- Born 17 November 1848, Dublin
- Died 20 September 1888, Dublin
- Educated St Columba's College, Cambridge University
- Occupation Farmer
- Debut 23 August 1875 v I Zingari at Phoenix Park
- Cap Number 126
- Style Right-hand bat.
- Teams Phoenix; Na Shuler; W Hone's XI
William Hone, always known as William junior to distinguish him from his better known cousin of the same name, was one of the better players in a distinguished cricket family. His three cousins William, senior, Nathaniel and Jeffrey all gained Irish caps, as did William senior's son Pat, while William junior's younger brothers, Jeffrey and Thomas were also capped. A third brother, also Nathaniel, would almost certainly been capped as well, having won a Cambridge blue as a wicket keeper in 1881, making a stumping off AG Steel, but seeing his side heavily defeated. Tragically later that summer, while on a Na Shuler tour in Limerick, he drank carbolic acid, believing it to be senna, and was dead within hours.
William followed his similarly named cousin to St Columba's where he captained the XI, but was remembered by one contemporary more for shaving with a penknife than for his cricket skills. He was, however, a dominating batsman, in a team which then included members of staff and played as a club side, This meant that the opposition it faced was very variable, but William was soon to prove his skills on, literally, wider fields.
After representing his College, Trinity, at Cambridge, he returned to Ireland and, apart from his matches for the national side played much cricket for Phoenix, Na Shuler and the Vice Regal Club. He also established his own ground on his farm at Kilbogget, near Killiney Hill, in south Co Dublin. Here he was sometimes able to field a side including 8 members of his family. He was often seen to advantage on Na Shuler tours of Cork, scoring four half centuries. The first was 50* v Lord Bandon's XIV, easily the top score of a match the Shulers won by 5 wickets in 1875.
Three years later v Cork County, his 84* saved a potentially difficult situation against good bowling by Robert Pike, allowing the visitors to draw at the Mardyke. His final two major scores contributed to big Shuler wins. Thus in 1879, he made 78* in a total of 262, as NS bundled their hosts out cheaply twice to secure an innings win. He was "in runs" on that tour, signing off with 55 at Castle Bernard as his side beat the local XIV by 60 runs. He also had a string of good scores for the Vice Regal Club. His best known match was the I Zingari match IZ crumbled before the batting of J Byrne, the Lord Lieutenant's Chaplain, but William and Frank Kempster gave the Reverend the runs to bowl at. William made 96, sharing in a big stand with Frank Kempster (92) as the hosts, playing sixteen, totalled 316.
William scored 4 fifties for Ireland, though his career began with four single figure scores v The All England and United South of England XIs in 1869. He had found himself ranged against some of the best bowlers in England, including Edgar Willsher, so his failures as a young man, placed high in the order are not surprising. He was still in the side for the 12-a-side match with I Zingari at the end of the summer. On this occasion he showed his talent, his scores of 31 and 27 being favourably commented on. Batting at 10, he reached 31 in the first innings, adding 61 for the 9th wicket with Tom Casey. He was run out, a mode of dismissal he was often involved in. His 27 in the second innings was also an excellent knock, but the match ended in a draw. As Ireland had more than 11 players, these matches, and the 12-a-side matches he played v I Zingari, will not be found in his statistics on this site.
The first of his four half centuries, all scored in 11-a-side games, came in 1875, in the second innings of the IZ match. Ireland won this match by 201 runs, as the IZ batting was no match for the bowling of Byrne and DN Neill. However it was Ireland's second innings total of 265 that made their success possible. William, hitting one 6 and eight 3s, became the second player to reach fifty for Ireland adding 74 for the third wicket with George Casey. Kempster and William's cousin Leland, then put on 96 for the 8th wicket, to build the match winning total. He narrowly missed a half century in 1876, reaching 49 in the second innings of a match v IZ that Ireland lost by 3 wickets. They had reached a record total of 382, with Kempster making the first century for Ireland, but a poor first innings, and the strength of the visitors batting, were too much for the home side.
In 1878, William was again to the fore as Ireland notched a further win over their visitors. This time he did well in both innings. Ireland won the toss and William, opening with Carlow man William Alexander, had reached 30 out of 56 for the first wicket, when he was given out caught behind by what transpired to have been a poor decision. However he made up for it in the second innings, when Ireland, having made IZ follow on needed 71 to win in tricky conditions. Batting brilliantly, he reached an undefeated 50, as Ireland won by three wickets. His two final half centuries came in the MCC match at Lord's in 1883. MCC had a strong side out including future Test bowler William Attwell and JE West, later a well known umpire, who was a good medium pacer. Though the hosts ended up victorious by 3 wickets, this could not be laid at William's door, as with scores of 61 and 56, batting at 4, he became the first to score two fifties in a match for Ireland. His first knock contained some luck early on, which was not unusual for him as he was not a good starter, but he then made up for it by some magnificent hitting. His second innings 51 continued in the same vein and included six 4s. He added 91 for the 4th wicket with JP Maxwell (69), but this was not enough to set a winning target.
His penultimate match was v IZ in 1883. The bowling of the great all rounder CT Studd was too much for Ireland in the second innings and they collapsed badly. William's 35* was the only bright spot. He hit Studd out of the ground, and, according to Derek Scott's account, "His forward play was brilliant." Studd, who with his father and brother George had fallen under the influence of the evangelists Moody and Sankey, was soon to turn his back on first class cricket. "How could I," he was later to say, "have spent time chasing the honours of the world when there were souls to be saved?"
William was not always successful for Ireland, for example he failed in both Philadelphia matches on the American tour, and generally found runs rather hard to come by on that visit. However there can be no doubt that he was a very good player, his average, in 11-a-side matches, of 28.62, stands up well against those of any contemporary, and, indeed against many who, played for their batting, were to appear for Ireland on many occasions in the years ahead.
Like his three brothers, he died before his time The misfortune which dogged the family being shown by the death of the last survivor Thomas, who, the only one of the quartet to pass 40, was killed in a riding accident aged 64. Perhaps it would be best to leave William with the opinions of Irish cricketer and maverick but respected academic, JP Mahaffy and of Derek Scott, who has undoubtedly seen more Irish cricket matches than anyone else and has researched those he did not witness. Mahaffy had an opinion on most things. He was frequently wrong, especially on cricket. However, when he described William Hone, junior, as "the best batsman in his family," he was surely correct. Derek Scott, who, unlike Mahaffy, is invariably correct about cricket, described William as, "The great player of the seventies." That is good enough for this writer.
Edward Liddle, December 2007