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The occasionally uplifting story of Albert Moss

Discussion in 'Cricket Discussion' started by Aislabie, Dec 23, 2018.

  1. Aislabie Custodian of the MCC Snuffbox

    Aislabie
    Ireland
    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2010
    Location:
    Wales
    I originally posted this to Reddit yesterday, but thought y'all might enjoy it.

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    Albert Edward Moss, 03 Oct 1863 - 11 Dec 1945

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    Fast bowler Albert Moss, photographed amongst a cricket team.

    Few have heard of former Canterbury fast bowler Albert Edward Moss, and given that he played all of four first-class matches there would usually be very little reason for them to have done. Born in Coalville, Leicestershire in 1863, he made the difficult decision to emigrate as a young man to escape the spread of tuberculosis through his family. It meant leaving behind his fiancée, Mary Hall, with the aim that they would be reunited in New Zealand.

    He settled in Canterbury, New Zealand; where cricket had been a recreational activity for him in England, it increasingly became a way of life as he crafted a fearsome reputation for himself as a fast bowler at club level for Lancaster Park. His numbers spoke for themselves and demanded his selection for a first-class debut against Wellington at Hagley Oval in 1889. Batting at number eleven, his debut began inauspiciously as he was out for a duck, caught by Henry Lawson to become Charles Dryden's seventh wicket in the innings.

    The debutant was entrusted with the new ball, and would be running in with the full weight of his reputation thundering behind him. With only three runs on the board, he struck: Wellington captain William Salmon out, caught behind by wicketkeeper George Marshall. Moments later, the dangerous Robert Blacklock was out too, caught by Charles Garrard. Malcolm Moorhouse became Moss' third wicket and Marshall's second dismissal before the score had reached double figures. After that, Arthur Blacklock was clean bowled to become victim four; Dryden snicked off (caught again by Marshall) for number five, and Edgar Brooke was caught by Edward Cotterill to make it six for Moss.

    A small recovery partnership between William McGirr and Alexander Littlejohn did to some extent stop the rot - or at least it did until the former was out caught by Edward Barnes - Moss had found his way back into the wickets. He would complete the rest of his astonishing haul without the assistance of any other fielders: Sydney Nicholls (eight) was caught-and-bowled, before William Ogier (nine) and Henry Lawson (ten) were both clean bowled.

    In his first 129 deliveries in first-class cricket Albert Moss had claimed ten wickets and conceded only 28 runs. He had also strung together ten maidens on his way to recording the best bowling figures in first-class cricket history at the time, overhauling Samuel Butler's 10 for 38 taken in 24.1 four-ball overs in the 1871 Varsity Match. This record would later be equalled by Bill Howell in 1899, and beaten by Ernie Vogler in 1906, then by George Geary in 1929, by Hedley Verity in 1932 and finally by Premangsu Chatterjee in 1957. It remains the fifth-greatest innings analysis in the history of first-class history, which includes some 60,000 matches, and Moss had achieved it on his very first try. Surely he was destined for a great career?

    In his second bowling effort, he again claimed the first two wickets for his team, clean bowling Littlejohn and Blacklock. However, Frederick Harman would end up starring, claiming five wickets while Moss would take only one more, ending with "only" thirteen for the match and overall figures of 46.3-16-72-13.



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    A newspaper clipping of Moss's ten-wicket haul.

    Later that season, he would take eight wickets for 72 in the match against Auckland, then four more wickets and score his first ever runs against a strong New South Wales team (including innings figures of three for 57 in 45 five-ball overs when he bowled unchanged from one end), and finally only one wicket against Otago.

    While this was an objectively excellent return for a maiden season of first-class cricket, there was also a clear trend of diminishing returns that doesn't take a mathematician to identify. But that downward trend did not extend - yet - to the rest of Moss' life: he was overjoyed to be reunited with Mary, and they married in June 1890. Shortly after that, at a celebratory event at Lancaster Park Cricket Club, he was presented with his ten-wicket ball, mounted with an inscription relating to its provenance.

    He would lose the ball, and his wife, his cricket career, and almost his own life within months. Troubled by migraines, erratic and irrational behaviour, his doctor had incorrectly diagnosed Moss with tuberculous meningitis and advised rest; a more modern diagnosis would likely be bipolar personality disorder, amplified by the frequent migraines. Regardless, Moss could not rest; he had no choice but to work, for there were bailiffs looking to reclaim money he didn't have and threatening to tear apart the home he had only just finished creating for himself. On one winter morning, Moss' sanity snapped completely.

    To avoid too many lurid details, Albert Moss attacked his wife Mary with a blade, striking her more than once around the head and neck area. Despite her injuries, she managed to escape the clutches of her deranged husband, who attempted to turn the blade on himself. He more than partially succeeded in cutting his own throat, ultimately being saved by passers-by, including a certain Dr John Tweed, who had come running at the sound of Mary's screams.

    Once he was fit to stand trial for attempting to kill his wife, Moss did so. The trial was not to establish whether he had tried to kill Mary: that much was self-evident and accepted by all parties. The question was whether or not he could be held criminally responsible. At the first attempt, there was a mistrial as a result of a hung jury; a new jury was summoned for a full retrial, and after only eighty minutes of deliberations they found him not guilty of attempted murder by reason of insanity, but ordered that he be imprisoned until he was deemed to be fit for release.

    Despite everything, Mary continued to write affectionately to Albert while he was incarcerated. She did not intend to live with him again - to do so would, based on all available evidence, be putting herself entirely in harm's way, but she did want to offer him support as best she could. She was conflicted, and by the end of 1893 had made a decision: she moved to Marlborough, and explained that though she still cared for him, after the events that had led to his incarceration she did not believe she could ever see him again. She then wrote to the Colonial Secretary, explaining that she wanted the best for her husband - including his liberty - but also that she never wanted to see him again. Inspector of Prisons Arthur Hume came up with the solution that he would guarantee Moss his liberty, on the proviso that he agreed to leave the colony and never to return.

    Moss consented, and tried to remake his life in Montevideo, Uruguay. Alone and lonely, he was thoroughly miserable: back in gainful employment on the railways, he was also able to fund an increasing dependency on alcohol to get through the days. He managed to secure a new position working on South African railways, and moved to his fourth continent in two decades. Once there, his depression did not lessen, and nor did his alcohol consumption. Both reached their depths in 1904 when he was served with divorce papers from New Zealand. The papers cited grounds of "wilful abandonment" and bore the signatures of the now ex-wife he still loved, and his own lawyer from the 1890 court case.

    He saw nothing left to live for, and resolved to throw himself into the ocean.



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    An older, greyer Moss found a new lease of life with the Salvation Army.

    He did not throw himself into the ocean. Instead, he threw himself into the Salvation Army. Sources suggest that he worked tirelessly from that time onwards to help recently released prisoners to turn their lives around. One source in particular reported on his deeds: War Cry, the Salvation Army's own publication. An almost certainly apocryphal story recounts how a copy of this edition of War Cry quite literally fell across Mary Moss' path while she was on a walking tour of the North Island. She picked it up and saw a name she knew very well.

    Whatever the true details of how she found out about her ex-husband, shortly afterwards, Albert received a package in the mail. Inside was a mounted and engraved cricket ball, proclaiming that A.E. Moss, of Lancaster Park Cricket Club, had taken ten wickets for 28 runs for Canterbury against Wellington a quarter-century before. It was accompanied by a note: "Now I know where you are, I think you might like this souvenir of your cricket days."

    Albert and Mary exchanged increasingly loving letters for three years. Mary also exchanged letters with the Salvation Army, who assured her that Albert was a changed, reformed and stable man. She made the voyage out to South Africa in 1918, and they remarried into a far happier union than their first.

    In 1925, Mary's health began to decline, and the pair returned to England to see out their old age together. Mary died in 1928, and Albert lived out his final seventeen years as a widower.

    As for his ball, shortly before his death he sent it back to his beloved Lancaster Park Cricket Club. The Club did not treat it with the love and care he would have hoped, and it ended up being given to Salvation Army officer Rodney Knight as an alternative to landfill. Rodney Knight died in 2005 and as of 2017, his son plans to donate it to the New Zealand Cricket Museum in Wellington.

    - - - - -

    Sources are rather patchy, especially for the second half of this article. I have done my best to either exclude or indicate anything that seems overly apocryphal.
     
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  2. CerealKiller Staff Member

    CerealKiller
    Moderator Sportsbookie Fantasy Cricket Team PAK... Sons of Pitches Islamabad
    AKA:
    talahayat
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    Simply fantastic!
     
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  3. El Loco Staff Member

    El Loco
    Moderator Infamous Raptors ENG....
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    Great piece! Can I ask how you ended up stumbling across this man's career?
     
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  4. Aislabie Custodian of the MCC Snuffbox

    Aislabie
    Ireland
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    Well, I was looking through first-class ten-wicket hauls because I noticed that Trevor Bailey had one which seemed odd. Then I noticed "AE Moss", a name I didn't recognise, and promptly disappeared down a rabbit hole
     
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  5. DrewBi Club Cricketer

    DrewBi
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    This is great! Thanks for sharing. Did you copy this off a website or did you write this yourself? Either way thanks again for sharing.
     
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  6. Aislabie Custodian of the MCC Snuffbox

    Aislabie
    Ireland
    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2010
    Location:
    Wales
    I wrote it myself
     

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