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Biography
Stewart Wesley Ferris
  • Born 2 May 1927 Lurgan, Co Armagh
  • Died 28 May 2001
  • Educated Lurgan High School; Stranmillis College
  • Occupation Schoolteacher
  • Debut 30 June 1956 v Scotland at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh
  • Cap Number 474
  • Style Right-hand bat, right arm fast medium
  • Teams Downpatrick, Armagh, Waringstown, Eglinton, Malahide.

Wesley Ferris was a good fast medium bowler of great stamina, who thoroughly deserved his three Irish Caps. He gained cup winners medals in two provincial unions and played competitively in a third. He also found time to become a prominent administrator seen mostly through his founding and organization of the Mid Ulster Cricket Group (MUCG). Besides being a busy professional as a highly respected teacher of Physical Education, he was a Presbyterian lay reader, who did his utmost to combine the various aspects of his life to overcome political and religious bigotry throughout Ireland, whatever its source.

A man of many clubs, SW, as he was often known, first appeared in an NCU Cup Final in 1953, for Waringstown against Downpatrick at Ormeau. The villagers went down by 7 wickets, despite a first innings 5-50 by Wesley, who held his own against a typically rumbustious assault from Noel Ferguson. The following season, work had taken him to the North West, where he had joined Eglinton in time for the club's treble of 1956 as the League Senior Cup and Faughan Valley Cup were all added to the Woodvale Road trophy cabinet. Wesley played a notable part in the two Cup Finals. In the Faughan Valley Final, Eglinton were held to a meagre 92 off 34 overs against Sion Mills. However the Co Tyrone side totalled only 46, being all out in two hours. In his "History of Sion Mills Cricket Club" Billy Platt wrote, "When Sion batted they had no answer to the bowling of W Ferris." He took 7-21. In the Senior Cup Final, Eglinton had a somewhat easy win over Donemana, mainly due to some remarkable spin bowling by Scott Huey who had 6-17 in the second innings. However, Wesley chipped in with 4-13 to ensure that there was no easy option at the other end! Donemana went down by 186 runs.

SW's last Senior Cup Final was the NCU Final of 1965, when Waringstown, on the threshold of their glory years, played the other villagers, Sion Mills at Ormeau. Opinions differ about this match. For Billy Platt, there was, "Some splendid cricket," whereas Michael Maulstaid wrote in "Waringstown Cricket Club 1851 - 1974" that, "The Final was one long bore". It was the last to be played without any restrictions and was won by Waringstown by 157 runs. Wesley played a major part in the victory, ensuring that the Co Tyrone side were not going to get near an improbable target. Maulstaid noted, "He certainly gave the younger players something to remember. In Sion's second innings he took 6-60 in 52 pounding overs."

Wesley's feats in 1956 brought him selection for Ireland against Scotland at Raeburn Place on the last day of June. Neither in this match nor in the two which followed did he have the conditions that a paceman attempting to cement his place in a team would have wished for. Raeburn Place was a batsman's paradise and the hosts, batting first, made full use of it. They reached 417-6 before declaring. SW was the only Irish bowler to make any impression. In long and accurate spells, he removed the top four in the order to finish with the figures of 37-9-106-4. Fellow opening bowler Ernie Bodell just failed to concede a century but went wicketless. A big opening stand, by Stan Bergin and Herbie Martin, ensured that Ireland would save the follow on, and, despite their losing wickets in a second innings flurry, a draw was always the likely outcome.

The two remaining Irish matches that season followed back to back in early September. Rain ruined the visit of Sussex to Rathmines. This was possibly just as well as the county bundled Ireland out for 82! They then lost 2 wickets before rain, nearly as common a feature of cricket in 1956 as in 2007, prevented any further play. Wesley was able to take credit from the game. Not only had he been undefeated with the bat, but he took the two wickets that fell. One was a somewhat obscure all rounder, Gordon Potter, who played 8 seasons for Sussex with out ever gaining an undisputed place. The other, however was Alan Oakman, who earlier that summer had batted at 3 for England. Wesley's last match for Ireland followed v MCC at College Park. The weather was fine but the wicket was not. MCC won by 22 runs having disposed of Ireland for a paltry 48 in the first innings. Though George Chesterson, also a schoolteacher but at a rather different type of institution, who was a bowler similar in pace to Wesley, took 7-14, in that debacle, it was the spinners who did the damage for Ireland, Frank Fee having match figures of 14-100. Wesley failed to take a wicket in two brief spells. That ended his international career. However many would claim that the best of his contribution to Irish cricket was yet to come.

In 1963 he founded the MUCG with only 10 teams. Within a decade this had risen to 160, with cricketers from all four provincial unions taking part in competitions at all levels and ages to Under 14s. He ran these competitions with little help from anyone else. Tours were also organised with Cyprus, Israel and North America featuring among the venues. The character and enthusiasm of the players was noted by Wisden's USA correspondent on their visit to that country in 1968. This was not enough for Wesley who also founded the Pedagogues CC, a wandering club whose title indicates the nature of its membership.

Nor was cricket his only interest. He founded the Mid Ulster Schools Hockey Group and the Northern Ireland Volleyball Association! Mention has already been made of his Church work. He supplemented this by taking a leading role in the Boys Brigade, as well as hill walking and climbing. When he found time to sit quietly at home, he admitted to breeding canaries! As The Ulster Cricketer commented in May 1985, "His boundless energy and enthusiasm has left its mark in many areas and they are all the richer for it." His obituary, which barely scratches the surface of his achievements, is in Wisden 2002.

Edward Liddle, March 2008

International Matches
View Match Scotland drew with Ireland (3 Day, Edinburgh, 30 June - 3 July 1956)
View Match Ireland drew with Sussex (2 Day, Rathmines, 25-26 August 1956)
View Match Ireland lost to MCC by 22 runs (3 Day, College Park, 1-3 September 1956)