- Born 4 November 1856 Cork
- Died 19 October 1930 at Stafford Hoiuse, Stafford Street, Market Drayton, Shropshire
- Educated Repton School, Derbyshire Dublin University
- Occupation Doctor
- Debut 15 August 1878 v I Zingari at Phoenix CC, Phoenix Park, Dublin
- Cap Number 161
- Style Right hand batsman; slow right arm round.
- Teams Cork County; Dublin University; Phoenix, NICC; Market Drayton, Shropshire
Arthur Exham, son of Richard Exham a member of a well known Cork family of the time, was a very good slow round armer, with the ability to make the ball break both ways, besides deceiving batsmen by subtle changes of pace. He was, however, a somewhat negligible tail end batsman. At Repton School, which was then just beginning to develop its formidable pre First World War reputation as a producer of top class players, he was in the XI, before entering Dublin University in October 1873. His younger brother Percy (1859 - 1922) was to follow him to Repton and also show a talent for cricket. Two seasons in the XI, Percy went on to win a Blue at Cambridge, before returning to Repton where he remained, teaching, until his death. He was prominent in local cricket, played one first class match for Derbyshire and also played football for Derby County.
Arthur, a medical student, took some time to establish himself in the University XI, but was ever present for three seasons from 1876. However in that season he took 75 wickets for the Lansdowne Club for whom his brother PG (Percy) - Exham also played. Percy, who, in an away match, scored one of the only two centuries made for the Club, was to spend most of his working life teaching at Repton School in Derbyshire finding time to play cricket for the county and football for Derby County. In all he took 164 wickets at 9.23 often being the destroyer of opposing teams with an impressive haul of "5 fors." Arthur took 76 wickets in each of his last two summers, heading the averages, besides being awarded a presentation bat on the first occasion. By 1878, he was playing for Phoenix, his selection for the Irish side to play I Zingari in August coming as no surprise. IZ were not as strong as usual and were no match for the combined attack of Arthur and paceman Horace Hamilton, the pair bowling almost unchanged. Arthur had a satisfactory debut, returning match figures of 67 - 23 - 83 - 7. Even allowing for the fact that this was the era of the 4 ball over, his economy rate was remarkable. His wickets included Oxford Blues AW Ridley, CK Francis and the formidable Walter Hadow, but the most interesting was the little known Hampshire batsman Reginald Hargreaves, whose interest lies in his wife, Alice, who had, if the writings of an Oxford cleric and mathematician are to be believed spent her childhood journeying through Wonderland and The Looking Glass.
There was little fantasy in Arthur's bowling however. The following summer, on a wet wicket - which had to be changed during the match - he ran through a weak MCC side at Lord's to achieve match figures of 68.2 - 24 - 93 - 13, which gained Ireland an innings victory. He did this almost unaided, clean bowling ten, holding a return catch and having one lbw. The hosts were weak, but Arthur's haul included GF Vernon, who, three years later, was to tour Australia with Ivo Bligh's XI, whose mission, to quote the captain - who little knew what he was starting - was "to recover The Ashes", those now on display at Lord's being, allegedly, given to Bligh during the tour*.
A match against an all amateur Surrey side followed the MCC game. Rain prevented a result but not before Arthur had taken 5-70 in the Surrey innings, including the Shuter brothers, one of whom, John, was to captain the County for over a decade. These performances meant that Arthur was an automatic choice for Nat Hone's Irish side which toured North America that autumn. He had a most successful time, even though the strain of travel was considerable, and he and Hamilton were the only two major bowlers, though the medium pace of Jack Nunn helped out on occasions. In the non cap matches, normally against odds, the pair carried all before them, even though Hamilton, was playing with the news that his younger brother, Walter, had been killed in the massacre of the British Residency at Kabul, having a few months previously, been awarded the Victoria Cross.
Against XVIII of Central New York, the pair were unplayable, bowling Ireland to an innings victory, even though their own total had been only 57! The "New York Courier", after commenting on Hamilton's extreme pace, added, "Exham seemed to depend upon headwork and slow movement." The story was the same in Canada. Full bowling figures are not available for this leg of the tour, but Arthur took over 30 wickets in four matches including 7-20 against a Whitby XVI and 7-31 in an eleven a side match at Hamilton.
He was also to the fore in the two cap matches, early in the tour, against the formidable Philadelphia side. In the first, scheduled for three days, Ireland succumbed by an innings in two. Arthur and Hamilton were not helped by unfamiliar conditions and poor catching, but they acquitted themselves well. Arthur having figures of 21 - 9 - 41 - 3, including the wicket of the Americans captain, George Newhall, one of a formidable brotherhood. In the hastily arranged one day match which followed, Ireland did much better, emerging victorious by two wickets. Arthur, back to his best, had figures of 5-41 in 37 overs. His wickets included that of JB Thayer, a millionaire and outstanding player, who was, in April 1912, to gain the melancholy distinction of being the only first class cricketer to be lost in the Titanic disaster.
Arthur did not play for Ireland again. There was no further match until 1883, by which time his medical duties had taken him to England. He did however play for XVIII of NICC v Billy Murdoch's Second Australian side at Ormeau in 1880, though not for Dublin University Past and Present against the tourists, a match in which Hamilton distinguished himself. The Ormeau game proved a very one sided affair. Arthur, batting high in the order, fell for 0 and 1, "The Demon" Spofforth accounting for him in the first innings. He went wicketless for the only time in his career in a major match.
Arthur spent most of the rest of his life in the small Shropshire town of Market Drayton, which today, despite its alarming proximity to the concrete sprawl of Telford, still shows many of the features of his time. He played for the local club for many years besides making one appearance for Shropshire in 1893. At almost 47, his old form had, perhaps, deserted him, but he took a wicket and held a catch.
Arthur Exham's biography may be found in Scores and Biographies Volume XV as may that of Percy.* The most recent, and most readable, examination of Bligh and of what is- or is not - in the famous urn may be found in Cricket's Burning Passion by Scyld Berry and Rupert People, published in 2006.
I am indebted to Gerard Siggins and Malachy Clerkin Lansdowne Road for details of Lansdowne CC.
Edward Liddle, October 2008, updated February 2011