Of Scottish descent, Thomas James Bryden (“Jim”) played two Plunket Shield matches for Otago. The first, against Canterbury at Lancaster Park in March 1913, saw him score 15 in the first innings and 14 in the second in a match that Canterbury won by an innings and 51 runs. His second appearance was less successful with a duck in both innings against the same team, this time at Dunedin in February 1914 where he was an early substitute for the injured captain of the Otago XI. The very strong Canterbury team won again, this time by an innings and 32 runs.
Described as a “vigorous type of batsman who went for the bowling as soon as he got his eye in”, Bryden was 35 when he made his first appearance for Otago. Although his two appearances for Otago were unremarkable, he had been, and continued to be, a fine club cricketer, first for the Grange and then for the Dunedin Cricket Clubs. In the 1913-14 season he had the second highest batting average for Dunedin at 20.40. He was also a decent, occasional bowler who had the second best bowling stats over the 1912-1913 season for Dunedin with an average of 11.00 runs per wicket. He was also a handy fielder by all accounts.
There was something else, though. He was often the elder player in the team and he was remembered as being “always willing to help a younger cricketer”. He appears to have been the type of older player who loved the game, loved talking about it and loved helping a new generation find the same enjoyment and pleasure from it he had.
Bryden was 39 when he enlisted on January 17th 1917 – he was still playing for Dunedin earlier that month. He went first to Sling Camp in the United Kingdom before arriving on the front line near Passchendaele on September 18th 1917. He had been promoted to Corporal but, at his own request, Bryden returned to the ranks.
”Jim” Bryden was killed on the morning of October 12th 1917 in the attack on Passchendaele. It was a morning when New Zealand troops suffered the highest casualties of any single day during World War One. Bryden, like so many others on that awful day, was initially listed as missing in action but his body was never found. His name is inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the missing.
Thomas James Bryden; b. June 1st 1877, Invercargill, d. October 12th 1917 Passchendaele, Belgium
Header photo: 1911-12 Dunedin Cricket Club team, TJ Bryden stands second from left in the back row.