Story: Reese, Daniel

Page 1 - Biography

Reese, Daniel

1879–1953

Cricketer, engineer, businessman

This biography was written by Fiona Hall and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 3, 1996

Daniel (Dan) Reese was one of the most prominent cricketers in New Zealand in the early twentieth century. He was born in Christchurch on 26 January 1879, the seventh of eleven children. His parents, Daniel Reese and his wife, Cecilia Wilson, were born in Lanarkshire, Scotland. Daniel senior emigrated to New Zealand in 1861, Cecilia two years later; they married in 1867. In 1864 he founded a building firm in Christchurch and proceeded to make a modest fortune. The business almost failed during the 1880s depression and he died in 1891 when Dan was 12. Reese attended Christchurch West School until 1894, when he began an apprenticeship at John Anderson's foundry. He attended evening classes at the Canterbury College School of Engineering for five years.

Dan Reese came from a prominent sporting family. Two brothers, Tom and Jack, represented Canterbury at cricket, and their father was a champion rower. Tom Reese was to write an invaluable two-volume history of New Zealand cricket. Reese himself was a keen rugby player in his youth and represented Canterbury as a centre three-quarter, but he was to make more of an impression as a cricketer. A dashing left-handed batsman, slow left-arm bowler and outstanding fieldsman, Reese was first selected for Canterbury in November 1895. The team toured the North Island in 1897 and, with his team-mate and friend Arthur Sims, Reese became a stalwart of Canterbury cricket. At 19 he was selected for New Zealand's 1898–99 Australian tour. In his autobiography, Was it all cricket? (1948), Reese recalls that the New Zealand Cricket Council was so poor that team members provided their own jackets.

Reese moved to Melbourne in 1900 and worked as a draughtsman in an engineering office. He joined the Melbourne Cricket Club and played with cricketers such as Hugh Trumble. In 1903 he returned to New Zealand briefly and scored centuries for Canterbury and New Zealand against Lord Hawke's touring English team. His 148 for New Zealand was the first century scored for the country. He was presented with a purse of sovereigns after the Canterbury match, a gift collected from the spectators.

Reese worked his passage to England in 1903 as an engineer aboard the steamer Rimutaka. He took with him several letters of introduction, including one from the premier, Richard Seddon. For three years he worked as a marine engineer, travelling to the Far East, the West Indies, and North, South and Central America, and obtaining his chief engineer's certificate in England in 1906. He became one of the first New Zealanders to play county cricket, turning out for Essex and the London teams led by W. G. Grace. He impressed them with his attacking batting and fine fielding.

Reese returned to New Zealand in 1907 and joined his brother Tom in Reese Brothers, a Christchurch building firm. Dan was managing director for Golden Bay Cement Works for three years and founded the Marlborough Timber Company to mill the Opouri Valley. He was involved in sawmilling ventures in Southland and the West Coast and had interests in several steamers including the Orepuki and the Opouri. On 2 April 1913 he married Esther Nina Blucher Parsonson at Christchurch.

Reese continued playing provincial and international cricket, captaining the New Zealand and Canterbury teams until 1914. He played in the first Plunket Shield challenge in 1907 and against the 1907 English tourists. In 1913–14 he toured Australia, and topped the New Zealand team's batting averages with 34. In the match against South Australia he made scores of 96 and 130 not out. Reese retired from international cricket in 1914 but played occasionally for Canterbury until 1921. In his first-class career he scored over 3,000 runs and took 196 wickets.

Dan Reese held many administrative positions on various cricketing bodies. He served on the Lancaster Park board of control (1907–21), the Canterbury Cricket Association (1907–12), and the New Zealand Cricket Council executive (1908–29), of which he was president (1929–31 and 1935–36). Friends often encouraged Reese to enter politics but he always refused. He served on the Government Railways Board (1931–36) and was a local director of the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society.

Dan Reese died at his home in Christchurch on 12 June 1953, survived by his wife, three daughters and one son. He was one of the first great New Zealand cricketers and one of New Zealand's greatest all-rounders.