The 1868 Australian Cricket Tour and its Devon links
12 June 2018
In May 1868, the first Australian cricket team arrived in England for a tour of 47 matches against county teams. It has been described as a defining moment in Australian history as the team consisted of 13 Aboriginal men from the Western District of Victoria. The tour’s manager was William Reginald Hayman. Born in 1842, Hayman was the son of a doctor from Axminster in Devon. He migrated to Victoria in 1858 where he owned a station (a large farm).
The indigenous workers at Hayman’s station first began to play cricket after watching games organised by British settlers. Hayman took a great interest in their efforts and arranged practice sessions and games with local teams. In 1868 he accompanied the Australian team to England acting as their manager and mentor. The team had a competitive record of 14 wins, 14 losses and 19 draws. At the end of matches the Aboriginal players entertained the spectators with exhibitions of skill and dexterity: both with bat and ball, and spears, throwing sticks, clubs and boomerangs.
For the last leg of the tour Hayman took the team to Devon, giving him a chance to visit his family. On 19 October, a demonstration was held at Plymouth, from where the players set off on their long journey home. In the same month Hayman donated some of the Aboriginal artefacts used by the team to RAMM. The museum had only been open to the public a few months, and is also celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2018.
The story of RAMM’s links to the 1868 Australian cricket tour were rediscovered in 2015 by Dr Gaye Sculthorpe of the British Museum. She is an expert on Australian Aboriginal artefacts who had recently researched the 1868 tour.