- Born 12 July 1940 Londonderry
- Educated Limavady Grammar School
- Occupation Office Equipment Salesman
- Debut 30 August 1969 v Combined Services at Uxbridge
- Cap Number 515
- Style Left hand batsman
- Teams Limavady
Billy Millar was a good left handed middle order batsman who made runs consistently for his club and for the North West for a number of years. He was also a reliable slip fielder. He was, perhaps, unfortunate that his two Irish caps came at the end of a season, so that he did not have a further chance to impress the selectors while he was fresh in their minds. His batting helped Limavady to four Senior Cup Finals two of which were won, though the second win was achieved under somewhat controversial circumstances.
The first occurred in a tight match with Donemana at Beechgrove in 1965. Limavady had trailed by 47 runs in the first innings, with Billy falling leg before to Alex McBrine for 4. Alex, founding father of Donemana's most famous cricket dynasty, took 6-31, well supported by medium pacer John Cochrane with 4-43. However a Donemana second innings collapse left Limavady needing 128. That they got there was in no small way due to a fighting defensive display from Billy, who topscored with 29. Despite his efforts however they were 105-8 and needed a doughty 10th wicket stand between Billy Forest and Norrie Martin to see them through.
Billy Millar made little contribution to the other win, secured over Sion Mills in 1980, when Limavady had secured the services of Kapil Dev as their professional. He made 85 in Limavady first innings of 227 which gave them a lead of 35. Sion were 153-8 in their second innings at close of play on the second day but turned up late on the third evening, to find that Limavady had been awarded the Cup and were on their way home. Billy, 2*, in the first innings was denied the chance of showing his skills in a run chase.
Ironically his best performance in a Cup final had come in a losing cause, some 18 years earlier, when their opponents were again Sion Mills in a match frequently interrupted by heavy showers. Limavady batted first but were reduced to 82-5 by the spin of Aubrey Finlay, off breaks, and the veteran left armer John Flood. Enter Billy to go for his shots and be mainly responsible for lifting the score to a respectable 166, his contribution being 52. Sion with two batsmen absent, were dismissed for 56 but Limavady, possibly mistakenly, did not enforce the follow on. They were dismissed for 84, with Billy being caught by Ossie Colhoun off Brian McNickle for 6. Needing 198, Sion had a surprisingly big victory, winning by 5 wickets with Finlay completing a fine all round performance with a good looking 66.
The other Final was a match which Billy would probably want to forget. Also against Sion it had taken place the previous year, and saw the Co Tyrone side win by 4 wickets. Billy fell for a pair, caught Finlay bowled Flood in each innings. Flood, who had 9 wickets in the match and a key 61* in the second innings was clearly the outstanding player.
Billy was seen to good advantage in the Guinness Cup where he was, for almost a decade, one of the North West's most reliable batsmen, though he might well have felt that this consistency was not always rewarded by his position in the batting order. In his first match in 1966, at Ballygomartin Road against Ulster Town, he was the only NW batsman to face the off spin of Ken Kirkpatrick with confidence, finishing with 51. The next highest scorer was Ossie Colhoun, always a better batsman than he claimed to be, who made 10. NW all out for 136 lost by 7 wickets, but Billy, at least, could feel that he had adequately celebrated his 26th birthday.
He top scored again two years later with his personal best in the competition an undefeated 71 against Ulster Country at Strabane. Batting at No 5, he was better supported this time with three batsmen passing 20. Ossie again showed good form contributing exactly 20 to the total of 199-9 declared though most batsmen were troubled by the pace of Lawrence Hunter, surely one of the unluckiest players not to have caught the selectors' eyes, who had 5-78. The match finished in a tense draw with UC on 193-9. Billy's third 50 in the competition, in which he had several other useful scores including a 49* in a rain affected draw with North Leinster at Phoenix CC in 1971, came in 1969 against South Leinster at Holm Field. With Tommy Harpur also in good form the hosts were able to post 217-9, Billy's share being 54*. Then the visitors batting collapsed for 58 against the spin of Ray Moan and Scott Huey who shared 7 wickets between them. Only Pembroke's Sandy Smith and Pat Hade of YMCA reached double figures.
However it is arguable that Billy's best innings for the North West was a mere 22*, also made in 1969. The match in question was against Pakistan International Airlines, a team led by the veteran former Pakistan captain and record breaking batsman Hanif Mohammed and containing a number of current or future Test players. They met NW in a one day match at Strabane and were bowled out for 185 with Scott Huey, rolling back the years, taking 5-36. When NW batted their batting was ripped apart by the pace of Asif Masood, later to be a formidable proposition with the new ball for his country, and, at Headingley in 1974, to be the subject of a typical - and probably intentional, Spoonerism from Brian Johnston. At Strabane he took 7-14 as the hosts crashed to a total of 50 all out, Billy being undefeated on 22 at the end with Harpur and Huey jointly second top scorers with 8. PIA went on to make short work of an NCU XI, defeat Ireland in Dublin but, surprisingly, be held to a tense draw by Munster at The Mardyke.
That season also Billy gain his two Irish caps though, unfortunately, he failed to reproduce his Guinness Cup form. His debut came against Combined Services at Uxbridge, an attractive ground now used by Middlesex for some out matches. Ireland won the match, thanks largely to a generous declaration from their hosts, though this generosity was not extended to Billy, who batted at no 8 in Ireland's first innings of 127. He was caught and bowled by the Services opening bowler GM Gibson, of RAF Bomber Command who had figures of 4-44. At least Billy was in good company; Gibson's other wickets being those of Mike Reith, David Pigot and Pat Dineen.
Billy did not bat in the second innings as Ireland chased down a target of 163 for the loss of 3 wickets. Moving on to play MCC at Lord's, Ireland were defeated by 38 runs despite a fine hundred - his first for Ireland - from Alec O'Riordan. Billy did not bat in the first innings, Ireland declaring when Alec had reached his hundred, but he failed in the second innings run chase. Coming in at No 8 as Ireland, who had begun well, collapsed against the left arm spin of John Appleyard and the leg breaks of Alan Duff, Billy was bowled by the latter for 8. Duff, an Oxford Blue who also played for Worcestershire, taught for many years at Malvern College and played in almost every MCC v Ireland match in the 1960s and early 70s. Taking 4 wickets in this innings, he had the distinction in the 1960 game of putting on 80 for the 4th wicket with Len Hutton and thus becoming the last man to share a stand of over 50 with Sir Leonard in a first class match. He was still a comparatively young man when he died of cancer in 1989.
Edward Liddle, April 2013