Archie Jackson

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



  1. Wonderful. Thanks Glen.
    Archie Jackson was part of the triumvirate of champions cut down in their prime during the Depression – together with Les Darcy and Phar Lap.
    I remember reading about him as a kid growing up. It was hard to understand how someone so young and talented could die so young. Didn’t they have hospitals and doctors, I would wonder? Now I understand that the environment was tough for a working class boy growing up in the early 20th century. Poor housing, nutrition and sanitation doubtless robbed us of many champions.
    People always wrote of Archie Jackson as having the grace and elegance of Victor Trumper. So much more romantic appeal than the cold eyed assassin of Bradman.

  2. Fantastic article Glen. I’ve read about his 164 on debut before, all who reported on it rated it extremely highly. One of the saddest stories of a young talent lost prematurely. Thanks for reminding us all of Archie.

  3. Great article Glen

    I bought a book called ‘Bradman’s first tour’ in the early eighties, and atypically, it consists of only daily newspaper cut outs of the 1930 England your. The concept works brilliantly well and its great to see that publishers are doing the same with Gideon Haighs daily journals of recent ashes series. Anyway, thumbing through that book as a kid, I was captivated the way Bradman’s and Archie Jackson’s emerging talents were unfolding through the early tour games. Thanks to that book, Archie Jackson’s short unfulfilled career still shines brightly in my reminiscences.

    PS. If u come across ‘Bradman’s first tour’ I urge you to buy it. It’s a must for every collection

  4. Great stuff – I remember as a kid reading an article in the Australian Cricketer about Archie Jackson so I’m familiar with the great talent and his untimely end.

    It’s a salutary reminder about how recently medical science has advanced to protect us from diseases like TB.

  5. Dave Goodwin says

    Wonderful article. Reminds me that Mike Lucas, stalwart multi-premiership club captain of Northern Suburbs in Brisbane (the club also of Ian Healy) and one-time Sheffield Shield captain of Queensland in the early 70s (pre-GSChappell) once mentioned to me he was custodian of “Archie Jackson’s pads”. Mike, if you’re out there mate, it might be time for those pads to find their way to the right museum by the time of the 80th anniversary of Archie’s death – in 4 weeks!

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