St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Women's Cricket St George's Park - The History of the SA & Rhodesian Women's Cricket Association
The History of the SA & Rhodesian Women's Cricket Association

Who ever would have thought of it! Port Elizabeth had the Pioneers (Women's) Cricket Club in 1902. Unfortunately the original photograph has been lost, but a copy was found in an article in a 1963 Evening Post. So, if there was one cricket club, who did they play against? This calls for further research.

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The members of the 1902 Pioneers Cricket Club were,
(back row) the Misses Mona Levey, Ruby Heywood,Myrtle King, Helen Andre and Muriel Beauchamp,
(front row) Iris Evatt, Maude Davies, Edith Sutton,Joyce Davies, Kathie Ryan and a mysterious "Myself".

Western Province was the first province to play cricket and on turning back their record books, one finds that a few enterprising women played the game as early as the beginning of the 20th century. A name most familiar in their files is that of Mrs Winifred Kingswell, a pioneer in Women's Cricket in South Africa.

In 1920/21 the Peninsula Girls' School Games Union was formed, and Mrs Kingswell was their first President. In 1932, the Peninsula Ladies' Cricket Club was formed and in 1934 this club was affiliated to the Women's Cricket Association (England).

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Women's Cricket was played fairly regularly up until the Second World War. It died out until 1949, when a small group of enthusiasts decided to revive it. After the forming of the South African & Rhodesian Women's Cricket Association, Western Province showed their experience and strength by wining the first three Provincial Tournaments.

The Women's Cricket Association was made up of seven Associations / Provinces - namely, Border, Eastern Province, Natal, Northern Rhodesia, Northern Transvaal, Southern Transvaal and Western Province.

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Women's Cricket - 1890

The SA&RWCA was officially formed in 1952. Although some Provinces were playing before that date, there was not a main body running affairs.

Southern Transvaal started up in 1947/48 and became the largest Province. League matches were played in Johannesburg every Saturday afternoon during the season, and fixtures against the men were also arranged, as well as indoor and outdoor nets.

According to Sue Rionda, librarian at Rhodes University's Cory Library, in the April 1, 1950, edition of the Rhodes University student newspaper, Rhodeo, reference was made to the "newly formed Ladies Cricket Club".

It now appears that with the formation of this club, women's cricket was first established in the Eastern Province.

According to this article the first general meeting was held on 18 March 1950 at which the following office bearers were elected :
Marion Barry - Captain
Heather Mountain - Vice Captain
Pennith Kenrich - Secretary
Riley - Committee member
Fraser - Committee member.

The article concludes "There are a number of promising members in the club, so with practice right through Winter, which is hoped for, we should be able to present a team next season, and arrangements are already under way for fixtures with local preparatory school teams at the end of the year".

In the Rhodeo, of March 24, 1951, the following article appeared :
"It is now a year since the Women's Cricket Club was first established and we are now awaiting affiliation to the Athletic Union after this trial period of a year....We are hoping to play against East London Women's Cricket Club. Matches will be played against the Boy's Prep. Schools."

Port Elizabethan ladies of the Victorian era played the game. (See photo above.) The Pioneer's Cricket Club existed as early as 1902, but interest in cricket appears to have waned until October 1950 when the St Croix Ladies' Cricket Club was founded.

It was about that time that a tall, slim bespectacled young girl named Mary Ingamells breezed into James Hattle's office and asked him to help her to get women's cricket started in Port Elizabeth.

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Mary Ingamells

"Many parents consider cricket too tough a sport for their daughters," she said. "This is ridiculous when one compares cricket with hockey or softball. Is not the name of cricket synonymous with refinement and good sportmanship?"

"Women have played cricket from the earliest times, and it is to be hoped that the PE girls will not be long in following in the footsteps of their sisters in England and Australia and the Transvaal, and learning to 'play the game'."

Hattle agreed to help and promised her publicity and moral support, but Mary wanted more than that. And so it was that he found himself acting as chairman of the first club, St Croix, and eventually of the Eastern Province Women's Cricket Union until such time as others were ready to take over.

At the outset, the game was allowed to make progress only because men's clubs were big hearted about making their grounds and nets available, and because individual men cricketers were ready to offer their services on the coaching and administrative side.

"The Algoa Cricket Club kindly granted us the use of their nets on Friday afternoons, and a member volunteered to help to coach us when he finished work early," said Mary.

What were those early days like? "Frankly," wrote James Hattle, "they were frightening. An evening at the nets frequently made one wonder if it was all worth while."

"Coaches would spend half-an-hour showing a sweet young thing how to bowl off the proper foot and to use the other arm to give balance - and the very next ball would go looping into the adjoining net and, as likely as not, land on the head of the struggling, already perplexed batsman at that wicket.

Most of the team members were typists, school teachers and school girls from the Victoria High and Holy Rosary Convent.

"It was almost a coincidence," Hattle continued, "if the ball came to ground in the appointed net. Learning to bat from scratch - for some had never even watched a game of cricket - was a painstaking business. The ball would be lying calmly at the back of the net before the batsman had even essayed a shot.

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"Adding a feminine touch!
- in honour of the women cricketers."

"Even when contact was made, the result was almost inevitably the dolliest of catches.

"How, they thought, in heaven's name, would runs ever be scored. Even if the ball was firmly struck, the matter of running between the wickets called for judgment and skill far beyond the means of these willing but befuddled students of a new game.

"But where the spirit was strong and a few bruises on shapely thighs are accepted with pride rather than dismay, advancement were made."

Mary said that one evening's practice per week was quite inadequate, especially as rain often washed out play.

"Imagine trying to learn batting technique in 1˝ hours' instruction per season - which was the average time alloted to each member. The lack of a field and consequent lack of match practice is a great problem."

Mary wrote a letter to the Evening Post in which she appealed to any men's team to consider playing a game with them during the following season.

" . . . to show us the ropes, as we are anxious to learn all about cricket."

Michael Lotter, a local cricketer, volunteered to help coach the girls.

"If the Transvaal women can contemplate sending a women's cricket team to England, why should we in the Eastern Province be regarded as a joke? If we have the opportunities we can raise a team as good as any in the Transvaal."

The club challenged various men’s clubs, but they just did not turn up. The women were hoping that they would be able to play against a woman’s club in East London, if it could be arranged.

Hattle wondered how runs would ever be scored. Yet, within a few short years, he watched Maureen Hartnell, a talented Eastern Province sportswoman, thrash 100 runs off the Border girls in less than two hours and Noeleen Dickie hammer an East London club attack for 150 runs in considerably less than half a day, and including two or three man-sized sixes.

“Chickie” Birk was considered the most outstanding batsman and bowler in 1951.

“The men say she could stand up to hard bowling if she got expert coaching,” said Mary Ingamells.

Two schoolgirl sisters, Gloria and Norma Povey, got some training from their brothers. Norma had a peculiar and terrifying bowling spin.

Mavis Cowley, a typist, developed her own style and was a good all-rounder as was schoolgirl Shirley Reid. Barbara Hoxley was wicket-keeper, Heather Scott, a batsman and Beryl King a bowler.

Along with Eva Elliot, a typist, all these were foundation members.

EP attended the tournaments, and showed their improvement over the years by eventually winning the Simon Trophy in 1957, beating Southern Transvaal, the 1956 winners, in the process.

Border also started playing in 1950/51 and although they only had a small membership of players, they were very keen and always sent a team to the Tournament.

Natal was one of the stronger Provinces. They too, started playing about 1950. Twice they won the Tournament. Northern Rhodesia was the youngest Province, and although they were far away from everybody else, and didn't get much opposition during the season, that were not deterred.

Northern Transvaal started up in 1950, and had a fairly large membership, but this dwindled over the years, and only keenness and hard work by several members kept them going.

The highlight of the season was the Annual Inter Provincial Tournament, held early every January in a different centre. All the Provinces endeavoured to send teams.

The Tournament was'played in two sections - the winners of the A Section were awarded the Simon Trophy and the winners of the B Section gained promotion to A Section for the following year. During this week the Annual General Meeting of the Association was held, as well as Council Meetings, and all the affairs of the Associations were discussed by delegates from all Provinces.

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The South African women's cricket team looked smart in their Springbok uniforms when they attended a Mayoral tea party along with the opposing English girls' team.
Back (left to right):Barbara Cairncross, Eleanor Lambert, Yvonne van Mentz, Lorna Ward
Middle: Jean McKenzie, Pam Hollett, Jennifer Gove
Front: Audrey Jackson, Sheila Nefdt, Marjory Robinson (manageress), Eileen Hurly, Jean McNaughton, Joy Irwin

The 1954 tournament was held in Cape Town from February 1 to 6, and apart from two windy day's at the outset, excellent weather conditions prevailed. Western Province, winners of the Challenge Cup for the second year in succession, once again proved their superiority by winning not only the tournament but the final match against The Rest on the concluding day.

At the Annual General Meeting held on the February 2, discussions took place with regard to the re-introduction of cricket in girls' schools. Many keen players considered that the lack of early training, proved by experience to be an essential in the make-up of the best cricketers, was due to the fact that there were no established "nurserys" from which to draw. Apparently, steps were to be taken to reintroduce the game into the schools.

The teams participating in the '54 tournament were Border, Eastern Province, Southern Transvaal, Natal, Western Province, and Western Province "A".

Due to circumstances beyond their control, Griqualand West, Orange Free State and Northern Transvaal were unable to take part in the tournament. EP lost to Western Province, Western Province "A", Southern Transvaal and Natal, but beat Border

The next Annual Tournament was scheduled'to be held in Durban from January 5 till 11, 1955.

At the Annual General Meeting held on January 6, 1955 it was decided to accept the invitation of the Women's Cricket Association, England, to participate in the formation of an International Cricket Council, together with Australia and New Zealand.

The purpose of this Council would be to arrange International matches between the four countries. A proposal was also put forward to apply for affiliation to the South African Cricket Association.

The teams participating in the tournament were: Eastern Province, Southern Transvaal A & B, Western Province A & B, Northern Transvaal and Natal.

In February, 1958, an inaugural meeting of the International Women's Cricket Council was held in Melbourne, Australia. Marjory Robison, the South African President, was sent over as the South African delegate and was elected vice-President of the IWCC.

In 1959 Eastern Province lost by 82 runs against North-Westerns, beat Border by 3 wickets, and beat Southern Transvaal B by 41 runs.

Arrangements were made in 1959 for an English Team to tour South Africa in I960. According to the I960 South African Cricket Annual, M Henegan was in charge of the Eastern Province Women's Cricket Association. Her position was not stated.

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