Pioneering Personalities: James “Jimmy” Waters (1834­‐1903)

These history notes are contributed to Valley Ventures by one of our members, Max Farley.

James “Jimmy” Waters, destined to be known as “The King of Yarramalong”, was a 21 year-old when he arrived in the Yarramalong Valley in 1856. He was with his parents, Ezekiel and Jane, together with his five surviving siblings. He had been born in Ireland and was the eldest. Ezekiel, a “stone cutter” had come to the colony from Northern Ireland in 1838 as a free settler. He was to work on building Darlinghurst Gaol. It seems government money temporarily ran out and Ezekiel was given a grant of land at Hexham. The frequency of floods in the Hunter caused him to come to Yarramalong with his family.

James very soon acquired land in the Valley in the vicinity of 304 Ravensdale Road. He called it Ravensdale Farm after a pretty valley of that name near the Waters’ home in Northern Ireland.

He appears to have been an imaginative and innovative person with a lively mind and a wide range of interests. As a farmer, he introduced “Planters Friend”, a sugar cane from which he made molasses. To crush it, he made a small mill with a wooden roller and powered by one horse. Another innovation was growing arrowroot, which he exhibited internationally and won a First Class Medal in 1876 at the Philadelphia Exhibition. In 1880 he expanded significantly by opening the first steam-powered sawmill in the district, the nearest other being at Ourimbah. It was initially at Sandy Flat below the Cemetery. He specialised in cutting “felloes” for which he designed a “Dished Circular Saw”.

James was by no means restricted to rural activities. He took great interest in the political and economic affairs of the day and presided over or actively participated in public meetings at which issues of the day were debated. Such controversial questions as Free Trade, Protectionism, Land Tax and Federating the State colonies were on the agendas. On these and other matters he was a frequent writer of “letters to the Editor”. Religion was a topic on which he had firm opinions. Though his father was a staunch Presbyterian, James himself was always ready to argue in favour of his own atheism.

Community questions received his attention. When the route of the coming railway was being considered he was active in stirring up action to have it travel through Gosford rather than Windsor as was being proposed. At a public meeting in Gosford in 1878 James “in a very able speech, MOVED: That the most direct route, and the one possessing the most general benefits, is from Newcastle, passing through Brisbane Water, and terminating on the north shore of Port Jackson”. Having in mind the bad state of Yarramalong Road, particularly in wet conditions, it was important to the settlers that the Bumble Hill Road be improved. James took part in a deputation to the Government seeking funds for this purpose. On a different topic altogether it was James who seconded a motion at the public meeting where it was resolved to open a subscription list to support the Irish Famine Relief Fund.

James was a Magistrate, a member of the Public School Board of Education for the sub-district Wyong and a Trustee of the Yarramalong General Cemetery.

There were no doctors in the Valley and James provided basic medical aid. Not only did he pull teeth and stitch cuts – he also set broken limbs. It is told that when a daughter, Stella, was badly scalded he took skin from other of his children and grafted it on to her.

He was a genial soul who enjoyed spending time with his contemporaries. An item in the Gosford Times recorded that in later life “After tea the irrepressible ‘Jimmy’ Waters makes his appearance on the scene (and) at once strikes up a controversy. He is never happy unless he is arguing the point, and he will converse with mysterious wisdom on any subject from the affinity of atoms to the immortality of the soul”. The “scene” referred to was the Yarramalong Inn, owned by his younger brother William “Billy” Waters. It was burnt down in 1917 and the publican’s son, Cleve Waters, built Linga Longa Guest House on the site. The building remains today.

James Waters and his wife Pricilla Woodbury. Photo source: Steve Waters.

James Waters and his second wife Pricilla Woodbury. Photo source: Steve Waters.

Though it is painful to record information about a person who in all other ways would be seen as an outstanding individual no matter what the century, it is necessary to do so to present a rounded picture. Social values and the expectations of women, and men too, in the 1800s were vastly different from those of today. And reliable birth control was not available. 21st century eyes would be aghast to know he fathered 17 children from two wives. He married the 16 year-old Barbara Thompson in 1854 and they had 9 children in the following 18 years. She died in 1872 in childbirth bearing the ninth. Her age was 34. He then married 22 year-old Priscilla Woodbury in 1881 and they had eight children in the next 18 years. James died in 1903 and Priscilla outlived him by 53 years.

To conclude on a positive note: at the 1929 Annual Pioneers Dinner, the 97 year old William Pescud said that “he knew all the pioneers of the district and that in his opinion no kindlier man than the late James Waters ever lived.”

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 SOURCES: Max Farley; A Pictorial History of the Wyong Shire, Volume 1-5, Edward Stinson.


Blue Gum Flat Eleven v. Wyong Eleven – June 1878

This is a supplement to our post last month Wyong Eleven v. Blue Gum Flats Eleven – April 1878. Below is the account of the follow-up match at Blue Gum Flats (now known as Ourimah); as reported in The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, Saturday 22 June 1878.

Brisbane Water and Wyong District Cricketers

Four of our pioneer cricketers, L-R: Edward Hawkins, Robert Izzard, John Robley and James Buscombe. It was John Robley who with George Henry Taylor organised the first cricket match on the Central Coast played at Gosford in January, 1858.
[Original Photo: Miss Dorothy Garratt, Epping]



A recent match between the two Brisbane Water Cricket Clubs, generally known as the Wyong C.C., and the Blue Gum Flat Eleven (the former including the cricketers of Wyong, Yarramalong, and Cooranbong; and the latter the cricketers of Blue Gum Flat and Ourimbah) having terminated at Wyong place in a victory for the Blue Gum Flat, a return match was projected, and came off, at Blue Gum Flat, on the 31st of May and the 1st of June. In this amicable contest the “Wyongers” honorably retrieved their lost laurels, and inflicted a defeat on their sturdy opponents. The attendance throughout was good, and the play highly creditable to both of these clubs. The weather was only tolerable during the first day, but the rain, which came on about one o’clock p.m., was happily not continuous, and cleared off, after damping the spirits of both parties for an hour or two. Several visitors from Gosford, Wyong, and other places in the district, attended this match, which was played in the grounds adjoining to the Blue Gum Flat post office and store, kept by Mr. E. Wamsley. Mr. Robley, captain of the Blue Gum Flat Eleven, having won the toss, sent his opponents to the wickets, to contend against the bowling of himself and Mr. Izzard. The Wyongers, however (and especially Lewis and Bardin) played remarkably well, and were not disposed of until they had made a score of 41 – effected in good cricketing style, and showing great skill in batting.

At the end of this innings a smart shower came on, and all parties wisely adjourned to luncheon, in a tent near the post office; Mr. Reeve, the Police Magistrate, presiding. When the rain was over, and the players duly refreshed, Mr. W. Waters, the captain of the Wyong Club, placed his men, and the B.G.F. Eleven took their turn at the wickets. They did not (any of them) remain long bat in hand, the bowling of Lewis and of Bardin being altogether too much for them. They could only make 28 runs. This ended the first innings on either side, the rest of the evening being devoted to social festivity.

At the dinner, the chair was occupied by W. Allison junior, supported on his right by Mr. Lewis, and on his left by Mr. Robley. Several good speeches were made, the toasts done honor to being “The Queen,” “The Two Clubs,” “The Scorers,” “The Umpires,” “The Host and Hostess (Mr. and Mrs Wamsley),” and “The Ladies.” After dinner, in the large room at the back of the store, dancing began, and was kept up till the following morning.

At eleven a.m. on the 1st instant the clubs resumed play, and although the Blue Gum Flat Eleven did well, they were unmistakably defeated; the Wyong C.C. making 27, and the Blue Gum Flat C.C. making 33. The Wyong team thus won the match by eight runs. The following analysis will show the state of the game:

Blue Gum Flat v Wyong_May 1878

Game statistics for the Blue Gum Flat v. Wyong cricket match played 31 May – 1 June 1878. [The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, Saturday 22 June 1878]

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Sources: Wyong Museum & Historical Society Archives; A Pictorial History of the Wyong Shire, Volume 1, Edward Stinson; Trove Digital Newspaper Archive.

Wyong Eleven v. Blue Gum Flat Eleven – April 1878

While searching Trove I came across a play-by-play account of an historic cricket match between the Wyong Cricket Club and the Blue Gum Flats Eleven as reported in The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, Thursday 2 May 1878. This detailed report filled three columns in the newspaper and gives us a wonderful account of how our early pioneer families spent their leisure time. The match reporter (who ever he was) certainly had a way of telling a good story.



On Friday last, the 20th instant, in Mr. William Alison’s grounds, at Wyong Place, a cricket match came off between the Wyong Eleven and the Eleven of Blue Gum Flat, which, both as a match and as a social gathering, was a decided success. At daybreak the weather seemed likely to prove unfavourable and when some of “Nature’s dewy tear drops” fell from the grey clouds overhead, a corresponding gloom stole over many expectant faces; but it was only “the pride of the morning,” for it turned out a beautiful, if not a sunny day – cool and pleasant, just the day for swift running, although, on the damp turf, the balls were not altogether as lively as could be wished by bowlers and by batsmen. The gay “convincing ground” was a large open meadow of 320 acres, stretching away before Mr. Alison’s residence, near the Wyong crossing; limited on  the north and east by the forest, on the west by the Maitland Road, and on the south by the tree shaded banks of the pretty and picturesque Wyong, which here winds slowly down from the Big Bridge to its entrance into the Tuggerah Beach Lake. On the eastern side of the paddock, where the forest boundary rises into a well-wooded, cone shaped hill, several clumps of trees extend a grateful shade either to man or beast; and it was here, under the green wattles, that, in true sylvan fashion, a table was spread by Mr. Woodbury, where at, from time to time, the weary athletes refreshed themselves during the day. The supremum opus – the “dinner” – was laid out at the Wyong Crossing, about a mile away, and became a matter of keen discussion at even tide.

Alison Homestead was built by Charles Alison when he settled in the area in the 1870s. It was extended when he married Constance Cox, the grand daughter of Blue Mountains explorer William Cox. The property passed out of the family in the 1890s.

Alison Homestead was built by Charles Alison when he settled in the area in the 1870s. It was extended when he married Constance Cox, the grand daughter of Blue Mountains explorer William Cox. The property passed out of the family in the 1890s.

Between eleven and twelve o’clock the Wyong Eleven, with their friends and sympathizers of both sexes (from Yarramalong, Cooranbong, Gosford, and the more immediate vicinity) began to assemble on the grass; and with them congregated the redoubtable B.G.F.’s, from Blue Gum Flat and Ourimbah – flushed with the honor of their recent encounter with a Sydney Eleven, in which they were but barely beaten, and determined to do or die in the approaching contest. As these cricketers, and onlookers of the sterner sex, came flocking in upon the ground in all directions – with wives, sweethearts, sisters, and daughters, dispersing into different watchful groups, a charming ever-changing tableau was afforded; a thoroughly Australian social scene, which will be long remembered by those who witnessed it. The wickets were duly pitched, and play commenced shortly before noon, the game being kept up (with one brief interval for “rest and refreshment”) until after five o’clock in the evening, when the light began to fail.

The Blue Gum Flat team consisted of Messrs. Frank Gavanlock, James Buscombe, Edward Hawkins (the captain), John Robley, Robert Izzard, Alfred Wamsley, Albert Wamsley, William Wamsley, William Hawkins, William Earl, and Joshua Hitchcock.

The “Wyongers” – including those members who reside at Yarramalong, and who came to help from Cooranbong – were Michael O’Leary, Alfred Bridge, William Alison, John Trainer, Edward Barden, William Bridge, James E. Waters, William J. Waters, William Waters (the captain), John T. Waters, and Mathew James Woodbury.

For the Blue Gum Flat Eleven, Mr. George Kater acted as scorer, and Mr. Edward Wamsley, of Gosford Park, as umpire Mr. James Waters, of Yarramalong, scored for the Wyong Eleven, and for them Mr. R Waters, also of Yarramalong, acted as umpire.


Bowler: “How’s that?” Umpire: “Wasn’t looking. But if ‘e does it again, ‘e’s out!”
[Image from Mr. Punch’s Book of Sports, Vol. 102. February 27, 1892]

The toss was won by the Wyong men, and the result was that their visitors went first to the wickets; Frank Gavanlock and James Buscombe being called upon to open the ball, and each to wield a bat. Both made good play, as had been anticipated, but James Buscombe got the first off his bat and excelled them all, making 26, the finest score of the whole match, before he had to give place to another player. After several good hits from both batsmen, Gavanlock having scored 3 to his side was caught out by James E. Waters, bowled Barden.

Gavanlock was judiciously replaced at the vacated wicket by the captain of the B.G.F.s, Ned Hawkins of Ourimbah; but Hawkins (an admirable player) immediately came to grief, being also cleverlycaught out by the Wyonger, James E. Waters. Then Josh Hitchcock advanced, took  the bat, and made most admirable play, scoring 19 before he could be compelled to retire by his anxious opponents. It was twenty minutes to one o’clock before Hitchcock’s career could be effectually checked, and then he was very smartly bowled out by Trainer. Robert Izzard, of Blue Gum Flat, next came to the bat; and having played a close and cautious game, scored 40, and was skilfully caught out by the captain of the Wyong team (W. Waters), bowled by James E. Waters. John Robley – an accomplished cricketer – then took the bat from Izzard, and scored eight. He would doubtless  have scored more if it had been a brighter day,  but the absence of the sunlight was thought to be somewhat against that veteran player. In meantime Buscombe, at twelve minutes to one, came to the close of his triumphant score, being bowled out by Edward Barden. Alfred Wamsley was called to the bat, but he was (like his friend Hawkins) singularly unlucky; for, at starting off, he (like Ned) was complimented with a “goose egg,’ – that oval but significant mark in the scorer’s book, which stands for nothing. Robley then resigned the willow with an indignant sigh of astonishment, having been neatly caught out by Matthew Woodbury, but who the bowler at that time was on the Wyong side quite escaped the vigilant eyes of our reporter. Then William Earl scored one, and retired, bowled out by James E Waters; but William Hawkins had eight notches entered to his credit in the scorer’s books before he was caught out – a deed performed by John T. Waters, the bowler being the swift and successful Barden. William Wamsley was not allowed any opportunity of scoring, having had to carry off his bat; and Albert Wamsley likewise received oval honours when caught out by William J. Waters, the bowler being James E. Waters.

This terminated the first innings of the Blue Gum Flat Eleven, who found themselves out at 26 minutes past one o’clock, but with the handsome score of 73 to the credit of their team, and to the dejection of their sturdy opponents.


[Image from Mr. Punch’s Book of Sports, Vol. 102. February 27, 1892]

The Wyongers, however, did not give way to despondency, but determined bravely to fight it out – to make a Waterloo of it, if possible; refusing, with British pluck, to believe that they could be vanquished. After a brief, hasty, and temperate lunch, both parties returned to the charge, and gallantly recommenced the contest, the two first bats being Michael O’Leary and Alfred Bridge. The long-headed Blue Gum Flats were still far too sharp for their opponents, and were throughout very cleverly handled by their captain. Their fielding proved to be excellent, and the work of the two crack bowlers of the B.G.F. Eleven (Messrs Robert Izzard and John Robley) was swift, steady, and strong; awaking involuntary apprehensions in the minds of the Wyongers – feelings which nothing but determined courage and unwearied tact prevented from   becoming sheer defeat, disaster, and dismay.

Bob Izzard’s bowling sent in the balls like cannon shots; and as for the balls projected by Robley, they were so judiciously and unswervingly pitched that it was almost “impossible to get a hit off them” Even the ladies present got interested in the gallantly sustained, but unequal conflict; and professional criticism, stratus gramine, calmly and officially surveyed, and approved, Michael O’Leary scored three, ere he had to leave the post of honor, being bowled out by Robley; and Alfred Bridge made two off his bat, before he was caught by Albert Wamsley, bowled by the last mentioned clever and unflinching cricketer. Then Alison took the striker, and scored three; one stroke of his  willow being “a palpable hit” He also was bowled out by the inexorable Robley; the ball  having glanced somewhat, and turned perversely  in.

The next adventurous batsman, John Trainer, was not even so fortunate, for he was promptly run out with nothing for the scorers to chronicle, much to his disgust. Then Edward Barden took the wood, and tried desperately to retrieve the fortunes of the Wyongers, but he tried in vain. Barden played well, scored seven, and was given out by the Wyong umpire. William Bridge also wielded the cricketer’s baton for awhile, to his personal credit and to the advantage of his party, until an insidiously swift, sure ball from the hand of Izzard, knocked over his stumps. James E Waters succeeded W. Bridge, and after scoring 4 by careful play, was run out. William J. Waters (bowled out by Izzard) was presented by the scorers with ignoble cipher of non success; and the stumps fell ingloriously behind William Waters (the Captain) from the same active, predisposing cause. John T. Waters, in his turn, at last stood up, but was quickly caught out by Hitchcock, bowled by Izzard; and Mathew Woodbury, smilingly defiant, had the empty honor of carrying off his bat, but without any opportunity of scoring. Thus, at 4 o’clock p.m., the first innings of the Wyong team closed with the very small number of 31 as against 73.

The second innings commenced late on Friday afternoon by John Robley and Robert Izzard standing up to the two wickets; but Robley was bowled out at the second ball, pitched towards what he strove to guard, by Barden. A cypher was the only figure which represented John Robley’s innings. Bob Izzard (again unfortunate as a batsman) was next bowled out by James E. Waters. Again Wm Earl assumed the bat, and, scoring 3, was caught out by William J. Waters. Frank Gavanlock scored 10, and was bowled out by James E. Waters. J. Hitchcock achieved two notches, and was then cleverly run out. James Buscombe’s late tide of success now deserted him, for he made nothing, and was caught out by William J Waters bowled by Barden. Ned Hawkins scored 19, and was still in when the stumps were that evening drawn. Alfred Wamsley, at the very first ball, was caught out by Trainer, bowled by James E. Waters William Hawkins made two really good hits, and, scoring 4, was eventually caught out by Barden. The stumps were drawn at 5.15 on the Friday evening; and play was resumed on the following day.


[Image from Mr. Punch’s Book of Sports, Vol. 102. February 27, 1892]

In the forenoon of Saturday, W. Hawkins and Edward Hawkins resumed their innings. During their first three “overs” only two runs were made off the clever bowling of Edward Barden and James E. Waters. The fielding on the other side was cautious, and the play on the other side careful.

During the fifth “over”, three runs were made by E. Hawkins off Barden’s bowling. At the sixth over, off James E. Waters’ first ball, W. Hawkins was caught well by Barden, his score (as already intimated) being left standing at 4.

Albert Wamsley was then welcomed to the wicket, and E Hawkins got two off James E. Waters’ bowling. Albert Wamsley was splendidly bowled out by Barden, and had to retire with an “egg.” Will Wamsley grasped the willow, and the resolute Ned Hawkins scored again at the next over. Wamsley made one off Barden, and finished that over. Again W. W. made one, his fellow batsman, E. Hawkins, still  adding one to his score off a badly fielded ball.

Hawkins made two off Waters; then, for a nice slip, one, counting three for one over “Spell-oh” was cried, and all hands rested on the grass for five minutes.

Then Hawkins received Barden’s over, and off the third ball made two “for a light,” and finished the rest of his over without scoring.

James E. Waters next bowled to Wamsley, and was well missed for a good catch by one of the Waters family, making one run Hawkins then made one off a hit well fielded by Alison, and that over finished without further scoring. Barden here bowled to Hawkins, and one was made by the Wyong captain off second ball. Willie Wamsley then sent a most beautiful catch to Willie Alison, who beautifully missed it Barden then bowled the first wide ball of the match, and so finished that over.

Off Waters’ next over Wamsley made one. Barden commenced trundling the ball to Wamsley, who made one off the second ball, and that over finished without farther mark. Waters bowled to Wamsley, who then made his first double run, off the third ball, and was well caught out by Trainer, the wicket keeper. The redoubtable Hawkins carried his bat out – as we have already intimated – for a well made 19. The innings for Blue Gum Flat closed for 47 runs and 7 sundries, making a total of 54. The total of the two innings for the B.G.F.’s was 124.

The Wyong team first sent M. J. Woodbury and O’Leary to the wickets, where Robert Izzard, as one of the bowlers, soon sent Woodbury to the right about, Mat retiring with the proverbial egg. Alf. Bridge stepped into the arena after Woodbury, and received the last of Izzard’s over. O’Leary then got John Robley’s first over, and second one off the second ball.

Alfred Bridge received the remainder of the over, but failed to score. Izzard then tackled O’Leary, who made a good stop for one, finishing that over Robley then bowled at O’Leary who got one off the third ball, and one was made for a bye. O’Leary made a beautiful light off Robley’s last ball, which was well fielded by the inevitable longstop. Off Izzard’s first ball next over A. Bridge went out for 0, although he stopped the ball. W. Bridge next took the willow, and received Izzard’s bowling for the rest of the over, without being able to score.

O’Leary then made one off Robley, as also W. Bridge ditto, finishing Robley’s over. Izzard then faced W. Bridge in his usual fierce style, and Bridge effected one sharp run, and the over then finished without further scoring. Izzard next bowled the first maiden over of the morning, and Robley followed suit O’Leary made a good drive hit only, and got one off Robley.

W. Bridge received the rest of the over, and scored one more for his side. Bridge then received bowling from Izzard, without scoring O’Leary got two for a gallant drive, but was clean bowled out by Robley’s next ball, and had to retire for seven. Trainer next made his way to the wicket, but was caught out by Robley, off his first ball – greatly to the disgust of the Wyong men and himself. Alison succeeded, but was again beautifully caught out, at the first ball, by Robley, off his own bowling. James E. Waters scored one at the bat, and was caught out by Alfred Wamsley. Barden took the willow, scored seven, and carried off his bat. William Waters took an egg, and was bowled out by Robley. William J Waters did somewhat better than his namesake, for he scored 4 before he was bowled out by Izzard. John T. Waters essayed his strength and ability with the baton, and scored nothing; he was caught out by Hitchcock, the longstop.

It was, as our readers will see, a clear triumph to the eleven of Blue Gum Flat. The Wyonger’s first innings stood at 31, and their second at 34 – making a total of 67. The Blue Gum Flat party raised their score in their first innings to 73, and in their second scored 54 – making a total of 127; and beating the cricketers of Wyong and Yarramalong (with their Cooranbong friends) by sixty (60) runs, or one innings and six runs.

Drawing of Woodbury's Inn on the Old Maitland Road near Wyong Creek crossing. [Published in the Illustrated Sydney News, 15 March 1884.]

Drawing of Woodbury’s Inn on the Old Maitland Road near Wyong Creek crossing. [Published in the Illustrated Sydney News, 15 March 1884]


The dinner came off on the Friday evening, at Woodbury’s House, where so many a tired traveller, through the long, wide forests of Brisbane Water, has sought for and found refreshment and needful repose.

This Bushman’s Home stands amidst its pleasant grove of orange trees, near the old bridge over the shady Wyong – a bridge shortly to be replaced, through the care of a considerate and watchful Government, by something much better fitted for its appointed purpose and constant use. The “hospitable spread” was laid out in a marquee near the house, and was, in every respect, all that could be desired. At the head of the table sat the police magistrate, Mr Edward Reeve, with Mr Edward Wamsley on his right hand, and Mr. William Alison junior, on his left. The vice chair was occupied by Mr Edward Hawkins, of Ourimbah, the captain of the Blue Gum Flat Eleven.

The principal toasts were, “The Queen,” “The Elevens of Wyong and Blue Gum Flat, coupled with the names of the captains of each team, William Waters and Edward Hawkins, “The Umpires and Scorers,” “The Ladies,” and the “Host and Hostess, Mr. and Mrs. Woodbury” The Wyong men drank with genial cordiality to the Blue Gum Flat men, and the B.G.F.’s returned the compliment. The chief speakers were Mr. Reeve (the chairman), Mr Alison, Mr Edward Wamsley, Mr E. Hawkins, Mr James Waters, and Mr John Robley. “All went merry as a marriage bell” – both at the dinner table, and afterwards in the adjacent barn, where a ballroom was lighted up and decked out for the younger folks. There – on the heavy determined heel, or on “the light fantastic toe” – the dance was kept up till morning dawned upon those lads and lasses who came to the Wyong cricket match.

And so for the present the fronds of the Bangalow palm rest beyond a doubt in the hands of the cricketers of Blue Gum Flat.

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Sources: Wyong Museum & Historical Society Archives; A Pictorial History of the Wyong Shire, Volume 1, Edward Stinson; Trove Digital Newspaper Archive;  Mr. Punch’s Book of Sports, Vol. 102. February 27, 1892, The Gutenberg Project.