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Macartney, Charles George (1886–1958)

by B. G. Andrews

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Charles George Macartney (1886-1958), cricketer, was born on 27 June 1886 at West Maitland, New South Wales, son of Joseph Belton Macartney, Victorian-born house painter and later motor mechanic, and his wife Mary Ann, née Moore. Mary's father George, an intercolonial cricketer in the 1870s, bowled to his young grandson. In 1898 the Macartney family moved to Sydney; educated at the Woollahra Superior and Chatswood Public schools and at Fort Street Model School, Charles began work in a produce store in 1902. That year he joined North Sydney Cricket Club, transferring to Gordon on its foundation in 1905; he remained with Gordon until 1934, scoring 7648 runs and taking 547 wickets. Macartney made his Sheffield Shield début for New South Wales in 1905-06, topped the Sydney first-grade batting and bowling averages in 1906-07, and played his first Test against England in Sydney in December 1907. One of his opponents, noting Macartney's confidence at the wicket, dubbed him the 'Governor-General', a nickname that stuck.

In 1909 Macartney toured England with the Australian team and took 7 wickets for 58 in the third Test at Leeds. Primarily an all-rounder, he hit hard in the middle order, bowled left-arm spin and fielded with verve in front of the wicket. His emergence as an outstanding batsman dates from the refusal of Clem Hill, Victor Trumper, whom he revered, and others to tour England in 1912. He consolidated his reputation on tour with 2207 runs at 45. Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 4 January 1916, he served in France, as temporary warrant officer, from July 1917 with the 3rd Division artillery. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for gallantry in June 1918. The death of his father that year caused him to seek early repatriation and prevented his joining the Australian Services side.

Macartney resumed his Test career for the 1920-21 series and apart from 1924-25, when he had a nervous illness, was a regular Australian player until he retired in October 1927. His most memorable performances were on the 1921 and 1926 tours of England. In 1921 he scored 345 in under four hours against Notts, which remained the highest score by a batsman playing for Australia until 2003; he also led the tourists' batting with 2335 at 58 and was named one of Wisden's cricketers of the year. In 1926 he scored centuries in three Tests; his 151 at Leeds included a famous century before lunch.

Of short stature, strongly featured with a square jaw, his cap characteristically set firmly over his eyes, Macartney was a pugnacious batsman who attacked with an audacious range of shots. In 35 Tests against England and South Africa he scored 2131 runs at just under 42, with seven centuries; in all first-class matches the figures were 15,050 runs at 46, 49 centuries and 419 wickets at 21. With something of Trumper's inventiveness and Bradman's ruthlessness, he was a player whose impertinence captured the imagination of Australian spectators. Macartney received a benefit in February 1927 which yielded over £2500. He also toured Canada and the United States of America in 1913, New Zealand in 1924, Malaya in 1927 and India in 1935.

On 28 December 1921 Macartney had married Anna Bruce at Chatswood Presbyterian Church and henceforth described himself as a civil servant. He also wrote for several Sydney newspapers, in 1936-42 regularly for the Sydney Morning Herald; in 1930 he published My Cricketing Days (London). In World War II he was a lieutenant in the amenities service, and afterwards was a personnel officer at Prince Henry Hospital. Predeceased by his wife and childless, he died of coronary occlusion on 9 September 1958 and was cremated with Congregational forms.

Select Bibliography

  • N. Cardus, Good Days (Lond, 1937)
  • R. Barker and I. Rosenwater, England v Australia: A Compendium of Test Cricket Between the Countries 1877-1968 (Lond, 1969)
  • London Gazette, 17 June 1918
  • Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, 1922, p 276
  • New South Wales Cricket Association, Year Book, 1973-74
  • Gordon District Cricket Club, Annual Report, 1975-76
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Dec 1924, 31 Dec 1925, 16-26 Feb, 22 Mar, 19 Oct 1927, 10, 11 Sept, 11 Nov 1958
  • Table Talk (Melbourne), 14 Jan 1926
  • Sydney Mail, 16 Feb 1927
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 14 Sept 1958.

Citation details

B. G. Andrews, 'Macartney, Charles George (1886–1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/macartney-charles-george-7289/text12641, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 24 November 2017.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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