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Poidevin, Leslie Oswald Sheridan (1876–1931)

by James Prior

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Leslie Oswald Sheridan Poidevin (1876-1931), cricketer, tennis player and medical practitioner, was born on 5 November 1876 at Merrilla, New South Wales, only child of Napoleon Richard Poidevin, schoolteacher, and his wife Emma, née Crowther, both born at Collector, near Goulburn. After attending various public schools, he was a pupil-teacher at Burraga (1889-90) and Camperdown (1892). Holding a half-scholarship at Fort Street Training School from December 1893, he began an arts degree at the University of Sydney and taught at Glebe and Redfern Superior Public schools (1895), Fort Street Model School (1896-97) and Glebe (1898). Returning to the university, he graduated B.A. in 1900, then passed first-year medicine.

From his earliest years, Poidevin showed ability in cricket and tennis. He invented the 'Poidevin grip' by which forehands and backhands were played with the same side of the racquet. As a teacher he had almost daily opportunities to instruct youngsters in both games. He played cricket for Glebe and in 1895-96 toured New Zealand with the New South Wales side, heading the batting averages. In his first Sheffield Shield game in January 1901 against South Australia, Poidevin made 140 not out, taking the score to 918. Against A. C. MacLaren's English team he made 151 not out. He also played competition tennis, winning the Sydney University singles championship in 1899 and the Queensland men's singles title in 1899 and 1900.

In 1902 Poidevin went to England to continue his medical studies at the Victoria University of Manchester and qualified as a licentiate of the Royal colleges of Physicians and Surgeons, Edinburgh, and of the Royal Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow, in 1908. Meanwhile he was reserve with the 1902 Australian Test team, and was also signed to the London County Cricket Club by its colourful captain and secretary Dr W. G. Grace. In the 1903 season Poidevin headed the batting aggregate and averages. He twice played for the Gentlemen against the Players at Lord's.

In his first year in county cricket Poidevin, playing for Lancashire, made over 1200 runs. Next year he scored three centuries and by 1905 was acknowledged as a first-rank batsman, his aggregate reaching almost 1500. He had a strong defence on all kinds of wickets and was described as an all-round, resourceful hitter. He continued to play competition tennis, winning many European trophies including the Swiss open singles championship (1906) and the European championship doubles with H. A. Parker (1909), and represented Australasia with Anthony Wilding in the 1906 Davis Cup, narrowly losing to the United States of America.

Visiting Sydney in 1909 Poidevin married Isabel Marianne Barns on 23 February at St Philip's Church. Returning in 1911, he registered on 8 February and practised at Cremorne, later moving to Bondi. In 1915 he was appointed medical officer in the Department of Public Instruction. He resumed playing cricket for New South Wales and captained Waverley Cricket Club, leading the side to victory for three successive years in 1920-23. He was a State selector and, after retiring as a player, continued to coach and lecture. The Poidevin-Gray Shield Competition, which he established in 1926 with a close friend and admirer F. P. J. Gray, continues to encourage young players. His interests extended to rowing and he later won sundry golfing trophies.

Poidevin supported himself in Britain by writing articles on sport for the Manchester Guardian, The Times and other journals. He contributed to many anthologies and books on cricket, in Australia wrote reports for the Sydney Morning Herald, the Sydney Mail and the Referee, and established a short-lived sports magazine. His simple and direct style led (Dame) Mary Gilmore to describe his cricket reports as 'literature'. Of medium height, Poidevin possessed a quiet confidence and authority that commanded respect. Survived by his wife, son and daughter, he died after a brief illness on 19 November 1931 at his Waverley home and was buried with Anglican rites in South Head cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • L. H. Brown, Victor Trumper and the 1902 Australians (Lond, 1902)
  • P. C. Standing, Cricket of Today and Yesterday (Lond, 1902)
  • A. W. Myers, The Complete Lawn Tennis Player (Lond, 1908)
  • F. Laver, The Cricket Dispute (Melb, 1912)
  • Lawn Tennis Association of Australasia, 1912 Souvenir of the International Lawn Tennis Championship (Syd, 1912)
  • D. C. Coombe, A History of the Davis Cup (Lond, 1949)
  • A. G. Moyes, Australian Cricket (Syd, 1959)
  • Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, 1904, 1908
  • Cricket Blue Book (London), 1909
  • Daily Mirror (Sydney), 5 June 1965
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 20 Nov 1931
  • private information.

Citation details

James Prior, 'Poidevin, Leslie Oswald Sheridan (1876–1931)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/poidevin-leslie-oswald-sheridan-8070/text14083, published in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 19 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

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