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Garrett, Thomas William (Tom) (1858–1943)

by K. J. Cable

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Thomas William Garrett (1858-1943), cricketer and civil servant, was born on 26 July 1858 at Wollongong, New South Wales, second son of Thomas Garrett, newspaper proprietor and politician, and his first wife Mary Ann Elizabeth, née Creagan. He was educated at Newington College, where his ability as a cricketer and sprinter was encouraged by the assistant master Joseph Coates. In 1873 he matriculated at the University of Sydney and attended lectures for several terms. In January next year his father secured for him a clerkship in the Department of Lands; he transferred to the Supreme Court in 1876 and was admitted as a solicitor on 25 February 1882. He became registrar of probates in 1890, curator of intestate estates as well in 1896, and public trustee in 1914. When he retired in 1924 his staff had increased from 14 to 67 and some 25,000 estates involving over £10 million had passed through his office. That year he returned to practise as a solicitor and at 81 still attended his office daily.

A promising young all-rounder, Garrett was chosen as a bowler in the 'Grand Combination Match' against James Lillywhite's professional team in Melbourne in 1877. In what was to be recognized as the first Test Match he made the second highest score of 18 not out to Charles Bannerman's monumental 165. He was a member of the 1878-79 overseas tour and played for over fourteen months in Britain, North America and at home. With only eleven regular members, he did much bowling, taking 291 wickets (146 in England). He played in the match in which the Australians defeated the Marylebone Cricket Club in a single day. A strict amateur, he found that his civil service duties and prospects for promotion restricted his opportunities in international cricket, but he visited England with the third touring side in 1882, participating inconspicuously in the famous 'Ashes' Test at the Oval. On the fifth Australian tour in 1886, an injury to F. R. Spofforth obliged Garrett to take a heavy bowling load. He was able to represent Australia more often at home, playing in fifteen of the first nineteen Test matches. In all Tests he scored 339 runs with a top score of 51 and took 35 wickets, half of these in three matches in the 1881-82 summer.

From the 1894-95 season to that of 1897-98, Garrett captained the New South Wales team, achieving success as a batsman. His best year was 1897 when, aged 38, he scored 131 against South Australia and its great fast bowler, Ernest Jones; some months afterwards, he top-scored in his colony's second innings against A. E. Stoddart's visiting English team. His tactful and experienced leadership gave his side the Sheffield Shield on two occasions. More important, Garrett was the mentor of many young players, including Victor Trumper. He led the university cricket club for many years until a dispute about eligibility for membership led to his break with the officials.

After retiring from the field, Garrett gave time to the administration of the game and became a life member of the New South Wales Cricket Association. He was also a prominent golfer. He was something of a legend when he died at Warrawee, Sydney, on 6 August 1943; he was cremated with Anglican rites. He was survived by his wife Helen Alice Maude, daughter of John Applewhaite, a sea captain, whom he had married on 25 March 1879 at St James' Church, Sydney, and by four sons and three daughters. On his diamond wedding anniversary, Garrett received a congratulatory message from the M.C.C. on behalf of all cricketers in England.

A tall, lean man, with a neat beard, Garrett was a fierce hitter who later steadied down. A fine cover fieldsman, he was best known as a bowler. He bowled above medium pace, with a high action, and could turn the ball either way. Wisden reported that 'on hard ground many good judges regarded him as more effective than Spofforth or Boyle'.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of N.S.W. (Syd, 1907)
  • S. M. W. Brogden and J. Arlott, The First Test Match (Lond, 1950)
  • John Wisden's Cricketers' Almanack, 1944, p 314
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 27 June, 1 July 1924, 7 Aug 1943
  • 'The Last Survivor', Times (London), 11 Aug 1943, p 5
  • University of Sydney Cricket Club minutes, 1874-1900 (University of Sydney Archives).

Citation details

K. J. Cable, 'Garrett, Thomas William (Tom) (1858–1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/garrett-thomas-william-tom-6282/text10831, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 16 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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