Edward Liddle, March 2009
Twenty two Irish cricketers have also played rugby for their country. So did a twenty third, JG Cook, but his country was England. Between them they gained 159 Irish rugby caps and 180 cricket ones. Of course both teams now play many more matches than they did in the years under review (1877-1967), but it is interesting that few of these double internationals had long careers for their country in either sport. Ray Hunter and Mark Sugden with 28 each, lead the cricket and rugby lists respectively, while only Hunter, who gained 10 rugby caps and Jim Ganly (25 cricket and 12 rugby) reached double figures in both. Perhaps this suggests that the specialists go further, though work, again illness, injury, war, and - in at least two cases early death - deprived some of those described below of further caps. Whatever the reason, their achievement should be saluted, the more so as- bearing in mind the case of the Scotland full back Hugo Southwell - it seems very unlikely that any more names will be added to the list. Had Neil Doak been called off the bench, for even five minutes, these would not be the last, but it seems that they must be so regarded.
Harry Jackson (1853-1930), a Clones born barrister, made his sole appearance on the rugby field for Ireland in the forwards in 1877, the year in which he was called to the bar. The match was v England at The Oval, then used for several sports, and resulted in a comfortable win for the hosts. Harry was not picked again and had to wait 18 years for recognition of his cricket talents as a middle order batsman and slow round arm bowler. In this latter role, he had accounted for WG Grace and the Australian captain and master batsman Billy Murdoch in 1875 and 1880 respectively, playing for XVIII of Dublin University, but it was not until 1895 that he caught the eye of the cricket selectors. Though he took 3-22 vs Surrey, becoming the only Irishman to represent his country at cricket and rugby at The Oval, he was otherwise a failure and was dropped after 4 matches.
He was followed into the Irish XV in 1884 by another former Dublin University forward Walter Johnston (1863-1936), who had already made his cricket debut in 1883. As a rugby player Walter, who was later heavy weight boxing champion of the British Army, gained only one cap, again as a forward. The match was at The Arms Park and saw Wales win by 13 points to 0. He played 5 cricket matches for Ireland, having captained the University. His debut v MCC at Lord's saw him as captain, but in all matches he did little bar taking 5-25 with his medium pacers v Philadelphia on the North American tour of 1888. His brothers Ralph and Robert also gained rugby caps. Ralph appeared in one non cap cricket match on the 1888 tour, while Robert won the VC in South Africa in 1899. Walter reached the rank of Colonel in the Army before retiring to become Commissioner of the Dublin Metropolitan Police; as it happened he was to be the last. He was eventually knighted.
The next to win dual honours was Arthur Wallis (1868-1905), who, as a back or second row forward, gained 5 caps in 1892 and 1893. Unfortunately, he was on the losing side in 4 of his matches, though taking part in the 9-0 defeat of Wales at Lansdowne Road in 1892. His club rugby was for Wanderers, his cricket for Dublin University, whom he represented in three of their five 1895 first class matches. A slow bowler and negligible tail ender, he played for Ireland v the 1894 South Africans and I Zingari against whom he took 2-74. He was a doctor by profession.
Lucius Gwynn (1872-1902) was regarded by many as the finest batsman ever to play for Ireland, though he never made more than 80 for his country. His most famous deeds were wrought for Dublin University, including two hundreds on their 1895 first class tour. Said by those who saw both to rival Victor Trumper in his stroke play, he is rumoured to have been selected for England in 1896 but to have had to decline the invitation. This seems rather unlikely and there is no evidence of it in the English media. He did play twice for Gentlemen v Players. Lucius gained 8 rugby caps at wing or centre, though most of his University rugby was at half back. Captain of both the cricket and rugby teams, hen played in the Triple Crown winning side of 1893-94. He later became a selector, helping choose the Crown winning side of 1898-99 He became a University lecturer, but died of tuberculosis in 1902.
His younger brother Arthur Gwynn (1873-1898 ) was a dashing right hander and fair wicket keeper, as well as a good utility back. His rugby cap came in 1894 v Wales on the wing. The match was lost 5-0. As a cricketer he scored a brilliant hundred v Cambridge in College Park, and gained eight caps with several useful scores. He joined the Indian Civil Service in 1897 and was sent to Burma. He had time to make two hundreds in major matches in two weeks, but died of septicaemia, having ignored a tooth abscess.
Their near contemporary Tom Harvey (1878-1966) was a tall, strongly built man, who gained 8 rugby caps in the back and second rows between 1900 and 1903. Useful in the line out, he was only twice on the winning side in an international against Scotland in 1902 and England in 1903. However in modern scoring values they would also have beaten Wales at Swansea in 1902, the 3 point try and 4 point drop goal being their undoing. His brothers Fred and George followed him into the Irish side. Fred won the VC in France in 1917. As a cricketer Tom, who became a Church of Ireland bishop, was a useful batsman, and a bowler either of medium pace or off spin, His most famous wicket was that of WG whom he caught and bowled first ball in College Park for Dublin University v London County in 1903. He gained three Irish caps, his most telling contribution being 62* v Cambridge a Fenner's in 1902, a match that Ireland won by 58 runs.
Three half backs now engage our attention, two of them, famous in rugby history. Harry Corley (1878-1936) was a Dublin born barrister whose rugby was played for Dublin University and Wanderers. He won 9 caps for Ireland between 1902 and 1904 at half back and 1 - his last - in the centre, besides captaining the team five times. He kicked 1 penalty and 1 conversion. He also played for the Barbarians. As a cricketer he was an attacking middle order batsman, five years in the Dublin University XI, winning 5 caps, but averaging only 12.75 with a highest score of 59 against Cambridge at Rathmines. After his active rugby playing career finished he became a referee, having two internationals.
The two famous half backs will be in Part 2 of this series of articles.
Some sources give James Mary Magee (1872-1949) who played six matches for Ireland between 1899 and 1909 as having won two rugby caps in 1895 as a wing three quarter. This was, however his brother Joseph (1870-1924). To confuse matters further, and the rugby website scrum.com is an example of this confusion, other historians show Joseph as having been the player on Great Britain tour of South Africa in 1896. The player on this occasion was indeed the cricketer James Mary Magee who was uncapped for Ireland at rugby. James played in two Tests on the tour. He has not been included in our list of double internationals, as he did not represent Ireland. James' cricket career for Ireland was somewhat mediocre. Playing as a batsman he made 115 runs at 9.58. His other brother LAM Magee, was the best rugby player in the family. He gained 27 Irish caps and played in all four Tests on the South African tour.