Sunderland cricket fans asked for help to solve Aussie mystery

Author Peter MacIver examines  a photograph of the tourists.
Author Peter MacIver examines a photograph of the tourists.
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Wearsiders are being asked to help an author solve a cricketing mystery that stretches back more than 135 years.

Peter MacIver is editing a book about the Australian team which made the inaugural first-class tour of England in 1878, and is seeking more details about three players who played in a match against Eighteen of Sunderland in the September.

The first Australian first-class cricket team to tour England and North America in 1878.

The first Australian first-class cricket team to tour England and North America in 1878.

One of the trio – who has often been referred to as MB Thompson – has proved to be particularly difficult to research, and Mr MacIver is hoping Wearside historians will be able to provide some information.

The other players are thought to be William Abraham, who was born in Limerick and played for a club in Newcastle, and William Carmac Wilkinson, who was educated at Sydney Grammar School and played several matches with the Australian team on the tour.

In the trip, Australia toured the colonies, England and North America, and Mr MacIver is looking for the final pieces of information to complete the book as he seeks to establish the identity of every replacement who played for the team.

He said: “I’m attempting to show how important the tour was to creating a sense of Australian national identity, and of course its importance in sporting history.

I’m attempting to show how important the tour was to creating a sense of Australian national identity

Peter MacIver

“As part of my efforts to establish the identity of every replacement who played with the Australians during the tour, I’m seeking assistance regarding one of three replacement players who played for them in the match against Eighteen of Sunderland in September 1878.

“One I believe to be William Abraham, and I would welcome any further information about him, as I have been unable to find an obituary.

“The second, William Carmac Wilkinson, was the first Australian to play country cricket in England, and the third is the problematic one. In most papers, he is recorded simply as Thompson, but in some as MB Thompson.

“I have tried to find an MB Thompson in English newspapers of the time with no luck, and am hoping a local historian in the Sunderland area may have discovered this man’s identity.

Courtesy of the National Museum of Australia.

Courtesy of the National Museum of Australia.

“He played a small part in one of the most important sporting tours ever undertaken, and for this I believe he deserves to be given his full name and recognised for the part he played.”

Mr MacIver is hoping to complete the book within the next month.

Anyone who can provide any information on the players can contact him at pmaci@netspace.net.au.