VICTOR THOMAS (1877-1915), cricketer, was born probably
on 2 November 1877 in Sydney. He was probably a great-grandson of
Charles Trumper, hatter, and his wife Jane, née Samson, who
were married in London in 1834 and migrated to Sydney in the Resource
in 1837. Victor's putative parents were Charles Thomas Trumper and
his wife Louise, née Coghlan, who were married on 15 May
1883 at Ultimo with Primitive Methodist forms.
Thomas, a boot clicker, became a footwear manufacturer; he lived
at Surry Hills and later at Paddington. He was sufficiently well-off
to keep Victor at Crown Street Superior Public School until he passed
the junior public examination in 1893. Victor became a junior clerk
in the Treasury; in 1904, when a clerk in the Probate and Intestate
Estates Office, he resigned from the public service.
cricket talent was happily cultivated in the streets of Surry Hills
and, with the help of his father, in his backyard and the nearby
Moore Park. Although described by M. A. Noble, his schoolmate, as
a 'short, spare, narrow-shouldered boy', Trumper excelled at batting,
bowling and fielding. At 15 he played with the Carlton club and
at 16 with the South Sydney club where he had the awe-inspiring
advice and example of Syd Gregory. Playing for the New South Wales
Juniors eighteen against Andrew Stoddart's England eleven on 22
December 1894, he disregarded a severe cold to score 67 runs, a
final schoolboy triumph that led to selection for New South Wales
against South Australia in January 1895.
He scored 11
and 0, beginning inauspiciously a career with his home colony and
State of 73 matches which produced 5823 runs at an average of 51.08,
with 15 centuries and 29 half-centuries; a fast bowler, he took
33 wickets at 34.97: some highlights were 292 in a day against Tasmania,
including a century before lunch, in 1898; 100 in 58 minutes against
Victoria in 1906; and 201 against South Australia in 1913. He missed
the 1908-09 season through illness. When Noble retired in December
1909, the New South Wales Cricket Association appointed Austin Diamond
captain. Trumper favoured the previous practice of the captain being
selected by the players and withdrew from the team for 1909-10.
Appointed captain next season, he led the State 24 times for 15
wins, 4 draws and 5 losses.
had won the Pattison Trophy with 674 runs in intercolonial games
in 1898-99, Trumper was included late, as fourteenth man on reduced
financial terms, in the 1899 team to tour England. Batting at number
6 in the second Test in June at Lord's, he made 135 not out. After
becoming the first Australian to score 300 in England—against
Sussex in July—he was admitted as a full member of the team.
This tour began a Test career of 48 matches—including 8 against
South Africa with 2 centuries—in which he totalled 3163 runs
at 39.05: his figures against England were 2263 at 32.80, highest
score 185 not out, with 6 centuries and 9 half-centuries.
centuries, he excelled in the 1902 tour when, described by Wisden
as 'the best batsman in the world', he made 2570 at 48.49 in a season
marked by such 'bad weather and wet wickets' that fires were needed
in the dressing-rooms in the early months; opening in all matches,
he became the first batsman to record a century before lunch in
a Test—at Old Trafford on 24 July—and the first batsman
to make two centuries in one match (of three days)—against
Essex in July. On the way home in October he hit 218 against Transvaal
in South Africa.
In the first
Test against (Sir) Pelham Warner's England team in Sydney in December
1903 Trumper scored 185 not out in 230 minutes; next month in the
second Test in Melbourne he opened on a sticky wicket and, with
74 out of a total of 122 in the first innings, was the last man
out. In the 1903-04 Tests Trumper scored 574 runs at 63.78. During
the 1905 tour of England he was handicapped by a torn back-muscle
and was fifth in the averages. In the fourth Test against England
in Melbourne in February 1908 he failed to score, his only 'pair'
in any match. In his last tour in 1909 again he did not dominate
the team, but contributed much to its success.
sent its first team to Australia for the 1910-11 season. Trumper
conjured up his pristine form in the second Test in Melbourne, reaching
159 in 171 minutes; coming in at number 5 with the total at 111,
he compiled 214 (not out) of a total of 465 in the Adelaide Test,
won by the tourists: he headed the series averages with 661 at 94.43.
Vice-captain, under Clem Hill, against the English tourists in 1911-12,
Trumper became the first to score six centuries in Anglo-Australian
Tests — in Sydney in December 1911; opening in what proved
his final Test, he scored 50 in the second innings of the last Test
in Sydney, 1912.
W. W. Armstrong, A. Cotter, V. S. Ransford, Hanson Carter and Hill,
Trumper resented the appointment of a manager by the new Australian
Board of Control for International Cricket Matches and declined
to join the 1912 Australian team to visit England. At the invitation
of (Sir) Arthur Sims, a strong Australian side toured New Zealand
in February-March 1914: batting at number 9 at Christchurch on 28
February, Trumper dazzled a large crowd with 293 runs in 178 minutes,
and moved Viscount Cobham to write that his 'glory shone for one
last moment with an unearthly brilliance'. Trumper's final game
was for his club, Gordon, against Petersham at Chatswood Oval on
24 October 1914; tired and sick, he scored 4 runs.
first-class batting figures are: 255 matches, 16,939 runs, highest
score 300 not out, average 44.58; he made 42 centuries and 87 half-centuries;
he took 172 catches, and 64 wickets at 31.73. Neville Cardus has
tried to portray him: 'We can no more get an idea of Trumper's [winged]
batmanship by looking at the averages and statistics than we can
find the essential quality of a composition by Mozart by adding
up the notes'. It is a sign of his unique place in a game which
spawns statistics, assiduously audited, that he is above and beyond
rooted in the cultural consciousness of the Australian nation as
it was formed in the 1890s and established in 1901. Trumper starred
at the Federation carnival in Sydney on 4 January that year in winning
the ball-throwing contest with 120 yards 1 ft 6 ins (110.19 m):
his fast, flat throw reflected his baseball skill and was a feature
of his sweeping fielding. By then he was just under six feet (183
cm) tall, fair-complexioned, with grey-blue eyes, 'not too muscular
and above all graceful and courtly'. His 335 in 180 minutes for
Paddington at Redfern Oval on 31 January 1903 became part of the
folk-lore of Sydney. Trumper was Australians' romantic figure in
their belle époque, 1890-1914. He is cricket's supreme batting
stylist, timeless and unassailable in his symmetry of artistry and
every stroke in the game with that peerless grace and timing that
disguises power. Trumper perfected shots, such as leg drives off
his pads and toes, that became part of the repertoire of all great
batsmen after him. Some of his strokes have proved impossible for
others, notably his leg glances with his left or right foot raised,
and his 'yorker shot' which he forced square on either side, or,
by rapid footwork, lofted over the bowler. C. B. Fry has tried to
define his batting: 'He … played his strokes with a swing
from the wrists which was not a flick, but rather, as it were a
stroking effect'. Trumper's drives were similar to a master golfer's:
high back lift, fluent arc and immaculate follow through. His square,
back and late cuts, and leg deflections, were executed with precision
and beauty of movement. A. A. Lilley, England's wicket-keeper, observed
him closely many times and saw that 'his foot-work was perfection'.
This gift was part of his computer-like ability to sight the direction,
flight, length and pace of the ball quicker than any other batsman,
and helps to explain his unrivalled skill on uneven, bumping, sticky
and wet wickets. He played at a time when uncovered wickets restricted
batsmen, as the contemporary statistics for both fast and slow bowlers
show. Moreover, in England all first-class matches were of three
days only. Thus, Trumper's triumph in the 1902 tour was sui generis;
but, as Wisden observed in its obituary on him, he played that year
as only a young man could. He never repeated that success, though
he flashed golden glimpses of his prowess almost to the end.
on life as one shining summer in which a man should score a quick
century, then get out and give his mates a turn. A teetotaller,
non-smoker, and an Anglican, on 7 June 1904 at St Patrick's Catholic
Cathedral, Melbourne, he married Sarah Ann Briggs who was a sister-in-law
of J. J. Kelly, Australia's wicket-keeper; she loved cricket, Victor
was her beau idéal and she shared his happy-go-lucky disposition.
Each enhanced the other's life. They lived with Victor's parents
at Paddington, moving with them to Chatswood in 1909. Annie accompanied
him on the 1905 tour of England. She did improve somewhat his chaotic
way with clothes; but not with cricket bats which he treated cavalierly,
discarding them often, disdaining rubber grips (and batting gloves),
and scoring the binding of the handles with broken glass, the better
to hold them high for his flowing strokemaking.
into his dream of summer. In August 1904 he opened a sports store
in Market Street with Carter; in 1909, with J. J. Giltinan and others,
he formed a sports and mercery store in George Street (near Wynyard
Station) and by 1912 turned it into Victor Trumper and Dodge Ltd.
The restructuring matched Victor's precarious incompatibility with
commerce. His repute, association with Giltinan and friendship with
'Dally' Messenger were important in the foundation of Rugby League
in 1908; he was a fallible, and brief, treasurer of the league.
Annie dabbled in business, too; her 1912-13 venture with Dudley
King resulted in a debt of £1040 to E. C. Clifton being added
to Victor's liabilities. His testimonial match, 7-11 February 1913,
raised £2950 13s. 3d. which was wisely placed in a trust fund
by the New South Wales Cricket Association. T. J. Houghton, an organizer
of the event, sued for commission, alleging that Victor had told
him, 'Don't worry; you'll get paid all right'; but he got no money
and lost the case.
generous and handsome, and, on the cricket field, often resplendent.
But a delicate tinge always shadowed his grace. From at least 1908
the darkness gradually deepened. By late 1914 an insidious kidney
disease began to take its final toll. By the first Anzac Day he
was confined to bed. On 21 June he entered St Vincent's Hospital,
to die there on 28 June 1915. Buried in the Anglican section of
Waverley cemetery, he was survived by his wife (d.1963), a 9-year-old
daughter and a 1-year-old son.
W. G. Grace,
the 'Great Cricketer', died four months later. If, as K. S. Ranjitsinhji
wrote, Grace turned cricket from 'an accomplishment into a science',
then Trumper lifted it to a level of art beyond the reach of all
but himself. And, in achieving this, he reworked the charter of
cricket from a Victorian artefact into an Edwardian palimpsest,
with spacious Australian flourishes all but replacing the English
1917 administration of Trumper's intestate estate, valued at £5,
was granted to E. C. Clifton. In January 1919, when interstate games
recommenced after World War I, the Victorian team laid a wreath
on Trumper's grave.
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