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Biography
Parker Dunscombe
  • Born 26 August 1831 Cork
  • Died 16 January 1914 Dublin
  • Educated Mr Hamblin's School, Cork Queen's College, Cork
  • Occupation Civil Servant
  • Debut 22 June 1868 v All England XI at College Park
  • Cap Number 112
  • Style Right hand bat; slow left arm: underarm and roundarm
  • Teams Cork City, Cork County, Civil Service (Dublin), Lansdowne

Parker Dunscombe was a member of a prominent family which had long been based in Cork City and the surrounding county, a direct ancestor Noblett Dunscombe having been Mayor of the City in the early years of the 17th Century. Parker, for almost thirty years one of the most outstanding cricketers in the area, was a slow left armer who was described by Arthur Samuels as "one of the best roundarm bowlers in Ireland." We may imagine that Samuels, who was a firm believer in the merits of an underarm attack and a disparager of all else, must have been somewhat grudging in his praise. Parker was, however, a rather negligible batsman, the fact that he was sometimes to be found high in the order being indicative of the batting shortcomings of his team-mates rather than his own skill. In his prime, he was instantly recognisable on the cricket field. A short stockily built man of increasing girth, he sported a beard which would not have disgraced WG.

He was prominent in Cork cricket from an early age, being one of the founders of the Cork City club in 1849 and scoring its first run when he opened the batting in the inaugural match against Queen's College the following summer, though - typically - he failed to add to his score.

In August 1851 Parker took part in a match at the Mardyke designated England v Ireland, though it has no justifiable claim to be accounted Ireland's first official one. At least nine of the "England" side were of military rank while almost all of their opposition are identifiable as local players, Cork v The Garrison might be a more suitable title. "Ireland" though totalling only 113 won by an innings and 20 runs. Surprisingly, considering that the military were routed twice, Parker failed to take a wicket, though, batting at 4, he made 11, one of only five double figure scores in the match, if the contributions of Mr Extras, who topscored for "Ireland" with 28 and in the "English" second innings with 14, are discounted. It is probable that the wicket was poor. Then as now the Mardyke was liable to flooding and also suffered from the grazing rights of local farmers.

Other major matches in the included against Charles Lawrence's United Ireland XI at the Mardyke in 1856 and 1857, Cork fielding a XXII, but being heavily defeated on both occasions. In keeping with the rest of his team, Parker found the bowling of Lawrence and cricketing clergyman Joseph McCormick too much, though in the second match he top scored with 14 in the hosts first innings. In the 1856 match, he did have the satisfaction of taking the wicket of Edward Chandos Leigh, an Oxford Blue who was to become a knight and prominent barrister besides being captaining I Zingari on several of their tours of Ireland in the 1860s.

The Zingaros were, in fact, among Parker's favourite opponents. In 1866, when XXII of Cork County- though the famous club was yet to be founded - took on the visitors, playing as a XII, at the Mardyke - he had 15 wickets in the match, including not only Leigh but Captain CF Buller, a batsman of high quality later forced out of the game by a scandal which would have been grist to the mill of today's tabloids, and future MCC Secretary, and Irish international, Bob Fitzgerald, whose account of the match is full of praise for the condition of the ground thanks to " the exertions of Mr Dunscombe." In 1872 Parker again scattered the visitors with first innings figures of 6/9 which set up an innings victory. Interestingly three of his victims were stumped, each by a different wicket keeper in the IZ total of 32. The following year saw IZ bowled out for 36 in their first innings with Parker having figures of 7/15 in 18.3 (four ball) overs. We may note that in the 1866 match Fitzgerald describes him as bowling underarm, it is not clear which method he used in the other two matches.

These were by no means his only spectacular successes. 1860 saw a 9 wicket haul against the Fermoy and Buttevant Garrisons while he repeated this feat twice against other opposition the following summer when he also took 8 wickets against Queen's College.

He was also well to the fore in matches for various sides against Na Shuler, a "5 for" for Mr Hewett's XIV in 1871 which caused the visitors to collapse to defeat being an example though a haul of eight wickets in the match for Lord Bernard's XIV two years later could not stave off a heavy defeat.

He thus merited his selection for XXII Ireland against the All England XI at College Park in 1868, the first international to be played there. The visitors won with some ease recording an eight wickets victory on the third afternoon. Strangely, Parker, who failed twice with the bat falling to the wiles of Crispin Tinley, was not asked to bowl at all in the professionals first innings and did not get on in the second until the match was almost over, sending down five wicketless overs.

For many years both Captain and Secretary of Cork City CC, he was one of the most prominent cricketers involved in the foundation of Cork County in 1874, and, though the years were beginning to take their toll on his weight and mobility, remained a leading bowler for them until his career in the Civil Service took him and his family to Dublin where he lived first in Waterloo Road and latterly in Leeson Street. He also joined Civil Service CC and though now aged 50 enjoyed a remarkable season in 1881 when he took 67 wickets including a remarkable spell against the National Bank on 19 July when he finished with figures of 3-3-0-7! He also found time to play for the Lansdowne Club which, because of problems over use of their ground - better known for another sport! - played only five matches that season, all away. In the final one, Parker took yet another five wicket haul. What the opposition made of this was not recorded. They were Civil Service!

Away from the cricket field, he married Anne Baldwin Waggett of Bandon in 1863. They had three sons and a daughter. As already mentioned Parker was a civil servant by profession, finishing as a senior clerk in the Vice Chancellor's office. On his death he left just over 4000 in his will.

Though Parker Dunscombe remains a little known "one cap wonder" there can be no doubt that he was, in the words of the Civil Service CC History "an uncommonly good bowler."

NB: The forename Parker was a very common one in the Dunscombe family and the cricketer has sometimes been confused with his first cousin who was born in 1833 and later lived in Belfast. There is, however, no doubt, that the personal details shown above are correct. I am indebted to Colm Murphy's Long Shadows By De Banks to the Civil Service history First Class Service and to Gerard Siggins's Lansdowne Road as well as various volumes of Burke's Irish Landed Gentry.

Edward Liddle, January 2014

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