- Born 2 January 1864 New Ross, Co Wexford
- Died 21 May 1931 Kalgoorlie, Western Australia
- Educated St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg
- Occupation Solicitor (also a Barrister in Western Australia)
- Debut 14 July 1887 v Canada at Rathmines
- Cap Number 192
- Style Right hand batsman, fast right arm
- Teams Leinster.
Tom Tobin was a tearaway fast bowler, whose considerable pace often upset batsmen. Unfortunately, he also tended to wild inaccuracy, which meant that he did not always trouble the best players. He was seen as a genuine No 11, a batsman who, while likely to enliven proceedings with a few mighty hits, was unlikely to hang around for long. There were however occasions when he stayed at the wicket to wreak havoc on the opposition attack and change the course of a match. He was also a reliable slip, his dropping a catch being a matter for the press to note.
He did not have the easiest of childhoods. His parents both died when he was young, and he found himself, a ward of court, sent to St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, a Jesuit boarding school, in remote Co Offaly. As Tullabeg, as it was generally known, has featured before in these biographies, it might be appropriate to mention something of its history. It had been founded in 1818, to be a school for boys under 13 prior to their entering Clongowes Wood College. However in the 1850s, it expanded to full secondary level. Its cricket facilities, described in some detail by Pat Hone in Cricket in Ireland were first class, being described by one of the famous Lyttleton brotherhood as superior to those at Eton.
Be that as it may, Tom must have been able to blast out some by sheer pace, as he disproved the mantra that fast bowlers brought up on good wickets will learn the value of line and length! Some four years after he left Tullabeg, just, in fact, as most famous cricketer, Jack Meldon was flexing his muscles, the College closed, its pupils - including Meldon - being transferred to Clongowes. It has been supposed that this was because of a shortage of Jesuits. The building became a Jesuit seminary, then a retreat, but is now a nursing home.
Tom became a solicitor, practising in Portlaoise, and began his association with the Leinster Club. One of his best seasons for the club was 1885, when he took 34 wickets at 11.00, for which feat he received a medal from his grateful team-mates. The medal happy to relate, is still in the possession of his descendants, as, is one - somewhat surprisingly - awarded for batting in the same season. That year he played in a three-day match against Phoenix, of which the main feature was a double hundred by the leading Leinster batsman, AJ Fleming. Tom was remarked upon for dropping a slip catch, this being so, though he later held another. However it was also reported that his bowling was inaccurate. He needed a long stop, a position by then no longer used in serious cricket, this fieldsman was kept busy, often forlornly watching the ball speed to the boundary out of his reach.
Tom's Irish debut came against the Canadian tourists in 1887. This was Canada's first visit to Ireland, though there had been a tour of England and Scotland seven years earlier. This had been a disaster, with their captain and best player T Jordan, being correctly identified as one T Dale, a deserter from the British Army. The tour did not recover from his arrest. This one was more successful, with five matches being won. The first game was v Ireland at Rathmines resulting in a victory in a day and a half for the hosts. Tom was joined by four other debutants in brilliant army batsman John Dunn, fast bowler David Emerson, and the Australian born Fitzgerald brothers: Edward, a smart wicket keeper, and John, another - roundarm - paceman. Tom failed to take a wicket, but bowled with unaccustomed accuracy. Over the two innings, he sent down 14 four ball overs for 20 runs. The wickets were shared by Emerson and John Fitzgerald.
As Ireland won by an innings, he had only one innings. Regrettably, he failed to score, a fate that was to befall him in most of his knocks for his country. He was lbw to WW Jones, an all rounder described by John Marder in his history of USA v Canada matches as, "A good change bowler and a competent batsman." Ireland's early win meant that another match began immediately. This was not taken too seriously and ended in a win for the tourists. Tom was one of those who stood down for the game. Presumably his legal work in the countryside was his first priority.
He did not appear for Ireland again in a home match but was one of those who set sail through the pleasant waters of Lough Foyle in September of the following year, to tour North America. This team, raised and organised by its star player Jack Hynes, but captained - after a seaboard election - by Dominic Cronin, was a good one but not a full strength side. The unavailability of several players weakened the team in key areas. A notable absentee was David Emerson. Tom may well have been selected in his stead. Hard as he tried he was not a bowler of Emerson's class.
The tour began with a match against XV of Coburg, not now regarded as a cap match. Tom did well. His pace upset the home batsmen, five wickets falling to him in the first innings. He added a further one in the second, but had interspersed this with yet another failure to score. The next match was again an odds game, the opponents being XV of Ottawa. Tom failed to take a wicket, his score when batting may be imagined! Ireland won with some ease against Canada at Toronto, Tom in the first innings taking 1-7 in four overs. His wicket was that of Jones. John Fitzgerald was the most successful bowler. However Tom then proceeded to play what was by far his best innings for Ireland. It was indeed to be the only time in an 11 aside Irish match that he scored any runs at all.
Derek Scott's match report, based on contemporary accounts, takes up the unlikely story, "Tobin hit lustily and, aided by mistakes in the field, made 40. There was great cheering when he hit Ogden for 6." Edward Ogden was a fine all round cricketer. A good left hand batsman, he also bowled medium pace to a high standard and could keep wicket. In this innings he had 5-76 his figures spoiled by Tom, who dominated a last wicket stand with Daniel Gillman (17*). Tom failed to take a wicket in the second innings but Ireland secured a comfortable innings victory. As in Dublin, the previous year, another match was played to fill up the time. This ended in a draw, with the cricket not being taken too seriously. Tom, at first change, seems to have been the exception to this. He knocked the first three in the order, finishing with 3-36, his best bowling for Ireland in an eleven a side match.
The team left Canada with regret, entertainment had been lavish and site seeing trips, such as the visit to the Niagara Falls, had been much enjoyed. Moving into the United States they played Longwood XII. This is regarded as an official cap match, but will not be found among any of the Irish players' figures on this site as it involved more than eleven players aside. The scores can be found by following the links on the Statszone. Ireland won a tight match by 5 runs. Tom did contribute to this, though the main architects of victory were Hynes and John Fitzgerald with excellent bowling displays. Tom however took the wicket, in the second innings, of the English professional Ike Chambers, always a dangerous proposition with bat and ball, besides managing, in each innings, to make two more than his normal tally of runs.
However the tourists now came to the most important cricket of the tour as, besides a match with All New York, in which Tom did not play, they faced the sternest opposition possible in a series of matches with Philadelphia. In the first of these Tom was involved in a tense and dramatic finish. A closely fought match left Ireland wanting 127 to win. Tom, who had played his part by removing the dangerous batsman Newbold Etting, came in last with 14 needed to win. At the other end was fellow Tullabeg alumnus Jack Meldon. There was no time however to swap tales of the cricket loving German priest who had run the game in Tullabeg's last years. Tom's nerves were in shreds as Meldon recalled to Pat Hone more than six decades later. "He received many tonics both physical and spiritual and, fortified by the drinks he went to the wicket." Meldon stole the strike until seven were needed. Then Tom had to face HI Brown. Brown, according to his team-mate Percy Clarke in JA Lester's "A Century of Philadelphia Cricket" was "left arm medium to slow curving from the leg and breaking back from off." Trying to avoid the first ball, Tom fell on his haunches. Next ball he played onto his wicket.
After the New York match came the second Philadelphia game. This was again to be a tense one with Tom again taking centre stage, As it was 12 a side, his figures for this match will not be found in his career record on this site. The match did, however witness his best bowling performance for Ireland. In the first innings he had 3-20 including two key wickets, those of George Patterson and Edward Clark. Patterson was, according to John Marder, "One of the finest cricketers ever to represent the United States." He was to make a highest first class score of 271 and to handle county bowlers successfully on Philadelphia's England tour nine years later. Clark was a good all rounder, a classy, left armer, and sound batsman, with a career highest first class score of 147. In the second innings Tom took 5-24. His wickets included William Brockie, a highly regarded batsman and the wicket keeper WC Morgan, who never quite fulfilled his promise as a brilliant schoolboy batsman. Tom bowled with rare accuracy, sending down 24 overs, than any other bowler in the side.
Eventually, Ireland wanted 259 to win, and, with Dunn on top form, looked like getting them. A flurry of wickets, however, saw a dramatic late order collapse, the target receding into the distance. Tom, oblivious to it all, was behind the pavilion, when the 10th wicket - it being a 12 a side match - fell. With the wildly excited crowd chanting for him to appear, his team-mates pushed him out, padless and gloveless, into the fray. There were barely five minutes left to play. He managed a single in a stand of 4, but was then caught behind off Patterson, leaving the hosts victorious by 39 runs.
Tom did not play for Ireland again. Indeed it would seem that the demands of his legal work became more serious as his appearances for Leinster became somewhat spasmodic over the next few years. In the early years of the new century, he married and emigrated to Western Australia. Family tradition maintains that he played for the State. However, if he did so, it was in a minor match of which no record survives. He settled in Kalgoorlie, where he practised as both a solicitor and a barrister.
Thomas Joseph Tobin deserves to be remembered in Irish Cricket history, not only as a man who featured - somewhat disastrously - in two very dramatic finishes, but also - and more so - as a whole hearted fast bowler, who could always be relied upon to do his utmost for club and country.
Edward Liddle, February 2009