A very boring recounting of another footnote in Canadian cricket history


Jon Harris
e-mail: hennessy.harris@sympatico.ca


In a recent CBC radio broadcast of "Inside Track", reference was made to cricket being played in Canada's far north. I made a brief reference about that event a couple of years ago, in an article "Cricket in Canada - Some stories, some history, some facts, some observations". The article was published in a limited edition book, which was specifically printed for the ICC Trophy 2001.

The following is quoted from that article.

"During an exploration, under the command of Capt. William Parry, two Royal Navy vessels, seeking the Northwest Passage, became stuck in the ice. There is a record of cricket, (in the form of a print from an engraving), being played on the ice in 1822-1823 near the island of Igloolik at a latitude 3 degrees north of the Arctic Circle. These games were certainly the venue of the first cricket played in Canada's far north, and because it is the land of the midnight sun, it is assumed that there was no delay in the games due to bad light."

The reference that I found, in an illustrated catalogue of cricket books and artifacts, which led to my writing the above paragraph reads as follows:-

Engraving by Edward Finden after a drawing by Capt. Lyon, R.N.
January 1824, 21 cms x 14 cms. depicting a cricket match played on ice.
The engraving has a title "SITUATION OF H.M. SHIPS FURY & HECLA AT IGLOOLIK 1822-23'.

I have kept the source of that reference very close to my vest, because it is essentially a piece of original research. For me it is significant that to the best of my knowledge and belief, no other person has written about this particular aspect of Canadian cricket history. Further, I have an Ethnogeographer friend, who specializes in interpreting the oral history of the peoples of Canada's far north. His work is to seek out information to confirm his understanding of the maps that the first peoples made. He told me that one of the stories he had related to him, was of two big winged birds which only floated on the water. My friend told me that he interpreted this to mean two sailing ships, and that conversation took place about 10 years ago.

It was only when I was doing some research on the ICC Trophy article that I made the connection of the two big winged birds with two sailing ships. Readers should also note that the the original reference was about Capt. Lyon, R.N. So how did I come to write about Capt. William Parry? Well, first it disguised my source of the cricket story, and why did I leave poor old Capt. Lyon out in the cold? Because Capt. Parry was the commander of that particular Royal Navy expedition. Therefore, in order
to confirm the dates and names of the vessels I had to go digging into the records. One of those records is readily at hand, as I collect antique maps of Canada. Most antique maps are razor cut from atlases and other books. What I found in one of my books which still holds some maps, dated 1855, shows information about "IGLOOLIK, a small island of Brit N.A., in Fury & Hecla Strait .... Its mean annual temperature in 1823 was , by 8,760 observations found to be 5°.71 Fahr., the highest temp., in July 1823, being 59°, & the lowest, in Jan. of the same year, minus 45° Fahr. (pp.830).

What can we learn from all this? We know that Parry's expedition did get stuck in the ice and had to winter over in uncharted territory north of the Arctic circle. We know that, as the officer in charge of the expedition, Parry would have had to keep his crews (2 ships) busy. So how did Parry and Lyon keep the men busy. It is on record that there were 8,760 observations made with respect to the temperature. The time piece of the day would have been an 'hour glass'. Therefore if the routine task of reading the temperature was set for the crew, it would be a reasonable deduction that they would undertake this task every
hour. What happens if you divide the number of observations by the number of hours in a day. You guessed it - 365.

We know that Parry was there, because the names of the vessels under his command are the same as the straits that show on current maps of the area, at precisely the locations described in Harper's Statistical Gazetteer of 1855. We know that a drawing was made by Capt. Lyon, R.N. in 1824. We know that Capt. Lyon's vessel was 'wrecked' in 1824. Therefore we can deduce that the two crews would have become one. We know that they sailed into the area and that they also sailed out of
the area. Given that the temperature in July was 59°, we can see that was practicable both in 1823 and 1824.

Now what is the point of detailing the work which evolved from 40 words in a catalogue in order to produce 100 words in a 4000 word article. No doubt, it is a footnote to the history of cricket in Canada. However, it is probably the complete extent of the history of cricket north of the Arctic Circle. That in itself is a mere footnote to the history of the Victorian era.

The Victorian era lasted for more than six decades and was succeeded by an Edwardian era, which lasted considerably less than a decade. In Canada the cricket community is in an Edwardian era. Will history repeat itself? Can we hope? As a final and predictable observation, my wife was one of the three women who won the yoyo for correctly answering the CBC cricket question.


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