Melbourne Cricket Club - Formation of the MCC XXIX Club
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Formation of the MCC XXIX Club

Some of the founding members of the MCC XXIX Club at the 50th anniversary dinner in 2006It does no harm to delve into history, if only for the nostalgic memories of the past.

It has been suggested that in 1956 "Dasher" Daniel, Keith Rigg, Max Haysom, "Groper" Green and I happened to get together and form the XXIX Club. It wasn't quite like that. Rather than being a case of "spontaneous generation", the club rather "rose like a Phoenix from the ashes".

Those of you who still have the original report 1956/57 may care to read (for few will remember) of the teams taken away to the country before and immediately after the Second World War by Su Aitken, Hec Donahoo, and Stan Rogerson. With the tearing up of the MCG for the 1956 Olympic Games, social cricket was, for a time, abandoned.

Quite fortuitously, I was in Oxford for two years about that time. I had been introduced to the pleasures of English cricket, and in particular was greatly impressed and delighted by the art form known as the annual dinner; a play in which the actors dressed in black and white, were regaled by after dinner speakers of extraordinary wit and enthusiasm.

Upon my return home, being unwilling to forgo these pleasures, but unable to do anything effectively on my own, I was fortunate to find enthusiastic support from several players of my vintage and two general committeemen in Keith Tolhurst and Keith Rigg, who were willing and able to avoid the hidden rocks of the anti-Sunday cricket establishment and still deliver a child legitimised by the MCC.

This child soon to become the XXIX Club (the name "the MCC Bulls" having been pronounced too way-out for the MCC Committee), fell easily into the gap left by the earlier social teams, but had the added virtue of being a formal sub-section of the MCC with its own Committee, cap, tie and annual dinner, and, in due course, its Permanent Back Stop.

I think that I, more than anyone, was delighted by the success (due mostly to the indefatigable Tom Leather) of the first season's games.

The climax of it all was the first annual dinner at Fontainbleu in 1957 for in its annual dinner I believe is sublimated all the social pleasure of a cricket club. Graced by Lindsay Hassett, the dinner, almost course for course and speaker for speaker, was quite intentionally moulded on the 21st annual dinner of the South Oxfordshire Amateurs CC that had so enthused me in 1954.

It is for this reason that I have always believed S.O.A. to be the unwitting father of the XXIX Club (there was so much free champers that night that the father would have been none the wiser), and accordingly, made strenuous efforts to be at its 50th annual dinner when I was able to make a presentation representing both congratulations and thanks from the XXIX Club.

But no child can be fathered without a mother, and it was the MCC through the enthusiasm of a number of senior players and committeemen of 1956, who saw the foetus through its gestation and delivery, later to name it XXIX in recognition of the fact the cricketers never grow old.

Several of the original and early members have become general committeemen in the course of time. It is my hope that such close association of the XXIX Club with the higher echelon of the mother club will continue to the mutual benefit of both.

By Ian 'Doc' McDonald.

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