- Born 4 July 1864, Moira, Albert Road, St Kilda, Melbourne
- Died 24 February 1939 Chelsea Square, Chelsea, London
- Educated Oscott College, Birmingham; Dublin University
- Occupation Barrister
- Debut 5 July 1883 v MCC at Lord's
- Cap Number 173
- Style Right hand batsman, slow right arm round arm.
- Teams Dublin University; MCC
Francis Fitzgerald was a member of a well known Irish - Australian family. His father and uncle, Nicholas and Edward, having emigrated to the then colony of Victoria from Galway in the 1850s, founded the famous Castlemaine Breweries (later Carlton United Breweries) of which Nicholas was for many years Managing Director. He also had many other business interests and was a millionaire. Nicholas, partly thanks to his marriage to Marianne O'Shaunessy - daughter of a Prime Minister of Victoria - became a prominent politician, being famed for his oratory.
Also well known for his connections with the Catholic Church, he was made a Papal Knight by Pope Leo XII. Nicholas and Marianne had seven sons, four of whom became prominent cricketers. Besides Francis, John and Edward also played for Dublin University and Ireland. Their biographies may also be found on this site. Another brother Percy played one first class Match for MCC in 1897, besides becoming a Brigadier.
Francis entered Dublin University in 1881 to read Law and was in the XI for three seasons from 1883, the year in which he played for Ireland. His major match for the University was v the Philadelphian tourists in 1884. He made 21 and 26 at No 9, falling in the first innings to Frank Brewster, one of the best of a remarkable generation of American cricketers.
Brewster was mainly a batsman but also bowled slow round arm, making the ball lift awkwardly and unexpectedly. In the second Francis was caught off the medium pace of railroad millionaire JB Thayer who was to die on the Titanic, according to survivors on of the heroes of that terrible night. Francis also took the wicket of devastating hitter David Stoever who was to hit a brilliant hundred in the corresponding match five years later.
In all for the University 1st XI he scored 305 runs at 10.16 and took 58 wickets. His best season with the ball was 1883 when he had 34 wickets at 14.91. He was awarded his Colours for each of his three years in the XI, having previously gained Second XI Colours in 1882.
Francis' two matches for Ireland came on the English tour of 1883, arguably owing his place to holiday domicile in London as much as cricket ability. He failed twice with the bat as Ireland went down by an innings two MCC falling twice to Test medium pacer William Attewell. Against the Aldershot Division, Francis made 11 at No 10 in Ireland's only innings. The match ended in a draw as Ireland ran out of time pressing for an innings win. Francis had his best Irish bowling figures 1-12.
After graduation, he settled in London becoming a leading barrister, finishing as Recorder of Newbury. He married Susan Georgina North, a direct descendant of Lord North, a direct descendant of the Prime Minister blamed by history for losing the American colonies. He also found time to play some cricket, appearing in one first class match for MCC v Yorkshire in 1890. In the first innings he was bowled by classic left armer Bobby Peel having failed "to trouble the scorers." Peel one of the remarkable "Chain of Spin Wizards" who bowled slow left arm for Yorkshire and England was later sacked by Yorkshire's autocratic captain Lord Hawke, having, according to legend, taken the field drunk and relieved himself against the sight screen.
In his other MCC matches of whom scores have been seen, Francis' top score, also in 1890, was 30 against Derbyshire. He was a member of the MCC side which entertained the Parsees at Lord's in 1888. This match was also drawn, with Francis making 16* in his only innings. He rubbed shoulders with the greater when turning out for MCC v The Lyric Club in 1892. The Lyric included the former Australian captain Billy Murdoch who was, by now, playing for Sussex who caught his fellow countryman at slip.
Francis John Fitzgerald was to live well into his eighth decade, a respected member of the establishment in his adopted country.
NB: Fitzgerald has sometimes being identified with an FJ Fitzgerald who played for Dulwich College in the 1870s. With the much appreciated help of the College Archivist, I have established that this is a misidentification. The Dulwich player was the son of an Anglican clergyman and became a Preparatory School teacher in Sussex.
Edward Liddle, August 2009