- Born 9 November 1873 Rathmines, Dublin
- Died 31 July 1954 "Sunset", Nedlands, Perth, Western Australia.
- Occupation Inland Revenue Clerk/Official Solicitor's Clerk/Stockbroker's Clerk
- Debut 10 July 1905 v HDG Leveson-Gower's XI at Rathmines
- Cap Number 257
- Style Right hand bat, right arm medium
- Teams Civil Service (Dublin) Leinster
George Christian was a very good all round cricketer, arguably the best ever to play for the Civil Service Club. As a batsman, he was a fluent stroke maker, famed for stylish off side play, though he could also hit powerfully when the need arose. This mixture of elegance and aggression brought him eight centuries for Civil Service as well as a host of fifties. On one occasion, against the long defunct Sandymount Club in 1897, he hit 119 while adding over 300 for the first wicket with Piers O'Brien-Butler, a colourful character and rugby international. George's innings of 110 against Pembroke in 1905 was described by the weekly "Sport Illustrated" thus, "He scored his 110 in masterly fashion, his cutting and driving being perfect." The knock included one 6 and nineteen 4s.
As a bowler George took well over 800 wickets for Service. Opening the bowling he usually could be relied on to remove at least one the oposition openers and was invaribly able to mop up the tail. His best season with the ball was 1898 when he took 84 wickets at an average of 10. He had many fine all round performances to his credit, none better than that achieved in the "Local Derby" with Phoenix in 1897, when - having scored a beautiful 112 - he then took 6 wickets.
Though he also played several matches for Leinster, George, unlike several other players of his and other days, always remained loyal to Civil Service, neither the few yards up the road in "the Park" or crossing the river on a permanent basis to Observatory Lane or Sydney Parade. Both moves would have benefited his career and have been more convenient domestically.
He did make one somewhat bizarre half appearance for Phoenix in 1898 when, in the match between the two Park neighbours, he appears to have bowled for both sides! He did, as stated above, turn out a number of times for Leinster. Even then, however, he never forgot his prime allegiance. Thus on the occasion of his Leinster debut, a two day match with Phoenix - which took place just after his second and final appearance for Ireland - he was able to leave the ground at lunchtime on the Saturday, the game having finished early, and race down the road to Civil Service, where he made 62* against Co Meath. Despite all these performances, and numerous others not mentioned above, George played only twice for Ireland, against HDG Leveson-Gower's XI in 1905 and I Zingari the following year, the latter match being 12 a side will not be found in his statistics on this site, but the full score and a report are available by following the links on the stats zone.
Why did such a talented player receive so few chances, the first indeed being as a substitute? Three reasons suggest themselves. Firstly, Ireland played only a handful of matches during his career so his opportunities were limited. Secondly it was a time of strength for Irish cricket. With batsmen of the calibre of Frank Browning, Jack Meldon, Dan Comyn and, until his early death, Lucius Gwynn available and Bob Lambert filling the all rounder's slot, competition was fierce. The bowling mostly depended on Lambert, Tom Ross and Bill Harrington with Oxford Blue Gus Kelly providing the speed. Good as he was George was never quite the equal or superior of any of these. Finally Civil Service was unfairly seen as a somewhat unfashionable club. Had George moved permanently to Leinster for example his rewards would probably have been greater. Nevertheless it does seem that he was given less than his due.
As already mentioned his debut came as substitute in the match with Leveson-Gower's XI at Rathmines in 1905. The visitors were not a strong side. it had originally been planned as Gentlemen of England team, but a Cambridge tour of North America and the Gentlemen v Players game at Lord's ruled this out. The captain himself was to lead England and still later to be Chairman of Selectors but he was only a moderate player. The team's strength lay in its bowling with the amateur Neville Knox, a purveyor of genuine pace and the Essex off spinner Walter Mead who had played one Test against Australia in 1899. They were far too much for the Irish batsmen and, though Tom Ross bowled magnificently, the hosts went down by 53 runs. George got little opportunity to show his skills. He was not given a bowl, though as the visitors were dismissed for 127 and 110, this hardly mattered. However Browning placed him at 10 in the batting order. He was undefeated on 4 in the first innings and, though he was bowled for a duck by Knox in the second, his place in the order was surely too low. Knox, incidentally, who was to play two Tests in 1907, was as fast and destructive a bowler as any in England, until injury cut his career short.
George was an original selection for the IZ match the following season. This was to prove to have been a historic match. It was the last match between Ireland and IZ and was also to prove the last of any kind to be played on the Vice Regal Ground, which had been specially reopened for the game. Unfortunately the visitors were weak, titles and double barrelled names being far more prominent than cricket ability. Confusingly their team also included an FH Browning, Ireland being led by the player of the same name. IZ's Browning was an army officer and the father of General "Boy" Browning who was husband of novelist Daphne du Maurier and commander of the ill fated Arnhem landings in 1944.
George had quite a good match, though the game was dominated by Gus Kelly's fiercesome hitting and fast bowling. Batting first Ireland were put out for 234 with George, at No 8, failing to score. IZ were also dismissed on the first day, with George playing a major part. The visitors lost their last six wickets for 25, George, introduced as third change, taking 4-15 in 6.2 overs. He then played a key role with the bat, making a brisk 20 at No 7. He and Jack Meldon added 40 in quick time, 21 coming off two, overs from Browning. Meldon hitting two 6s and George one.
He had no need to bowl in the second innings, as Kelly and Lambert swept the visitors away, the paceman finishing with match figures of 12-86.
George continued to play for Civil Service until the end of the 1911 season, before he retired probably because of increasing family responsibilities. One of the few of a large family to marry himself - having done so to Elizabeth White in 1904- he had - by 1911 two young boys. The Census reveals that the household also included Elizabeth's widowed mother and 25 year old brother, to say nothing of one - no doubt overworked - servant girl. Subsequently George and his family emigrated to Australia, settling in the suburbs of Perth where he died aged 81.
George Pattison Christian was not the only member of his family to shine on the cricket field. His elder brother James - sometimes incorrectly referred to as John - was also a member of Civil Service CC, but, though described as a "pretty" bat, he never achieved the heights attained by his younger sibling. In all George and James were two of six brothers and two daughters of David Christian - who died while still quite young - and Margaret Pattison. A younger brother Robert Burns Christian was killed in France in 1916, while serving with the Dublin Fusiliers.
NB (1) I am much indebted for this study to "First Class Service" the excellent and elegantly produced history of the club published in 1994.
(2) Identification of George Christian has caused some problems. When I compiled the Association of Cricket Statisticians "Irish Cricketers 1855 - 1980" he was identified - not by this writer - as being one George Philip Christian (1860 - 1925). However this was incorrect. My searches for these biographies show that George Philip was a wealthy Englishman with no known connections with either Ireland or cricket. He had no brothers and his biographical details may be found on such sites as the peerage.com. He died in South Africa in 1925. George Pattison Christian is the only GP Christian in the Irish Censuses of 1901 and 1911 and the only George Christian whose age fits his cricket career. I can only offer a belated apology to those who have used the incorrect ACS details when referring to him. CricketEurope would be very pleased to hear from anyone who can provide details of his education.
Edward Liddle, October 2010