Queenscliff History

The Borough of Queenscliffe commemorated the town’s connection to the Aboriginal Cricket Team that played in England in 1868. Queenscliff is where the team left Victoria in October 1867 for the famous 1868 Tour of England, becoming Australia’s first international sporting team. The team traveled from Queenscliff to Sydney and then left Sydney for England in February 1868.

The commemorative Message Book was on display in Queenscliff during February and was shown to three local primary schools as part of a presentation to students at Queenscliff Primary School, St Aloysius School and Point Lonsdale Primary School on Friday February 28.

The following day the Message Book was officially presented to the Borough of Queenscliffe as part of the commemorative two-day cricket match between Queenscliff and Anglesea at the Queenscliff Recreation Oval on February 29 and March 7.

The Major of the Borough of Queenscliffe, Cr Ross Ebbels, was joined by other Council representatives, Federal Member for Corangamite Libby Coker MP, Wotjobaluk Elder Richard Kennedy and members of the Mullagh Wills Foundation including Chair, Jane Nathan, for the official function in the Queenscliff Recreation Oval social rooms.

Cr Ebbels was thrilled the Borough of Queenscliffe was involved in the special occasion.

“Queenscliff’s Aboriginal history is a significant part of what make this community such a special place. We are delighted to welcome Richard Kennedy to help us commemorate an important step along the long road towards reconciliation that happened here in the Borough.”


Richard Kennedy presented Queenscliffe Mayor, Cr Ebbels with a commemorative message stick during the official ceremony and prior to the match official guests were joined by both cricket teams on the ground  for a traditional ‘Welcome to Country’ and smoking ceremony.

The following Saturday, March 7, the Mullagh Wills trophy was presented to the Anglesea team at the conclusion of the tight game which was decided on the final over. Queenscliff were chasing 208 and with one over remaining they were 9 wickets down for 200. In a very tense final over they scored six runs to be 9 for 206, finishing 2 runs behind the Anglesea total of 208. Appropriately it was an exciting completion to the Mullagh Wills Match.

Mullagh Wills Match Day

The Borough of Queenscliffe is hosting a special Mullagh Wills Foundation ‘Reconciliation through Sport’ event to commemorate the town’s connection to the Aboriginal Cricket Team that played in England in 1868, becoming Australia’s first international sporting team.

The event is being held on Saturday February 29 prior to the Queenscliff v Anglesea cricket match being played at Queenscliff Recreation Oval.

Council representatives will be joined by State and Federal Government representatives, Indigenous Elders, the cricket teams and officials, members of the Mullagh Wills Committee and other special guests to commemorate the Aboriginal Cricket Team leaving Victoria from Queenscliff in November 1867 to travel to England via Sydney.

The winner of the two-day match will be presented with the Mullagh Wills Trophy at the conclusion of the match on Saturday March 7.

As part of these celebrations, the commemorative Message Book has been on display in the Queenscliff Library during February and the Council will include a message in the book. Primary Schools in the Borough will also include a message in the book as part of the Queenscliff celebrations.

The Journey leaves from Queenscliff in 1867
The Aboriginal Cricket Team left from Queenscliff in October 1867 for the 1868 tour of England. The Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines in Victoria refused permission for the Aboriginal Cricket Team to leave Victoria, so the team travelled from Geelong, where they had played a match, on the pretense to be going for a day’s fishing. At the Heads off Queenscliff they boarded ‘Rangatira’ bound for Sydney before then travelling to England. The team played several games in Sydney and regions of NSW before boarding the ‘Paramatta’ on February 8, 1868, arriving in England more than 8 weeks later on May 13.

Support from The Queen

Mullagh Wills Foundation receives letter of support from Buckingham Palace.

Support for the Mullagh Wills Foundation ‘Reconciliation through Sport’ messages and the commemoration of the Aboriginal Cricket Team of 1868 continues to grow.

During the 150th Anniversary celebrations of Australia’s first international sporting team, the 1868 Aboriginal Cricket Team tour of England messages of support were included in the commemorative message book from a number of cricketers and clubs in England

The significance of the Aboriginal Cricket Team achievements in 1868 were further highlighted when separate messages were received from the Commonwealth Secretary General, The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC and a separate letter from Queen Elizabeth.

Message Book in England

The Mullagh Wills Foundation commemorative Message Book and a traditional Aboriginal Message Stick are on display in the Australian High Commission in London as part of the 150th celebrations of the 1868 Aboriginal Cricket Team tour of England.

The Message Book was taken to England by the 2018 National Indigenous teams and was signed by the Australian teams and the Surrey cricket teams during the match at The Oval in early June before being presented to the Australian High Commission.

The Message Stick was made by Aboriginal Elder, Richard Kennedy, who has assisted the Mullagh Wills Foundation over the last few years, and its journey to England was an example of the community support for the Foundation and our ideals.

With little time to get the Message Stick to London, Melbourne radio station 3AW put the call out for volunteers who may be able to assist. One of the people who contacted 3AW was Markus from Mount Egerton near Ballarat. This led to a meeting with Richard Kennedy from Ballarat and the Mullagh Wills Foundation and then the Message Stick was on the way to London.


A handover at the London Underground to Matt Gurry who has been assisting the Foundation in England, ensured the Message Stick would be ready for presentation to the High Commission.

On Tuesday June 26th the Message Book and Message Stick were presented to Australia’s Deputy High Commissioner in London, Matt Anderson by Jane Nathan, Chair of the Mullagh Wills Foundation, (who was in Europe and made the trip to London to represent the Mullagh Wills Foundation), together with Matt Gurry. Members from the Melbourne Cricket Club were also in attendance at this meeting at the Australian High Commission.

The Message Stick will remain with the High Commission while the commemorative Message Book will be on display until October when it will be returned to Australia.

Jimmy Tarpot Cup

The Jimmy Tarpot Cup was a highlight of the 2018 Apsley Racing Club Cup meeting at the Edenhope Racecourse in June. The Jimmy Tarpot Cup is a 100-yard backward race and it was held between races at the Apsley Cup on Sunday June 10th.

The Jimmy Tarpot Cup was introduced at the meeting in 2016 as part of the 150th celebrations of the Aboriginal Cricket Team match against the Melbourne Cricket Club on Boxing Day in 1866. Jimmy Tarpot was a member of the Aboriginal Cricket Team in that match and he is also famous for running 100-yards backwards in 14 seconds as part of the sporting day held on the MCG on December 28, 1866.

The field for the 2018 Jimmy Tarpot Cup included two Bendigo Gift winners, one of whom was also a runner-up in the famous Stawell Gift as well as another athlete who had made two Stawell Gift Finals. Or course running backwards is a different discipline as the six finalists found out while racing down the main straight of the Edenhope racecourse.

The event is supported by the West Wimmera Shire and Aspley Racing Club. In 2016 the Mullagh Wills Foundation ‘Journey to the MCG’ commenced in the West Wimmera and the Message Book was hosted by the West Wimmera Shire and the Apsley Racing Club during the year.

Such was the interest in the event, Melbourne Cup winning jockey Michelle Payne, who rode a horse she also trained during the meeting, had her photo taken with the Jimmy Tarpot Cup finalists as they prepared for the big race.


Dual Stawell Gift finalist, Kevin Brittain was the winner of the 2018 Jimmy Tarpot Cup, he finished ahead of Robbie Spencer, Tom Griffin, Close, David Griffin and Tim Mason in bright sunshine in front of a very enthusiastic crowd. Kevin was crowned the Jimmy Tarpot 100-yards Australian Backwards Champion by the Mayor of West Wimmera.


Jimmy Tarpot

Jimmy Tarpot worked on Bringalbert Station outside of Apsley and was a member of the Aboriginal Cricket Team that was invited to play the Melbourne Cricket Club on the MCG on Boxing Day in 1866. On December 28, 1866 the Aboriginal Cricket team conducted a sports day at the MCG and Jimmy Tarpot thrilled the thousands of people in attendance with the unusual feat of running 100 yards backwards in 14 seconds.

Jimmy (born Murrumgunerrimin) missed the Aboriginal Cricket Team’s famous tour of England in 1868 due to illness. He and his wife Jenny returned to Apsley and he became a highly respected wool classer in the district. Jimmy Tarpot is buried at the Apsley cemetery.


West Wimmera Honour First XI

The West Wimmera Shire Council hosted a series of event across the Shire in late May to honour the 150 Anniversary of the Aboriginal Cricket Team Tour of England in 1868 – The First XI Tour.

The story of the First XI commenced in West Wimmera and the activities during the day included visits and ceremonies at key locations with a strong connection to the Aboriginal Cricketers in the Shire, including:

  • Lake Bringalbert near Apsley – the training site of the Aboriginal Cricketers in the 1860s
  • Edenhope – unveiling of information panels – the cricketers trained beside Lake Wallace in Edenhope.
  • Harrow – Johnny Mullagh Oval and Johnny Mullagh’s gravesite

Players and officials from Cricket Australia and Cricket Victoria attended the events during the day with another highlight being a dinner in Harrow to farewell the 2018 National Indigenous teams before their tour of England which commemorated the famous 1868 Aboriginal Cricket Team tour.

The Mullagh Wills Foundation was represented at the official dinner and presented the commemorative Message Book for signing by the members of the 2018 2018 National Indigenous teams (men and women).

Edenhope celebrates First XI

The 150th Anniversary celebrations of the Aboriginal Cricket Team tour of England in 1868 were a highlight over the Easter weekend in Edenhope in late March.

The West Wimmera Council worked with the local communities to celebrate this anniversary and ensure the incredible story of the Aboriginal Cricket Team, who all came from the Western District of Victoria, is well promoted to all Australians.

The main events in the Edenhope were held on Easter Saturday and Sunday with a celebration cricket match featuring a number of high profile sporting greats, music in the park, a book launch and a special interpretive panel dedication at Bringalbert Lake where many of the original Aboriginal cricketers practiced.

Further details of the successful Easter celebrations, “150 Year Celebrations of Australia’s First XI Cricket Team” are on the official Facebook page click here





Harrow Celebrates in Style

The annual Johnny Mullagh Memorial Cricket Match was one of the highlights of the annual Mullagh Championships weekend in Harrow over the long weekend in March.

Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Australia’s first sporting team to travel overseas, the Aboriginal Cricket Team tour of England in 1868, the local community provided a weekend of celebrations with a number of VIP guests in attendance. Jane Nathan, Chair of the Mullagh Wills Foundation addressed the VIP guests during the luncheon break at the cricket and Aboriginal Leader, Professor Mick Dodson AM, wrote a message in the commemorative Message Book. Other guests at the match included Aboriginal Elder Richard Kennedy who wrote the first official message in the Message Book at the commencement of the Journey to the MCG project at this Mullagh Cricket Match in March 2016.

Adding to the celebrations in 2018 was the Fist XI Legends Concert at Johnny Mullagh Park on Sunday evening.

The annual celebrations are a great reminder of this incredible story which is the highlight of the Discovery Centre in Harrow, housing the Johnny Mullagh Cricket Museum.

Message Book at the SCG

The Mullagh Wills Foundation commemorative Message Book was welcomed to the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on the second day of the Ashes Test on Friday January 5, 2018.

The Chairman of the Sydney Cricket & Sports Ground Trust, Anthony Shepherd AO, welcomed Jane Nathan, Chair of the Mullagh Wills Foundation, to the official luncheon in the SCG Trust Suite on the second day’s play between Australia and England. Mr. Shepherd presented Jane with a message of support for the Mullagh Wills Foundation and commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Aboriginal Cricket Team’s tour to England.

This welcome at the SCG follows the special reception for the Message Book at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Boxing Day in 2016 when the ‘Journey to the MCG’ project was completed following its journey through ten municipalities in Victoria to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Aboriginal Team v MCC match at the MCG on Boxing Day, 1866.

The Message reads:

“The story of the first cricketers to leave Australian shores is every bit as remarkable today as it was when Tom Wills and Johnny Mullagh led their team which later travelled to England in 1868.

It is a story that resonates around the Sydney Cricket Ground, which is sited on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation.

As Chairman of the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust, I congratulate the Mullagh Wills Foundation on keeping alive the story of the remarkable tour and educating a new generation of their achievements.

The message of reconciliation that the foundation spreads is important for our nation and its culture.

Sport is the ideal medium to continue spreading that message. It is the greatest unifying force in our country.

Anyone can come to the SCG to watch the sporting stars of the day, just as anyone can aspire to one day earn the right to represent their club, state or country on the same field.

The SCG Trust is proud that an unbroken line of great Indigenous athletes have thrilled crowds at our grounds, from Jack March to Eddie Gilbert, Arthur Beetson to Greg Inglis, the Ella brothers to Kurtley Beale, Anthony Mundine, Kyah Simon, Adam Goodes, Michael O’Loughlin and Buddy Franklin.

Long may that continue.”

Anthony Shepherd AO

The Message Book is now set to return to Victoria to travel through the municipalities the Aboriginal Cricket Team travelled before heading to England for the tour in 1868. This will include the Borough of Queenscliff from where the Aboriginal Cricket Team left Victoria for Sydney before sailing to England in February 1868. The plan is for the Message Book to be welcomed at Lord’s in England to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the 1868 tour.


Edenhope starts next journey

The Annual Edenhope Show was the scene for the official commencement of the next journey for the Mullagh Wills Foundation Commemorative Message Book.

Part of the official opening of the Edenhope Show by Emma Kealy MP, Member for Lowan, included the presentation of the Message Book to the local community to signify the start of the next journey which will include communities from Victoria and New South Wales.

The Message Book will travel to the Glenelg Shire and Warrnambool before being presented to the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust on day two of the New Year’s Ashes Test at the SCG in early January. Then the book will return to Victoria where it will travel to a number of communities, including Geelong and Queenscliff and return to the West Wimmera for an official ceremony to mark the 150th Anniversary of the Aboriginal Cricket Team tour of England in 1868.

From the West Wimmera the Message Book travel to England where it will be welcomed at Lord’s, the home of cricket before returning to Australia later in 2018.

As part of the ceremony at the annual Edenhope Show, the Mullagh Wills Foundation presented David Leahy, CEO of West Wimmera, with the Reconciliation Victoria HART Award (Helping Achieve Reconciliation Together), won by the Foundation earlier in the year.

“We believe it is appropriate for the West Wimmera to display this Award in the coming months as this region is not only the home of the Aboriginal Cricket Team, it has been the starting point for our commemorative celebrations and the West Wimmera Shire has led the way for other communities to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the magnificent achievements of the Aboriginal Cricket Team and, in doing so, promote reconciliation through sport to the community,” said Mullagh Wills Secretary Ian Coutts.

For Emma Kealy MP it was the second time she had been involved with the Message Book journey, having also been involved in the original ‘Journey to the MCG’ launch at the annual Johnny Mullagh Cricket match in Harrow in March 2016.