Quick show of hands who here knows anything about cricket? Anybody? What about you in the back? Well whether you raised a hand or not you probably could handle a cricket bat as well as the subject of today’s A Writer’s Tale. I’m sure many of you are familiar with J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan (or at least are familiar with Johnny Deep playing Barrie creating Peter Pan in Finding Neverland). What you are most likely not familiar with is Barrie’s lifelong obsession with the sport of cricket and the story of his amateur cricket team the Allahakbarries.
Now if that name looks like a bad pun that’s because it is. Barrie mistakenly believed that the phrase “Allah Akbar” meant “Heaven help us” rather than “God is great”. You have to give him points for effort at least. The name though is not the most interesting part of the Allahakbarries. What is far more interesting is the list of names that played for the side. Some of the greatest writers of the Edwardian era played for the squad including Rudyard Kipling, H. G. Wells, P. G. Wodehouse, A. A. Milne, Walter Raleigh, Arthur Conan Doyle (who by all accounts was quite the cricketer), and many more names of note.
Just think of that! The creators of Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, Sherlock Holmes, Mowgli, Jeeves, and the Invisible Man used to get together, hang out and play cricket. And not just a backyard game they played competitively. The Allahakbarries were active from 1887 to 1913 when World War I put an end to the team.
Barrie never let his small stature (he was only 5’3”) or complete lack of ability get in the way of his love of the sport. In fact many of the Allahakbarries came up short in the talent department but the team had fun and that’s really the point isn’t it? Barrie wrote about the team in the short 40 page Allahakbarries C.C. that he privately published in 1890. The book was revised in 1899 and reprinted in 1950.
For more about the Allahakbarries you should check out the book Peter Pan’s First XI: the extraordinary story of JM Barrie’s cricket team by Kevin Telfer.
Until next time this has been A Writer’s Tale.