Let's Play Cricket
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 8 Oct 1936, p. 16-30
Matthews, The Honourable R.C., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
An expression of appreciation to the press for their coverage of the Canadian Cricket Team's games in England. Some figures that indicate to what extent cricket is played in Ontario. Some history of cricket in Canada. The speaker's determination to take a Canadian cricket team to England and the story of how he did so. Team selection. Arrival in England. Watching the test matches. Practises. Impressions from other observers. The schedule of 15 games. A description of several school and country games. A review of the performance of the team. Playing at Lord's, the ambition of every cricketer. Reference to the players who opposed the Canadian team. Reporting in the press. Some comments on the weather conditions. The high opinion of Canadian cricket in England.
Date of Original
8 Oct 1936
Language of Item
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The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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Fairmont Royal York Hotel

100 Front Street West, Floor H

Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3

Full Text
Thursday, 8th October, 1936

The first regular meeting of the Empire Club of Canada for the 1936-37 Season was held in the Concert Hall of the Royal York Hotel, Toronto, Canada, on October 8th, 1936.

Following the Toast to the King, the President, Major Gordon B. Balfour, K.C., introduced the guest speaker, the Honourable R. C. Matthews, P.C.

PRESIDENT: Gentlemen: Since our last meeting the Empire Club has lost one of its Past Presidents and a live member of this Club, in the person of the late Mr. Arthur Hewitt. Mr. Hewitt was an active member on the Executive of this Club for a great many years.

I wish to welcome now the ninety-nine new members who have joined the Empire Club 'in the past fortnight. (Applause.) I might say since arriving here-.as this is an exclusive Club, I can't count the gentleman a member-1 received the one hundredth application.

Today we do honour to the Canadian Cricket Team who so ably made the name of Canada famous in cricket in the old land during the past summer. They brought credit to themselves, honour to all Canada in the matches they played, and at our head table we have with us those of the team who could come to this meeting. (Applause.) Some of the team are in Vancouver. I will ask the members of the team to rise as I call their names.

The following members of the team rose .as Major Balfour called their names: Captain W. E. N. Bell, L C. Bell, Mr. P. F. Seagram, Ed. F. Loney, Ralph Ripley, J. G. Percival, Lloyd Percival. (Applause.)

Gentlemen: We do you honour at this, our meeting.

Our guest speaker today is The Honourable R. C. Matthews, who made this trip possible. (Applause.) Mr. Matthews, being a member of the Empire Club, needs no introduction from me to you. His career, in sport, in cricket, in golf and curling is probably over-shadowed, however, by his public career. He is a devotee of cricket and curling and golf, but in the realm of public life, Mr. Matthews has won distinction which brings honour to himself and credit to Canada. While a member of the House of Commons, as Mr. Matthews was, he was Chairman of that most important committee on Banking and Commerce for a number of years. Later, he was appointed Minister of National Revenue. He is now President of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and a member of the King's Privy Council for Canada. Mr. Matthews will speak today an the subject, "Let's Play Cricket." Mr. Matthews.

HONOURABLE R. C. MATTHEWS, P.C.: Mr. President and Gentlemen: I thank you very much indeed for your kind invitation to me to speak on behalf of the Canadian Cricket Team about our trip in England this year. I considered it a very great honour when I received on board ship a marconigram from this Club, giving me the opportunity of saying something about cricket in Canada and what transpired in England.

Before I say anything about our games in England, may I say that altogether too much credit has been given to me, personally. It is true, I was there as an interested onlooker, but the credit is due to the magnificent Canadian boys who accompanied me and who played cricket in England against some of the finest teams in the Old Land. (Applause.)

I want also to thank the Canadian Press and the press of Canada, generally, for their splendid descriptions of our games in England. Everywhere I have heard of the accounts you received, and I am grateful, indeed, to the press for the publicity given the efforts of the team while we were abroad.

Cricket is a game that is not generally played in Canada, but I shall give you one or two figures to indicate to what extent it is played in this province. In Ontario today there are about 105 cricket teams playing, of which 50 are in the City of Toronto, and of these 50 in Toronto, 30 are senior teams and 20 are junior teams. By junior teams, I mean boys from Public Schools to whom cricket material is supplied free.

At one time there was a great deal of cricket in Canada, particularly in Ontario and the Maritime Provinces. The original settlers and their sons were cricketers, but when baseball and other sports that took less time to play, were introduced, there was a let-down in the interest in cricket and boys were not taught the game. But it is now improving and the increase will be very marked in this province in the next year or two, if we, as members of an Empire Club are interested, and other men do their part in promoting it.

Cricket has arrived at a stage in Canada where something should be done about it. We have got it back to a position where very fair cricket is played in some places. A man said to me, not long ago, at the Toronto Cricket Club, that he had seen the game between Toronto and Rosedale in September, and although he was a member of a side that toured England years ago, he considered the cricket played in Toronto today is very much better than that of some years ago. So we have reached the point where we must either go ahead or cricket may not be as good as it has been because you cannot keep young men playing a game well, unless they have higher steps to take, unless they can find and meet competition worthy of them, and unless they see something ahead in the game, other than playing around in a circle with the clubs of their own standing.

It was this idea that I had in mind when I thought of going to England, and furthermore, perhaps my greatest incentive was confidence in youth. I am one of those, .who rightly or wrongly, is heterodox in regard to the general opinion about the youth of today. I believe in youth, and in Canadian young men, and I am convinced that our boys, given a fair chance to learn and to play games will do as well as young men in other countries.

A few days ago I was in one of the Eastern Provinces, some distance from here. As the train was about to -leave that night, there was a great crowd assembled at the station, tooting horns, making noises with sirens, cheering, laughing, talking. At first I thought perhaps it was a joyous wedding party. Afterward, upon inquiry, I learned it was nothing of the kind. It was a crowd of 500 people that had come to the station to cheer and to send away in a special car a team of American boys who had been brought over to Canada to play baseball in a town where there are plenty of Canadian boys who should play as well as Americans. This demonstration was in honour of the imports, who had won the cup. Fifty to one hundred dollars per week had been paid to each payer, sand they went back to the United States, taking the money with them and had the satisfaction of knowing they had earned Canadian money while Canadian boys sat in the stand and watched them play.

Gentlemen, that is not the sort of thing I care very much about. I have no criticism of baseball. Nome whatever, nor of any game. I played first base on a team that in six years was not defeated. I am fond of baseball, as, I am fond of all field sports, but I am confident that young Canadian lads can play baseball just as well as American lads, and it was my confidence that young Canadian boys could play cricket as well as English boys that influenced me to take this team to the Old Country to try it out.

Then my only difficulty was encountered. It was in February last year, that I reached my decision to go and the first man I told about it was my friend, Dr. H. C. Griffith, the Headmaster of Ridley, who has done so much for cricket. He asked me how I knew I was going, referring to my getting players for such an important adventure. My reply was I had two prerequisites. One of them is here today, the other was prevented by illness from coming. These two prerequisites were Loney and Canton. If I could get these boys to go, I was determined to take a team to England. I think cricketers will agree that for once I was right. Loney and Carlton distinguished themselves, and are known all over the world today as excellent bowlers and good bats.

So we decided to go. Then I had to select the rest of the team. Now, if you want to become popular, select a team. That will make you popular, no matter whether you are taking them or not, or who is sending there. You select a team and you will find out what a popular thing it is to do.

I do not claim that I chose the best team, or that the best players in Canada went to England, but I had this guide, namely, that I did not propose to take any player whose limitations I' felt I knew; in other words, the men I wanted were young men who would learn and improve and continue as leaders in cricket after their return. I wanted their enthusiasm, and I needed their help to develop the grand old English game in this country. Besides, I believed the younger men, if given a chance, would do at least as well as the older men. So my selection was a young team, and I have never regretted my choice, because not only on the ship going over were they noticed by everybody, but everywhere they went, they were admired and regarded ,as creditable to themselves and creditable to Canada.

From the time we assembled in Toronto on June the 12th, until we returned to this city on August the 29th, I am proud to say, there was not one word of dissension between my players or criticism from .any member of the team. They were gentlemen on and occasions and earned the admiration of English cricketers, the press and the public.

We arrived in England on the 27th of June, and spent more than a week practising at Lord's, the Oval and Hampstead. Someone wrote something in a Canadian paper, asking why we did not get to work, that perhaps, making allowances for bad weather or what not, it was time we were playing. We'll, I had my own way about that, and I did not have to consult a Board of Directors. I had watched cricket for some years and I made up my mind that any team that could do well over there, must have an opportunity to become acclimated and have also a spaced fixture list. While county teams, test teams and others can play six games a week, a Canadian Cricket Team, made up of bays who practise an hour on Tuesday, an hour on Thursday and three or four hours in a game on Saturday, cannot hope to stand on the field six days a week without definite injury to their playing ability It is too hard on their feet. I spaced the fixture list so they would have sufficient practice before starting the match schedule. One arrival, we spent three days seeing a test match, England versus India. Then the team began to practise in the presence of the professionals at Lord's. On the first practice day, I was naturally anxious to learn the impressions of the professionals, and asked them what merit they thought this team might have. They were non-commital, but very polite, and I did not know what to think. They said, "Well, there may be one or two of them who can bat a little." I said, "What about bowling?" "Oh . . .," they said. I' said, "Not much?" They said, "No, not much." Well, that was the first impression. By the time they were through practising, and getting ready to play matches, a professional stopped me once day. He was umpiring a match at Lord's and he spoke to me as I was passing. He said, "Mr. Matthews, you will win half your games in England." I thought he was just as wrong as were those who expressed their general opinion in the first case.

Well-known experts such as A. C. MacLaren and P. F. Warner watched them during practices, but withheld their opinion, at least as far as we were concerned. During this time, my players were getting accustomed to playing on turf, to the atmospheric pressure on the ball, to the swerving in English air, and it was not until they got that, and their length in bowling, that they went into a match. When they did, the result amply justified the days spent in preparation.

The first game showed what they had. They were keen to field, keen to bat, keen to bowl, and I am sure you will agree with me the results of the practices speak for themselves.

When we arrived in England, of course a mild, but very mild, interest was created and I will quote from in article in a London newspaper- by a specialist as to what was thought of us. After speaking of Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa and the West Indies sending teams to England, this writer said, "The presence of their teams (that is from other parts of the Empire) adds a spice to the season's activity, but the infrequent visits of Canadian teams creates no more interest than a Saturday afternoon match on a suburban common." He was quite right, but later changed his mind.

Our schedule consisted of fifteen games--three with schools, Eton College at Eton, Harrow School at Harrow, Rugby School at Rugby, three with army services, the Royal Artillery at Woolwich, the Royal Air Force at Halton, the Royal Engineers at Chatham. These games were all on magnificent grounds. We played four games in London, the Hampstead Cricket Club at Hampstead, the M.C.C. at Lord's, the Grasshoppers at the Oval, and the Ibis Cricket Club at Sydenham. The Ibis team is the first team selected from the seven teams of the Prudential Insurance Company. We had one game with the Incogniti at Chatham, and four country house games, the Harrow Wanderers at C. R. Anson's country house at Crondall, Hants, the Free Foresters at Hubert Martineau's country house at Holyport, Sir Pierce Lacy's XI at Bury St. Edmunds, and the Earl of Bessborough's XI at Stansted Park, Rowlands Castle, Hants. At these country house games, strong team were invited to play against us.

First of all, the school games. We had bad luck at the schools. July was the wettest summer month experienced m England in many years. At Rugby, our opponents, the Rugby School, finished their innings cheaply, much too cheaply. They were worth more than that, but the wicket was wet, and it was not their fault. We batted, and had made nearly half their runs without the loss of a wicket when the rain came and floods 'descended, and beat upon the crease and there was no more cricket that day. It was a read disappointment. The day was cold, unpleasant and wet, but as a slight compensation we walked to the end of the cricket ground and we saw there the headmaster's wall, dividing the famous playing fields from the headmaster's garden. In the wall there is a stone, the legend of which is known -all over the world. I shall read it to you

"This stone commemorates the exploit of William Webb Ellis, who, with a fine disregard for the rules of football as played in his time, first took the ball in his arms and ran with it, thus originating the distinctive feature of the rugby game, A.D. 1823."

We remembered Dr. Arnold's work there, and how his influence reformed all the public school's of England.

Our next game was at Harrow, or rather it was to have been at Harrow. That was the only abandoned game. There was no play; not a ball was bowled. Then we went to Eton, where we were royally treated, and again the game was not completed. Captain Bell won the toss and put his side in and made 168 for three wickets. There was no more play-rain. The bowlers were Eton's regular bowlers and were probably among the best bowlers in the schools in England. Afterwards, the team went to Oxford, not to play but to see the Colleges. They visited the great halls of several Colleges, they saw on the walls portraits of men who had won distinction in the Old Land--in statesmanship, in diplomacy, in art, in literature, in science and in professions, men who stood for what England stands for all over the world. But as well, they saw the playing fields and remembered that on the playing fields many of England's greatest had played cricket as young boys. They had something of the training that cricket gives. While I do not attribute too much to cricket, I do believe that something of the steadiness, the fineness, the ability to "play the game," to act fairly ire their varying capacities all over the world, to be an honour to their country and their Empire, has been implanted by England's grand old National game.

Then we began our series of games in the country. Our first country house experience was with the Harrow Wanderers at Crondall, Hants. The opposing team was not perhaps as strong as some of the others we played, but there were some really first class men on it. We made in our only innings there, 261 runs on a wet wicket. Tindall, the Captain of Middlesex, and now the Captain of Cambridge, played for the Harrow Wanderers and Pelham, who played for Harrow and Cambridge, arid Anson, who played for Middlesex.

The next game was with the Free Foresters at Holyport, the home of a well known cricketer, Hubert Martineau. The Free Foresters are a famous cricket organization well known to Canadians. The interesting game at Holyport we won by ten wickets. Wilcox, the Captain of Essex County, Causton of Sussex County, Haig of Middlesex and M.C.C., Childs-Clarke of Middlesex and Freddie Brown of Cambridge University, played against us in that two day game. Our win was not a very difficult one, and we began to see why we were getting along so well in these games.

May I pause far a moment here to say why we were doing so well. Outstanding was the fact that our bowlers were thoroughly good. They bowled a consistent length, and on the wickets on which we were playing, were un-beatable. They exercised a control that I never thought bowlers from this country ever had, but their days of practice at Lord's under the eyes of the professionals had done a lot of good and the sides we played against were not able to score heavily against us. The swerving of Seagram and Scott and the spinners delivered by Carlton and Loney with leg breaks and off breaks in nearly all the matches completely dominated the batsmen. Certainly this was the case on the soft wickets in Judy.

On our tour, eight times we dismissed strong sides for less than 100 runs. Our smallest innings at any time was 146, the day we were defeated at the Oval by the Grasshoppers. Three centuries were made by our players one the tour, W. G. Scott of Vancouver made 109 not out against the Royal Air Force, Clarke Bell made 106 not out against the Royal Engineers, and Captain W. E. N. Bell 105 against the Incogniti. One century was scored against us in fourteen games, when E. A. Craven of the Incognito made 104.

Now we come to the day at Lord's. It is the ambition of every cricketer to play at Lord's. Every man who plays cricket considers it a privilege and an honour to play there in one match once day. So the Canadians went td Lord's, filled with enthusiasm and eager to do their best.

I shall dwell for a moment on that game. Winning the toss we decided to bat, on a wicket that was thoroughly soaked, after a day and a night of rain, and very difficult to play on; decidedly a bowler's wicket. The batter never knew what the ball would do when it met the ground. We had to play against bowlers like Fender, one of the greatest spin bowlers in England and others. Fender is a slow spin bowler, and the others fast, to which our batsmen were not accustomed. We made 171 runs. Someone said the M.C.C. could not equal our score. We did not know whether they could or not, but we found that with the bowling and the fielding the Canadians put up, we were able to dismiss the strong, M.C.C. side after they head scored 95 runs. (Applause.) Thus for the first time Canada, defeated an M.C.C. side at Lord's and won by 76 runs.

May I refer briefly to the players who opposed us, because a few Canadians seem to have the opinion that we were not playing against strong teams. I will name some of that day's players for M.C.C.: Major Wilkinson, who made M.C.C.'s highest score, played for the Army and M.C.C., Desmond Roberts for M.C.C. and Surrey, MacBryan for Somerset County and M.C.C., Longfield for Kent, Cambridge University and M.C.C., Fender for Surrey and England, Major Stanyforth for England and M.C.C. Major Stanyforth Captained the M.C.C. team and also Captained Lord Bessborough's team against us at Stanstead Park. The other players were of equal experience.

At this time, I received a letter from Lord Bessborough saying that he was following our games in the press, and that we were going on from triumph to triumph.

If I may, I will take your time for a moment to indicate what the greatest newspaper experts in writing up cricket matches say about our team. The Morning Post, the day after this match at Lord's, said, "There were some very, very happy faces at Lord's yesterday evening, and deservedly so, for the Canadians had fulfilled their heart's desire, and on the ground on which, above all others, they were keen to do well, and not only have they beaten the M.C.C. by 76 runs but they have given a display of outstanding cricket which will not be forgotten by those who were lucky enough to see it. They began by doing a useful job in scoring 171 runs, and then, when the M.C.C. batted, it did not take long to realize that the nice things one had heard about their bowling and fielding were abundantly justified. In the attack of Seagram, Scott, Carlton and Loney there were purpose and challenging thrust; and as, for the work of those who supported them--well, the critic was not far wrong who said that he had not seen better since the 1931 Australians."


"The left-handed Loney and the off-breaking Carlton took on where the other two had left off, and, helped by that brilliant fielding, they pegged the batsmen. down to almost complete subjection. Longfield certainly hit two beautiful 4's through the covers, but those were the only indications that the mastery was not completely with the bowlers.

"It was a peculiar and somewhat ironical circumstance that those who, presumably, had come to learn should find themselves so fully in control of the situation that in an hour and a quarter before tea the M.C.C. should lose four wickets and be able to score no more than 41 runs."

The Times said:--"The Canadians are a fine sided team of young cricketers who play the game gas though they enjoyed every moment of it. Their batting, which bears the mark of amateur rather than, professional coaching, is free without being rash, they have at least four bowlers of considerably more than average merit, and their fielding which was the best seen at Lord's for many a long day, roused a critical pavilion audience to a high pitch of enthusiasm. The ball was clearly picked up, returned quickly and accurately to the wicket, the stumps being hit on six occasions by the return in an hour and a quarter's play before the tea interval."

After the game was over, our team walked into the pavilion. The members of the M.C.C. who had witnessed the game, gathered in the long room and loudly cheered them. These cheers re-echoed through the pavilion and were heard away out on the ground. Older members of the M.C.C. saw this young Canadian team, untutored and untaught, defeating experienced cricketers some of whose names I have read composing the M.C.C. team, on their own grounds and on a difficult wicket to which our team were not accustomed. (Applause.)

This ball was the one used in that game. (Mr. Matthews showed the ball to the audience.)

Following that, we played other games and got along very well. The result was this, that on our schedule of fifteen games one was completely abandoned, fourteen games were started, six were drawn, mostly owing to rain, seven were won by us and one game was lost. I wish to be modest, and to be careful about what I say, but oil the six games drawn, with my little knowledge of cricket, I do not see how we could possibly have lost one of them. I do not believe we would have lost any of them, if time had permitted us to conclude those games. Cricket experts estimate that victory in each case would have been ours. So far as I am concerned, you must remember that the prediction is one of any enthusiast.

To show what weather, we were up against: In a two-day game against the Artillery, the first game we could not begin until 4.30 p.m. The ground was riot dry enough and that was the sort of thing that robbed us, I think, of at least some victories. In two of the games that were drawn the last opponent was at bat. He might have been bowled with the next ball. On the other hand, he might have stayed and defeated us, but I scarcely think so. As I said, I want to be modest, but I really believe we would have won the drawn games.

Now I see that my time is up, although I have material I would have liked to give you, but I shall not attempt it other than to say that throughout our games we had a splendid time, and had very kind and generous hospitality extended to us. Lord Bessborough could not have been finer. He gave us three days of his time at his country house. He devoted all his time to the team, and Lady Bessborough was as beautiful and kind and gracious as ever. We had splendid receptions everywhere and one day, on the 14th of July, we all went to Buckingham Palace arid were graciously received by His Majesty, the King, who shook hands with every boy, chatted a bit about cricket and spent twenty or thirty minutes with us.

(Applause.) But before I close I should like to read frown the paper which said earlier that the presence of a Canadian team created as much interest as a Saturday afternoon match on a suburban common. The paper's parting words were: "An 'immense amount of good will be done for the game over there if the people of Canada are made to realize the high opinion of Canadian cricket held in this country." That was the opinion held by the newspaper at the time we were about to leave.

We had a great deal of newspaper publicity. We were given the finest receptions. We were treated most courteously and hospitably everywhere, and the English people, I think, had a good opinion of the team. I shall read only one more extract. This is from The Cricketer and it was written after we left. "The Cricketer," as you know, is the organ of cricket and goes all over the world.

"Seldom have a little band of sportsmen won such popularity among all who met them as the Canadian Team brought by The Honourable R. C. Matthews. They are not likely to forget the reception they received from members in the Pavilion after they had defeated the M.C.C. at Lord's. These Canadians were jolly good fellows both off and on the field, and made friends everywhere.

"The two Bells and W. G. Scott batted well enough for most sides short of representative, the last named being a valuable all-rounder, whilst a number of counties would be glad to start bowling with E. Carlton and E. F. Loney.

"There are reasons to anticipate that we shall soon see them all here again. So it is "Au Revoir" and not "GoodBye" to a cheery group of overseas brothers."

(Hearty Applause.) PRESIDENT: In thanking you, Sir, for this narrative of the matches of the Canadian. Cricket Team, I might say that I speak on behalf of the Empire Club, and also one behalf of all Canadians who believe in a United Empire. I think that such a trip as this, a good-will trip of a group of young Canadians visiting the Motherland, does a great deal to weld the British Empire and to make Canada an integral part of it.

If I may be permitted, I shall read a telegram just received from a member of the Empire Club living in Providence, R. I., who is President also of the British Empire Club of Rhode Island. I shall read the latter part only:

"Congratulations and good wishes to the members of the Canadian Cricket Team, through its sponsor, The Honourable R. C. Matthews, for the manner in which they have distinguished themselves recently in Great Britain."--SPENCER HOOVER.

I would like at the same time to thank and pay our respects to some of our cricketers, if I might, say of a former generation, more particularly to one who still, I understand, holds the total batting score record for Canada, a gentleman whom you may have heard of in his puttering about at the game of golf-Mr. George S. Lyon. (Applause.)

I thank the other cricketers who have come out to do honour to Mr. Matthews. I thank you, Sir, for this address which has given many of us a different idea of Canadians and their relationship to the great game of cricket. (Applause.)

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Let's Play Cricket

An expression of appreciation to the press for their coverage of the Canadian Cricket Team's games in England. Some figures that indicate to what extent cricket is played in Ontario. Some history of cricket in Canada. The speaker's determination to take a Canadian cricket team to England and the story of how he did so. Team selection. Arrival in England. Watching the test matches. Practises. Impressions from other observers. The schedule of 15 games. A description of several school and country games. A review of the performance of the team. Playing at Lord's, the ambition of every cricketer. Reference to the players who opposed the Canadian team. Reporting in the press. Some comments on the weather conditions. The high opinion of Canadian cricket in England.