The WillowBlue Story began with
Described as dashing at the wicket and even smarter in the field at slip or at cover, MacLaren judged the flight of the ball unerringly, while boundary after boundary was saved by the manner in which he picked up the fastest cut, snick, or drive with either hand.
By the year 1895 Mr. MacLaren had wooed his bride Maud and was playing the best cricket of his life. He had scored his maiden Test century at Melbourne; had been named captain of Lancashire; scored a world record 424 runs and was voted Wisden Cricketer of the Year.
At the Melbourne Test of 1902 Mr. MacLaren the Captain of England turned to Bob Crockett, the International umpire and bat repairer and said: "One thing that surprises me Bob is that you do not grow the bat willow in this country. I have seen a score of suitable localities but I have not seen a single tree of the very ornamental bat willow."
Some six months later Crockett received six cricket bat willow cuttings sealed in a steel tube.
Indeed it is a quirk of fate that at the very location the MacLaren's honeymooned now more than 100 years later; you'll find from this very progeny, a Cricket Bat Willow Plantation.
The Callen Story
Began in 1976 when Ian Callen was playing cricket for Northumberland where he met Peter Kippax who had just started his own Bat Brand. It was at this time that Ian learned that English Willow had been sent to Australia in 1902 by the English Test Captain, Archie MacLaren.
MacLaren to send cuttings to Bob Crockett (Test Umpire) and as a result a plantation was established on "Jim Crow Creek" at Shepherd’s Flat near Daylesford, Victoria.
Crocketts English Willow plantation produced bats for Australian Test players until the business was sold to Dunlop Slazenger and the Plantation cut down.
This put an end to an Australian industry until Ian found some of the MacLaren's original progeny,
Ian immediately established a nursery and began rebuilding the industry. It was not an easy task... a part from finding suitable locations he was hampered by environmentalists who needed to be convinced that the English Willow wouldn't naturalize or cross pollinate.
Eventually in 1994 (9 years later) on 25 acres of Watts River Flats at Healesville,
"Salix Alba Caerulea" trees (English willow) were planted for the purpose of re establishing the Cricket Bat Willow Industry in Australia.
English Willow, Cricket Bat Willow or Blue Willow as it is called in the UK is the only willow species used for quality Cricket Bats and because we come from the land "Down Under" we have named our Cricket Bat Willow..."WillowBlue"!
Today we are felling and processing timber for Bat Makers Ian has personally trained in Australia, Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh. It is the first time English Willow has been exported to International markets other than the UK.
Our Cricket Bat Willow is not AUSTRALIAN WILLOW
it is "WillowBlue" English Willow.
Australian Willow is an abandoned Plantation of Dead Trees at Wood Wood Victoria, on the Murray Valley Hwy heading toward Mildura.