September 23, 2014
BACRC celebrates 150th anniversary
For the Herald
Buenos Aires cricket goes back a long time, to at least the 1830s, when apparently some rough and ready cricket matches took place in Buenos Aires, either at Barracas, or in the north, near El Socorro Church. Some upper crust Argentines, educated at English public schools (such as the Muro de Nadals, Martínez de Hozes, Ortiz Basualdos, Pereyra Iraolas, Álzaga Unzués, etc.) were playing the game together with enterprising Britons such as the Hoggs, Humes, Gibsons, Dodds, Gowlands, Brittain.
BACC was formally founded in 1864, and soon had a brother club in the BAFC. The ground was situated at the lovely Palermo Gardens, the former country home of Juan Manuel de Rosas, on a site leased for many years from the municipality; President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento was pleased about this and sent a letter of approval to the Club authorities, which was duly framed and on display, in the club house.
BACC was, undoubtedly, the main cricketing club for many years, in the 19th century, winning many championships and in 1891, Palermo was the site of the first North vs South representative game, which the North XI won by three wickets. They were not so lucky, in the second encounter, and deigned to incorporate the Rosario Athletic Club, founded in 1867, into the Northern boundaries, as from 1893-4.
Palermo was indeed a beautiful ground, situated where the Planetarium now rests and I actually played there in one schoolboy match, when I was 14 years old, St Andrew‘s vs St. John‘s, in 1950, before the ground was lost, when Juan Domingo Perón’s wife, Evita, was not received at Buckingham Palace, the year previously, on her Grand Tour of Europe. The old wooden Club House was burned to the ground, in revenge, and many valuable documents went up in smoke, unfortunately.
Perhaps the golden age of BA cricket was just before World War II and immediately after, when such stalwarts as Robert PR Ker and Keith Bush, renowned opening batsmen, “Titch” Mitchell and his son Roy, also an excellent opening bat, the versatile Frank Bryans, feared fast bowler Peter JF Hussey, rotund wicket-keeper and punishing batman George Morgan, the muscular Brown fraternity, some of Alumni soccer fame, the Brandons, WC Leach, Taylor clans, Thomas and Stewart, John Tebbit, bestrode the field, in all glory according to hearsay and based on the late Kenneth Bridger‘s celebrated book, “North and South, 1891-1974.”
But the writer does remember being taken by his parents, around 1945, to watch CASI play against BA at Palermo, and being charmed by the fact that tea and sandwiches were served not only to the players, but also the numerous spectators.
A goodly number of the club’s players, both cricketers and rugby players, went to Britain to join up during two World Wars, and not all were fortunate enough to return. But BA cricket remained a force in the land well into the 1960s and 1970s, with such good cricketers as Graham Paine, Geoff Edbrooke, Richard L. Bryans, who once took nine wickets in a Test Match, circa 1959, in Chile, the Kers, father and sons, David Gunn, George H. Morgan, Bryans family, Gerry Brandon, Bygrave clan, Derek Rankin, John Jackson, Victor Makin, merry wicket-keeper and inspiring leader “Corcho” Barna, David Drewery, Peter Cressall, Jaime Manuel de Olazábal, all shining, on occasion, at their new site, on a somewhat rough wicket, at Don Torcuato, just behind the Hindú Club.
The jolly 2nd XI must not be forgotten, under the genial leadership of a host of rich characters such as the lovable Bill Edbrooke, Garnett and Hector Taylor, plus Colin Campbell, which included splendid fellows such as Billy Bygrave, the Sly fraternity, Doctor Hugh Mackern, of El Gráfico fame, wherein he wrote marvellous prose on rugby, during the winter months, on a weekly basis, Stewart, and many more, whose names escape me. Neither must we omit to mention that affable, neat, scorer, Bernard Jacoby, afflicted by polio when fairly young but always keen as mustard to be present and scribbling.
As the venerable Club nears its 150th anniversary, cricket is attempting to make a comeback, under “Corchito” Barna and company, and we wish it every success in the future with the grand old game, a sporting epitome of all that‘s best in the Anglo-Argentine tradition of fair play and genial camaraderie.