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Hugh Hamon Massie (1855–1938)

by E. H. M. Baillie

from Sporting Globe

Hugh Massie, c.1882

Hugh Massie, c.1882

Another break in the ranks of the great old-time cricketers of Australia has occurred with the death in Sydney last week of Hugh Hamon Massie, at the age of 83.

Although a perusal of his record might not suggest it to those who are accustomed to the mammoth batting feats of the past 30 or 40 years, Massie was one of the great figures of Australian cricket in the days when Australia had just burst into the picture as a rival to England for the honors of the game.

Massie ranked among the greatest hitters that the game has known, and certainly was one of the greatest Australia has had. Jack Lyons, Percy McDonnell and George Bonnor being others. Lyons, Bonnor and Massie were hitters pure and simple, while McDonnell was more of the type that combined scientific batting with his hitting.

Whenever Massie's name is mentioned among old-timers two outstanding feats of his are always recalled—both in England and in 1882. One was on his first appearance in that country, when he hit up 206 against Oxford University. This was a feat that set the cricket world talking, not so much because of the number of runs made, but for the way in which they were made. It was the first time that an Australian batsman had made a double century on his appearance in England, and it was regarded as one of the greatest displays of hitting ever seen. The runs were made in less than three hours, out of 265 scored while he was at the wickets, and the last 100 were made in 59 minutes, while the other batsmen were adding 12.

The other great feat was in the famous Test match at the Oval, when Australia, winning by seven runs, gained her first Test victory in England. Played on a bad wicket, Australia, with 63 to England's 101, batted a second time, 38 runs in arrears. Massie and Alec Bannerman opened the innings, and while Bannerman played his usual role of stonewaller Massie hit with tremendous power, and scored 55 out of 66 for the first wicket in 55 minutes. Bannerman made 13 and W. L. Murdoch 29, but no one else got more than seven, and the total was only 122. England could manage only 77 in a second innings, in which the excitement was so intense that people did all sorts of strange things, and one spectator dropped dead.

Massie finished third in the averages for all eleven-a-side matches of the tour with 1405 runs at 24 an innings, Murdoch and T. Horan being ahead of him. It was only his business as a banker that prevented him going to England with other teams. He rose to the position of general manager of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney, from which he retired about 14 years ago.

Although born at Belfast, Victoria, Massie was taken to New South Wales when only three years old, and spent the rest of his life there. His early days were spent at Goulburn, and when his family went to Sydney he soon became prominent in the cricket world. He first appeared in the New South Wales eleven against Victoria in 1877-8, and played his last first-class game in 1887-8. That 206 against Oxford was the only three figure score he made in first-class cricket, but he made a number approaching the century. Like many hitters, however, he was not consistent, but his brilliance was undoubted. Against English teams in Australia he made 501 runs at an average of 21, with 78 not out his highest score; for N.S.W. against Victoria his record was 356 runs at 16, 70 being his best score, while in tests he made 249 runs at 15 an innings. One of his best feats was when he made 80 and 50 for the Rest against Australia in 1880-1.

Massie was also a remarkably good fieldsman, and it is said that in the tour of England he did not miss a catch. His interest in the game was maintained right up to the end, and he was a regular attendant at the big games on the Sydney ground, of which until recently he was a trustee. Two of his sons, H. H. and R. J. A., made names for themselves in the game, and R. J. A. (Jack), a wonderful left-arm bowler, seemed a certain test player but for war injuries, which put him out of the game.

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Citation details

E. H. M. Baillie, 'Massie, Hugh Hamon (1855–1938)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 16 April 2024.

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