- Born 22 December 1847 Castle Bernard, Bandon, Co Cork.
- Died 31 July 1884 Dublin
- Occupation Captain South Cork Militia
- Debut 22 June 1868 v All England XI at College Park
- Cap Number 190
- Style Hand unknown
- Teams Co Cork, Co Galway, Vice Regal, Bandon, Tuam
James Bernard was an enthusiastic, but unremarkable cricketer, whose performances in major matches, suggest that his selection for them may have been as much due to social position as innate ability. He is usually to be found at the "rabbit" end of the batting order, his scores never suggesting that he would be, in any way, a permanent occupant of the crease.
He was born in his family home, the then impressive mansion of Castle Bernard, ancestral home of the Bernard family, Earls of Bandon, who had seized the land from the local O'Mahony family, whose medieval fortress was mostly destroyed to build the Bandon seat. James was the second son of The Hon Charles Broderick Bernard, younger brother of the 3rd Earl and The Hon Jane Grace Evans- Freke, herself a member of the family of the Barons Carbery. Charles, after Eton and Oxford, entered the Church of Ireland, and was to become Bishop of Tuam, to the advantage, as will be seen below of cricket in Co Galway.
With blood which could hardly have been bluer, James, who could also claim descent from Richard Boyle, "The Great Earl of Cork," followed the family tradition in being sent to Eton, though he did not feature in the XI. The first major match which he took part in was between Bandon and I Zingari in 1866. It was played on the Castle Bernard ground, which like Stanley Cochrane's Woodbrook had its own railway station. Both teams were, as was the custom, royally entertained by the 3rd Earl, himself a keen cricketer who, usually playing as Viscount Bernard his other title, took part in many matches for MCC and IZ, appearing in both Ireland and England with many of the leading cricketers of the day. He usually batted down the order and usually returned a single figure score, though in what was to almost his last match, he scored 38* for the Vice Regal Lodge against Leinster in 1876.
In the match under review Bandon, playing 22 against IZ's 12 had a reasonable side, but were easily defeated. James, surprisingly opening the batting, recorded a pair being bowled by fast underarmer Archie Smith in the first innings and run out in the second. His elder brother, Percy, also played in this game. Though he was a somewhat better cricketer, he too failed to impress.
In 1867 Charles Bernard became Bishop of Tuam and at once provided a cricket ground for the Tuam club within the estate of the Bishop's Palace, for which both Percy and James played. Two more clubs soon emerged in the town, though it is probable that one Tuam Palace also played on the Bishop's ground and featured his sons, both of whom also played for Co Galway.
I868 saw James make his solitary appearance for Ireland against the mighty All England XI in College Park. He was unable to uphold the family honour as XXII of Ireland crashed to a 9 wickets defeat, the bowling of Crispin Tinley, JC Shaw and the Nottinghamshire fast roundarmer JT Oscroft being too much for most batsmen, though Tom Casey made a highly praised 24 in the first innings. James, however, batting at No 21, was bowled by Tinley in the first innings and Oscroft in the second, making 3 on each occasion.
James was in his uncle's side against Na Shuler in 1869 but with scores of 0 and 7, falling in each innings to the slow bowling of William Maitland, an Oxford Blue who was one of the best amateur bowlers in England, though as an MP his chances were limited.
Several scorecards of the time, for example that of a match in 1871 between the Gentlemen of the South of Ireland and the Gentlemen of the North of Ireland - geographical exactitude not being required for the latter team - simply show a participant as Bernard without initials. On this occasion the player probably was James as his scores were 7 and 1*.
He most certainly did appear twice for the Vice Regal team against IZ, firstly in 1874 when the hosts, fielding 16 to their visitors 12, scored a convincing victory, though James with a first innings duck - bowled by slow underarmer Charles Rowley, did not contribute much to it. Four years later he played again in a match which a strong Zingari team had little difficulty in winning.
Away from cricket, James Boyle Bernard, who held the rank of captain in the South Cork Militia, married Emily Georgina Gascoyne. They had a son and daughter, both of whom were still little children, when Emily died the year after her husband.
Castle Bernard, on whose picturesque ground most of James' cricket was played, now stands a gaunt and overgrown ruin, having been burned down by the IRA in 1921. They had come to the mansion to kidnap the 4th Earl as a hostage, on finding him not there, they decided to burn the building down, but, bizarrely, removed all the furniture first. The Earl hiding in the cellars, emerged as the building took light and was promptly taken prisoner. His wife, the Countess, was evidently a Lady of spirit and courage. As her house burned and her husband was tied up by armed men, she rose to her feet and sang every verse of God Save The King! The Earl, who had himself also played for I Zingari with the customary family ill fortune, was released three weeks later. The railway station was closed in 1894, its site is now a car showroom. The cricket ground, in another parallel with Woodbrook, is now subsumed by a golf course.
Edward Liddle, August 2014, updated April 2017