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The International Writers Magazine: Book Review

The Clay Dreaming – Ed Hillyer
Paperback: 640 pages
Publisher: Myriad Editions (8 April 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-0956251503
Dr Dave Allen Review
This is an intriguing novel that centres upon the unexpected meeting in London in 1868 of a young woman, Sarah Larkin, and Bripumyarrinin, known as ‘King Cole’ – a native Australian who came to England as a member of the touring Aborigine team.


Sarah is a construction of the author and so too therefore is the narrative – and well done it is too. But ‘King Cole’ and his fellow cricketers really did visit these shores and played a series of matches around the country.

When the book arrived in my University Department I am sure many of my colleagues were better equipped to review and recommend it, but it came to me because I am an active cricket historian – more specifically a native of Portsmouth and an historian of Hampshire cricket.

That might have made the novel broadly interesting, but I became even more intrigued having read the author’s “Afterword” in which he described his extensive research into the tale and the discovery of King Cole’s grave near his London home – for Cole died of tuberculosis on the tour. Hillyer too expressed “shock” at discovering his own family’s name on Cole’s gravestone.

I knew that the Aborigine side had played in Hampshire although I needed to do my own research to check the details. They came in fact to my home city and the East Hants Ground in Southsea. It is close to where I grew up and learned to love the game around fifty years ago, before it was long ago made over to houses and a play park. There, on the 15 & 16 June 1868, the Aborigines went down to an innings defeat against my ancestors and ‘King Cole’ made three in both innings, although I am glad for him that he was undefeated in the second ‘knock’ for this was the last game of cricket he ever played. His team-mates continued to tour but for him sickness and death were all that followed.

And so, just as Hillyer found a “certain responsibility to tell his untold story” I have a reason to recommend Hillyer’s tale to you. A love of cricket is no requirement, for this is a human tale and a story of London and its great river, but perhaps you too might find an unexpected connection that draws you into this delightful tale.

© Dr Dave Allen April 1st 2010
A cricket specialist based at the University of Portsmouth

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