- Born 1876 Dublin
- Died 18 March 1951, Prittlewell, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex
- Educated St Lawrence College, Ramsgate
- Debut 21 August 1899, I Zingari at Vice Regal Ground, Phoenix Park, Dublin
- Cap Number 235
- Style Right-hand bat, right-arm fast medium
- Teams Pembroke, Scottish Counties
Bob Adair, a very small man, was what would today be described as a "batting all-rounder." Normally a sound middle order batsman, who scored freely for the Pembroke Club, he could also open the innings. His highest score, of which a record has been seen was 171 for Pembroke A against Tullamore in 1902, it appears that the opposition was not very strong. His versatility did not always work to his advantage, as he suffered from having no settled place in the order. He was an under-used and under-valued fast medium bowler, who tended to get on in representative matches when the all else had failed.
His debut for Ireland came in 1899 v I Zingari, when the Irish XI was badly weakened by a selection dispute, which meant that the Phoenix players, the strength of the batting, withdrew. This left the side in no shape to meet the bowling of BJT Bosanquet, then a fast bowler, who took 16 wickets in the match. Batting at six, Adair made 1 and 30, the latter being the second innings top score and the second highest Irish score of the match. Further his bowling figures of 2-65, were economical compared to some more illustrious team mates who felt the lash of Sir Timothy O'Brien's bat. The periodical 'Cricket' in 1902, described him as, 'Quite fast with a beatiful action and the ability to make the ball break sharply from the off.' It also claimed that he was. 'One of the best batsmen in Ireland.' It is hard to find evidence to support this claim, when, even at this distance, it is possible to name a dozen, at least, who were his superiors!
Adair was unavailable for Ireland's next match v South Africa in 1901, because almost all the Irish clubs boycotted it, in protest over Phoenix assuming control of the game. However disputes were settled by 1902, when he was chosen as one of Ireland's inaugural first class tourists to England under O'Brien who had never played for Ireland before. Adair did not play in the pre-tour trial, which destroyed the reputations of some hopefuls. On the tour Adair made useful but not outstanding contributions. He hardly bowled, which was not surprising as the spinners dominated, but his batting was not helped by some eccentric batting order decisions from Sir Timothy which saw Adair occupy three widely different positions. His most valuable contribution was a first innings 32, his best score for Ireland, against Cambridge. He put on 70 for the sixth wicket with TA Harvey, to help set up an Irish victory.
The following season he played for the Gentlemen of Ireland against Dublin University in the Trial Match held before the team to play London County at The Mardyke was chosen. The previous year he had missed the Trial but still been chosen for the English tour. This time he bowled well to take 4-55 in the University first innings, before the spinners took over. He was selected to play v London County but had to withdraw at short notice. He did not play again. Bob was a fine all round sportsman being a hockey player of some ability. Together with Pembroke team-mate Ernest Rooney he played fro the Corinthians Club before its untimely demise. Later he left Ireland and established himself in good quality cricket in Scotland. In 1910, he played his last major match, for the Scottish Counties against Yorkshire. At 3, he was bowled by George Hirst for a duck in the first innings. There was no second chance as the match was abandoned following the death of King Edward VII.
Bob may also have a distinction not shared by any other Irish cricketer. Arthur Conan Doyle, himself a competent player, often used current cricketers names in the Sherlock Holmes stories. In The Empty House, the story which brought the great detective back to life from the Reichenbach Falls, the murder victim is the Hon Ronald Adair. The story first appeared in The Strand Magazine in 1903, the year after Bob - Robert Adair had toured England under Sir Timothy O'Brien.
I am indebited to David Penney for providing detail of Adair's innings v Tullamore and his hockey career.
Edward Liddle, April 2007. Updated December 2007