James “Banny” Bannerman played for Otago and Southland between 1906 and 1915. Although he appears to have never quite fulfilled his cricketing potential, from all accounts he was an exuberant and joyful cricketer. One obituary even described him as someone who “would rather play cricket of any sort than eat”. Bannerman was generally recognised as both an attacking batsman and a medium-fast bowler with some pace and movement.
James’ best performance was in winning the Hawke Cup with Southland against Rangitikei in March 1911, where his 40 as opener and match bowling figures of 11-123 drove his team to victory. Remarkably, ten of his wickets were clean bowled. He was nominated by Southland for possible selection in the 1913-14 New Zealand touring side to Australia but did not make the team. As selectors didn’t travel around the country looking at players at that time, they often had to rely on reputation or references from local cricket identities. In James’ case, it appears he wrote his own testimonial (see picture).
He did play for Southland against the Australian team touring New Zealand in 1914. Like so many provincial teams matched against this great side, Southland were steamrolled as the Australians scored 709. Bannerman scored a duck and took 3 for 137. His last major game appears to have been at Carisbrook, Dunedin on 2nd April 1915, where he played for Southland against Otago scoring 10 runs in the first innings and 1 in the second with first innings bowling figures of 3 for 84.
As well as playing cricket, he was a precocious writing talent who produced two important histories of cricket in New Zealand: History of Otago Representative Cricket 1863-1906. (Dunedin: Dunedin Crown Printing Co, 1907) and the “brochure” Early Cricket in Southland (Invercargill: W. Smith, 1908). His writing credits also included starting The Rag (a controversial magazine at Otago Boys High School), a book on shipwrecks (Milestones or Wrecks of Southern New Zealand) and editing the Bluff Press. On top of all that, he was also a descendant of Dunedin’s favourite Scot, Robbie Burns.
Sadly, James Bannerman died of “multi-shot” wounds early in the morning of the 23rd December 1917 in the front line near Polderhoek Chateau, Belgium while serving as a Lieutenant with the 2nd Otago Regiment.
James William Hugh Bannerman; b. Ophir, Otago, May 20th 1887, d. nr. Ypres, Belgium, 23 December 1917