Ashes 2021: The Time Story of Boland’s Aboriginal Dream

Paul Stewart’s phone rang in the MCG stands where 40,000 Victorians lost their heads as debutant Scott Boland was in the midst of a 6-for-7 dream period that toppled England in the third test. An already moved Stewart would choke with happiness when he acknowledged that the call had come from a pub in the small town of Harrow, halfway between Melbourne and Adelaide, home of Johnny Mullagh, the most popular Aboriginal player who has played in the very first Australian tour. of England in 1868.

Stewart had previously taken Boland, the fourth Native man to put on the baggy green, to Harrow, the spiritual home of Native cricketers. “Laughter, tears and joy flowed during the call,” Stewart told The Indian Express. “Their Scotty, our Scotty, made us proud. I could not have visualized this day even in a dream.

Moved Belinda Duarte, the first Indigenous member of MCG Trust and descendant of Dick-a-Dick, Mullagh’s teammate on this historic tour, would present the Mullagh Medal to the Boland Man of the Match. “Some would even say that older people have something to do with it,” she said. “We carry our seniors everywhere. There were so many informers today that they were by his side.

The importance of the moment did not escape Stewart. “For Scotty, receiving the Mullagh Medal was so heartwarming. A dream story. Stewart is a proud man from Taungurung who worked with Cricket Australia as a native cricket expert when he met Boland a few years ago. In his mid-twenties, Boland discovered that his maternal grandfather had been adopted and was in fact a native.

“I don’t know if his grandfather was taken away from his family, but it is not uncommon to discover Aboriginal heritage late in life. It was our lot, ”says Stewart. “Growing up as an Aboriginal person in the 1960s was a very difficult time. We did not have the right to vote. Babies were taken from aboriginal women.

Facing the past

Each country has its dark guilt and this was Australia’s. From the early 19th century until 1970, Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families as part of the Australian government’s plan to assimilate them into a dominant non-indigenous population. The establishment had so mistreated the indigenous population that in 2008 the government, under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, issued a formal apology to the “stolen generations”.

Australian Scott Boland, second from right, celebrates winning the wicket of England’s Jonny Bairstow, second from left, on day three of their test cricket match in Melbourne, Australia on Tuesday, December 28, 2021 (AP) Photo / Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)

There is a famous Aboriginal heartbreak from a song called “The Brown Skinned Baby” by Bob Randall. The lyrics read, “In a native camp I’ll never forget, a young black mother with wet cheeks, ‘My brown-skinned baby, they’re taking her.’ Between her sobs, I heard her say that the police had taken my baby. From the white man was this baby that I had. Why did he let them take the baby away… The child grew up and had to leave the mission house he loved so much. To find his mother, he tried in vain. On this earth, they never met again.

A few years ago, Boland’s uncle delved into family roots and discovered Aboriginal blood. By this time, Boland and his brother Nick had started playing professional cricket and both were said to be very interested in playing for an aboriginal team. Enter Paul Stewart.

“We were having an annual cricket tournament when I first saw him with his brother Nick. To be a part of it you have to be native and that’s when we started talking. More than qualifying, Scott wanted to learn more about Indigenous history and culture.

As part of his education, he began to visit historic places sacred to native people in the Western Districts. Waterholes, communities and eventually he found his way to Harrow, where the Johnny Mullagh Museum is now the pride of the city.

“We would first like to talk about the fact that maybe it was the grandfather’s decision not to tell anyone about his heritage. Because of so many challenges we face. I remember saying to Scott, “Dude, you’re really lucky because so many other families aren’t so lucky.” It stuck with him and he wanted to know more and how he can help other more disadvantaged children. He was talking about how to embrace culture, ”says Stewart. “We would go to the western districts, talk to the native families there and be welcomed by them. “

In 2018, the Boland brothers joined the Australian Aboriginal team who toured England to commemorate the very first tour. Each player was given a name to “continue” on the tour, the name of a player from the original tour of 1868.

The historical names of the native players that each player, including Scott Boland, received on the England tour. (Courtesy of Paul Stewart).

Scott was given the name Gulligan from the original team player Yellanach aka Johnny Cuzens. His brother Nick represented Gronggarrong (Mosquito).

“Mosquito and Cuzen were brothers, as were the Bolands. During our visit to Harrow before we left on tour, Nick met Aunt Fiona Clarke (Mosquito descendant) who designed the logo for the wicket artwork that was used in our touring uniforms, ”said said Stewart. “Scott also had the opportunity to meet Aunt Vicki and Ashley Couzens (descendant of J Cuzens)”

“It’s a real wow factor that I’ll wear on this tour and for the rest of my life,” Stewart recalls of a moving Scott Boland telling him when he met the descendants of the original team. They had a quiet personal dinner in Harrow with the descendants. “This experience was the most moving moment for him. I remember saying to him: “It is so incredible that I have the privilege of bearing their names and that I have been able to meet their descendants”.

Boland has won awards for his performances in national cricket, has even made the national team, but without the chance. Finally, after all these years, at the age of 32, he got the chance to live out his dream in front of a home crowd who went crazy over the performance of their local hero.

Stewart’s young sons were there too, right outside the south stand, enjoying the moment. Even as he mentions them, a son rings in the background on the phone, reliving the chants of the day: “Scotty! Scotty! ‘

The story of Eddie Gilbert, the man who stunned Bradman

Boland’s dreamlike story is a long cry from the days of Eddie Gilbert, the 1930s aboriginal fast pitcher who was famous for firing Don Bradman for a duck. “It’s good to be a hero on the pitch, but a black man can feel lonely when he isn’t accepted after the game,” Gilbert said.

Australian Scott Boland, center, holds a strain after winning 6 wickets against England in their victory on day three of their test cricket match in Melbourne, Australia on Tuesday, December 28, 2021. The Australia wins the test by a run and 14 short and retained the ashes. (AP Photo / Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)

It’s fascinating to see the society through cricket through the history of Gilbert. “If Gilbert wanted to leave the colony, he needed permission. Sometimes he had to apply for permission to travel in the same car as a white cricketer, ”said Ken Edwards, author of“ The True Story of an Indigenous Cricket Legend, ”in an interview with the radio.

In a match in 1931, Bradman lasted five deliveries against Gilbert. He was knocked off balance once, his bat flew out of his hands on another delivery, and he eventually nicked a bouncer behind. “I think just for that one it was probably the fastest I’ve ever seen a delivered cricket ball. It was great, ”Bradman would later say.

It was also the beginning of the end. Five players from New South Wales, who have not been identified, have complained that Gilbert is a “chucker”. Edwards believes one of the players was Bradman himself. Weeks later, while playing in Melbourne, he was called up on several occasions for the drop.

Gilbert faced Bradman two more times after that fateful day – Bradman hit a double cent in Adelaide and Gilbert knocked him out cheaply in the last meeting – but suffered loss of form and injuries. In 1936, the Queensland association abruptly ended his career and sent him back to the colony. They even asked him to return the cricket clothes and charged him the amount to send it back.

Gilbert could not adapt to life in the colony and slowly began to fight and have problems. He was sent to Brisbane Hospital for examination, diagnosed as suffering from a mental disorder and placed in a mental hospital where he remained until his death in 1978. They said he suffered from mental disorders stemming from of tertiary syphilis, but an autopsy was performed after his death revealed that he did not have this condition at all.

It was then. What about now for Indigenous people in 2021? “Our life expectancy is not that of non-Aboriginals. There are still difficult living conditions there, ”says Stewart. “We never entered wealth or inheritance. The aborigines must make their own future. We take care of each other. There are difficult communities struggling with housing, health and education issues. There is still a lot of work to do. This is the challenge. It’s nice to see Scott walk into it. To see someone like him up there at the MCG win games for Australia was a dream. It is a great message of hope for the whole community. We are all so proud.

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