A fine innings: Curtin and cricket

Cricket in summer, football in the winter - that was the seasonal pattern of John Curtin's sporting life. During his younger days in Victoria he played grade cricket with Brunswick where he was described as 'a useful bat'. He joined Brunswick after playing with the local junior team of Primrose XI as wicket keeper. [23] At Brunswick he was also the club's delegate to the Melbourne Junior Cricket Association where he gained a reputation for frequently debating the constitutional procedure.

Later in Western Australia John Curtin played for the Cottesloe Cricket Club, although not in the first grade cricket competition.

Frederick Mann recalls Curtin as a cricketer:

Listen to audio clip

'And with the cricket I can remember playing against Jack Curtin in 1927. I played for Cottesloe Beach (my father was the secretary of the club) and I had only just left school as a matter of fact, only in short pants; but Cottesloe Cricket Club played on what is now the Harvey Reserve. They had a turf wicket. My Dad was President of the Claremont/Cottesloe Matting Association and for some reason or other Cottesloe came in with a turf wicket but only for that one year in 1927.

Jack Curtin played in that team and some of his team mates were Frank Bendan, Harry Briggs and the two Clifford brothers, Dick and Reg. I was only in short pants and only a very junior member, I was only sixteen as a matter of fact. I can remember Jack Curtin, he was then editor of the Westralian Worker, I can remember him coming and I was struck with him because he had a very distinct cast in his left eye. He didn't field in too close to the wicket and I came on to bowl in one stage of the business, to bowl against him - he came in about the middle of the order - and I thought "now how in the devil is he going to see the ball with this cast in the eye?"- because it was most pronounced. Anyhow I bowled up an over and I found that he was a determined batsman-didn't have a great number of strokes, but very determined and he was going to let the hitters, the two Clifford brothers in particular, they were going to score the runs. So my attitude to bowling to him after that was very distinct and I let him have the lot. But he was still very defensive and showed what a determined character he was.' [24]

Len Lewington also recalls John Curtin watching the Cottesloe locals play cricket:

Listen to audio clip

'I don't remember him going to the football here but he would for sure because during the cricket season there was a Mercantile team from up where we lived up that way. Clarrie Properjohn and all those people was in it.They used to play in the Fremantle Mercantile. When they was playing up Cottesloe way Johnny Curtin was always down there to watch the boys play cricket . If one of them happened to drop the ball he'd be singing out, "Get it Ted, get a bag." You know he was a bit of a wag. He liked to have a little bit of fun with the ordinary people, sporting people. He was a good sportsman himself.' [25]

John Curtin and his son were both involved with the Cottesloe Cricket Club, as team members. If short of an umpire, John Curtin was often called upon to umpire at his son's matches. He was also the Club's Vice-President for a number of years [26] and a member of the Western Australian Cricket Association.

As an avid reader, John Curtin read widely on cricket. Test cricketer Arthur Mailey said:

'Curtin had read nearly all the cricket classics, but in 1942 I found he had not read Robertson Glasgow's The Bright Side of Cricket. I lent him the book. He read it until 4am next day, and on the following night he made one of the most moving of all his speeches - his appeal for the Austerity Loan. He wrote to me later saying that staying up late reading cricket stories had freshened his mind for the speech.' [27]

Curtin liked to attend cricket matches when he could. In 1924 on his first overseas trip as the Australian Delegate to the International Labour Conference held in Geneva, he visited London and saw Harry Makepeace making a century at Kennington Oval. [28] Later in 1944 when Curtin attended the Prime Minister's Conference in London, he visited Lords as a guest of Sir Pelham F Warner. That match was between the Army and the National Civil Defence Service. The Evening News reported that:

'People who have met Mr Curtin in London speak with respect of his knowledge of cricket. He is a Wisden addict: he knows all the statistics. If you can persuade him to do it, he will join, I am told, with the precision of an expert in one of those discussions so dear to cricket zealots about The Greatest Eleven of All Time.' [29]

Wisden is the cricket devotee's bible. Find out more about Wisden at http://www.wisden.com/

Membership badge for WA Cricket Association, 1933-34

John Curtin's membership badge for the Western Australian Cricket Association, 1933-34, No. 219

JCPML. Records of John Curtin. WA Cricket Assn., 1933-34 No. 219 member's badge. JCPML00287/10








John Curtin making a point,  194?

John Curtin bowls them over with a passionate speech

JCPML. Records of Robert Menzies. John Curtin making a point, 194?. JCPML00544/4
(Original held by National Library of Australia: MS4936 Series 31 Folder 15)











Curtin at Lords Cricket Ground, 1944

John Curtin intent on the game at Lords Cricket Ground during his visit to Great Britain in 1944

JCPML. Records of Frederick McLaughlin. Sir Stanley Jackson, John Curtin & MCC President Mr Christopherson, Lords cricket ground, UK 1944. JCPML00018/15

In a radio broadcast during the visit Prime Minister Curtin spoke to the British public regarding their knowledge of Australia that included 'Don Bradman's performances at Lords'. [30]

Back in Australia he was as happy to keep in contact with Brunswick. In April 1942 he cheered on the Brunswick sub-district cricket club to their third successive premiership. [31]

Next page
Previous page
A good sport home