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.