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Tournaments St George's Park - Shock as invaluable cricket memorabilia to be sold to UK
Shock as invaluable cricket memorabilia to be sold to UK
Ivor Markman

TWO of Port Elizabeth and South Africa’s most historic pieces of cricket memorabilia may leave the country forever if plans to sell them to the Cricket Museum at Lord’s in London go ahead.

Click image to enlarge
The Champion Bat Crest
The fate of the Champion Bat, the trophy awarded to the winner of South Africa’s first cricket tournament in 1876, and the ball used in the first ever Test match between England and South Africa in 1889, was due to be decided at a meeting of their current custodians, the Port Elizabeth Cricket Club, last night.

The outcome of the meeting could not be established by the time of going to press.

Over the festive season, a committee member of the Port Elizabeth Cricket Club quietly flew to Cape Town with the treasured items and negotiated their sale to a representative of the Marylebone Cricket Club Museum at the famous Lord’s ground in order to raise funds for the PECC.

The PECC wants to use the money it raises to send its members to play in the English club league.

Port Elizabeth was the cradle of a cricket tradition when on October 18, 1876, Port Elizabeth mayor Henry Pearson presented, on behalf of the town council, a prize of a cricket bat, known as the Champion Bat, instead of a cup, to the cricketers of the Cape of Good Hope.

The Champion Bat tournament was an inter-town tournament played between King William’s Town (won twice), Port Elizabeth (won once), Grahamstown (never won), and Cape Town (won once) approximately every four years before it was supplanted by the Currie Cup competition in the mid-1890s.

As Cape Town were the last winners, they decided that it was appropriate that the bat be returned to Port Elizabeth and so it was given to the PECC for safekeeping.

Negotiations for the sale of the Champion Bat for £8 000 (about R90 000) to the museum at Lord’s were completed earlier this month by Murray Brown, club manager of PE Crusaders Sports Club and marketing consultant to the cricket club.

The ball used in the first England-South Africa Test has been sold for £7 000 (about R78 000) as part of the same deal.

The bat and ball are currently at Brown’s Port Elizabeth home awaiting shipment overseas. As yet, no date has been set for them to be taken overseas. PECC president Terry Reid said Brown would personally deliver the bat and the ball to England if the club confirmed the sale.

“The reason behind it (the sale) is to raise funds for the PECC,” said Reid. The plan is for the PECC to supply Brown with a return ticket overseas to personally deliver the items.

The initial decision to sell the bat was taken by the full committee of the PECC in December, but without the knowledge of the rest of the members.

Click image to enlarge
The 1884 Team which won the Champion Bat, shown in the hands of O.R. Dunell
Back Row: B. Wimble, W. Proudfoot
Centre Row: R.W. Stevens, Peter Heugh, O.R. Dunell, E. Renny-Tailyour, A. Geard
Front Row: H.H. Webster, J. Singleton, E. Budler, H.R. Giesen

United Cricket Board chief executive Gerald Majola was distraught when told by The Herald of the impending sale.

“We’ll do everything to prevent this sale happening. We can’t allow something like this to happen. These items belong to EP,” Majola said. “I will assist as much as I can to see that our heritage items remain in South Africa, Port Elizabeth and other centres. At the moment we are very busy getting all our cricketing memorabilia together.

“It’s important for us to tell the story about the former cricket boards before unity.

“These guys can’t just sell those items – they belong here,” he said.

EP Amateur Cricket Board president Raymond Uren questioned whether the PECC were the rightful owners of the bat and ball. He promised to investigate the matter further.

“It’s outrageous. It’s unbelievable,” Uren said.

Reid said he was not aware that the PECC was not the owner of the items. “Obviously, if the bat does not belong to us we cannot sell it We are having a meeting on Monday evening (last night) to discuss the issue.” He said neither of the items was insured.

Former UCB chief executive and 2003 World Cup cricket chief Dr Ali Bacher said: “The bat is a South African product – it belongs in South Africa. Why on earth would you send it overseas? It’s not their history, it’s our history.

“I have memorabilia that never in a million years would I sell. The Champion Bat must go to a South African cricket museum. What many people don’t realise is that the history of the game is what cricket’s all about. We must never sell our history. I feel really strongly about that.”

When asked to comment about the sale Brown declined to do so.

EP Amateur Cricket chief executive officer Dave Emslie, said: “Despite not having official confirmation, if the bat has been sold, I regard it as sad and regretful. It would be a tragedy if trophies that mean so much to our cricketing history should leave our shores.”

Former PECC president and life- member Syd Rose said he was told about a year ago that an offer had been received from someone in London who was keen to buy it. He was surprised to hear that it had now been sold.

The Herald
January 18, 2005.

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