Launch Speech by Don Neely on A Tingling Catch

Don Neely's launch address at the Basin Reserve Long Room 31 October 2010

A Tingling Catch: A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864-2009

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Long Room at the Basin Reserve.

Today, even though I am in my second home, I confess to feeling like a fish out of water. For three decades I have been used to addressing audiences about cricket and introducing famous international cricket people, players, commentators, writers, officials and leading politicians from the Government, the Wellington City Council and the Diplomatic Corp.

Today I am delighted to launch Mark Pirie's, 'A Tingling Catch', A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems, 1864 - 2009, to an audience of people whose love of poetry is as great as my love of cricket.

The famous English cricket commentator, writer and poet, John Arlott, once told me that there had been more books written on cricket than any other sport. This was 20 years ago and I have no reason to suspect that this fact is still true. Included are a number of anthologies of the poetry of cricket, all of them from England. To the best of my knowledge no other test country has compiled an anthology. Hence, A Tingling Catch' becomes an important statistic in the history of New Zealand and world Cricket.

Some of my favourite English writers, Alan Ross, R.C. Robertson-Glasgow, Herbert Farjeon, Norman Gale and Alan Gibson, were also printed poets like Arlott. In common their writings on cricket display an incomparable blend of poetic imagination, shrewd judgement of character, verbal resource, and ready humour.

My cricket acquaintances were firstly players.

We have all grown-up reading Wisden and have over 150 books relating to cricket on our bookshelves. We talk, observe and think on a similar wavelength.

'A Tingling Catch' has taken me to a new view of cricket. Poetry is about ideas from a different perspective and I felt that I needed to have a discussion with the poet who wrote the verse.

The language of the poems differed from my cricket vocabulary and I found this stimulating. Some of the poems jumped off the page and reminded me of some long-forgotten game or situation that I had encountered on the field.

The cover captures the summer game being played on a much-loved venue. 'A Tingling Catch', takes me back to the first time that I caught a cricket ball and the sting in my hands conveyed a skill attained to match my older brother - a badge of maturity.

Every variant of the game is captured from playing in the backyard or street, to school, club, first-class, test cricket, social cricket and pen-portraits. The historic, the self-deprecating, the tragic, the amusing, the sad - all have their rightful place in this most comprehensive anthology.

Mark is to be congratulated on the thoroughness of his research. For 5 years he has raided newspapers, libraries, magazines and books in search of gems, to produce a richly, entertaining history of verse and song about cricket spanning 146 years. We can enjoy the book today -- and for the rest of our lives.

Mark you never played cricket for New Zealand except in your dreams but rest assured that you have made a vital contribution to the history of cricket in New Zealand.

Don Neely