The Greatest Tiger

A most incredible story of a most incredible man has laid the foundation for the spirit of the Sydney Cricket Club.

'The Greatest Tiger' of them all, Archie Jackson, was revered by all who saw him play for club, state and country prior to his untimely death at the age of 23.

Jackson is described via various scribbling's as a truly gifted batsman, whose stroke play was flawless and team spirit fearless.

Such was the measure of the man, that the best bowlers around the world delved deep into their reserves searching for ways to combat his effortless style, only to be dispatched with monotonous regularity.

The spearhead of the famous 'Bodyline' series, Harold Larwood, would pen a tribute to Archie Jackson that remains a significant insight into the courage shown by the young kid from Balmain.

Larwood, the most fearsome fast bowler in international cricket, described how he watched in awe as his most concerted efforts were sent packing and a new Australian cricketing star was born.







Harold Larwood and Archie Jackson

Harold Larwood and Archie Jackson

The Archie Jackson Story

By Harold Larwood

When first approached to write a foreword I politely refused.

However, it was explained by this persistent fellow that he had spent considerable time researching on a cricketer he believed I must have admired. I asked who this could be. His reply left me humbled, for it was none other than Archie Jackson.

It hit me just about as hard as Archie did that day at Adelaide in 1929 when, in his first Test innings for Australia, with 97 runs against his name and having had his back to the wall, he cover-drove me to bring up his hundred.

That ball was delivered as fast as any I had ever bowled previously.

That glorious stroke has lived in my memory to this day for its ease and perfect timing. I am sure that few amount the many thousands present sighted the ball as it raced to the boundary.

I personally had a very great admiration for Archie, and I am sure we 'Poms’ counted him as one of us. He never failed to congratulate the bowler or fieldsman whenever he was dismissed by a good ball, and at the same time he would be the first to let you know when he thought you were not bowling so well.

He would say: 'You must have had a late one last night, Harold!'

He was always friendly, no matter the tenseness of the situation – you just had to find a place in your heart for a fellow like him. The respect he showed for others grew on you.

I remember once, in England during the 1930 series, in scoring 73 at the Oval in the fifth Test, he was taking quite a physical beating.

As he came down the wicket to level a high spot or two he said: ''Well, Harold, it's only a game, but what a grand one I was having today!''

''I hope you're enjoying our battle as much as those spectators seem to be. You know, you've hit me almost as many times as I've hit you! I wish you'd drop one a little off line occasionally.''

I never knew him to flinch or complain at any time. No, Archie Jackson, like his hero Victor Trumper, was born to be great, and great he was, for he received the same respect from us 'Poms’ as from his own team. But we had a feeling that something was amiss with this young fellow in 1930.

Those of us who were closely associated with him knew that the English climate did not suit him; he was not himself. He still batted with the same charm that only he was capable of, but it was apparent that he was not the same Archie as that of 1928-29.

One of my most cherished possessions to this day is a personal telegram sent to me by Archie while undoubtedly a very sick boy in Brisbane; it congratulated me on my bowling in that controversial Test of 1933.

At the time he must have been very close to meeting his Maker, but he was still conscious enough to remember an old friend.

I remember also a number of us Englishmen visiting Archie in the private hospital in Brisbane one afternoon after practice before the fourth Test. It was the last time we were to see him, for during the final stages of that Test match he passed away.

We felt the depression that was cast over the ground when early that morning the news came through that Archie was no more. It was hard to believe. We knew that our loss was Australia's also.

Privileged were those who had known him. I for one could never forget Archie Jackson.


The Archie Jackson Story

The Archie Jackson Story

Adapted from The Archie Jackson Story by David Frith, published in 1974 in a limited edition of 1000, and out of print since 1975.

There is a love – and usually sadness – at the heart of a cult.

Victor Trumper was the first tragic hero of Australia cricket. His failing health robbed him of untold hours in the sun, and though his death in 1915 did not shorten his international career, the loss of his maturity, the years of fullness when a veteran spreads himself in relaxation and reminiscence, was grieved.

He was humble and kind; he deserved a long life. All who knew him believed this. The dreamy Alan Kippax, who mirrored Trumper, had an extensive and loyal following during the 1920s and 1930s, but in an era when his finesse was mistrusted by Test selectors he left his lyrical style in the memory and assumed, in the eyes of the world, a stature undeservedly less than major: the book of figures tells but one side of his story.

At his zenith Kippax, welcomed into the ranks of the New South Wales team a slender, athletic lad who, though never having seen Trumper, possessed all the comely movement and keenness of eye of Sydney's God of Cricket.

His exceptional talent had proclaimed itself at a precocious age, and cricketers all around him watched expectantly as Archie Jackson's promised gift grew to fulfillment.

This was the beginning of a cult. Men of all ages who saw him never forgot him, and a generation later they still held his banner. All those who had made his acquaintance shared the desire to be regarded as his intimate friends.

Jackson was to bear uncomplainingly an insidious sickness that racked him for years. He disdained treatment, perhaps in disbelief, perhaps in valiant optimism.

When – the last of the line – he died at 23, cricket's transition from an aesthetic exercise to a purely mathematical strategy was under way. His influence was missed very seriously. No spectator could ever have watched him late–cut or advance to the drive without having to stifle the temptation to imitate.

In such premature death there is a danger that the legend becomes gilded; that is not the case here. A wealth of evidence substantiates the expectation and eventual manifestation of Jackson's splendor.

The wider tragedy, apart from the pity that avid England only ever saw a faint shadow of the man, is that during the businesslike 1930s there was no Archie Jackson to provide a model and an inspiration to youthful cricketers in both countries.

Kippax played halfway through the decade and made many graceful hundreds, but his peak had been around 1926, when 21 of his 22 Australian caps were still to come. Two savage blows to the head had also upset him irretrievably.

The decade – for Australia – was dominated by Bradman, Ponsford, Woodfull, and McCabe, all except the last having a predictable near-infallibility. Jackson might have continued to add a touch of Dresden. Or he might have tightened up as the seasons passed, unable, even by repeating his follies, to recapture his artistic youth. But I doubt it.

A telephone call got things under way: ''Bill Hunt, the cricketer?'' ''That is so.'' I introduced myself.
''I understand from Alan Kippax that you were a close friend of Archie Jackson's?''
''May I say that no-one knew him better?''

So began the reconstruction of a career. I pored over Bill's scrapbooks and filled notebooks as reminiscence played itself out. He introduced me to Jackson's two sisters and they in turn referred me to his former fiancée. I began to see the subject from other angles.

Walking the streets of Balmain, standing outside his childhood home, talking with elder sister Peggie in the house in Drummoyne to which the family later graduated, finding his grave at the Field of Mars Cemetery, seeking out old team-mates and adversaries – I found that the young man's spirit lived still.

Unexpectedly, I obtained access to a number of Jackson's letters, most of them full of hope and rationalisation, written with candour to some of his friends during the last five years of his life.

Then, finally, Bill arranged to show a brief cine-film of Archie Jackson playing his range of strokes on the No. 2 Ground at Sydney over 40 summers before.

There he stood, bat held high on the handle, his cap brim dropping like a guardsman's.

The casual elegance of his leg glances, the whalebone suppleness of his wrists as he steered the ball square and backwards, the lightness of footwork, the ballet-like inclination of the body as he cover-drove – the artistry, enhanced by a beguiling self-consciousness, burned an impression on my mind.

The demonstration had been more than adequate. The only surviving film of Trumper is an abrupt and cruel misrepresentation of his magical technique, but for five enchanted minutes I had had the great good fortune to see a faithful image of his spiritual descendant.

I found myself aligned with all those thousands who, having seen Jackson batting, sighed for more when he was dismissed.

Archie Jackson, like Adam Lindsay Gordon, Billy Hughes ('the Little Digger’), Russell Drysdale, Frank Ifield and a number of other famous Australians, was born on the opposite side of the world.

The Jackson family lived at 1 Anderson Place, Rutherglen, south of Glasgow, when Archibald arrived on September 5, 1909. Margaret and Alexander already had two daughters: Lil, aged five, and Peggie, three.

'Sandy’ (father Alex) was manager of a brickworks at Belvedere. He had been taken to Australia in a sailing ship with his parents when he was 12, but returned to Scotland five or six years later. Now, as a 41-year-old working man with responsibilities, he eyed NSW thoughtfully once more. Times were tough in Glasgow.

Thus Sandy struck out again for Australia and paved the way for Mrs. Jackson and the children to follow 18 months later. Themistocles, soon to be sunk in the First World War, landed them safely in Sydney on August 1, 1913.

The family set up house in the tilting, rambling old waterside suburb of Balmain: at 14 Ferdinand Street, a small, cosy, iron-roofed terraced house, built in two storey's of brick, with a laced iron balcony. It still stands.

After the War the family was completed by the birth of Jeanie, a precious sister for the other girls, and for Archie, whose early disapproval at not getting a baby brother soon evaporated.

''Don't leave her outside in the pram'', he often pleaded. ''Someone'll take her away!''

There was never much money about, and Archie had to make do with one pair of pants for the greater part of his boyhood, the sole advantage being that his mother could withhold them whenever he was forbidden from going out.

But the home felt secure and was happy, Sandy worked at Cockatoo Dockyard and gave the rest of his time to his family. He put rubber bars on Archie's worn shoes and they served as soccer boots; he made a bat for him to use in the street games, both by day and under the illumination of the gas lamps – not merely a carved plant, but a realistically shaped implement with a cane handle.

He earned in return a tender adulation. Tousle-headed mite Archie outside the Jackson home at 14 Ferdinand Street, Balmain. A regular sleepwalker, he once almost fell from the balcony. The shape of Test cricket would have been altered slightly.

''Isn't that your boy, Sandy?'' said a workmate one afternoon as a rowing boat floated past the Dock with a small figure lying face-down to avoid recognition. The lad explained that evening that he had only wanted to see his Dad at work. The punishment for Truancy was not severe.

The parents were usually good humoured, too, when he returned with a sack full of apples filched from the orchard up at Marsfield. Other times he amused himself by riding the laundry cart through the narrow Balmain streets.

A well-remembered crisis was when he fought with schoolmate Tommy Thompson through four consecutive afternoons before sister Lil felt bound to tell Mum, who went straight down to Birchgrove park to break it up. He was not an angel, but he was loving, and he was greatly loved.

When Archie's school, Birchgrove, played cricket against Smith Street, he met Bill Hunt and began a lifelong friendship. They became pals during the 1920-21 season, when J.W.H.T. Douglas's MCC team were moving round Australia from one defeat to the next at the mighty hands of Warwick Armstrong, Jack Gregory, Ted McDonald, Charlie McCartney, Herbie Collins, Charlie Kelleway, Nip Pellew and Arthur Mailey - a formidable assembly of skills.

Archie idolised certain cricketers from each side, and he and Bill – when they were not satisfied to play 'numbers cricket’ out of the hymn-book in Bible class – had a resourceful manoeuvre for getting to the Sydney Cricket Ground.

They 'wagged' school at lunchtime, hopped onto a Wood Coffill hearse on its way back to the city and used their three pence lunch money to get into the ground. They quenched their thirsts at the bubbler at the base of ‘The Hill’ and watched the international stars at play – wishing they could be out there too – and went hungry.

After play they usually hitched a ride on the meat wagon back to Balmain, where the mothers strove to fill their bellies.

''They talk about pollution in the 1970's!'', said Bill Hunt 50 years later. ''In those days the people of Balmain used to spread coal dust on their bread!''

There are those who argue to this day that had he lived, Archie Jackson would have rivaled Don Bradman as the greatest batsman off all time. Jackson's death from tuberculosis at the tragically young age of 23 – no Test cricketer has died younger – meant that he gave only glimpses of what might have been.

Jackson was a graceful batsman, his innings’ punctuated by delicate leg-glances, wrist flicks through the covers and exquisite footwork.

He made his debut for New South Wales at the age of 17, and within a year was touring New Zealand with Australia, although he had to wait until the fourth Ashes Test of 1928-29 to make his Test debut. In that match he hit 164 and a remarkable career beckoned.

He struggled for form on the 1930 tour of England, his courageous 73 at The Oval when he added 243 for the fourth wicket with Bradman a rare highlight. But his successes were made against the backdrop of his failing health, and his appearances grew rarer.

He died on February 16, 1933, the day that England regained the Ashes in the Bodyline series.


JACKSON, MR. ARCHIBALD, the New South Wales and Australian Test cricketer, died at Brisbane on February 16, the day that England defeated Australia had regained the Ashes, at the early age of 23.

His passing was not only a very sad loss to Australian cricket in particular but to the cricket world in general. A native of Scotland, where he was born on September 5, 1909 he was hailed as the second Victor Trumper – a comparison made alike for his youthful success, elegant style and superb stroke play.

Well set up, very active on his feet, and not afraid to jump in to the slow bowlers and hit the ball hard, he accomplished far more in big cricket than Trumper had done at his age.

He first attracted attention when at school at Balmain , Sydney, and later at the Roselle School. So quickly did he mature that, at the age of seventeen, he gained an assured place in the New South Wales team. In his first season of Sheffield Shield cricket he scored 464 runs at an average of 58; next year he achieved a feat no other batsman of his age had performed, by making two centuries in a match – 131 and 122 against South Australia.

For a time Jackson had something of a reputation of being a second innings batsman, for often he failed at his first attempt and then made a good score in the second innings. This weakness, however, he overcame and he soon established himself as an opening batsman for New South Wales.

Given his places in the Australian team when the M.C.C. side, under the captaincy of Mr. A.P.F. Chapman, toured Australia in 1928-29, Jackson, on his first appearance in Test cricket against England, made a hundred — the youngest player to do so. This was at Adelaide where in the Fourth Test Match, which England won by 12 runs, he scored 164.

For sheer brilliance of execution his strokes during this delightful display could scarcely have been exceeded. He reached three figures with a glorious square drive off Larwood in the first over after lunch and was one of the very few Australian batsmen who during that tour could successfully jump in and drive J.C. White.

An innings of 182 in the Australian Test Trial — regarded as the finest he ever played – made certain of his inclusion in the team which visited England in 1930. Unfortunately, English cricket lovers did not in that tour see Jackson at his best, for although he scored over 1000 runs he failed to reveal his true form until toward the end of the summer.

In the final Test match at The Oval, he put together a score of 73 and helped Bradman in a partnership of 243 for the fourth wicket which still stands as a record in a Test match between Australia and England. Jackson, of course, never saw Trumper play, but Kippax, in style and stance and in some strokes, was not unlike Trumper; and Jackson consciously or unconsciously, and while giving full play to his natural tendencies, took Kippax as his model.

He had a splendid return from the deep field and, if not so fast a runner as Bradman, covered ground very quickly.

His later years were marred by continued ill-health and his untimely end was not unexpected. While lying in hospital on what was to prove his death-bed he was married*.

* Archibald Jackson became engaged to be married, and was not officially married whilst in hospital shortly before his death. 

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