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Biography
Frank Greetham Kempster
  • Born 5 October 1853, Ballinasloe, Co Galway
  • Died 21 November 1934, Dublin
  • Educated Ennis College, Dublin University
  • Occupation Assistant to County Surveyor, Registrar, Adelaide Hospital, Dublin
  • Debut 23 August 1875 v I Zingari at Vice Regal Ground, Phoenix Park
  • Cap Number 152
  • Style Right-hand bat, slow right arm.
  • Teams Phoenix

Frank Kempster was a member of a well known Co Galway family. He was a sound upper order batsman, and a useful change bowler. He entered Dublin University in 1870, made his debut for the XI the following summer, becoming a regular in 1872. He was then an ever present until he left in 1877, apart from the 1873 season, when he did not play at all, possibly because of injury. His most spectacular performance for the XI came in his final season when he and David Trotter, arguably the best bat in Ireland at the time, put on 362 for the second wicket v Phoenix. Trotter made 234 and Frank 128, his only century for the University. He was captain in 1876, when he had a poor season with bat and ball. This was a contrast to the previous year, when only Trotter had finished above him in the batting and he had topped the bowling.

The most important matches he played for the University were those against the famous English travelling elevens. Thus in 1874, he played for a Past and Present XI v the All England XI, containing some of the best professional bowlers of the day. His scores of 21 and 15 show that he was not exactly outclassed. In 1875, he was in the University XVIII, which took on the United South of England XI in College Park. The USE was a powerful side with WG Grace, opening the batting and bowling, as well as the very accurate slow medium left arm of James Lillywhite, jnr, organiser of the team. Just under two years later he was to captain England in what came to be regarded as the First Test Match of all. WG made 113 and took 18-150, James snared 16-133. Frank managed double figures in each innings, 10 and 13. He was out both times to WG. Another good player on the USE side was Grace's cousin, WR Gilbert. Always "strapped for cash," he turned professional in 1886, was discovered pilfering from team mates pockets in the dressing room, and, in true Victorian fashion, was packed off to the colonies. In his case this was Canada, where he remained until his death in 1924.

In the 1876 match, the University, still playing eighteen, forced USE to follow on after Trotter made a brilliant hundred; Frank contributed 13 before being bowled by GF (Fred) Grace, the youngest of the triumvirate. Poor Fred was destined to become the shortest lived test Cricketer. He succumbed to congestion of the lungs only 14 days after helping win the Oval Test of 1880, the first to be played in England.

Frank's association with tragic figures continued with the 1878 fixture. Having now left the University, he played for a Past and Present XV against the USE. This was, in fact, his last major match for any team. Rain caused a draw but not before Frank had again reached double figures before being bowled by Billy Midwinter. Billy remains the only man to have played for Australia v England and for England v Australia. He died in 1890, in a Melbourne asylum, having become deranged following the death of his wife and two young children.

Frank's debut for Ireland was v I Zingari at the Vice Regal Ground in 1874. As this was a twelve a side match it is does not appear as such in the statistics on this site. He did not make an auspicious start, being run out for 0 in the first innings and being bowled by the Middlesex roundarmer, WH Hadow in the second for 11. He did, at least, have the satisfaction of bowling Haddow for 32. Haddow, with a first class double hundred to his name, was potentially the best bat in the IZ side. Ireland won by 15 runs. The next two years saw Frank at his best as a batsman. In 1875, his debut in 11 a side contests, the IZ team was weak, though it included AJ Webbe who was to captain Oxford for two years and Middlesex for thirteen. Frank was out for 3 in the first innings, but in the second he top scored with 65, including one 6 and two 4s, thus becoming only the third player to make a fifty for Ireland.

The second had been William Hone, jnr also in this innings. Frank was joined by William's cousin Leland Hone in an 8th wicket stand of 93, the best of the match. Leland was to play one Test Match, as an unlikely wicket keeper on Lord Harris' Australian tour of 1878-79. The partnership allowed Ireland to reach their highest total so far, 265, and, thanks to the bowling of the Vice Regal Chaplain J Byrne, to win the match.

The 1876 game, Ireland played no other opposition at this time, resulted in a 3 wicket win for IZ with a few minutes to spare. The fact that they had to chase a target was due to a brilliant 105* by Frank, the first century for Ireland. The hosts had had to follow on but Frank, 63* overnight, enabled them to reach a then record 382 to set IZ 206 to win. He was on 90 when the 9th wicket fell, but the last man E Walshe of Phoenix stayed until he reached the coveted three figures. The next day IZ played the Vice Regal XI and again Frank excelled. IZ went down by an innings and 14 runs. Byrne was again to the fore with he ball, but Frank, who sealed the win by taking the last wicket to fall, again found their bowling to his liking. Batting at 7 in a Vice Regal XV, he made 92, sharing a 6th wicket stand of over 100 with William Hone, jnr, who this time beat him to the top score with 96. In 1878, while playing for The Vice Regal Club XVIII v I Zingari, he was struck by a ball which paralysed his lower limbs. For a while his health was in a dangerous condition and he never played major cricket again.

Frank was one of a family of well known cricketers. His elder brother, Jack. played for Ireland in an odds match in 1869, while his son JF Kempster, a successful batsman with Leinster, played against Scotland in 1920 and 1922. Frank, who had begun his working life assisting his father as county surveyor for Galway, was later to become Registrar to Dublin's Adelaide Hospital, a post which did not then require medical knowledge. He retained his cricket interest throughout his life and was a spectator at many matches in Dublin.

He is profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats.

Edward Liddle, October 2007

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