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William Josiah Hammersley (1826–1886)

from Australasian

The death of Mr. W. J. [William Josiah] Hammersley removes another and highly-esteemed name from the fast-decreasing muster-roll of those who so well and ably fought our old intercolonial cricket battles. Prior to his coming to Australia Mr. Hammersley was a well-known cricketer in the old country. In his nineteenth year he made his first appearance at Lord's on June 10, 1847, for the Undergraduates of Cambridge against the Marylebone Club. Like many other players on their first appearance on the classic convincing ground, he failed to score, but he took three wickets in the second innings. On April 26, 27, 23, 1847, he played for the first eleven of Cambridge against the next nine with the celebrated bowlers Wisden and Lillywhite. He was bowled by Wisden for 10 in the first innings, and scored 10 (not out) in the second innings. Trinity was his college at Cambridge, and on the 7th and 8th May, 1847, playing for Trinity against a team from the rest of the University, he scored 12 and 10. On Fenner's Ground, Cambridge, playing for the Hon. C. W. Fitzwilliam's side against E. Macniven's side, he was top scorer with 36, made against Wisden and Lillywhite. In 1848 (May 25, 26, 27), for Gentlemen of Kent against Undergraduates of Cambridge, at Fenner's, he was run out for 46—top score on his side. The celebrated Alfred Mynn and N. Felix were in the Kent team. For Marylebone Club against Oxford University, at Cowley Marsh, on June 1 and 2, 1848, he scored 19 and 11, and on his side was C. Du Cane, afterwards Sir Charles Du Cane, Governor of Tasmania. The famous bowler, W. Lillywhite, played in this match, and was 56 years old at the time. Lillywhite, notwithstanding his age, bowled with great success, and scored 16 and 18. Mr. Hammersley on his first appearance at Lord's was described as "a fine, free batsman, but rash, often running in 'to swipe' the ball. His round-arm bowling is extremely good, and with twist on it, walking (not running) up to the crease to deliver the ball." In a match between M.C.C. and Surrey Club, June 15, 1848, he bowled in three successive balls Messrs. Reeves, Felix, and Coltson, all fine batsmen. He played occasionally in the Surrey and Marylebone elevens, and about 1856 emigrated to Australia. An English cricket record states that in 1860 he was living at Melbourne, "New South Wales."

On arriving in Melbourne, Mr. Hammersley's cricketing ability caused him to be selected for Victoria against New South Wales, in the second of the now time-honoured series of intercolonial contests. This second match took place in Sydney, in January, 1857, and Mr. Hammersley, who was captain of the team, scored 10 and 10, and took 2 wickets for 8 runs, and 2 for 17. In the third match, played on the Melbourne ground in January, 1858, he scored 5 and 31; and in the fourth match, played in Sydney in January, 1859, he scored 0 and 9, and took 1 wicket for 3 runs. In the fifth match he scored 4 and 11, and in the sixth match 0 and 3. This last-mentioned match was played in Sydney in January, 1861, and there after Mr. Hammersley's name disappears from the intercolonial records.

Some time after having ceased to take an active part in cricket Mr. Hammersley joined the staff of Bell's Life in Victoria, and subsequently joined The Australasian, became sporting editor of it, and remained in that position until 1882. Mr. Hammersley was thoroughly at home on nearly all sporting topics, but cricket was his forte. Many cricketers remember reading with much pleasure his old-time cricket contributions under the non de plume of "Longstop," and will admit that he knew how to blend the instructive with the agreeable. Nothing pleased him better than to tell the story of his boyish days, and how he became a cricketer. He has stated in print, as well as orally, that at first he hated cricket, because he had to act as cricket "fag" to the big boys at school, but his hatred was turned into love when, shortly after leaving school, he saw Kent and Nottingham (famous then as now) play at Trentbridge. He saw there, the celebrated bowler Wm. Clarke, Alfred Mynn, and Felix, whose real name was Nicholas Wanostrocht, a most accomplished linguist and musician. Mr. Hammersley at this match also saw Hillyer and Redgate, and George Parr, then quite a lad, who carried his bat for 31 in the first innings and for 17 in the second. G. Parr, it may be added, is still hale and hearty, and was looking wonderfully well when Arthur Shrewsbury left Notts to come out with the team now here. This visit to see the famous Kent and Notts match caused Mr. Hammersley to take ardently to the game. He was coached in a Leicestershire village by a crack professional named Good, and the longer he played the better he liked the game. By and-by Mr. Hammersley left his village home, and after reading some time with a private tutor he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, and soon gained the distinction of being chosen in the University team. His name to this day stands inscribed on the wall of the pavilion, as one of the University eleven in 1817 against Oxford, at Lord's. He delighted to talk of his pleasant youthful days on the famous Parker's Piece, and the occasional cricket dinner and songs at the Bull or the Red Lion. By those who saw him in his cricket prime in Victoria, Mr. Hammersley is set down as carrying away the palm among Victorian batsmen in point of style. He was a capital leg-hitter, with great driving power, an erect and graceful attitude at the wickets, and neat wristy action in cutting—a batsman, indeed, whose style was a model. He was regarded as an effective bowler with a singular but pretty delivery. He made some very good scores in club matches, and was a prominent member of the Melbourne Club so far back as 1856. In looking back upon Mr. Hammersley's scores, it should be remembered that in his day the wickets were often very rough, and far inferior in every respect to the billiard-table like pitches of the present day. In addition to his batting and bowling skill. Mr. Hammersley was also a line field, either at point or short-slip.

Mr. Hammersley was also a capital shot; and had some of the very choicest dogs in the country. His reminiscences of shooting trips were always very interesting. He was an ardent supporter of all manly sports, and years ago, before the degeneracy of footracing, he was almost invariably starter at athletic sports meetings on the Melbourne ground. He loved every pastime that was fair and above board, and he did all he could to encourage legitimate sport. He was born on September 25, 1828, at Ashton-lodge, Ash, near Farnham in Surrey; his height was 5ft. 10in., and in his best cricket days he weighed 11st. His manner was cheerful and urbane, and he had a kindly word for all. He had been in failing health for a considerable time, and died on Monday morning at 5 o'clock, and the cause of death was haemorrhage of the brain. His grave is just close to that of the great wrestler Clarence Whistler, and to that of the jockey Huht, who was killed at Geelong, and not far from that of the celebrated wicketkeeper, George Marshall, who, as well as T. W. Wills, G. Elliott, T. Morres, B. Butterworth, T. F. Wray. J. M. Bryant, and R. Coulstock (all long since dead and gone), was associated with Mr. Hammersley in the early days of cricket in Victoria.

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Citation details

'Hammersley, William Josiah (1826–1886)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 22 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Longstop

25 September, 1826
Ash, Surrey, England


15 November, 1886 (aged 60)
Fitzroy, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death


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