November 10, 2000

Earliest tour of England to be recorded in boutique book

A fascination with cricket history, and especially of the first New Zealand cricket tour to England, in 1927, has led Mike Batty to publish an account of the tour, incorporating the life of Bill Bernau.

Batty, a former Yorkshireman who moved to New Zealand in 1966 where he has worked as an educational psychologist, has failed to attract the interest of local publishers and is publishing the book himself with an initial print run of 100 copies.

He expects the book will be available in December.

"I played some cricket in Taranaki and Matamata but suffered a knee injury and couldn't play so I decided to investigate some history of the game.

"I realised very early on that no one had really looked back to 1927. I was also helped by the fact I was lent a scrapbook on the tour that had been kept by Roger Blunt's brother," Batty said.

He decided to base the book around one of the characters on the tour and settled on Bill Bernau of Wanganui.

In the course of researching Bernau he came across Bernau's son and after writing a letter to the Wanganui Chronicle for anyone who might have had any information to get in touch with him he received another boost.

Tom Cave, of Wanganui's cricketing Cave family, got in touch and provided what Batty said was some fascinating information from the era.

"I got quite fascinated in him. He was a typical provincial cricketer who didn't get many opportunities, and when he did get them things didn't go right. He would score plenty of runs but his team would lose, that sort of thing."

Batty didn't realise initially that Bernau was also one of the few players from the era who spanned quite a long period of New Zealand's early history. He had played against Victor Trumper when he toured New Zealand in 1913/14.

He was also a late inclusion in the team after considerable controversy was aroused over the selection of F T 'Ted' Badcock. Badcock withdrew and Bernau was named to replace him although he had played no first-class cricket that summer.

"There was a touch of the serendipity the way things happened in the research. Something would appear from somewhere when you didn't think they would," he said.

But the biggest frustration about the research was that when the team returned to New Zealand, the side's manager Douglas Hay told the New Zealand Herald he intended to write a full account of the tour and present it to the New Zealand Cricket Council. He had all the newspaper cuttings from the tour, his own notes and six thick exercise books of his own narrative.

Batty searched extensively, including talking to Hay's remaining family, but there is no sign anywhere of the Hay report of the tour.

Bernau had a new family just before he died and none of his papers or diaries, if he had any, survived his death.

In his text, Batty has provided an extensive background into the organisation of the tour, full background of Bernau, especially about his schooldays and his war experiences, and of all the matches the 1927 side played.

Now that this project is almost completed, Batty is working on another cricket research effort. He is looking into the history of the E Heathcote Williams Shield which was the challenge equivalent of rugby's Moascar Cup among secondary schools.

Copies of 'Bill Bernau and the 1927 New Zealand Cricket Tour of England' by Mike Batty can be obtained from him at 49 Murvale Drive, Bucklands Beach, Auckland.