Canadians who weren’t bowled over by cricket
Canadian soldiers braved the worst the trenches could throw at them — but found one thing about World War One hard to take: cricket!
By 1918, three large hotels and a hospital in Buxton were turned over to the rehabilitation of Canadian forces injured in the fighting, and sport played a great part in getting them back to fitness, research in advance of Buxton International Festival’s book programme has found.
The Buxton Canadians even raised a scratch baseball team which put up a very creditable fight against a tough American side, losing 3-1 in front of a crowd of 8,000 in Manchester.
And they also showed their mettle at cricket against Buxton CC, holding the more experienced side to a draw.
But Lieutenant R Matthews, writing in The Canadian Hospital News August 1918 edition, wished the Brits would get a move on and bring their national game up to date.
“We love the game, nearly as well as we love baseball, but Saturday’s game was typical of that slowness which to our minds spoils the game,” he wrote.
“Cricket really must get a hustle on if it wants to stand up against baseball as a Summer game. To put it mildly, more pep is required.”
The copy of The Canadian Hospital News was discovered by Cynthia Jennings , one of the Friends group which supports Buxton International Festival. She spotted it during her work as a volunteer at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery.
The Museum building itself was one of the hotels — then called the Peak Hydro — requisitioned to house the Canadian soldiers, and the town was referred to as No 1 Canadian Discharge Depot in military circles.
The Festival will be featuring World War One and how its centenary was remembered when Jenny Waldman, who programmed the remarkable 14-18 NOW project of arts experiences across the UK, speaks about her project which involved more than 30 million people.
It was one of the largest public art projects ever, resulting in the creation of 350 million artworks, including painting, poetry and dance, as well as the amazing Peter Jackson film of soldiers’ reminiscences set against black-and-white footage which had been brought to new life in colour.
Unfortunately, not all of the Canadian soldiers who came to Buxton survived their wounds, as the town’s Commonwealth War Graves bear testimony.
Buxton Cemetery contains 54 scattered burials of the First World War, 29 of them Canadian. The cemetery also contains 22 Second World War burials, some of them servicemen from the RAF station that was at Harpur Hill at the time.
Buxton’s role in WW1 is explored in one of the Festival walks. For more details on walks and other events in the Festival programme, go to www.buxtonfestival.co.uk
For more about Canadians in Buxton, go to discoverbuxton.co.uk
l Jenny Waldman: 14-18 Now; Five Years of Extraordinary Art Experiences, The Palace Hotel, Buxton, July 15.
Pictured: Jenny Waldman, Buxton Hydro, now Buxton Museum; The Canadian Hospital News.
Visit buxtonfestival.co.uk for more information or telephone 01298 70395.
About Buxton International Festival
Buxton International Festival is one of the UK’s leading arts events taking place in July each year; a cultural celebration of the very best opera, music and literature taking place in the beautiful Peak District. The Festival features the most promising rising stars in the arts world, as well as prominent international singers, artists and literary figures performing in a packed summer programme of in excess of 120 events over a 17-day period to an audience of over 30,000.
The Festival produces three operas alongside a series of concerts given by many leading British and international musicians, and a literary series featuring leading writers and thinkers. Festival venues include the exquisite Matcham-designed Buxton Opera House, St John’s Church and the Pavilion Arts Centre. Together with the Buxton Festival Fringe, the spa town is a haven for arts enthusiasts throughout July each year. The Festival also presents an annual autumn Book Weekend and Outreach Programme.
Buxton International Festival has been presented annually since 1979. The brainchild of Malcolm Fraser, the Head of Opera at the Royal Northern College of Music, who had a vision of making the dilapidated Buxton Opera House, which had been used as a cinema for most of its life, into the home of an annual opera festival. With the help of Welsh National Opera conductor, Anthony Hose, he set about making his dream a reality. The Artistic Director is Adrian Kelly.