- Born 8 November 1888, Old Castle House, Roscrea, Co Tipperary
- Died 6 December 1972, Dalkey, Co Dublin
- Educated St Columba's College, Dublin University
- Occupation Malt Farmer
- Debut 11 September 1909 v All New York at Staten Island
- Cap Number 274
- Style Right-hand bat
- Teams Dublin University, Phoenix
Harry Read was a outstanding all round sportsman, representing Ireland not only at Cricket but also at Rugby and Tennis. He was captain of all three at St Columba's where his batting made a lasting impression on Pat Hone two years his senior, who encountered him when he played for Co Wicklow against the College. Hone remembered Read as, "The best schoolboy hitter of the ball I ever saw, he hit everything (regardless). His forties (his normal scores against us) were made with amazing rapidity."
Entering Dublin University in 1907, Harry was six yeas in the XI from 1908. being captain in 1911. He mostly opened the batting, at first with George Meldon then with Dickie Lloyd, with whom he will always be associated in the history of Irish Rugby. Sometimes he dropped down to Number 3, presumably because he and Lloyd were thought too similar in style, to allow the dour and prosaic Australian Pat Quinlan to open. Read remained a free scoring batsman but slightly curbed his style. Hone, who was four years in the XI with him, thought this a mistake, because, "his defence was not without its gaps."
Be that as it may, Read had a highly successful career at University. His first hundred was for the Long Vacation XI in 1907, the summer before he entered University. He struck a belligerent 100 v The Frogs, a strong English wandering side on tour. He was to hit four more hundreds, of which a murderous 161 v Stanley Cochrane's professional attack at Woodbrook in 1911 was the highest. He also hade a lightningly fast 148 v Co Kilkenny that season, putting on 323 for the first wicket with Lloyd before Dickie ran him out. They also out on over 200 in little over an hour in a match in Cork that year, but the score of this match has not been seen.
In 1909, he joined the Irish team which toured North America, the third such venture; it was to be the last until 1968. The party was very weak, with many first choices unable to go. Harry owed his place as a batsman to the fact that three Meldons and the two Lamberts all had to decline, as did the best Northern batsman William Pollock. They were badly missed.
Read began well, with a typically domineering 41 in a non cap match in Ontario, but once the team crossed the border he, and others, found the going harder. Against All New York, he batted at 7 and failed in the first innings, but in the second, when Ireland thanks to the spin of Harrington and Napper, wanted only 94 to win, he was forced to play an unaccustomedly defensive role to reach 15* as George Morrow, the only Irish batsman to enhance his reputation on the tour, saw Ireland home. There followed the two matches with Philadelphia, now adjudged to have been first class. Certainly the famous swing bowling of Bart King and the leg spin of Australian HV Hordern was. Ireland were outclassed.
However, though Harry's scores appear disappointing, he was far from the worst of the recognised batsmen, and did have a modicum of success. Thus in the first innings of the first match, his 16 was second top score and one of only 4 in double figures as Bart took all 10 for 53 to rout Ireland for 111. Morrow carried his bat through the innings, being bowled by a King no ball. Harry did record a second innings duck. Between the two "Test" matches, Ireland played a non cap match v XVI Philadelphia Colts. This was the type of bowling Harry could be relied on to destroy. He made a rumbustious 58, putting on 103 for the 6th wicket with Hone (70).
In the second Philadelphia game, King contented himself with a mere 7 first innings wickets. Harry attempting to take him on, made 19, second only to Morrow as a highest score. They were the only ones to reach double figures. He made 11 in the second innings, only two others getting further.
He was to play once more for Ireland: v Scotland at Rathmines in 1912. He failed, in company with other leading batsmen, which was unfortunate as Scotland won by only 3 runs.
During these years, he had also been excelling on the Rugby field. He formed a half back combination with Lloyd which made the University one of the most powerful sides in Ireland. It also gained him 13 Irish caps, all with Lloyd as his partner. It's generally claimed that he "invented modern half back play." They were certainly among the first to operate at scrum half (Read) and fly half (Lloyd) as specialists, and, as far as is known, the first to do so in an International, Rugby having not at that stage stolen the term Test Match from its natural home!
Harry achieved a unique treble in 1911 reprising his roles at St Columba's by captaining the cricket, rugby and tennis clubs. He is, to the best of my knowledge, one of only seven players to have been captain of both the 1st XI and 1st XV at Dublin University; the others being Irish cricketers Robert Traill who played for Ireland in odds matches, Arthur Gwynn, Larry Warke and Gerry Murphy as well as Bill Moynan a classic left hander whom only poor fielding denied an Irish cap and medical student from Rhodesia - as it then was - Percy Sang in 1958, though he had the ill luck to be injured for the annual rugby match with University College, Dublin. For good meaure Harry was also President of the Rugby Club from 1945 - 47. In the 1910 - 11 season all three of the University's XVs went through their seasons without losing a match. There was great rivalry between the Seconds and Thirds who wanted to stage an end of season match to see which was really the superior. Harry was having none of it and forbade the match, "All my teams will go through the seaon undefeated, " he said.
As a tennis player he gained selection for Ireland. Having left University in 1912 and returned to the family business in Roscrea, where was to remain until shortly before his death, he joined the 2nd Life Guards in the War, and was a Lieutenant at the conclusion of the conflict. Thereafter, he did not, like Lloyd return to cricket, or, indeed to his winter game. This must be seen as unfortunate as he was only 30 and, as his Tennis exploits continue to show, very fit. It must also be regretted that he and Lloyd never played for the same Irish Cricket XI.
In the late 1930s, Read married and had two sons. He also resumed his cricket, bringing his own side to St Columba's, something he had first done in 1911, and also captaining the Old Boys' team in the annual match. He carried on playing until well into his seventies. If truth be told bowlers, at least in his last few years did not make things too difficult for him, but he could still roll out his powerful drives, this writer, a 16 or 17 year old umpire, gaining a close up view, could only recall Hone's words, "He hit at everything regardless." H
is two sons also were in the XI at St Columba's, but apart from turning out for their father's sides did not play subsequently. This was a shame for both were talented batsmen. Peter, the elder was a swashbuckling chip off the old block who wanted to hit every ball out of sight, but Terrence, the younger, was the antithesis of his father. A stubborn opening bat, who gained Leinster School Caps in 1959, he once batted 90 minutes for 7 in a match v RBAI, while a 16 year old Dermot Monteith spun his team mates out for 49. This writer has often wondered what Harry made of that innings when Terrence told him about it. Rugby rewarded him later in life, as he was President of the IRFU in 1955, opening the West Stand at Lansdowne Road, now condemned to destruction with the rest of the grand old ground. He was President of Roscrea RFC. In cricket, he was the third President of the Leprechauns. These were fitting honours at the end of a long and successful sporting life.
Edward Liddle, October 2007, updated February 2011