- Born 21 July 1848, Westminster
- Died 11 September 1916 Brympton D'Evercy, Yeovil, Somerset
- Educated Harrow School
- Occupation Writer on Molluscular Studies
- Debut 4 June 1868 v MCC at Lord's
- Cap Number 107
- Style Right-hand bat, slow right hand underarm, wicket keeper
- Teams Gentlemen, MCC, Gentlemen of the MCC, I Zingari, Na Shuler
John Ponsonby followed his father Spencer, long serving MCC Treasurer, in adding Fane to his surname under the terms of Lady Georgiana Fane's will of 1874. The Ponsonbys were a long established land owning Anglo-Irish family with a tradition of public service and cricket, eight of its members appearing at first class level. They also claimed to be of the Blood Royal of England. John was a thoroughly useful cricketer. Scores and Biographies described him as being, "A good steady batsman,a most effective lob bowler and an excellent wicket keeper."
He was in the Harrow XI in 1866, scoring 33 v Eton. His sole match for Ireland was v MCC at Lord's in 1868. Opening the batting he made 9 and 1. He was dismissed by the MCC's professional bowlers, falling to the fast left arm round armer George Mumford in the first innings. Poor George was to die of TB some 9 years later. A feature of the MCC innings was that Ponsonby both bowled and kept wicket. Opening the bowling, he removed the openers, Mumford and fellow old Harrovian Cambridge Blue Ralph Forster with his slow lobs, before assuming the gauntlets to make a stumping off HH Montgomery, who had carried his bat for 37* in the Irish innings. John also made a stumping in the second innings, when he did not bowl.
He made seven appearances in first class cricket at the Canterbury Festival, one a year, between 1869 and 1875. These matches were all for Gentlemen of MCC v Kent, apart from the first, when the visitors were simply styled MCC. These were somewhat unusual fixtures, in that though they were 12 a side, their first class status has never been seriously challenged. John did quite well scoring 53 run out in 1869 (did he share his father's Boycott/Compton like running skills?), besides taking 5-37 in 1874 and 4-38 the following season. The last match was the only occasion on which Kent won. This was largely because of the presence in the MCC sides of WG Grace who scored three centuries in the seven matches. In 1874, not to be upstaged by John's "five for," he not only made a hundred but also took 10 wickets in the match.
Away from the first class game, John played much I Zingari cricket. In 1874 opening the bowling v the School of Gunnery at Shoeburyness, he took 19 wickets in a 12 a side match. He inherited the former Fane estate of Brympton D'Evercy from his father on the latter's death in 1915, but died there a year later. He was a highly regarded researcher in Molluscular Studies and was widely missed in that community. His son Richard Ponsonby-Fane (1878-1937) played one first class match v Natal for HDG Leveson-Gower's MCC side in South Africa 1909-10, scoring 3* in his only innings. Sharing the family characteristic of eccentricity, Richard preferred to live in Japan, apart from the cricket season, and wrote much about that country. He was still there, living under the warlike military dictatorship, when he died n 1937.
John Henry Ponsonby-Fane's obituary is in Wisden 1917, while a brief biography appeared in Scores and Biographies Volume XI. The more technically minded may also wish to consult the 1917 edition of the Journal of Molluscular Studies where a further obituary dealing with his professional work may be found.
Edward Liddle, September 2007