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Wardill, Richard Wilson (1835–1873)

by Louis R. Cranfield

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

Richard Wilson Wardill (1835-1873), cricketer, was born near Liverpool, Lancashire, England, son of Joseph Wilson Wardill, stockbroker, and his wife Mary, née Briddon. He migrated to Melbourne about 1858 and began his cricketing career. In the 1858-59 season he topped the aggregate of the Richmond Cricket Club second XI with 108 runs. Next year he transferred to the Melbourne Cricket Club and was its honorary secretary until 1863. He excelled as an opening batsman and in 1862 was selected to play for Victoria against New South Wales. The same year he played for the combined Victoria-New South Wales team against Stephenson's first All England XI in Melbourne. He soon won repute as a cricketer and all-round sportsman; in 1866 he was a delegate at a conference to formulate the rules of Australian Football. He captained the Melbourne Cricket Club against the Edenhope Aboriginal Team on Boxing Day 1866 when about 11,000 saw his team have a hard fight to win.

Wardill was also a capable administrator. In 1864 he suggested in a letter to the press the formation of a central organization to arrange intercolonial matches and also administer the game. He became honorary secretary of a provisional committee, and the Victorian Cricket Association was formed at a meeting in the Clarence Hotel on 10 October with W. C. Haines as first president. In 1867 it was forced into recess and intercolonial matches were arranged by the Melbourne Cricket Club until the association was reorganized in 1875.

In 1872-73 Wardill had serious personal problems probably because of speculation in mining shares; he embezzled £7000 from his employers, the Victoria Sugar Co. On 17 August 1873, aged 38, he committed suicide by jumping into the Yarra River; he left a note saying that his defalcations had taken place over two years. Many adverse statements were made against him in the press, but the cricketing fraternity rallied to his defence, and W. J. Hammersley of the Australasian wrote, 'Amongst cricketers there will be one feeling, that of sorrow; for, great as Mr. Wardill's crime must now be regarded, it is but doing him bare justice to state that cricket in Victoria is greatly indebted to him for its present position'.

Wardill was one of the finest cricketers to play in the colonies prior to the commencement of the Anglo-Australian Tests in 1877. For Victoria he made 348 runs for an average of 31. He also made over 400 runs a year in club cricket in Melbourne during the 1860s. He was survived by his wife, Eliza Helma Lovett, née Cameron, whom he had married at Richmond in 1871, and by his son.

His brother, Benjamin Johnston (1842-1917), cricket administrator, was born on 15 October 1842 at Everton, Liverpool, Lancashire, and was educated at the Collegiate Institute at Liverpool. He migrated to Melbourne in 1861 and worked for several years with Richard at the office of the Victoria Sugar Co. Joining the garrison artillery soon after his arrival, he rose to the rank of major in the Harbor Trust Garrison Battery in 1885. Secretary of the Melbourne Cricket Club from 30 April 1878 to February 1911, he retired owing to ill health; the membership had increased from 572 to 5353. He organized and managed the 1886 Australian tour of England which was arranged by the club and later managed the tours of 1899 and 1902. Wardill was largely successful in his aim to make the Melbourne Cricket Club the Australian counterpart of the famous Marylebone Cricket Club in England, and his influence on Charles Bannerman, F. R. Spofforth, Clem Hill, Victor Trumper and others helped them lay the foundations of the Anglo-Australian Test cricket series.

Wardill was also a capable all-round sportsman; as a cricketer he was a solid batsman and a useful round-arm bowler, playing once for Victoria in 1866. He also excelled as a rifleman and in 1876 was a member of an Australian team which toured the United States of America and shot at the Philadelphia International Exhibition. He died of heart disease on 15 October 1917 and was buried in the Anglican section of St Kilda cemetery; he was survived by his wife Elizabeth Mary, née King; a daughter had died in infancy.

Select Bibliography

  • F. J. Ironside, 50 Years of Cricket (Syd, 1895)
  • K. Dunstan, The Paddock That Grew (Melb, 1962)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 18 Aug–6 Sept 1873, 16 Oct 1917
  • Herald (Melbourne), 18 Aug–6 Sept 1873
  • Australasian, 23 Aug 1873
  • Punch (Melbourne), 11 Nov 1909
  • Town and Country Journal, 24 Oct 1917.

Citation details

Louis R. Cranfield, 'Wardill, Richard Wilson (1835–1873)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wardill-richard-wilson-4803/text8005, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 20 April 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

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