Cricket fans will be interested to learn of a recent discovery made at RAMM last week. Does the name W.R. Hayman ring any bells? On 29 October 1868, Hayman donated a small collection of Aboriginal items from Australia; a boomerang, a hand club, two spear throwers, two spears, two parrying sticks, three throwing clubs and two fire sticks (two of these items incidentally are on permanent display in the gallery).
A Pacific research project, called Discovering Worlds, is funded by the Designation Development Fund and this fund has supported research into RAMM’s Australia collection. This presented RAMM with an opportunity to invite Dr. Gaye Sculthorpe from the British Museum to examine this material. This is how the discovery was made. So who was W.R. Hayman?
William Reginald Hayman (1842 – 1899) was a Devonian with strong family ties to Axminster; many of his relatives were medical professionals there. His father Philip was a doctor who later resided at Oakhayes, Woodbury. Hayman stayed with him there in 1868. This is a wonderful Aborigine cricketing discovery at RAMM. At the age of 16, Hayman emigrated to Victoria, Australia and became a pastoralist and a sportsman. He encouraged local Aborigines to work on his station and play cricket. The Aboriginal population of Australia and Tasmania had been decimated through colonialism; they were victims of exploitation and were dispossessed. Hayman had organised two of Australia’s leading cricketers, Tom Wills and Charles Lawrence, to coach the Aborigines for games against white teams in front of paying audiences.
At a time when indigenous people were popularly exhibited around Europe, Hayman brought to England the first Aboriginal cricket team, consisting largely of players from western Victoria but it was captained by Charles Lawrence, formerly of the All-England Eleven. Hayman was the tour and team manager. In May 1868, the Sporting Life gave an account of the tour and described the Aboriginal players;
“They are the first Australian natives who have visited this country on such a novel expedition, but it must not be inferred that they are savages; on the contrary, the managers of the speculation make no pretence to anything other than purity of race or origin. They are perfectly civilised, being brought up in the bush to agricultural pursuits as assistants to Europeans, and the only language of which they have perfect knowledge is English.”
The Aboriginal players were Bullocky, Charley (Dumas), (Johnny) Cuzens, Dicka-Dick, Jim Crow, King Cole, Mosquito, (Johnny) Mullagh, Peter, Red Cap, Sundown, Tiger and Twopenny. They even played at The Oval in October 15-17.
These events were not just cricket matches but also displays of athleticism and skills in Aboriginal weaponry. One player, Dick-a-Dick, showed his incredible deflective skills by parrying thrown cork balls from opposing players using only a wooden shield. Their cricketing skills admired, the Aboriginal team performed for 360 days of that year, winning only 14 of their 47 games.
Despite their health suffering from the British cold and damp and the deaths of two of the players, they continued to play game after game and were admired by the British public who were curious about them. Although the tour was not a financial success it did conclude with a non-cricketing exhibition in Plymouth on the 19 October. The boomerangs and clubs cared for by RAMM were publicly demonstrated by members of the team, which were later donated by Hayman himself. This example simply highlights the importance museum objects make in connecting people to place and time but is also tangible evidence of this historic moment. It’s another reason why this collection was awarded Designation status.
RAMM would like to thank Dr. Gaye Sculthorpe for her help and Dr. David Sampson for access to his thesis entitled “Strangers in a Strange Land: the 1868 Aborigines and other Indigenous Performers in Mid-Victorian Britain.” 2000 University of Technology, Sydney