St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
St George's Park - Surprise twist in Champion Bat saga
Surprise twist in Champion Bat saga
In a surprise twist to the 1879 Champion Bat and the ball used in the first England - South Africa saga, former EPCB president, Flip Potgieter, has claimed that the Port Elizabeth Cricket Club, (PECC) are under the mistaken belief that the memorabilia belongs to them and that they can do with it as they wish.
“Personally,” Potgieter said “I believe that the EPACB are the de facto curators of the memorabilia.”
The EPACB was previously called the EPCB and replaced the old apartheid era EPCU.
Potgieter, who was associated with all the organisations, said that when he started his association with the organisations, the then Eastern Province Cricket Union (EPCU) had its premises in the tunnel under the Frielinghaus stand.
The PECC was situated in the same premises behind the stand that it occupies today, but members of Crusaders, PECC and EPCU all shared the bar and lounge areas.
The office under the stand was small and no space was available for the EPCU to display their historic items.
A “gentleman’s agreement” existed between the two organisations and the EPCU had a showcase built in the PECC/Crusader Sport Club’s hospitality area.
“I remember the Champion Bat, the first Test ball and the ball that Tiger Lance hit into the stand for a six to clinch the Test in 1970 against the Australians, plus others, all on display,” said Potgieter.
In 1986 the EPCU moved their hospitality area into what is now known as the Long Room and in 1989 they moved into the present Centenary Pavilion. Neither of the premises at the time had space for displaying the mementos.
Over the years the committees changed but during the process nobody kept track of the objects, an unfortunate chain of events that ultimately led to the confusing situation in which the PECC believed that because the items were on their premises, they were the owners.
“In those days things were put together in good faith, and in that spirit things were handled - cricketers always considered themselves part of a gentleman’s game,” said Potgieter.
“The items were left in the care of the PECC until such time as the EPACB could create a proper museum. A start was made with the Khaya Majola Room, but because of the membership changes and the lack of paperwork, when the EPCB tried to collect the items for a display in the President’s Suites during one of the test matches, the request was refused by the PECC.
“It was then that I realised that there could be a misunderstanding about the ownership. We were hoping that when the museum was eventually started, the situation would be solved amicably.” said Potgieter.
Reacting to the statement by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) CEO, Michael Knight, Bayworld historian, Jenny Bennie sent a letter of protest to the MCC Museum stating “As fellow museologists I am sure that you are sensitive to the exploitation of your own national heritage and would rather support the transfer of these items to a bona fide South African museum such as the Port Elizabeth Museum at Bayworld.
“This event could set a precedent for other items leaving the country and I trust you will make the ethical decision.”
January 26, 2005.