Page last updated at 11:45 GMT, Thursday, 2 July 2009 12:45 UK
Boomerangs at Bryn-y-môr
By Andrew Hignell
Author, The Australian Cricketers in Wales

Australian Aborigine cricketers 1867 - copyright MCC Museum and Library
The Australian Aborigines - pictured here in Sydney in 1867 - proved a big attraction when they toured the UK

1868 was the first time an Australian cricket team visited Wales - the year a team of Aboriginal cricketers undertook an extensive 47-match tour of the UK.

The Aborigines had played a series of exhibition matches for the previous few years in Australia.

Their promoter, former Surrey cricketer Charles Lawrence, believed a lengthy tour of the UK could be very lucrative.

After gaining sufficient finance, Lawrence and his thirteen players sailed from Sydney in February 1868.

They arrived in mid-May at Gravesend to commence the mammoth tour.

Lawrence and his business manager, George Smith - a former mayor of Sydney - also contacted the clubs and district sides who had expressed an interest in playing the Aboriginals and came to an agreement over the financial details of what proved to be a highly successful tour.

JTD Llewelyn was a great patron and supporter of cricket in 19th Century Wales
JTD Llewelyn was a great patron of cricket in 19th Century Wales

JTD Llewelyn, the leading figure in Welsh cricket at that time, was very keen for the Aborigines to play at Swansea, where a club had been in existence since the 1780s.

Llewelyn was one of the greatest benefactors towards sport in Wales at that time, and besides assisting the Swansea club, and acting as a founder member of the Welsh Rugby Union, he was keen that a county side should represent Glamorgan and play other English counties.

A regional side - called the South Wales Cricket Club - had already been formed in 1859, and was playing a handful of matches each year against leading English sides.

Llewelyn believed the time was right for a county side to be raised, and the visit by the Aboriginal cricketers in 1868 was therefore part of JTD's campaign to raise the profile of cricket in the region.

During the spring of 1868, he made contact with Lawrence to discuss the feasibility of a match at Swansea. Lawrence was happy to consider the approach, and as with all of the other fixtures, he made two offers - either his team received a payment of £200 outright for their appearance in a two-day match against the local side, or alternatively Lawrence and his men collected all of the gate money, covered all of the expenses and gave £20 to the local side.

Cambrian advert for cricket match
How The Cambrian newspaper advertised the 1868 match

Committing to a payment of £200 was out of the question for JTD, so he therefore agreed to the latter format, with a two-day match at the Bryn-y-Môr ground on July 6th and 7th, followed by a third day on which the visitors could raise further revenue for themselves with a display of boomerang throwing, spearthrowing, sprinting and hurdling.

Fittingly, JTD led the home side, taking 6 for 64, but the tourists proved far too strong for the locals, winning the contest by an innings on the second afternoon, before entertaining a decent-sized crowd the following day with their athletic prowess prior to departing by train for their next fixture at Bradford in Yorkshire.

It had been a highly successful visit both on the field and off, as besides covering the expenses and paying - as promised - £20 to the Swansea club, Lawrence and his colleagues made a decent surplus of £43.

The financial success of the match, plus the attendance at the Bryn-y-Môr ground - a mile or so inland from the foreshore of Swansea Bay - delighted JTD Llewelyn.

With interest in cricket clearly on the up, he convened a meeting at the Castle Hotel, Neath the following spring, and a Glamorganshire side came into being.

This is an extract from The Australian Cricketers in Wales by Andrew Hignell, published by Gomer - more details about the book




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