Callen Cricket Bats
A.C. MacLaren (pictured) who was 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 1898 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 WillowBlue Story began with Ian Callen in 1976, when engaged as the Professional for the Northumberland County where he met Peter Kippax (former Yorkshire Cricketer) who had just started his own Cricket Bat Brand. What a good idea he thought, perhaps he could do this himself after his career.
Over course of his Cricket career Ian learned of the English Test Captain, Archie MacLaren having posted the English Willow cuttings to Bob Crockett (Test Umpire) and as a result a plantation had been established. He also learned from many former Australian players ( Armstrong, Hassett, Harvey, O'Neill, Burge and Sheahan) that they had made centuries with bats made from the English Willow grown by Crockett Bats.
Ian (picture in 1985) learnt his craft under the guidance of Master Craftsman Chris Farrant (formerly Warsops of London).
It was about this time Ian located some of MacLaren's original progeny and immediately set up a nursery on his family's farm at Rhyll, Phillip Island where the first Callen bats were made.
So the idea of rebuilding the Cricket Willow Industry became the mission and the making of the Callen Bats a way of funding it.
This was not an easy task... even after finding suitable locations environmentalists hindered our efforts to plant cricket bat willow... it took 9 years to get planting permission.
finally in 1994, on 25 acres of Watts River Flats in the Parish of Tarrawarra Healesville, "Salix Alba Caerulea" trees (English Willow) were planted under planting permit.
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 Australians come from the land "Down Under" Ian named his English Willow..."WillowBlue".
Today Callen Cricket are felling and processing timber for Bat Makers personally trained in Australia, Sri Lanka, India and New Zealand. Never before had English Willow been exported to International markets outside the UK.