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Donald (Don) Tallon (1916–1984)

by Ian Diehm

This article was published:

Donald Tallon (1916–1984), cricketer, was born on 17 February 1916 at Bundaberg, Queensland, second of six children of Queensland-born parents William Leslie Tallon, moulder, and his wife Catherine, née Montgomery. Donny was educated at North Bundaberg State School. After finishing primary school he became an apprentice moulder at the Bundaberg Foundry alongside his father.

The Tallon family was devoted to cricket: Donny’s father represented Bundaberg from about 1912 to 1938; one brother, Leslie (Bill), played for Queensland as a leg-spin bowler; another, Matthew, was a leading figure in the development of cricket and hockey in Bundaberg. Aged 13, Donny captained the Queensland schoolboys’ cricket team and kept wickets. In the 1931-32 season he was wicket-keeper for Bundaberg during Country Week in Brisbane. Wearing over-sized pads he made such an impression that the Queensland selectors arranged a private trial for him. Norman Plaisted invited him to move to Brisbane to join the Toombul District Cricket Club for the 1932-33 season and secured a job for him in his sawmill. In February 1933 at Toowoomba Tallon played for a Queensland country team against the touring English team and stumped Herbert Sutcliffe. At the end of the cricket season Tallon returned to Bundaberg.

Tallon played for Queensland in a Sheffield Shield match against Victoria in Brisbane at the age of 17 years and 9 months, but was considered too young to make the southern tour. Instead he played for the Queensland Colts in Sydney. Meanwhile, the Queensland Cricket Association found him a position as a groundsman’s assistant at the Brisbane Cricket Ground.

Selected again for Queensland for the last match of the 1933-34 season, Tallon went on to play 86 matches for his State and was involved in 265 dismissals as a wicket-keeper; 85 were stumpings. He scored 4355 runs at an average of 30.03. He made his highest score of 193 shortly before his twentieth birthday, in a game against Victoria in February 1936. That year he was Queensland’s leading batsman with 503 runs at an average of 55.88. In 150 first-class matches Tallon scored 6034 runs at an average of 29.14, with nine centuries. He also claimed 129 stumpings among his 432 victims—a high ratio of stumpings to catches.

Tallon missed selection for the Australian cricket tour of England in 1938, being passed over for the more experienced Ben Barnett and Charlie Walker. In the following Australian domestic season he equalled two world records, becoming the first Australian wicket-keeper to dismiss twelve batsmen in a match (nine caught and three stumped) and seven in one innings (four stumped and three caught).

Seemingly at the zenith of his career, Tallon was deprived of some of his best years by the outbreak of World War II. On 16 December 1941 he was called up for full-time duty with the 47th Battalion, Citizen Military Forces. He trained in Queensland and played some cricket but suffered a ruptured duodenal ulcer in January 1943 and was discharged from the army as medically unfit on 7 June.

Tallon toured New Zealand in March 1946 in the Australian team, captained by Bill Brown, and kept wickets in the Test at Wellington, where he performed an ‘exceptionally smart piece of stumping’ to dismiss a New Zealand batsman off Bill O’Reilly’s bowling. On 22 June 1946 at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Brisbane, he married Marjorie Isabel Beattie, a nurse; they divorced in 1954. In the 1946-47 series against England, Tallon established himself as Australia’s premier wicket-keeper with twenty dismissals in the five Tests, then a record. He kept superbly to the pace of Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller and the varied spin of Ian Johnson, Colin McCool and George Tribe. Having been a member of the 1948 touring team to England, he was selected to tour South Africa in 1949-50 but withdrew for family and business reasons; he had recently opened a sport store in Bundaberg and his marriage was under strain. Tallon missed the series against the West Indies in 1951-52 through ill health. The following season he was overlooked for the Tests against South Africa but was selected to tour England in 1953. After playing in the first Test, he lost his place to Gil Langley and retired from first-class cricket.

Continuing to play at Bundaberg for more than a decade, Tallon was persuaded to come out of retirement for Lindsay Hassett’s testimonial match in 1954. In recognition of his long service to Queensland cricket, the Queensland Cricket Association, through the Courier-Mail, sponsored a public testimonial fund for Tallon that raised £1690. Tallon took part in 21 Test matches, catching 50 of the 58 batsmen he dismissed, and scoring 394 runs at 17.13, with a highest score of 92. His most celebrated catch was taken from the bowling of Lindwall at the Oval, England, in 1948, when he brilliantly gloved an authentic leg glance to dismiss (Sir) Leonard Hutton.

Tall and lean with a deeply tanned and lined face framed by thick, brown, curly hair, Tallon crouched very low on his heels behind the wickets then released like a coiled spring as the bowler delivered the ball. Behind the stumps his vociferous appeals belied his quiet manner. He was a supreme artist and was such an integral member of the 1948 Australian team that he was named one of Wisden’s five cricketers of the year. Sir Donald Bradman regarded Tallon as a great wicket-keeper and one of the best he had seen.

Tallon was known to his teammates as ‘Deafy’, because he once admitted, after appealing, to not hearing a snick for which the batsman was given out. His hearing was normal, however. On 23 July 1954, at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Bundaberg, he married Lynda Jean Kirchner, a barmaid. In retirement he helped his younger brother, Matt, run a corner store at Bundaberg. Survived by his wife and their two daughters, Tallon died of a cerebrovascular accident on 7 September 1984 at Bundaberg and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Robinson, From the Boundary (1950)
  • J. Pollard, Australian Cricket (1982)
  • R. Cashman et al (eds), The Oxford Companion to Australian Cricket (1996)
  • P. Derriman, The Best of Keepers (2000)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 28 Nov 1933, p 12
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 14 Dec 1946, p 15
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 18 Dec 1953, p 8
  • News-Mail (Bundaberg), 8 Sept 1984, p 6, 10 Sept 1984, p 3
  • B884, item Q25461 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Ian Diehm, 'Tallon, Donald (Don) (1916–1984)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 17 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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