The first tour

(Jon Harris and Dave Liverman, January 13 2005)

Neville Cardus wrote, "An event of some historical peculiarity occurred in 1859 when the All England XI, all professionals, crossed the Atlantic to play five matches in Canada and America.".(1) Two of the matches were played in Montreal and one in Hamilton, and two were played in the United States. This tour is reputed to be the first overseas trip involving any team sport, and was certainly the first overseas tour by an England XI.

One of those who endured the hazards of the trans Atlantic voyage, made in a sailing vessel, was "John Wisden, a mere 64 inches tall weighing 100 pounds in his early career, who bowled fast and took 2702 wickets between .... 1848 and 1859.". (2). The name Wisden is synonymous with the annual Almanack, and it would appear to be the only cricketer's name still commonly used today, throughout the cricket playing world, who was a member of that overseas adventure.

The side however was very strong indeed. It was led by George Parr of Nottinghamshire, one of the best bats of his day. Carpenter was also a fine bat, and "old" Tom Hayward (father of the famous Surrey opening bat) was a player of some renown. The bowling was led by Wisden, who despite his stature bowled round-arm and a brisk pace and Jackson. Jackson bowled fast round-arm, but the captain Parr was most succesful bowling old-fashioned lobs. Stehpenson, Caffyn, Lockyer and Julius Caesar were Surrey men; Parr, Grundy and Jackson from Nottinghamshire; Hayward Carpenter and Diver of Cambridge; and Wisden and John Lillywhite from Sussex. Fred Lillywhite accompanied the team as reporter, and afterwards produced a book "The English Cricketersı Trip to Canada and the United States". The National Library of Canada holds a copy of the book, now a rarity, or you can purchase your own copy from Jackson Wegren books in Ottawa for a mere $700.

The cricketers found the Atlantic crossing hard, with Wisden quipping that conditions could be improved with an application of the heavy roller. The team landed in Quebec City in late September and travelled by train to Montreal, where several thousand spectators saw them defeat XXII of Lower Canada by 8 wickets in a 2-day match. They played a further match in Montreal before travelling to the USA for several matches. The team returned to Canada in mid October.

A Canadian perspective of the match played in Hamilton, Ontario, (at the time known as Upper Canada) is revealed in the diaries of the Eldon family

"Oct 17" (1859) "George left London for Hamilton by the six oıclock train to play the great cricket match with All Englandıs Eleven....".

"Oct 20" "George came home by the night train, not at all cured of cricket. He made a very good catch and his play has been praised in the papers. One of the English cricketers said that anyone who could make that catch was worthy of playing with All Englandıs Eleven. We cannot help feeling pleased that he was praised even for his play at cricket, and yet we think it would have been better for him had his play been a total failure....". (3)

According to the editors of the diaries "Cricket (said to have been introduced to London, Ontario by Henry Becher shortly after his arrival from England in 1835) was played initially on the Eldon House Flats.". (4)

The tour concluded in Rochester, New York, where the tourists beat a combined USA-Canada XXII by an innings and 68 runs, Wisden taking an astonishing 29 wickets.

1. Cardus, Neville, English Cricket, Collins, London, 1945 pp:21

2. ibid

3. The Eldon House Diaries: Five Womenıs Views of the 19th Century. eds Harris Robt..S., & Harris, Terry G., The Champlain Society, Toronto. 1994. pp: 129.

4. op cit pp: ixx