The wonderful Paul Kelly song, Bradman, has that verse re the 1930 Australian tour of England. He sings, All of Jackson’s grace failed him, it was Bradman, was the power. Who is the Jackson , Paul Kelly sings about, and what grace filled him? Allow me to elaborate as we approach the eightieth anniversary of the death of Archie Jackson.
Jackson born in Rutherglen Scotland came to Australia with his family when aged 2 . As a teenager Jackson showed great promise with the bat. Aged 15 he made his first grade debut for the Balmain Cricket club. One who saw great promise in him was HV “Doc” Evatt, the future ALP federal leader. A stellar 1926-27 season saw Jackson peel off 879 runs, at 87.9, a club record. He graduated smoothly to the New South Wales Sheffield Shield side, and soon began scoring centuries in first class ranks.
Archie Jackson made his test debut aged 19 in the 1928-29 Ashes series, the same series Sir Donald Bradman first played for Australia. Despite struggling when selected in a Test trial at the MCG, Jackson performed well in Sheffield Shield matches leading up to his selection for the fourth test. In his debut test , at Adelaide, he scored a chanceless 164 of 287 runs scored, in 368 minutes. His knock allowed Australia to recover from 3-19 to finish with a tally of 369. This century made him the youngest player , at that stage, to have scored a test ton. None the less the Australians lost, by a bare 12 runs. 4-0 down after the Adelaide test, a victory at Melbourne in the final test spared us the ultimate humiliation of a 5-0 drubbing. For Australian cricket lovers the emergence of two, exciting young batsmen in Bradman, and Jackson gave promises of what might be.
Jackson was considered a classy strokemaker. His batting was renowned as elegant, with superb timing and placement. Wristy stroke making, swift feet, all contributed to an artistry as a batsman. Cover drives were forte for this elegant young Australian.
Yet ongoing ill health concerns visited him. Psoriasis, and tonsiliitis amongst the ailments which afflicted him. In the summer of 1929-30 poor health resticted him to only a handful of first class appearances, and even in district ranks his game time was limited. Despite being confronted by illness he scored a classy 168 no against Arthur Gilligans’ English team, which was on its way to play in New Zealand. He toured England in 1930, but was wracked by ill health. He did not appear regularly , though he played a major role in the final test at the Oval. Jackson and Bradman shared a fourth wicket stand of 234, which remains an Australian test record at the Oval. Their stand played no small part in Australias victory, as we regained the Ashes.
When the West Indies toured here in the summer of 193o0-31 he again wore the baggy green cap. In Australia’s easy 4-1 series victory , he played 4 tests, batting 5 time. His highest score was 70 not out, as he had a series average of 31. He showed steady hands in the field taking 6 catches.
Ongoing health problems followed him, continue to take their toll. A lung disease ravaged him in 1931. His health continued declining. Jackson had a nasty episode early in the 1931-32 sesason, collapsing prior to a Sheffield Shield game, vomiting blood. By early 1932 a diagnosis of tuberculosis was confirmed. He spent time in a sanitorium in the Blue Mountains, then headed north to the warmer climes of Queensland, where he settled with his fiancee Phylis Thomas, a ballet dancer . For the 1932-33 season he started well on the cricket field, but darker clouds loomed on the horizon .
Playing district cricket in Brisbane, the season commenced with him in fine mettle. He appeared for Northern Suburbs, averaging just under 160 in his seven inings. All this, despite medical advice warning him not to play; at times he was so unwell he could not run between the wickets.
On February 1 1933, suffering a severe pulminary haemorrhage, he was rushed to hospital. The tuberculosis spreading to his lungs was a death knell, as he never left hospital. These final days of his short life coincided with Australia playing England in a test at the Gabba, which started on February 10. During this sad period teammates visited him in hospital. There is a story of him forwarding a telegram to English fast bowler Harold Larwood. In it he stated, ” Congratulations magnificent bowling. Good luck all matches.”
Jackson passed away on February 16 1933. He was barely 23 years of age. His final journey saw him travel on the same train as the Australian and English teams, heading back from their concluded test, to their next encounter in Sydney. The Field of Mars cemetry, in Sydney is his last resting place. In his brief career he had a first class batting average of 46.31. His Sheffield Shield average was higher being 54.65, with an even more impressive average in his four Ashes tests, being 58.33. An overall test average of 47.40, reflects the peaks and troughs of his brief career. Who knows where he might have gone in his cricketing endeavours.
Vale Archie Jackson