Posted by: nestaquin | March 18, 2008

In Memory of Bill Brown

Old BillIt is with a heavy heart that once again the 2007/08 wrap is interrupted by recent news from the world of cricket. Bill Brown, Australia’s oldest surviving Test player passed away in Brisbane last night after 95 years of serving his family and country with humility, courage and poise.

There are few within the Australian cricketing family that are not saddened by his demise. He was the grandfather of the baggygreen and his loss is deeply felt within the fraternity.

It is regretably the end of an era. Old Bill, as he was affectionately known, was the last surviving Australian player pre-WWII and probably our most loved former captain. Softly spoken and forever self-depreciating, Bill was a great storyteller who still made guest appearances well into his 90’s and never charged a cent for his time. His wisdom, experience and wit will be sorely missed.

An Invincible, Bill’s international career began at Trent Bridge in 1934. He was an intelligent and reliable opener who often provided the perfect foil for Bradman’s later exploits. Bill was more of an artist than a tradesman at the crease and he was known more for his placement than his power. In his second Test, at Lords, he secured his maiden Test century. The home of cricket was a ground that became a personal favourite.

During the first televised Test, at Lords in 1938, Bill carried his bat scoring 206 and I presume those wealthy enough to possess a television witnessed a sublime innings. No opening batsman since has achieved a greater total when not out at innings close. He once remarked that his proudest moment was when he took his grandson up to the Long Room to see his name in gold on those hallowed boards. Lords held a special place in Bill’s heart as it does for many within the cricketing world.

Like many of his generation he lost his best years and more than his fair share of mates to WWII where he served his community with distinction. A RAAF pilot who served in New Guinea during the failed Japanese invasion of Northern Australia he never marched on ANZAC Day because he felt he “didn’t do enough”.

The first match after the war was the inaugural Test against New Zealand and Bill was given the honour and responsibility of captaining the side. The year after against India at the MCG Bill was the victim of the questionable tactics of Indian bowler Vinoo Mankad for the second time in consecutive matches.

Mankaded in Sydney, Bill spoke to Vinoo about the dismissal after play and Vinoo gave his word that if there was ever to be a repeat he would warn him first. Proving himself a man with little honour Vinoo repeated the tactic, without warning, when Bill was on 99. Not unlike recent events this summer passed, there are two sides to this story. Ultimately it depends upon who you would prefer to believe. However, one fact is beyond question, Indian and Australian cricket has a long bitter history of unsportsmanlike behaviour.

Leaving that argument for another day, Old Bill was patience, strength, humility and forgiveness personified. News Ltd journalist, Robert Craddock visited him at his bedside the day before he passed on and Bill was as fearless facing death as he was confronting Japanese shrapnel or the new ball on an uncovered greentop.

Yesterday, Australia lost one of it’s greatest men. His memory will be undoubtedly cherished.

He is survived by his wife Barbara, sons Peter, Geoffrey and Steve, his ten grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.



  1. Wonderful, wonderful stuff – you’ve done him proud.

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