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.
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.