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Camilla Care

Life Wasn’t Always This Way: The Jack D’Arcy Story

Vaseline 4 weeks ago

Published: 2024
Pages: 275
Author: D’Arcy, Jack
Publisher: The Cricket Publishing Company
Rating: 4.5 stars

As anyone who regularly reads my biannual articles about upcoming books knows, I have been waiting, not always patiently, for this for a number of years. It is, for those unfamiliar with the name, the autobiography of Jack D’Arcy, a batsman who played in five Tests for New Zealand in 1958 but left the First Class game before his 26th birthday.

Cricket autobiographies, like most sports books of that genre, tend to be self-serving. This is, to a greater or lesser extent, only expected and perhaps inevitable in light of the usual motivation for writing such books. However, this was never going to be and even if it sells well, as it deserves, the author will not recoup the book as all proceeds will go to The Salvation Army in Australia and The Cricketers Trust. in New Zealand.

D’Arcy averaged 13.60 in his five Tests, and in his 53 First Class appearances he never achieved a greater score than the 89 he scored against Glamorgan on the 1958 tour. His cricket career was therefore interesting rather than remarkable, and most of its story Life wasn’t always like this is taken up with D’Arcy’s life before and after his brief career as a first-class cricketer.

Jack D’Arcy’s post-cricket career was a successful one and as he celebrates his 88th birthday next Tuesday at the launch of this book, he can look back on all he has achieved with immense satisfaction. And the purpose of the book? D’Arcy mainly wants to tell his story for the benefit of his descendants. As part of his legacy to them, the question of whether or not the book sells is therefore of no concern to D’Arcy, and it is for that reason as much as for any other that the straightforward and clearly completely honest the way he writes produces a final product. that is a lot better than the ‘normal’ self-written life story.

So it’s no surprise that D’Arcy’s family background is fully explained, and the kind of personal, if not particularly unusual or important, experiences growing up are set out in great detail. The story is not exactly a rags to riches story, but D’Arcy’s roots are in the working class and his later successes are a testament to the strong work ethic and moral values ‚Äč‚Äčinstilled in him by his parents.

As a youngster D’Arcy appears to have been a good cricketer rather than an outstanding one, but he still did enough to be selected for that tour of England in 1958. The New Zealanders had not been to England since 1949, when a strong The team led by Walter Hadlee had drawn all four test matches. By 1958 New Zealand had only two truly quality players, Bert Sutcliffe and John Reid, and when they both failed in the Tests only the wet summer ensured New Zealand avoided a 5-0 defeat.

Of course there is a chapter on the tour, both about the tour experience and about the cricket itself. As noted, D’Arcy’s statistics suggest he was a failure in the Tests, but his Test average was not noticeably inferior to that of Reid and Sutcliffe, and he impressed Wisden enough for the Almanack to note that no one surpassed D’Arcy in determination and concentration. He showed great courage in opening the innings and often defended admirably.

After 1958, cricket largely disappears from D’Arcy’s story, as well as from his personal and family life. takes over his business career. An accountant by training, D’Arcy joined the sales team of IBM’s New Zealand office in 1960 and remained with the company for the rest of the decade. For those of us who work with 21st century technology, the account of what was ‘groundbreaking’ in the 1960s is interesting in itself, as is the explanation for the way careers tended to develop at that time. The story also has lighter moments, with particularly interesting stories about D’Arcy’s encounter with ‘binny boys’ in Manila, and the deception he used to buy a brand new car in the 1960s.

In 1970, D’Arcy was seconded to IBM’s Sydney office and at the end of his time there, two years later, he joined ICL and spent a year in Singapore before returning to Australia. D’Arcy’s ambition now was to start his own company. This came to fruition in 1974 and eventually, in 2000, the now established company was sold for a nice sum. For those with no interest in entrepreneurship or computer science this story may not be particularly appealing, but for anyone with some interest in either or both it is a compelling account, refreshingly free of the hyperbole and self-aggrandizement that generally characterizes the memoirs of successful businessmen.

An entertaining aspect of the story, given this reviewer’s day job, is that lawyers are conspicuously absent from the list of those who receive high praise or thanks from D’Arcy. As a result of being in business for so long, he must have had some positive interactions with the legal profession, but when it comes to stories about it, he prefers to dwell on the negative, and rightly so. More than once he tells of incidents that reflect poorly, if entirely accurately, on the talents and motivations of some of my professional brethren.

The company sells around two-thirds of the way through the book, and after that the content becomes a bit more eclectic. Part of the story is about family matters, both happy and sad. D’Arcy’s life has been struck by tragedy more than once: he has been widowed twice and lost his eldest son, to name the three most tragic. Future generations of his family will be grateful for the memories he leaves behind for those now deceased.

At one point there is some more cricket, and D’Arcy paints a few pen drawings of some important people in his life. Three are New Zealand cricketers Ian ‘Cranky’ Cromb, ‘keeper Sam Guillen (who was capped by both the West Indies and New Zealand) and Gordon Leggat, the exception that proves the rule when it comes to lawyers. Very different, and in my experience certainly unique in an autobiography, are D’Arcy’s descriptions and impressions of the 19 houses he owned during his lifetime, but again his family will no doubt be happy to read about them.

Generally speaking, it’s fair to say that, except for members of the D’Arcy family Life Wasn’t Always This Way: The Jack D’Arcy Story is not essential reading, but it is still an excellent story, well told and, as is the norm with this publisher, very well presented. There is currently only one version of the book in existence, a large format hardback with a dust jacket, although it is hoped that a more lavish limited edition, signed by D’Arcy and a number of his colleagues, will appear in the not too distant future . teammates from the 1958 tour. Anyway, the book can be purchased from Roger Page.