Edward Liddle (CrikcetEurope)
Christopher Charles John Harte
Chris Harte, a very good batsman, often to be found opening the innings, but equally at home in the middle order, was also a capable wicket keeper, and, in his own words, "a latent leggie." He could, on occasions turn his arm over to surprising effect, but this part of his cricketing armoury was somewhat irregularly employed.
Entering Dublin University in the autumn of 1967, he was five years in the X1 from the following summer, the final season while he was a post graduate education student.
He scored three competitive half centuries for the University, besides keeping wicket to a high standard. In an article in a brochure for DUCC's 150th anniversary, he particularly recalled the first 50. It was in a cup match against Railway Union, at Park Avenue, and helped his team to victory.
"On a personal level I scored my first half century for DUCC (72). I recall, no doubt inspired (or perspired) by Duffy and BA O'Brien, abandoning batting gloves during this knock. Railway was a fairly soft track and most of the bowling was done by NFX McConnell at a fairly gentle pace."
It might be added here that gentle as McConnell's pace may have been, he was notoriously difficult to score off and took 1033 wickets in Leinster Senior Cricket, level with Gerry Kirwan of Clontarf and behind only JC Boucher in the all time LCU list.
To score 72 against McConnell's left arm round the wicket nagging slow medium, on his home turf, was a considerable achievement. Despite his batting successes and work as a gloveman, Chris is, perhaps, best remembered in the annals of the University's cricket, for a spell of bowling.
Irish off spinner Mike Halliday, who captained DUCC in 1970 and 1971, recalled the occasion. "In a second round cup tie against Old Belvedere in 1971, Chris left the field and his wicket keeping duties, suffering from a migraine. When he returned his astute skipper brought him on to bowl, and he claimed five wickets for 33 runs, clean bowling Alec O'Riordan and winning the Man of The Match Award."
Chris himself recalled taking 6-44 against Queen's University in the same season, adding that with Halliday and the vice captain absent, he was captain!
On leaving University Chris returned to the North, playing with success for both Downpatrick and NICC, before joining Bangor in 1977. He quickly made an impression for reasons other than his outstanding stroke play.
The club's "Souvenir Brochure" of 1977 described him as, "One of Ulster's best fielders, talkers and fidgets." He was, however, to prove a model of consistency for Bangor for the rest of the Seventies and for most of the following decade. It was no fault of his that the seasiders often flattered only to deceive, invariably finishing around mid table in the NCU Senior League, after promising great things.
It is ironical that in 1981, one of Chris's most successful seasons for the club, when he passed 500 runs, they should have been relegated, partly the victims of misfortune.
On a wider stage, he was soon to be seen to good advantage in the Guinness Cup Interprovincial Tournament, playing for North Leinster and Ulster Country, before settling in with Ulster Town for which side the majority of his 64 matches were played.
He set a then tournament record of 248 runs in 1972, to be surpassed 10 years later by Altaf Masood, with the staggering average of 140.50. Both were playing for North Leinster. Chris's runs in 1972 helped North Leinster to the title, though they needed a nail biting 4 run victory over South Leinster to seal their triumph.
Derek Scott singled out Chris, together with David Pigot, Alec O'Riordan and Dougie Goodwin as their outstanding players. Apart from that summer, in which he hit his career best 102, Chris was also to the fore when Ulster Town won the Cup in 1981, scoring 174 runs at 58, with a highest of 63 against Munster at Ormeau, the hosts racking up 294-3 declared.
In a 17 season interprovincial career he scored 1631 runs with one 100 and nine 50s. He averaged a respectable 37.06, passing his 1000 runs in 1981, and, in 1982 topped the all time career averages at 42.40. It is, therefore, somewhat of a disappointment that he was never quite able to achieve the same consistency at the highest level.
He played 20 matches for Ireland, batting on 30 occasions without ever passing 50, though the fact that he reached 40 on four occasions, one being not out, suggests that he had the ability to have made bigger scores.
He began well with a debut 45 v Wales at Swansea in August 1972, his Guinness Cup heroics that season having brought him into the side. Batting at 5, he added a fourth wicket 59 with his captain Alec O'Riordan (59). He was 11* when the second innings declaration came but rain caused a draw. Unfortunately, he had no further chance to build on this good start that season as MCC, apparently following a death threat to one of their players, withdrew from the match due to be played at Castle Avenue in September.
The following year Chris met with some success against Wales and Scotland and was selected for the North American tour, He missed the match v Canada, famous for Ivan Anderson's then record 198*, and, in common with too many of his team-mates, had a double failure in the match v USA, which the hosts surprisingly won, though their batting was destroyed by O'Riordan and Roy Torrens in the first innings.
By far his best season for Ireland was 1977, when he shone on the tour of England and played a major part in the famous defeat of Sussex at Pagham, the first time Ireland had beaten a county side, if the victory over London County in 1902 is discounted. He had achieved little in the opening match v Wales at Swansea, but at Pagham, batting at 6, he hit a first innings 37, before falling to Imran Khan, second top score to O'Riordan, thus helping to ensure that Ireland reached 258, only two runs behind Sussex,
Then, in the second innings, Chris played what was his finest innings for his country. Coming at 74-4 to join Jack Short, who was attacking the bowling with great vigour, he matched the opener shot for shot, as they added a match winning 100 for the fifth wicket with Ireland chasing 203 to win. Imran, who did not spare the bouncer, bowled at great pace, and accounted for each of them in the end. Unfortunately both just missed personal targets, Short falling for 99 and Chris 49. However they had done enough to allow Ireland to achieve a memorable win.
Chris also batted well at Lord's in a closely fought draw. He was deprived of a half century by Dermot Monteith's declaration when he was 42*, but "Monty", captain as O'Riordan had been injured at Pagham, was correct. Ireland finished the match 3 runs short with 5 wickets left. Had he delayed in closing the first innings, they would not have so near.
A spell out of the side followed a lean season in 1978, but Chris returned in 1981 and 1982. Though he made 39 against the Scots, sharing a second wicket stand of 77 with "Ginger" O'Brien in 1981, his best innings was probably a first innings 32 v Surrey at The Oval later year, when he and Robert Wills put on 95 for the 3rd wicket, Ireland's only respectable partnership of the match.
Most of Chris's working life has been spent teaching at Bangor Grammar School and he has been a tireless worker on the Ulster Schools cricket committee for many years. At Bangor he has been responsible for producing a string of First XIs who have contrived not only to enjoy their cricket, but to be amongst the best school sides in Ireland. This is, surely, not the least of his cricketing achievements.