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Biography
Robert Bell Gordon
  • Born 1840 Co Tipperary
  • Educated Mr Colles, Dublin University
  • Occupation Barrister, Secretary to Salvage Association
  • Debut 20 May 1861 v All England XI at Coburg Gardens, Dublin
  • Cap Number 51
  • Style Right-hand bat; bowling style unknown
  • Teams Dublin University

Robert Gordon was a capable all round cricketer who was four years in the Dublin University XI from 1858. His team mates included leading lob bowler Arthur Samuels, mathematician Joseph Galbraith later to devise what might be termed the "modern" method of hanging based on body weight, and future bitter academic rivals JP Mahaffy and Anthony Traill, whose petty feuding over more than half a century, rivalled anything to be found in the novels of CP Snow or Colin Dexter.

Robert had clearly established an early reputation for himself as he played several matches for Charles Lawrence's United XI in 1858. In a narrow victory for the XI over XXII of Dublin, he batted at 3, failing in the first innings being dismissed by Army officer JW Green, fresh from the Crimean battlefields. In his second knock, however, when the XI having dismissed Dublin for 65 trailed by 12, he top scored with a sound 28, thus setting a target for the XXII which, thanks to the bowling of Lawrence and Samuels, they were unable to reach.

His most important match for the University of which a score has been seen, came against I Zingari at College Park in 1861. IZ were somewhat too strong for their hosts who finished on 60-6 chasing a total of more than 200.

This would have been much larger had it not been for some skilful bowling by Robert and Mahaffy. The latter was a slow underarmer whose abilities were already well known. He took 6 first innings wickets to Robert's 3, but in the second the roles were reversed, and Robert dominated the visitors' batting. His 6 wicket haul included the cream of the IZ batting, including Edward Chandos Leigh, for many years the organiser of IZ's Irish visits, Frederick Marshall, an Army officer who played for Ireland in odds matches - while stationed in the country - and had a brief first class career before becoming President of Surrey. He also had a distinguished military career, rising to the rank of General though he probably did not relish the task for which history remembers him, having charge of the burial parties at the scene of the Zulu War disaster of Isandlwana, when troops returned there some weeks after the battle. Robert also removed another well known Irish cricketer in James McCormick, one of the foremost all rounders in English cricket at the time, and RA Fitzgerald, who played with Robert for Ireland v MCC at Lord's the following summer, but was best known as Secretary of the Marylebone Club.

Robert's Irish debut had come in May 1861 same year when he played for XXII of Ireland against the famous All England XI at Coburg Gardens. This match does not appear in his statistics on this site as it was not an eleven a side game though the full scores and a report may be found by following the links on the Statszone. In fact Robert had played against the visitors just before the "International", when he turned out for XXII Officers of Ireland. Several others in the side had no military connection either, notably Charles Lawrence and his fellow Phoenix professional Peter Doyle. The visitors were a powerful side, led by George Parr "The Lion of the North" and including Edgar Wilsher, probably the best bowler in cricket anywhere at the time, and the terrifying paceman John "Foghorn" Jackson. They overwhelmed the "Officers", for whom another interesting player was Francis Northey, a former captain of Eton, who played in some odds matches for Ireland. Like Marshall, who was also in the match but on the England side, a career soldier, was to fight in the Zulu War but did not live to tell the tale, meeting his fate from an assegai in April 1879. In the match at Coburg, the hosts were overrun, Robert, batting low in the order made a second innings 14*, a very creditable performance, considering the quality of the bowling he faced.

He was to do well again for Ireland against the England side, a match which the visitors won by 8 wickets. In the first innings, however, he was bowled by Willsher for a duck. In this he was far from alone. The Twenty Two reached 46-20 at which point a declaration was made. Willsher took 9-20 and Jackson 9-21. The visitors also found batting difficult with Lawrence taking 7 wickets, but when the Irish batting failed again were able to coast to an 8 wicket victory. They would, however have won by an innings had it not been for Robert. He made a stalwart 33 before being run out following good fielding by Willsher. He was frequently applauded during his innings, which was admired for its "care, straightness and boldness." The only other double figure score was that of his University team-mate, wicket keeper Bernan, who made 17. His last match for Ireland came the following season against MCC at Lord's, when Ireland were victorious by 3 wickets on a rough and dangerous wicket. They owed much to the batting of Fitzgerald, probably playing because he was based at Lord's, and the MCC groundstaff bowler "Jemmy" Grundy, who certainly had no Irish qualification. Robert, possibly selected because he was already resident in London, made little contribution with the bat.

Robert Bell Gordon was not seen in major cricket again. Though called to the Bar, he did not as far as has been discovered practise. The 1881 Census shows him as living in Kingston on Thames and having the sought after and onerous post of Secretary of the Salvage Association. Details of his date and place of death have so far remained undiscovered; any information would be most gratefully received.

Edward Liddle, October 2009

International Matches
View Match MCC lost to Ireland by 3 wickets (2 Day, Lord's, 26 May 1862)