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Mailey, Alfred Arthur (1886–1967)

by G. P. Walsh

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

Alfred Arthur Mailey (1886-1967), cricketer, cartoonist and journalist, was born on 3 January 1886, at Zetland, South Sydney, third son of John Hambleton Mailey, Melbourne-born carpenter, and his wife Jane Charlotte, née White, of Sydney. At 13 Arthur left Waterloo Public School, and at 16 became a glassblower which helped to strengthen his lungs and fingers. Later he worked for the Metropolitan Board of Water Supply and Sewerage. On 5 May 1913 at St Philip's, Church Hill, he married Maud Gladys Hinchcliffe (d.1937).

Like many Sydney boys devoted to cricket he gravitated to the Domain where he discovered the trick of bowling the 'bosie' or 'wrong un' which he practised to perfection. After a few seasons in lower grades he made his first-class début with Redfern and later joined the Balmain club. Rejected by the army, he became first-grade captain and excelled in assisting underprivileged players including A. Jackson. His record 102 wickets in 13 matches in 1915-16 enabled Balmain to win its first premiership. He later played for Waverley, Manly and Middle Harbour clubs. In 1913 he toured North America and, early in 1914, New Zealand.

Between 1921 and 1926 Mailey played twenty-one Tests for Australia taking 99 wickets at 33.9 runs apiece. He twice toured England where in all matches he captured 287 wickets for less than 20 runs each. In 1920-21 in Australia, bowling in only four Tests, he took 36 wickets at 26.27 runs, a record for an England-Australia series that stood for fifty-seven years. In all first-class and Sheffield Shield (1913-28) matches he took 779 and 180 wickets respectively at 24.1.

One of the greatest right-arm, leg-spin bowlers, Mailey spun the ball considerably, gave it much air and was always cheerfully prepared to 'buy' his wickets. One of his colleagues described his bowling as a mixture of 'spin, flight and sheer fun'. Like most wrist spinners, he was subject to lapses in length, but was always dangerous. His slight physique did not prevent him from bowling long spells.

Mailey was also a talented cartoonist and journalist and had attended J. S. Watkins's art class. He drew cartoons and caricatures for the Sydney Arrow and Bulletin and the London Bystander: in 1921 he joined the staff of the Sydney Sun as sporting cartoonist and cricket writer, later transferring to the Daily Telegraph. He frequently visited England, South Africa and New Zealand with Australian teams and organized many successful 'Arthur Mailey's' touring teams in Australia and a successful official Australian tour of North America in 1932. He covered the 'bodyline' tour in 1932-33 and wrote And then came Larwood (London, 1933) as well as several booklets of anecdotes and sketches.

In World War II Mailey vigorously supported the Federal government's austerity campaign. During his later years he ran a mixed business at Burraneer Bay, Port Hacking, where he enjoyed writing, painting in oils, fishing and golf. The title of his delightful autobiography, 10 for 66 and All That (London, 1958), was inspired by his second-innings bowling figures against Gloucestershire in 1921. Survived by three sons and a daughter, Mailey died at Kirrawee on 31 December 1967 and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Quiet, unassuming, with a dead-pan, mock-angry style of humour, Mailey was one of cricket's most lovable and gentle characters. To him cricket was fun: he abhorred statistics, players taking themselves too seriously or not 'having a go'. Neville Cardus wrote that he 'bowled like a millionaire'. Satirical humorist though he was, Mailey wrote one of the most touching vignettes in the literature of cricket. Bowling as a young man for the first time against his great idol, he had Victor Trumper stumped off his third ball. 'There was no triumph in me', wrote Mailey, 'as I watched the receding figure. I felt like a boy who had killed a dove'.

Select Bibliography

  • A. G. Moyes, Australian Bowlers from Spofforth to Lindwall (Syd, 1953)
  • J. Pollard, Australian Cricket (Syd, 1982)
  • D. Frith, The Slow Men (Syd, 1984)
  • People (Sydney), 6 Aug 1950
  • Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, 1968
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 22 Dec 1924, 31 Dec 1925, 16 Feb 1932, 9 Dec 1940, 12 Sept, 12, 29 Oct 1942, 14, 15 Jan, 20 Mar 1956, 15 Nov 1967, 2, 4 Jan 1968, 10 Oct 1970
  • Times (London), 1 Jan 1968
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 2 Jan 1968
  • Mercury (Hobart), 2 Jan 1968
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 2 Jan 1968
  • Australian, 4 Jan 1968.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Mailey, Alfred Arthur (1886–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mailey-alfred-arthur-7464/text13001, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 25 September 2018.

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

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