On New Year's Day 1902 the Melbourne Cricket Ground was the setting for a test match between England and Australia. England was batting. When a wicket fell, Archie MacLaren, the Captain of the English team and Bob Crockett, an Australian umpire, both sat down on the grass about the middle of the wicket. The day was a scorcher and both men were glad of the opportunity to rest while they waited for the incoming batsman.
Out of nothing, MacLaren said, "One thing that surprises me Bob, is you do not grow the bat willow in this country. I have travelled its length and width and although I have seen a score of suitable locations, I have not seen a single tree of the very ornamental bat willow." Crockett, more from politeness than any desire to establish willow plantations, replied: "When you return to England, why not send me some cuttings?"
The new batsman arrived. MacLaren resumed his place at the crease, and Crockett returned to his position by the stumps. The conversation may well have been lost yet MacLaren did not forget. Some six months later Crockett received a note to meet a certain mail-boat to collect some willow tree cuttings from the Purser.
Maclaren had sent six cuttings, sealed in a steel tube. On opening, it was discovered that although they had been taken from dormant trees in England, the cuttings had sprouted within a fortnight of crossing the equator.
Five cuttings had shrivelled and died, but for some extraordinary reason the sixth still lived. The lone survivor was transported to Shepherd's Flat, Daylesford Victoria, where Crockett's brother, a capable horticulturist, carefully nurtured it. More>>