January 2018

That’s not cricket

Eddie Gilbert’s boomerang is no longer on display. Like all good boomerangs will it come back? 


The boomerang depicts two of O’Chin’s sporting contemporaries - Frank ‘Big Shot’ Fisher and Edward ‘Eddie’ Gilbert. QM collection number QE26594Pace bowler Eddie Gilbert. Photo courtesy of the State Library of Queensland.Portrait of Eddie Gilbert. Photo courtesy of the State Library of Queensland.As with many of our contemporary Indigenous art pieces, this boomerang brings to light many facets of Queensland history.

The boomerang was created by Jack O'Chin to commemorate Frank ‘Big Shot’ Fisher and Edward ‘Eddie’ Gilbert. This item was removed from the public gallery several years ago to make way for a new display. Jack O’Chin was one of the first people to promote Queensland’s Aboriginal artists which helped to develop an art industry in places such as Cherbourg. 

The sporting hero Eddie Gilbert, who is represented on the boomerang, was well known as a great cricketer. He was particularly celebrated for bowling the famous cricketing batsman Sir Donald Bradman. 

Gilbert was born in Woodford, but at the age of three was taken from his family and placed in Barambah Aboriginal Reserve, the government-run institution in what is now Cherbourg. Sadly he was part of the stolen generation.

Eddie claimed that his boomerang skills allowed him to develop his famous fast bowling technique. He was picked for the Queensland Sheffield Shield team against South Australia after his impressive performance in a game against New South Wales at the age of 25 and was subsequently named bowler of the match. 

Eddie Gilbert’s most famous match was at the Gabba grounds on 6 November 1931. He relieved the world’s most famous batsman, Don Bradman, of his bat, knocking him to the ground and dismissing him for no score in the space of one over. Bradman said he was the fastest bowler he had faced in his career.

Despite his great achievements and skills, the racial discrimination he suffered meant that he was never selected to play for Australia. Nevertheless he managed to play 23 matches and took 87 wickets at an average of 29.

Gilbert retired from cricket in 1936 and returned to Cherbourg where he died in 1978.  Sir Donald Bradman attended his funeral. Indigenous Sport Queensland established the Eddie Gilbert Medal to recognise Queensland’s best Indigenous sportsperson.

Though Eddie Gilbert was one of the original Indigenous first-class cricketers in Australia, he was not part of the historic Indigenous Cricket Team (which was not considered a first-class team) that toured England in 1868. This was the first Australian cricket team to tour overseas.

Although the boomerang is not still on display, rest assured it remains a valued part of the museum’s collection, safely stored in perpetuity for future generations. In the meantime you can click here to view the item on the Queensland Museum website.

Queensland Museum's Find out about... is proudly supported by the Thyne Reid Foundation and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.