- Born 6 August 1864 Summerhill, Co Meath
- Died Bedford, England 1908
- Educated Rathmines School; Dublin University
- Occupation Doctor
- Debut 14 July 1887 v Canada at Rathmines
- Cap Number 189
- Style Right hand bat, fast right arm.
- Teams Summerhill, Dublin University, Co Meath
David Emerson was considered by some of his generation to be the fastest bowler they had seen. He was able to generate high pace from a short run, delivering the ball with a low slinging action. He was also a good batsman, who often opened the innings and whose stylish play was favourably commented on. He had played the game from childhood but was able to hone his kills at Rathmines School, which during its short life, was a remarkable nursery for Irish cricketers. Apart from David himself, for example, the School produced his fellow Summerhill man, David Trotter, Jack Brunskill of the 1895 Dublin University side, who failed in his one match for Ireland, but scored stacks of runs in Army cricket in India and elsewhere, and Charles Faussett, a courageous batsman, killed in the War, who belongs to the "best batsmen who never...", group of cricketers.
David discovered the game at Summerhill before going to Rathmines, the Club, founded by Trotter's father, the local Doctor, having not only the Trotter family to play for it, but also the Purdons, one of whom, Hugh, not only played for Ireland in an odds match, but married the doctor's daughter.
David entered Dublin University in 1882, winning his Second XI Colours the following summer, when he appeared in one of the earliest photographs still extant, a rather pale and fresh faced young man, clasping a cricket bat. He gained his place and colours in the First XI in 1884, and was an essential member of the side from then until 1887. As a batsman, he often opened the innings and, in all, was to aggregate 1415 runs at 21.19. His best season was 1886, when he made 380 at 25.50, including his highest score of 100 v Phoenix.
Full bowling figures are not available, but the number of wickets, he took are. With a best season of - again - 1886, when he disposed of 40 batsmen, he took 170. He had good support, a pace bowling partner in the Australian born round armer, John Fitzgerald, leg spinner Jack Hynes, who - in the fashion of the times - usually shared the opening overs, and Fitzgerald's brother Edward, who, though a very good wicket keeper, usually removed pads and gauntlets at some stage, to turn his arm over also, taking over 100 wickets for the University, often sharing the gloves with Frank Browning.
One of David's best matches against major opposition came in 1887, when a combined Lancashire/Yorkshire side, playing as "An England XI" under the leadership of the legendary AN "Monkey" Hornby, the man whose strange rearrangement of England's batting order at The Oval in 1882, had allowed the Ashes to be born. David opened the batting after Hynes had won the toss and was out for 9, stumped by Lancashire's Richard Pilling off the off breaks of Billy Bates of Yorkshire, who some five years earlier, had performed Test Cricket's first hat trick, removing Percy McDonnell, George Giffen and the big hitter GJ Bonnor, some of the cream of Australian batting. Just months after the Dublin match, however, he had a bad accident in the nets on another Australian tour and almost lost his sight.
His son, also Billy, played for Yorkshire and Glamorgan before becoming NICC professional. He died in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital in 1957. Pilling did not long survive this match. Four years later, he died of inflammation of the lungs, contracted at a football match. The University reached 141, but then put the professionals out for 122. Opening the bowling with Hynes, David had the remarkable figures of 29-16-42-4. Even allowing for the 4 ball overs then in vogue, this was a remarkable feat of stamina and accuracy, the two hallmarks of his game. He clean bowled Bates, had Louis Hall, a steady opening bat of Boycott like concentration, caught by James Maxwell, held a return catch Bobby Peel, a great left arm spinner, and a middle order bat with a double hundred to his name, and had Irwin Grimshaw caught behind by Edward Fitzgerald, whose brother John weighed in with 4-42. Edward, incidentally, also took a wicket, handing the gloves to Frank Browning. Peel's Yorkshire career was to end in dramatic fashion some ten seasons later. Taking the field one morning the worse for drink, he was ordered off by autocratic skipper, Lord Hawke. Bobby obeyed, leaving via the sight screen, where, according to eye witnesses, he relieved himself of much of the fluid which his night's carousal had filled his system with.
When the University batted again Bates and Tom Emmett, put them out for 107, David (29) and John Fitzgerald (27) being the only two batsmen to hold them up. Needing 129, the visitors were soon in trouble, with John Fitzgerald removing the top five, including Peel, on whom a brilliant catch by David inflicted a pair. Perhaps it was the pace that told, or, perhaps, he had been sampling the wares of one of the city's leading employers and benefactors. David had 3-70, and the visitors, at one time 112-9, were happy, to get home with their last pair together. Both bowlers were marginally more expensive than usual, which suggests a determination by the England XI to hit their way out of trouble. David also showed his effectiveness as a paceman against the Philadelphians. In 1884, in his first season for the University, he clean bowled their opening bat Frank Brewster, one of the most highly regarded of players in this vintage time for American cricket for 12, besides batting usefully himself making 14 and 25, in a match in which the University emerged with the better of a draw. Playing again against the Americans in 1889, this time for that somewhat amorphous body the University Long Vacation XI, he blasted out the tail, one wicket falling to a stumping by Browning. Even though it was the fashion of the day to stand up to fast bowling, and allowing for the fact that David, while genuinely fast, would not have matched Brett Lee or Shoaib Akhtar for speed, this was a remarkable piece of wicket keeping.
Medical duties, he became a GP in Portarlington, poor health and evental removal to England, restricted David's Irish appearances to four. He was greatly missed on several occasions, notably on the American tour of 1888, when the fast bowling was left to Tom Tobin of Leinster. Tobin was fast but wildly inaccurate and bowled only in short bursts. David would have caused far more trouble to the home batsmen. Further his batting might well have brought Ireland victory in at least one of the two nail biting finishes with Philadelphia that exposed Tobin's lack of batting ability.
As it was, as we have seen, David was restricted to four matches, in two of which, his first and last, he played a major part. His debut was v Canada at Rathmines in 1887. Ireland won the toss and batted with the two Summerhill Davids opening the innings. Trotter left for a careful 20, but Emerson continued to play what was reported as having been a faultless and really good knock. He was third out at 94, having batted 90 minutes for 36, which was to prove his highest score for Ireland. He was bowled by a shooter from Alec Gillespie, a medium pace round armer who took 57 wickets at 18.65 on the tour. Alec was one of Canada's best all rounders, playing 14 times against USA.
Back to Rathmines, when the Canadians batted they were faced by one of the potentially most formidable pace attacks ever fielded by Ireland, David being joined by fellow debutants Tobin and John Fitzgerald. Hynes, however opened the attack with Tobin, David not getting on until second change. He then took 5-16 in two spells, his first of 9 overs bringing him 3-7, the most important wicket he took was that of William Henry, one of the visitor's most reliable batsmen, who scored almost 900 runs on the tour, making a 46 minute 88 v Gloucestershire, who included . The "Old Man" took a "5 for", but, thanks to William they cost him 100 runs. No such heroics at Observatory Lane, David "castled" for 9. The visitors were all out for 88 and followed on, compulsory in those days. This time David and Fitzgerald opened the attack. David bowled 31 consecutive overs to take 4-36, a remarkable feat of stamina and hostility. In defence of the Canadians, this was their first match; they were to improve as the tour went on.
David's s final appearance v I Zingari in Phoenix Park two years later, was also notable. I Zingari led off with 255. At second change, David bowled almost unchanged to take 4-65 in 35 overs. Had Trotter not dropped a catch at short point, he would have done the hat trick. The match ended in a draw, Ireland, following on, saving the game. To revert to the near miss hat trick, the second victim was Henry Tylecote, a good middle order batsman, four years in the Oxford XI and also an Athletics Blue, being a noted middle distance runner. Cambridge Blue Lewis Jarvis was the man who escaped thanks to Trotter variously reported in cricket history as being a brilliant or appalling field but did not enjoy his good fortune for long. David's pace forced a false stroke into the safer hands of Jack Meldon.
As we have seen, David became a doctor in Portarlington. Tobin had a solicitor's practice there. Whether or not the two men formed a devastating partnership on the uneven wickets of local cricket, I have been unable to discover, certainly neither remained long in Dublin cricket. Both, indeed were also to leave Portarlington, David for England, and Tobin, some years later, for Australia.
David's move may have been occasioned by his marriage. His wife Ellen Martyn was some three years his senior. The couple settled in Bedford, where David, while still a comparatively young man died in 1908, aged 44. His widow and daughters long survived him. The daughters living for over 80 years each, and Emily being 91 when she died in 1952.
David North Bomford Emerson is now largely forgotten in Irish Cricket History. He deserves more and should be remembered as one of the fastest and most persevering bowlers to represent his country.
Edward Liddle, February 2009