Sammy Jones: Our link to The Ashes

The Ashes cricket se­ries is in full swing and Aus­tralian his­tory buff Peter Maciver says it is worth not­ing that Auck­land Gram­mar School, Grafton Cricket Club and One Tree Hill have a con­nec­tion to the tour­na­ment.

Central Leader - - SPORT -

This year’s Ashes cricket se­ries is un­der­way and is a timely re­minder of the last sur­viv­ing mem­ber of the 1882 Aus­tralian XI team that cre­ated The Ashes le­gend.

Sa­muel Percy Jones (Sammy) died at One Tree Hill in July 1951 at the age of 89.

Jones had made his home in Auck­land from 1904 when he had ar­rived as a pro­fes­sional coach to Grafton Cricket Club and Auck­land Gram­mar School.

He was born in Syd­ney and first came to promi­nence as a crick­eter at 16 play­ing for Syd­ney Gram­mar.

Jones was re­garded as a fine bats­man and a good bowler.

His tal­ent soon led to him play­ing for Carl­ton and then Univer­sity, one of the top teams in Syd­ney.

By 1880 Jones, 20, was rep­re­sent­ing the Colony of New South Wales and also played for Queens­land and Auck­land.

In all he played 152 first class matches, scor­ing 5189 runs.

He played for Aus­tralia 12 times be­tween 1881 and 1888.

He was a suc­cess­ful bats­man in Aus­tralia, but like many af­ter him, never re­ally pros­pered in Eng­land apart from the 1886 tour where he topped the bat­ting av­er­ages.

Jones was also in­volved in one of the most con­tro­ver­sial events in the early his­tory of the in­ter­na­tional game.

Dur­ing the sec­ond in­nings of the game against the Eng­land XI at Ken­ning­ton Oval, he was given rea­son to think that the ball was dead and stepped out of his crease to do some ‘‘gar­den­ing’’.

The il­lus­tri­ous W G Grace got the ball and knocked Jones’ bails off and he was given out.

Even some of Grace’s team mates thought that this was sharp prac­tice. Cer­tainly Jones’ cap­tain Billy Mur­doch, whom he was bat­ting with, let Grace know he didn’t like his ac­tion.

While Grace’s ac­tions may well have taken Jones’ wicket, it ap­pears that the move back­fired as re­ports have sug­gested that the Aus­tralians were so an­gered that it gave them the im­pe­tus to bowl Eng­land out seven runs short of the tar­get of 85 in the sec­ond in­nings and so be­come the first Aus­tralian team to win in the ‘‘Old Coun­try’’.

In his bi­og­ra­phy of Jones, Max Bon­nell says that stu­dents at Auck­land Gram­mar re­ported that while Jones re­garded Grace as a great player, even af­ter 50 years he be­came quite emo­tional when talk­ing about his dis­missal.

Fol­low­ing his last in­ter­colo­nial game at the age of 34 in Fe­bru­ary of 1895, Jones con­tin­ued play­ing club cricket in Syd­ney in the hope of still be­ing se­lected for New South Wales.

As this didn’t hap­pen, he took up an of­fer to play cricket for the Gra­ziers club in Queens­land.

This was a path fol­lowed by sev­eral play­ers be­fore him, most notably Percy McDon­nell and Harry Boyle, both mem­bers of the 1882 XI.

When this club was forced to close fol­low­ing the re­or­gan­i­sa­tion of cricket in Queens­land, Jones took up a coach­ing role with the Lime­stone Club in Ip­swich.

Dur­ing this pe­riod, he also toured New Zealand with a Queens­land XI.

In 1900 he re­turned to Syd­ney and in 1904, he was of­fered a pro­fes­sional coach­ing po­si­tion with Auck­land Gram­mar School and the Grafton Cricket Club.

A mea­sure of his suc­cess as a coach is that by 1914, Auck­land Gram­mar School had pro­vided 40 Auck­land rep­re­sen­ta­tive crick­eters, which was al­most a third of all play­ers.

In Jan­uary 1908 Jones mar­ried 38-year-old Con­stance Helen Gee and in Septem­ber of that year, the cou­ple cel­e­brated the birth of their only child Percy Ridge Jones.

In 1910, Jones fin­ished up as a player, but con­tin­ued coach­ing and be­came a clerk at Auck­land Gram­mar School in 1916.

He re­tired from Auck­land Gram­mar in 1935 and he and his wife moved to One Tree Hill.

With the death of his old friend Tom Gar­rett in 1943, Jones be­came the last sur­vivor of the 1882 team.

In Fe­bru­ary 1950 he re­ceived a good­will tele­gram from the Aus­tralian team tour­ing New Zealand.

In July 1951, Jones suf­fered a stroke and was taken to a hos­pi­tal in One Tree Hill where he died on July 14.

While Jones lived to a great age for some­one born in his era it did mean that as his bi­og­ra­pher Max Bon­nell noted, ‘‘He had out­lived the ad­mir­ers who might have writ­ten glow­ing obituaries of him’’.

As a re­sult, while his death was noted in the press in Aus­tralia, there was lit­tle writ­ten that re­flected his im­por­tance as one of the finest play­ers of his era.


Auck­land con­nec­tion: Sammy Jones died at One Tree Hill in July 1951 at the age of 89.

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