the passage in Tom Horan’s cultured prose: “The strain even for the spectators was so severe, that one onlooker dropped down dead, and another with his teeth gnawed out pieces of his umbrella handle. That was the match in which for the final half-hour you could have heard a pin drop, while the celebrated batsmen, AP Lucas and Alfred Lyttelton, were together, and Spofforth and Boyle bowling at them as they never bowled before. That was the match in which the last English batsman had to screw his courage to the sticking place by the aid of champagne, when one man’s lips were ashen grey and his throat so parched that he could hardly speak as he strode by me to the crease; when the scorer’s hand shook so that he wrote Peate’s name like ‘geese’, and when in the wild tumult at the fall of the last wicket, the crowd in one tremendous roar cried ‘bravo Australia’.”

Fittingly, Horan’s last First-Class match was against NSW, at Melbourne in 1891-92. And fittingly, Victoria won the match by 6 wickets. In his 38th year, Horan scored 7 and 1. It is reported that about 27,000 spectators had witnessed the match over four days and that the gate receipts had amounted to £1,070.

Tom Horan, the highly-acclaimed cricket writer, continued to regale his eager readers with his regular columns. Apart from his book about the 1878 tour of England, he also wrote Horan’s Diary (published in 2001) and Cradle Days of Australian Cricket: An anthology of the writings of Felix (TP Horan) (published in 1989). Horan remains in the privileged position of being the first writer that cricket historians turn to when they are writing about the initial international cricket matches in Australia, as a man who played against Grace and alongside Spofforth, and as a sensitive writer who wrote about the game with compassion.  Horan, then, was clearly Australia’s pioneer cricket writer.

The Australian Media Hall of Fame, founded in 2011 by the Melbourne Press Club, comprises more than 110 reporters, editors, broadcasters, photographers, cartoonists, commentators and publishers. The journalism of these individuals has not only been outstanding but has also made a difference to society. Most were, or are, journalists of national renown. Some have had an international impact. Horan is an inductee of the forum that boasts of the likes of Richie Benaud and Haigh.

After leading a long and rewarding life, Tom Horan’s health began to fail.He became afflicted with dropsy and he was admitted to a private hospital in Malvern, Melbourne. The 62-year old Tom Horan passed away in the hospital on April 16, 1916 from congestive cardiac failure. The funeral took place next day, attended by a large gathering of cricketers and admirers, and he was laid to rest at the Melbourne Cemetery. Among his pall-bearers were the President and Secretary of the Victorian Cricket Association; the Sports Editor of The Australasian; Allan, his erstwhile comrade-in-arms; and Hugh Trumble and Warwick Armstrong, among others.

Writing in his obituary, The Argus (Melbourne) had said: “No more popular player ever represented Victoria, and no writer on cricket was more eagerly read.” Indeed, Tom Horan was one of the exalted companies who had lit the flame that had led to the legend of The Ashes.