The start of cricket in Australia can be traced right back to the time of the First Fleet. 1787 saw a number of coincidences that were perhaps indicative of the importance that cricket would assume to the future nation of Australia. The year that Arthur Phillip set sail from Portsmouth to become the first Governor also saw the foundation of the Marylebone Cricket Club in England, and Thomas Lord established his first ground in London that would eventually become known as the home of cricket. It is likely that many of the early immigrants, both voluntary and otherwise, had played a version of cricket in their native England, and they introduced the game to Australia.
The earliest record of cricket being played in Australia occurred on the 8th of January 1803, when a game of cricket was played between officers and crew of the MHS Calcutta on a field that is now Hyde Park. There are mentions of the game at a schoolboy level as well as other military matches, but it is now believed that the first official club in Sydney was the Australian Cricket Club. In Jack Pollard’s comprehensive history of the game, Australian Cricket 1803-1893 The Formative Years, it is claimed that a group of regimental players formed the Military Cricket Club prior to the Australian Club in 1826, but this appears to be open to interpretation of what constitutes an actual club. Richard Cashman contends, in his article The Rise and Fall of the Australia Club 1826-1868, that the Military Cricket Club did not exist as an independent association, but rather was a combination of varying regiments for one-off specific matches. The Military undoubtedly played cricket in the 1820s and 1830s, but it appears that these were simply teams of players put together for a single game, rather than a formal club with defined membership criteria, a constitution and a financial footing.
Regardless of which club was actually the first, the Australian Club was founded by a group of players following an informal match on the 7 August, 1826. The Australian newspaper reported on this event two days later, but details of the actual game at the Old Race Course, Hyde Park, are very limited. It is known that the club was established in 1826 but, as The Australian reported on the 3 January 1827 that the Australian Club had held its periodical meeting on New Year’s day two days earlier. One of the early members of the Australian Club was Edward Gregory.
The role of the Gregorys in the development of Australia’s national game began on the 28 July 1814, when Edward William Gregory (hereafter referred to as Edward Snr. to avoid confusion with his oldest son whose name was also Edward William), arrived at Port Jackson with his wife Henrietta, their daughter Ann Hannah and three sons Edward, Charles and George. They travelled together on the convict ship the Broxbornebury under the command of Master Thos. Pitcher Jr. The ship embarked from England on the 22 February, 1814 and the voyage occupied a total of one hundred and fifty six days. Henrietta was one of one hundred and twenty female convicts who left England on the ship. Two died during transportation, a figure that was considered acceptable for the time and no doubt helped by the fact that a surgeon travelled with the ship. Henrietta, who was thirty nine at the time of her transportation, had been employed as a domestic servant in London. She was sentenced to serve a total of fourteen years following her conviction on the 16th of September 1813 at the Old Bailey for “Having forged bank notes in her possession”. Evidently, Henrietta was caught trying to purchase some household items in London with a forged £5 note. Whilst it is not documented in official records, the family story is that Edward was the actual forger of the note, but it was Henrietta who was caught trying to use it. There was insufficient evidence to convict Edward, but Henrietta could not escape transportation. The harsh sentence was not unusual for the time.
Records of Henrietta’s husband Edward are extremely limited, but it is clear that he was not a convict and chose to emigrate voluntarily to Australia with his wife and family. Details of Edward snr. are difficult to extract accurately from official documents, due partially to the poor information from the period, but also as a consequence of the fact that there were three separate men by the name of Edward Gregory in Sydney in the mid 1810s. One arrived to serve a seven year term as a convict on the Coromandel, and another arrived as a free landholder on the Surrey. After this the records become blurred, with simply references to a generic Edward Gregory in official paperwork. The most probable scenario involves Edward snr. working as a labourer in Sydney, as there are references to this during the time that the other two Edward Gregorys would have either been a landowner or serving time on an iron-gang. A few years later the 1822 Muster revealed that labourer was the second most common form of occupation after Government Servants, and is highly likely that Edward snr worked in this role from the time of his arrival.
It is not possible to establish an accurate date of birth for the children of Edward snr. and Henrietta, but it is clear that all four were born in London. Ann’s date of birth is believed to be 1802, Edward’s 1805, Charles three years later in 1808, and George subsequently in 1812. Upon arrival in Sydney, Henrietta was assigned to the Female Factory in Parramatta, even though she lived nearby with her family. The factory had been established in 1804 and was a single long room in which women and girls made rope and span and carded wool. Conditions here were abysmal, with many horror stories of women being chained to each other, or even to animals.
As a married woman, Henrietta was better off than many of the other single women at the Factory. Many women had to take up prostitution to survive, and the system of selection for servants involved the officers and free gentry picking the pretty young women and having them virtually under their total control. It was also a common practice of the time that any free settler could choose to marry a woman at the Factory. The unmarried women were lined up and the man could drop his handkerchief at the foot of the woman of his choice. If she picked it up, the marriage was virtually immediate. Most women took this option, even if they did not know their future husband, as was preferable to remaining in the harsh conditions of the Factory.
The family lived in Sydney for five years before Henrietta died in 1819, and Edward snr. promptly returned to England alone. This left his three young sons to be taken in by the Male Orphanage Institute for care and upbringing, whilst Ann was of an age to live independently. It is pure conjecture to attempt now to guess as to Edward snr.’s reasons for this decision, but it is interesting that Edward snr. chose to travel with Henrietta to Australia following her sentencing in 1813. It is possible that Henrietta used the fact that Edward snr. had been the forger of note that convicted her as a means of ensuring that he came with the family. Convict and shipping records indicate that the entire family was nominally Protestant, but divorce was not available easily to the common person until the late nineteenth century. In spite of this, though, if Edward snr. had been unhappy with the marriage, Henrietta’s conviction and deportation may have been an ideal opportunity for him to sever his ties with the family. Yet Edward snr. did not avail himself of this excuse, and opted to also move across the world with her. What happened to the family between their arrival in 1814 and 1819 is unclear, but the death of his wife Henrietta saw Edward snr.’s remove himself from any further involvement with his children. This departure would tend to support the hypothesis that Henrietta may have been using Edward’s involvement in the forgery as a means of coercing him to support her. Edward snr.’s role in the development of his sons was limited to their early years, but his position as the patriarch of the Gregory family in Australia remains significant. Without his presence in Sydney, it is highly probable that the three boys would have been admitted the Male Orphanage Institute upon their arrival, as was common for children of convict women. Many of these children were forced into crime to survive, and then were often convicted themselves.
The powers of the Governor of New South Wales in the early nineteenth century covered almost all aspects of daily life in the colony. The surviving records maintained by the colonial secretaries attest to this variety of decision making, reflecting a considerable diversity of events. Hannibal Hawkins MacArthur, who married the daughter of Governor King and was the nephew of John MacArthur, served as the Colonial Secretary from February 1820, and his records include an entry on the 8 October, 1823, which referred to a deposit into the Savings Bank as the result of a sale of the effects of parents of orphan children of Edward Gregory snr. It appears that not only did Edward Snr. abandon his children upon his return to England, but that any possessions that they may have had claim to were sold to pay for their care at the Male Orphanage Institute.
Ann Gregory had started work in the colony as a dressmaker and she married a teacher, Joshua Bushell, in 1823. She had maintained contact with her brothers whilst they were in the Male Orphanage. The Colonial Secretary’s papers report that Ann received “payment for the care of child (Edward) by Male Orphanage Institute”. All three of Edward and Henrietta’s sons grew up in the Male Orphanage Institute, and as they came of age were apprenticed out into the care of local tradesmen. Edward, who was approximately fourteen when his mother died, was initially trained as a shoemaker. His brother George later followed him into this profession, whilst Charles became a successful tailor. Edward was fortunate to be able to commence his apprenticeship soon after entering the Institute, as it meant that he had a source of income that limited his need to resort to crime in order to survive. Edward worked as a shoemaker for a number of years, but he changed his career by gaining employment as a school teacher about 1827. Edward’s intellectual capacity had been identified years earlier at the Male Orphanage, as he received a medal for his excellent abilities in reading in January 1821.
Edward played cricket for the Australian Club from early in its history. In contrast to some of the other organizations such as the Amateur Club, established six years later on the 4 September 1832, the majority of the Australian Club members were born in the new colony. Edward was one of only seven original members in the club who were born overseas, but his move to Australia as a child undoubtedly assisted his acceptance. The Australian Club had a number of very influential members, including the editor of The Australian, Francis Stephen, and John Richard Hardy, a Cambridge University graduate who is widely acknowledged as introducing round arm bowling to Australia.
The main records from this period of time were published in the newspapers. Whilst there are references to Edward’s involvement with the club, the earliest mention of his participation in games occurred in September, 1832. A game commenced on the 3 September that year between two teams of fourteen players all from the Australian Club. Thomas Broughton and George Stubbs chose and captained their respective teams in a two day match that ended in an exciting tie. The lack of accurate details surrounding this match make it difficult to assess whether Edward Gregory took part, as he is not mentioned in the scores as published in the Australian newspaper, he is, however, specifically identified as participating in a report of the match.
It was said that Edward was not a gifted player, but he was enthusiastic and showed a capacity, garnered no doubt by his experience in the schooling system, to teach others the basics of the game. He was considered to be only a moderate batsman, but he was counted as one of the best fieldsmen of the day, with a remarkable catching capacity. Edward’s categorization as a far better fielder than batsman tends to be supported by his record. In a game against the Amateur Club on the 29th of October, 1832, Edward failed to score a run in the Australian Club’s total of 134, being bowled by C. Roberts. He made up for this by taking three catches in the Australian Club victory by an innings and 38 runs, with the Amateur Club being dismissed for 56 and 42. The Australian’s report made specific mention of the fielding standards of the Australian Club, saying the Amateur batsmen “possessed no chance”.
On the 27 May, 1833 Edward played in a match between the ‘Singles’ and the ‘Married’, another match between members of the Australian Club. Whilst the Married team was favoured to prevail, a remarkable innings of 57 not out by J. Rickards led the Singles to an easy win. This was the first time that an individual score in excess of fifty had been recorded in a Sydney match. The precise margin of victory is difficult to determine, as the Australian and the Sydney Herald carried different scorecards and team totals. In either case, Edward’s contribution was not significant, making only 4 in the first innings and 7 in the second.
On the 25 May, 1835 Reverend John McGarrie married Edward to Mary Ann Smith at the Scot’s Church in Elizabeth Street, Sydney. Mary was born in 1817 into a poor family, but she was not the only member of the family to gain fame. Her brother, John Thomas Smith, commonly known as J.T., was described as the ‘Whittington of the South’, a reference to the fact that he rose from his humble background to be elected Mayor of Melbourne on seven occasions, as well as becoming a member of parliament. Edward and Mary had thirteen children over a twenty eight year period. Their children were Eliza (1835), Emma (1837), Edward (1839), Walter (1841), Mary (1843), David (1845), Charles (1847), George (1849), Alice (1851), Albert (1854), Ernest (1857), Arthur (1861), and Louisa (1863).
Around the time as Edward’s wedding, The Australian Club faced a major crisis in its existence. The team lost two successive matches to the Military team, the second by the significant margin of nine wickets, and this prompted widespread recriminations. An intense debate resulted in claims that the side was losing as a consequence of the recent influx of ‘immigrants’ into the side which had been predominantly composed of locally born players. Letters were exchanged in the Australian, on the 10 March 1835 by an individual using the pseudonym of ‘A Player’ that supported the overseas born members, whilst ‘Tom, The Native’ responded in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 12 March 1835 with a harsh rejection of ‘emigrants’.
It is believed that ‘A Player’ was probably H.F. Gisborne, the son of the Member of Parliament for Derbyshire, whilst ‘Tom, The Native’ was Thomas Stubbs, one of the Australian Club’s principal bowlers. This split between the two rival factions of the club was significant and almost disastrous for the future of cricket in Australia. The Australian Club was the major force in Sydney cricket, and if the club had folded completely at this time, it would have been highly detrimental to the growth of the game locally. The division did result in three years of internal wrangling. An attempt was made to form a break-away team of only locally-born players failed, and very few of the overseas players ever played for the club again. It was not until the 1837/38 season that the Australian Club again played regularly. It is significant that the side could only field three players who had previously represented the club, one of whom was the English-born Edward Gregory.
After this split, Edward and the Australian Club reentered Sydney cricket with a match against the Union Club in early January 1838. By all accounts, the unseasoned Australian Club players were greatly outclassed by their rivals. In light of his previous experience, Edward batted at the fall of the first wicket in both innings. Unfortunately, this was of no benefit to the Australian Club as he failed to score in either innings. The Union Club recorded a victory by 64 runs, which was a very large margin in a game in which neither side totaled more than 100 in any of the four innings.
The spirit in which this first game was played led to a follow-up match just afterwards on the 5 February. Edward opened the batting in both innings, but he managed to repeat his efforts of the first game by being bowled for a duck both times. His younger brother George also played for the Australian Club in this match, and he performed slightly better by Edward by scoring 4 not out and 2. The game was much closer than the previous match, but the Union Club won by 17 runs.
A third match between the two clubs took place on the 11 June, 1838, with Union Club again victorious, this time by six wickets. The date of this game shows that no cricket season had been established, with games being played in both summer and winter. Edward dropped down the order to the fall of the fifth wicket, and scored 3 and 6. This is not quite as disastrous as it sounds, as only four players reached double figures in the match. One of the most significant features of this game was that the first ever 6 in Sydney cricket was scored. It did not, as may be expected, involve a strike over the boundary fence and was in fact all run. These three games were to form the start of the club’s return to its place as the preeminent side in Sydney cricket, a role it maintained until its demise during the late 1850s and its eventual folding in 1868. Edward continued his association with the club until his move to Wollongong in 1840, but his influence was to be far greater with respect to his children.
Edward was an enthusiastic player for the Australian Club, but it was as a teacher and coach of the game that it appears he was most talented. His early career change from a shoemaker to a teacher was inspired, and he went on to become a master at Cape’s Grammar School in Castlereagh St. This school was opened on the first of April 1824 by Governor Thomas Brisbane under the headmastership of William Cape. Edward joined the school around three years after its opening, by which time William Cape had resigned as headmaster, and had been replaced by his son and namesake, William Cape jr. Edward remained at the school for about thirteen years before moving to Wollongong to continue his career.
The 1841 Census reveals that Edward and his young family were residing in Market St, Wollongong at the Government School House. Edward’s suitability to teaching was underlined by the fact as he was able to successfully impart to his children the skills of the game he himself did not possess in vast quantities. Whilst his involvement with the Australian Club and its vital role in cricket in New South Wales was important, the passing on of his knowledge and skills to his many children remains his critical contribution to Australian cricket.
Edward’s early life was undoubtedly traumatic. Uprooted from his birthplace of England to a foreign country at the age of nine following the conviction and transportation of his mother, the subsequent death of his mother whilst he was still a teenager, his immediate abandonment by his father into the dubious care of the Male Orphanage Institute; these factors could have all easily led to a life of crime and a bitter and twisted individual. The fact that he was able to overcome these initial setbacks to achieve a successful life speaks well of the man that started the Gregory cricketing dynasty. Edward died in Paddington, Sydney in 1879 at the age of approximately 74. His wife Mary lived until 1901, and twenty of their descendents represented New South Wales in a diversity of sports including not only cricket but also athletics, rugby and sailing.
In her poem ‘Old Botany Bay’, Mary Gilmore wrote of the founding of a nation, but the words can apply equally well to Edward Gregory, and his place in Australian cricket history.
Stiff in the joints,
Little to say. I am he
Who paved the way
That you might walk
At your ease today.
I am the conscript
Sent to hell
To make the desert
The living well.
I bore the heat.
I blazed the track,
Furrowed and bloody
Upon my back.
I split the rock;
I fell the tree;
The nation was,
Because of me.