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30th May 1999

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Arjuna, it's just criminal

The Australian press has shown its sensitivity to Arjuna Ranatunge's "convict'' allusion. In "The Australian", this columnist took out a lot of space, just to refute Ranatunge.

By Robert Craddock

Sri Lankan cricket cap- tain Arjuna Ranatunga took a swipe at Australia's convict culture by saying "we all know where they come from." But do we?

It is no more true to say all Australians descended from convicts than it is to suggest all West Indian cricketers descended from slaves. Arjuna might be surprised one of the most common bloodlines among the Australians is German, with Steve and Mark Waugh, Darren Lehmann, Paul Reiffel and Shane Warne all having German ancestors.

It's not hard to visualise Steve Waugh, in another place and time, walking out through a tunnel with a German soccer team.

Waugh, whose grandfather Keith Bourne is of German extraction, has the German traits of fastidiousness and raw determination and, coincidentally, once kept Socceroo Robbie Slater out of a junior representative team. On the other side of his family Waugh's heritage traces back through many generations of Australians and he says: "I'm not sure if someone was sent out for stealing a loaf of bread, but I won't hold it against them." Reiffel's family goes back to Lewis Reiffel, a German tobacconist who arrived by ship in Australia in search of a prosperous life on the goldfields of Ballarat.

"I know the story well because my father went back through our family tree and did a really good job," Reiffel said. "He discovered naturalisation papers and even boat tickets."

Shane Warne has Polish and German blood on his mother's side, but the family name which, appropriately means to shake or quiver can be traced back to a town near Devon in England more than 700 years ago.

Adam Dale's family were among Australia's early settlers of Irish and English extraction. His great-grandfather fought at Gallipoli and was wounded in battle.

Dale had a poignant moment when he arrived in London for the World Cup tour and his uncle showed him the hospital where his great-grandfather was treated after he was wounded in battle.

Dale's grandfather fought in New Guinea in World War II and Dale said: "I grew up knowing that they fought in the army, so every Anzac Day was a special day for us."

Lehmann's family traces back to some German settlers who moved from their homeland to the Barossa Valley last century. Brendon Julian had an unusual heritage for his mother was Tongan and his father a New Zealander. Julian, raised in Port Hedland on Western Australia's barren north-west coast, obviously has not forgotten his roots for after an Australian XI game in Hobart last year he slipped away to New Zealand over Christmas for a family reunion. Thanks to research done by his father, Adam Gilchrist is aware of the tiny Scottish hamlet that spawned the Gilchrist clan.

Gilchrist the name means Servant of Christ in 1993 visited Berwick-Upon-Tweed, the tiny town of his family origin, and the nearby town of Gilchriston which was named after his distant relations. Michael Bevan has an English grandfather though his middle name, Gwyl, is Welsh. Like so many people of Irish extraction, Glenn McGrath is aware of his ancestry which traces back to the Bally Castle region.

If ever McGrath goes looking for his relations he is likely to find plenty of them for McGrath is the124th most popular surname in Ireland.

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