- Debut 11 July 1904 v Cambridge University at The Mardyke
- Cap Number 255
- Style Right hand batsman, right arm medium pace
- Teams Cork County
Percy Ross, tall and light haired, was a very good medium pace bowler who was a leading member of the Cork County attack for the first decade of the last century. His Irish appearances were limited to two, which was arguably rather less than he deserved. He was somewhat unlucky in playing most of his cricket at a time when Ireland played few matches and when the opposition faced was strong.
He showed to good advantage for Cork County in matches with Na Shuler and Dublin University, the major games of the season. Thus he had three five wicket hauls against the Shulers, taking, for example six in the first innings of the 1903 match. Aided by Hugh French, he bowled the visitors out for 89, only to see his team routed for 41 by veteran spinner Robert Pike. Rain intervened and the match was left drawn. However another "5 for" in the second innings of the 1908 match saw him bowl the County to victory as needing 202, the Shulers collapsed for 95.
Dublin University provided stronger opposition but also found his bowling formidable. Thus in 1904, when the County won by an innings, he had eight wickets in the match, including future Cork County and Ireland opener Wilfred Bourchier twice. Borchier was one of three who fell to him for ducks as he took five in the second innings, the others being Charles Fausett, a very good batsman who narrowly missed Irish selection but who was to die in the coming War and Harry Thrift a useful cricketer but better rugby player who was much later to become the first Secretary of the International Rugby Board. In 1909, when the University won by an innings, totalling 334, with George Meldon hitting a magnificent 178, Percy had figures of 26-2-90-4, including Harry Read, who hit a belligerent 53, and Pat Hone among his victims.
Percy's debut match for Ireland came at The Mardyke in July 1904 against Cambridge University. The Light Blues were virtually at full strength but this was far from the case with Ireland. The visitors were due to play two matches, also meeting their hosts at Rathmines and two very different Irish sides were selected, the stronger of which was picked for the Observatory Lane encounter. The side for the Mardyke match seems to have been chosen with a local gate in mind and was further weakened by no less than seven of the original selections withdrawing. Cambridge won with some ease recording a five wicket victory. Ireland batted first and were bowled out for 121, Percy, coming in at 10 was caught off the slow right armer Fred Wilson for 1. Wilson, who describes the match in his autobiography "Sporting Pie" was Triple Blue who later became a well known sports journalist first for the Daily Mirror and then for The Times. He was the father of the journalist Peter Wilson, who used the byline "The Man They Couldn't Gag" and grandfather of the former BBC racing commentator Julian Wilson.
Facing so small a score Cambridge replied with 310. Percy appears to have been rather out of his depth. Coming on second change he had figures of 9-1-40-0, his single wicket that of another Percy, the Cambridge fast bowler PR May. Ireland did rather better in their second innings, Percy, again at 10, contributing an undefeated 10. He was not included in the side for the Rathmines game, which Ireland won convincingly.
His other match for Ireland came eight years later in 1912, a first class fixture against the South Africans at Woodbrook. This was the year of the Triangular Tournament which was ruined by rain, the weakness of the South African side and the fact that the Australians, who also visited Stanley Cochrane's ground that year, were short six of their best players who had refused to tour and were also riven by internal dissent. Cochrane took over selection of the Irish side himself and named 14 players including Percy, a debateable decision, but also including three of the Woodbrook professionals - who could claim a residential qualification.
Also in the 14 were WJ Whitty, a fast left armer who was a member of the Australian side, EW Dillon a left hand opening bat from Kent and Cochrane himself! Whitty and Dillon were said to have had a birth qualification. Cochrane was said to have not been very strong academically while at school, but his geography teachers would surely have told him that Sydney was in New South Wales and Penge in Kent! As for his own selection, he might have to give way to the present writer - or to a very distinguished current writer and historian of the game in Ireland - in a race for the accolade of being the worst player ever to appear for Dublin University 1st XI. But he would certainly have been the worst player ever to play for Ireland. Happily he was persuaded not to take the field as were Whitty and Dillon, who was possibly selected because of his surname!
Weak as the visitors were, their hosts were no match for them. Ireland were bowled out for 108 which would have been a great deal less but for a belligerent innings from Percy. Coming in at No 8, he threw caution to the winds and smashed his way to 26 in 20 minutes. He was easily top scorer.
When the South Africans batted they experienced little difficulty with the Irish bowling. Percy, opening the attack had 2-99 in 23 overs. His two were worth having however. He removed Herbie Taylor, who was to finish a war truncated Test career with an average of 40.77, brilliantly caught by Dickie Lloyd at mid off for 14 and later dismissed the captain, English rugby International Frank Mitchell, formerly of Cambridge University and Yorkshire, thanks to another good catch, this time by Pat Quinlan. The visitors totalled 395 in 275 minutes. Ireland then collapsed again, bettering their first innings score by 10 runs. Percy, promoted in the order could only manage 3 this time.
Percy Ross was never to play for Ireland again, but his brief career had brought him the wicket of one of South Africa's all time greats and also a fleeting moment of fame with the bat.
NB: It will be seen from the foregoing that several details about his life remain undiscovered. It may be that Percy was more of a nickname than his proper first name. it has certainly proved impossible satisfactorily to identify him in the Censuses of 1901 and 1911 or from various other sources. We would be most pleased to hear from anybody who can help to fill the gaps.
Edward Liddle, August 2011