Basin still houses legacy of cricket leader’s drive

The Dominion Post - - Obituaries -

John Hay­ward Oak­ley: b Palmer­ston North, Fe­bru­ary 7, 1925; m Mar­garet Carmine, 1s 2d; d Lower Hutt, Au­gust 9, 2013, aged 88.

IN 1986, Wellington lawyer John Oak­ley hit on an idea for how the su­per­flu­ous dress­ing and tea rooms be­neath the Basin Re­serve’s old grand­stand could be used.

Dur­ing the five years since the new RA Vance stand was opened in 1981, the old dress­ing rooms had gath­ered cob­webs and dust while the tea rooms were used by Wellington’s cricket um­pires for their weekly meet­ings.

One of those um­pires, Stan­ley Cow­man, had over the years ac­cu­mu­lated a col­lec­tion of cricket me­mora­bilia. Dur­ing a Basin Re­serve test against Aus­tralia in Fe­bru­ary 1986, Mr Cow­man bor­rowed some tres­tles and mag­a­zine stands and, with the help of other um­pires, laid out the col­lec­tion of his­tor­i­cal ma­te­rial in the old tea rooms.

The test was in­ter­rupted by rain and a large num­ber of spec­ta­tors had an op­por­tu­nity to take a stroll through the makeshift mu­seum. One was Mr Oak­ley, who from 1985 to 1987 was the pres­i­dent of New Zealand Cricket.

Cricket his­to­rian Don Neely re­called how he was talk­ing to the long-term chair­man of NZ Cricket, Rob Vance, in the Nor­wood Room dur­ing the test when the pres­i­dent en­tered the con­ver­sa­tion and ex­tolled Mr Cow­man’s ex­hi­bi­tion in the old stand.

‘‘We must es­tab­lish a per­ma­nent mu­seum there soon,’’ Mr Oak­ley told them.

Mr Vance lis­tened to what Mr Oak­ley was say­ing.

‘‘If you want a mu­seum you have my bless­ing, but do not ex­pect me to help. It’s over to you. I am still ex­hausted from get­ting the ground changed,’’ Mr Neely re­called the late Mr Vance as say­ing at the time.

Within 21 months, Sir Paul Reeves, gov­er­nor-gen­eral at the time, opened the per­ma­nent Na­tional Cricket Mu­seum that had arisen from the derelict tea rooms.

Dur­ing this pe­riod, Mr Oak­ley, who worked along­side Mr Cow­man and mu­seum de­signer Gary Couch­man, was the founder and chair­man of the trustees for the Na­tional Cricket Mu­seum. In 2002 it be­came known as the New Zealand Cricket Mu­seum and a new area was named the John Oak­ley Gallery.

Ear­lier, from 1982-85, when he was the pres­i­dent of the Wellington Cricket As­so­ci­a­tion, Mr Oak­ley left his mark on the play­ers’ view­ing area af­ter they com­plained their new dress­ing rooms were like liv­ing in a gold­fish bowl on match days.

A fur­ther storey was added and the play­ers are now treated to the best view of games played at the Basin.

The mu­seum’s cur­rent full­time di­rec­tor is Jamie Bell, who opens the en­try-by-dona­tion mu­seum to the pub­lic on week­ends, Mon­days and big-game days.

Mr Oak­ley, an old boy of Sa­cred Heart Col­lege’s board­ing es­tab­lish­ment in Auck­land, was

Mr Oak­ley had left his mark on the play­ers’ view­ing area af­ter they com­plained their new dress­ing rooms were like liv­ing in a gold­fish bowl on match days.

the son of a Palmer­ston North lawyer. He played cricket as a Vic­to­ria Univer­sity law stu­dent in the mid-1940s while liv­ing at the Weir House stu­dent hos­tel.

In 1954, he mar­ried Mar­garet Carmine, the daugh­ter of the man­ager of the strate­gi­cally placed Water­loo Ho­tel in Wellington, which was op­po­site the Union Steamship Com­pany’s In­ter-is­land wharf and Wellington Rail­way Sta­tion.

As a crick­eter, Mr Oak­ley was an ag­gres­sive, at­tack­ing right­hand bats­man who was not afraid to loft a ball in search of bound­aries.

His early life was spent in Palmer­ston North and he grad­u­ated in law from Vic­to­ria Univer­sity in 1947 and worked all his le­gal ca­reer in Wellington.

As a lawyer he pro­gressed through crim­i­nal and di­vorce court work to more lu­cra­tive per­sonal in­jury claims be­fore tak­ing on a man­ag­ing part­ner’s re­spon­si­bil­ity for Hogg Gille­spie Carter & Oak­ley.

On the cricket pitch, he rep­re­sented Wellington against the tour­ing MCC cricket team in 1947 and was the co-cre­ator and an ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber of the New Zealand Cricket Foun­da­tion, which was formed in 1972.

In 1974 he be­came a trus­tee of the Wellington Cricket Trust and served on it for 30 years. Over the years, he was a wel­come guest at world cricket’s ma­jor test pavil­ions.

In 1989, he was in­vited to join the cen­te­nary of South Africa’s in­volve­ment in test cricket. Many for­mer test crick­eters and ad­min­is­tra­tors from around the world con­gre­gated in Port El­iz­a­beth.

When he re­turned from South Africa he re­solved that the stan­dard of the Basin Re­serve had to be raised for test matches as well as the host­ing area, the Nor­wood Room. He com­bined re­sources with busi­ness­man and cricket pa­tron Sir Ron Bri­er­ley to bring pre­vi­ous New Zealand teams, and some­times their op­po­nents, to a test match for five days in Wellington.

The first re­union was in 1997 and was for the liv­ing mem­bers of the Aus­tralian and New Zealand teams that played in 1946, as well as other prom­i­nent cricket-lovers from around Aus­tralia and New Zealand.

Since then about 20 such re­unions have been held at the Basin.

Mr Oak­ley loved cricket and the legacy of his gen­er­ous spirit re­mains in the mu­seum be­low the Basin Re­serve’s old grand­stand.

In 1988, he was made a CBE for his ser­vices to cricket and, in 2001, was made a life mem­ber of Cricket Wellington.

Mr Oak­ley was also a backer of John Reid when the for­mer New Zealand cricket cap­tain es­tab­lished the very suc­cess­ful John Reid Squash Cen­tre in Sala­manca Rd in Kel­burn in 1963.

Sources Jill Oak­ley, Don Neely, John Tizard and Jamie Bell. A Life Story tells about a New Zealan­der who helped to shape their com­mu­nity. If you know some­one whose story should be told, email obit­u­ar­ies@dom­post.co.nz.

Top or­der: John Hay­ward Oak­ley, right, with ex-New Zealand cricket cap­tain John Reid.

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