The bouncers 20



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Much has been written about the tragedy of Philip Hughes death and a form of bowling called bouncers. Here is a story and a tragedy about a form of bowling called bodyline – it was how cricket was played in 1930-32.
I would hear many times from my mother-in-law about how this type of bowling caused so much heartache to her family. I can almost recount it word for word as each January she would be so sad. Here is that story.
In 1935 my husband John was 5 years old. His father had been married twice and his first wife had died of septicemia, leaving 2 sons. In 1928 he and my mother-in-law (Etti) were married but when John was 2 years old, the marriage broke up and she went to live at her parent’s home at St Mary’s on the east coast of Tasmania. Her stepsons loved her and each holiday spent their holidays at her parent’s home – this was Christmas 1935.
One of her aunts was married to a trooper (policeman) stationed at New Norfolk and they were visiting and asked her to go back with them for a few days. Her parents encouraged her to go, leaving the boys; Harold was 13 and Don would have turned 11 on the 13th of January. As I said John was 5 and he told me what he saw stayed with him always.
The boys were told they could only play cricket with a tennis ball but had bought one anyway in the township. Of course this was not known to the adults. That day the Cof E minister and his wife were visiting so it went unnoticed.
Even though bodyline bowling was in vogue several years earlier, Harold threw the ball and hit Don in the head. John said he fell to the ground and cried and then went inside. He said, “Harold has bowled me out but I’m still Don Bradman: not out” and said he’d like to lie down. He was made comfortable but when checked on shortly after was writhing in a seizure.
There was no phone in those days, no car either so the minister rode a bike in to get the doctor. By the time they arrived back Don had died.
His father Jack came from Launceston and was prostrate with grief. John’s mother was at the pictures when her uncle came in to get her. For the rest of her life she asked that no one ever go to the cinema on Sunday and we never have.
Monaghans were well known in Launceston and had a shop in Brisbane Street selling Tatt’s tickets – it’s still there. One day I looked on the Trove site and read the sad death notices.
Jack took Harold overseas and wanted Etti to go with them but she wouldn’t leave John. They were always friends but never reconciled.
One day Harold told me that he was known as the boy who killed his brother.
In January each year I think of those so affected – all gone now.

Val Monaghan

I was born on the 21st January 1938. I am retired and widowed with 3 adult children and 5 lovely grandchildren I have lived in the same address for 58 years. I have had a varied working life, including ticket and showcard writing until 1973 when I changed to commercial cooking. I last cooked on the Windeward Bound, a brigantine around 6 years ago. I write a lot of verse about all sorts of subjects. I enjoy gardening, reading and having good friends visiting.

  1. What an interesting, if sad, story. Thus it always was, Val, boys will be boys and thankfully – generally – come through their unintentional misadventures. That it was not so with Don is tragic. I hope that poor Harold was not unnecessarily pilloried.
    Your story is sadder, and more recent, than my piece about the Reid family at Rowella and the loss of three of their sons a century earlier.
    Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. We had similar tragedy in our family with a golf ball. My heart aches for the children who witness these accidents

  3. Very touching . . I expect many folk have similar experiences . . mine was in c.1958, being in UK woods when a girl on horseback was thrown as her horse was spooked but one leg was caught in a stirrup and of course the horse continued its galloping. Sadly she didn’t survive.

  4. Such a sad story…. Nothing has really changed where boys are concerned. I don’t know how many times I was forced to confiscate a hard cricket ball while on playground duty. They know the rules but can’t help testing them. They have no fear of the consequences.

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