- Born 6 November 1890, Zagare, Lithuania
- Died 10 June 1943, Dolphin's Barn, Dublin
- Occupation Professional Footballer, Railway official, Jewelery business
- Debut 22 July 1920, v Scotland, Raeburn Place, Edinburgh
- Cap Number 296
- Style Left-hand bat, slow left arm
- Teams Railway Union, Leinster, Bedfordshire
Louis Bookman, the first player of Eastern European birth to play cricket for Ireland, was born in Lithuania, when that country was part of the Tzarist Russian Empire. Zagare, a historic and, then, important city, had at the time a Jewish community of some 14000. However they were constantly persecuted by the Russian government, as successive Tsars found that provoking anti-semetism sometimes resulted in pogroms, and was a likely way of diverting their subjects from anti-government actions.
To escape this the Buckhalter family came to Ireland, in the 1890s. The Buckhalters originally intended to settle in the USA, having taken ship for New York. After a very rough voyage, which left them in a confused state, their ship arrived in Cork, where the captain, for the benefit of passengers boarding shouted "New York". Thinking they had arrived at their destination and, no doubt, handicapped by poor English, the family disembarked. It was too late to rectify their mistake when they realised it. They made their way to Dublin and joined the Adelaide Road Synagogue. Had they stayed in Zagare they would almost certainly shared the fate of almost all the Jewish population of the city, following its invasion by German forces in 1941.
With his family name changed to Bookman to fit in better to his new life, Louis became a skilful footballer and a good all round cricketer. A limited amount of cricket was played in Dublin during the First World War, though some of the best known players hardly appeared at all. Louis, however, showed his talents as one of the leading batsmen for Railway Union and in Dublin generally. On July 1 1916, the day on which the Battle of the Somme began and only eight weeks after the end of the Easter Rising, he opened the batting, with his brother against Merrion. He lost his sibling immediately, but then added an unbroken 220 for the second wicket with Ernie Hool. At the declaration, Louis was on 103 (20 fours) and Hool 102 (16 fours). Unsurprisingly Merrion collapsed in reply.
He also took part in the three two-day fixtures between RH Lambert's XI and the Military of Ireland played as charity matches in 1916 and the two following years. Though performing usefully with bat and ball in the first two matches, it was as a batsman in the third that, as a batsman, he came into his own. Played at Rathmines in late July, the match began with Lambert bowling the Military out for 172. Then Louis dominated the scene, hitting a brilliant 103, before being bowled by Charlie Hallows, who was destined to become a mainstay of the Lancashire batting in the inter war-years. The match ended in a draw. a fine half century by Hallows helping to ensure the result.
Playing for Railway Union, when the Leinster Senior League began in 1919, he showed himself a fine batsman who often opened the innings. Small of stature, and a brilliant off side player, he was very good against fast bowling, with his best stroke "a delightful slashing square cover drive." (Sean Pender in Leinster Cricket Club 1852 - 1977). He was not a strong driver but "perfect timing and skilful placing more than compensated for this." (Pender) In the early years of the League he was easily Railway's best bat, though his slow left arm, orthodox, spin came in useful also.
In 1923, he won the Samuels Cup for the leading all rounder in Leinster cricket with 288 runs and 40 wickets. This also gained him the O'Grady Cup for the leading bowler. However, in the words of the Railway Union website, "He went to Leinster after an unfortunate knock on the head." He remains one of the Park Avenue side's most distinguished players. Betweeen 1927 and 1934, he scored 1703 runs at 27.91 for Leinster with a highest score of 107 v Phoenix in The Park. However those who saw both innings rated his 102 v Dublin Univeraity at Rathmines in 1929 the better one.
For Ireland he was consistent and reliable, without being outstanding. He hit 4 fifties, besides making a vital contribution to the historic win over the 1928 West Indies side. He was not dismissed for a single figure score until his sixth innings. In his 25 innings for Ireland, he only failed to reach double figures on 7 occasions. His highest score was 77 against Wales in 1923 at Cardiff, the scene of his success now buried within the complex of the Millenium Stadium. This helped Ireland to pass 400 as AP Kelly and Jacko Heaslip (96) also shone with the bat. In 1924 he made a second innings 50 v MCC in a tight draw at College Park, as Ireland, chasing 242, ended on 213-8. He was bowled when opening the batting, by Middlesex paceman HJ Enthoven, for one of his four ducks for Ireland, in the first innings. He helped his team close on the victory target in the second before falling to the medium pace of Oxford don and spymaster JC Masterman, who played tennis and hockey for England.
Louis hit 2 further half centuries, both in 1926: 53 in a drawn match with Oxford, and 74 in the second innings v MCC which allowed Ireland a comfortable win. The Irish batting was very strong and he was at 10 in the first innings, with Dublin University man Arthur Robinson at 9. They opened in the second knock and put on 83! However Bookman's most valuable innings for Ireland was probably his 31 against the West Indies in 1928. He had been bowled second ball in the first innings, but now withstood the fearsome pace of Herman Griffith to blunt the attack and prepare the ground for George McVeagh's legendary hundred.
Bookman was always better known as a footballer: his career began with Belfast Celtic where he gained an Irish amateur cap. From 1911 to 1914, he was on the books of Bradford City, making 32 appearances. and playing for the full Irish team against Wales, winning 2-1, he helped Ireland to their first championship. He also, as far as is known, became the first Jewish football international. Therafter he made a futher 98 league appearances, mostly for Luton Town, but also for West Bromwich Albion and Port Vale, though he also reappeared, briefly, in Belfast playing for Glentoran. He scored 7 goals in all and gained three more Irish caps. His Luton connection was also a cricket one as he turned out for Bedfordshire in the Minor Counties Championship in 1921. That year Hertfordshire defeated the County at Luton by an innings and 21 runs. Louis, top scoring in each innings, with 49 and 48, did his utmost to stave off defeat. However, like most of his team mates, he fell to the pace bowling of occasional first class cricketer, Fred Burton, who had match figures of 14-139 including 9-67 in the second innings. Bookman's final league football season was at Tolka Park in 1924/25 when he played 8 matches for Shelbourne.
His name is commemorated by the Bookman Cup which, originally given each season to the outstanding batsman in the Senior 2 of the LCU League, is now presented to the similar player in Division 3.
Louis Bookman was a remarkable all-round sportsman, who deserves to be better remembered.
NB I am indebted to From Louis Bookman to Roman Abramovich, an article by David Connell in the Railway Union Cricket Annual 2014 which draws on the recently published Does Your Rabbi Know You're Here? by Anthony Clavance, which looks at the Jewish footballers in the English game.
Edward Liddle, May 2007, updated June 2014 and November 2018