The creator of Peter Pan, Sir James M. Barrie, was an enthusiastic cricketer and assembled the most extraordinary amateur cricket team ever to have taken the field. Some of the Edwardian England’s most famous authors including Arthur Conan Doyle, A. A. Milne, P. G. Wodehouse, and Jerome K. Jerome, regularly turned out for Barrie’s team from 1890 until 1913, when the team was brought to an end by the First World War.
The team was named Allahakbarries in the mistaken belief that ‘Allah akbar’ meant ‘Heaven help us’ in Arabic (rather than ‘God is great’). Team selection criteria was based more on celebrity status than talent, although in Conan Doyle, both converged. Barrie had to explain rules of the game including which side of the bat to wave at the ball to wooly author Augustine Birrell (later First Secretary for Ireland during the Easter Rising), en route to his first match! Yet, Barrie was extremely proud of (and also simultaneously amused by) his talentless team and wrote a book about it, titled Allahakbarries C.C., and dedicated it ‘To Our Dear Enemy Mary de Navarro’, the famous American stage actress Mary Anderson, who once bowled him out. Barrie himself — an unatheltic and frail Scot — was no better at the game, although he once bowled out Douglas Haig, later the commender of British Expeditionary Force in World War One.
Absent from the above picture taken in 1903 were big names like Rudyard Kipling, H. G. Wells, Milne or Jerome (all were part of the group at times), but it was still a respectable collection of artists none the less. Back row from left to right: E.W. Hornung of Raffles fame, author and poet E. V. Lucas, P.G.Wodehouse, J.C. Smith, G. Charne, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, big game hunter Hesketh-Hesketh Prichard, illustrator L. D. Luard, painter C. M. Q. Orchardson, landscape and flowers painter Leonard Charles Nightingale, A. Kinross.
Front row from left to right: C. Gascoyne, author Shan F. Bullock, painter G. Hillyard Swinstead, architect Reginald Blomfield, the Hon. W. J. James, American illustrator and painter Edwin Austin Abbey, painter Albert Chevalier Taylor, J. M. Barrie, German-English poet, criminologist George Cecil Ives and painter George Spencer Watson.
Sitting on ground: author and politician A. E. W. Mason, best remembered for his novel Four Feathers. Mason introduced Barrie to Hesketh-Hesketh Prichard and Robert Falcon Scott, two greatest explorers of the day. Barrie, seemingly forever lost in fantasy, had deep fascination with explorers.
Snaps of the team playing were recently unearthed and will be published in the book next week, Peter Pan’s First XI.
8 thoughts on “Allahakbarries C.C.”
It makes you wonder who from contemporary times could assemble in a cricket team of comparable character and talent.
Conan Doyle was not just a keen cricketer – he was also a vocal supporter of baseball:
Very nice Blog with your Golden Collection. I like it and will keep visiting here…
[…] went on to pursue other childhood pleasures, forming his own cricket team and calling them the Allahakbarries –the peculiar team name coming from a mistaken translation: Barrie thought Allah Akbar […]
Not a photo of the Allahakbarries but of the Authors v Artists teams of 1903, hence the absence of some of the people named – only a few of those pictured played for the Allahakbarries – Kipling and Wells did not either, and Jerome played very infrequently. JC Smith is JC Snaith, well-known author at that time, G Charne is landscape, portrait and flower paiter Gerard Henry Tilson Chowne and C Gascoyne is artist George Gascoyne, .
Sorry about typo in the last post. Should have perhaps added that Chevalier Taylor is Albert Chevallier Tayler (well known for his drawings The Empire’s Cricketers, drawn from GW Beldam’s photographs, and for paintings of Lord’s and the Kent v Lancashire match at Canterbury in 1906) and A Kinross is journalist and author Albert Kinross (an enthusiastic cricketer who invited himself into the Authors team in 1902). Of those pictured, apart from JMB, Willie Hornung, EV Lucas, JC Snaith, Plum Wodehouse (from 1904), Conan Doyle, Hex Hesketh Prichard, George Ives and AEW Mason played for the Allahakbarries (all authors though I don’t know if this is significant). The Artists were a formal cricket club organised by the extremely keen American EA Abbey, who had cricket weeks at his home at Morgan Hall in Gloucestershire – there are some parallels here with the Allahakbarries, as the Artists can be seen as a ‘celebrity’ team, though they were probably somewhat more competent cricketers, on the whole anyway. Fascinating photograph – with a wonderful array of headgear and blazers.
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[…] same age, and both comic writers, they moved in the same circles in 1920s London, playing on the same cricket team and contributing to many of the same publications. In 1928, they even collaborated on the […]