- Born 9 May 1842, Dublin
- Died 20 March 1919, Killiney, Co Dublin
- Educated St Columba's College, Dublin University
- Occupation Farmer
- Debut 30 September 1861 v I Zingari at Coburg Gardens, Dublin.
- Cap Number 53
- Style Right-hand bat, slow right arm.
- Teams Dublin University, United Ireland XI, Phoenix, Na Shuler, MCC, I Zingari, Southgate.
William Hone, always given the additional 'Senior', to distinguish him from his younger cousin, was the best known cricketing member of a family famed not only for its cricket achievements, but also in the world of art and literature. The family includes Nathaniel Hone the portrait painter and Evie Hone the painter best known for her stain glass windows, notably that in Eton College Chapel.
The first known member of the family, Nathaniel a Wiltshire shoemaker, came to Ireland at the time of the Cromwellian settlement. The family's sporting genes appear to have come into the family from a marriage with the Browning family, also Cromwellian in origin, of which Irish captain and wicket keeper- batsman Frank Browning was the best known member. They did however also share a common ancestor with crafty underarmer and academic JP Mahaffy. Further marriages related them to the Jameson family, of which TO Jameson of Hampshire was the best of several cricketers, and the Blundens, formidable characters in cricket in rural Leinster for many years. William's three younger brothers, Nathaniel Leland and Joseph all played for Ireland, though Joseph, who was Evie's father, only only did so in non cap matches on the American tour of 1879. His first cousins the brothers William, Jeffrey and Thomas were also capped. All these players' biographies, with the exception of Joseph, will be found on this site as will that of William, senior's son, Pat.
William was the first of several members of his family to be educated at St Columba's, which had only been in existence for 13 years when he entered in 1856. He was five years in the XI, and soon gained a reputation as a formidable and attacking batsman. He burned the name Jehu on the back of his favourite bat, in honour of King David's furiously driving charioteer, but was made to eradicate the name by the Warden (Headmaster) who thought it irreverent. William's reputation stretched far beyond St Columba's and in his last summer at school he joined Charles Lawrence's United Ireland XI in Belfast and Scotland, besides gaining the first of his 19 Irish caps, eight of which were in matches involving more than 11 players a side, so do not appear in his statistics on this site.
He was then six years in the Dublin University XI from 1862, being the Club's fourth recorded captain in 1865 - 1866. In 1869, he lost an eye, which did not stop him playing, but, unsurprisingly, rather reduced his effectiveness, It has been claimed that it was this unfortunate accident which caused him to abandon his free hitting style of play and become a predominantly defensive player. That may well be the case, but, even before the accident, he was blamed for Ireland's failure to defeat IZ in 1868, when he spent 5 hours in making 91.
William and his younger brother Leland were the only members of the family to play first class cricket in England; William appearing in 9 matches between 1864 and 1877. He scored 266 runs at 20.46, neither being a failure nor establishing himself fully. His performances do, however cast doubt on the assertion in the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1911) that he would have commanded a place in any county side of his time. His best matches were against the Universities. In 1867, against Oxford, at the Magdalena College Ground, in what was his second first class match, he had a good all round performance. A rarely used change bowler, he took 3-35 in the University's first innings of 337, then batting at 6, he made 35, before being bowled by future clergyman Edmund Carter, an Oxford blue who played for Yorkshire and Victoria.
The match ended in a draw. The following year he was one of only two MCC batsmen to reach double figures in the first innings v Cambridge at Fenner's. Making 26, he put on 78 for the 5th with T Hearne (56). This was a useful stand as MCC won, in the end comfortably, by 7 wickets. His highest score of 74 came against Oxford the following year, again at the Magdalena Ground. The hosts were bowled out for 74 by George Wooton and Alfred Shaw, and then William top scored with 76, adding 93 for the 7th wicket with JA Pepys, a vicar rather than a diarist, who made 46. This was enough to post an innings winning total. One other match in these games might be noted. At Lord's in 1868, he appeared for MCC v England. He made only 5 and 14, falling to William Silcock, a fast medium roundarmer, in each innings. In the second he was caught by a young man just weeks short of his 20th birthday, but already force in the land, WG Grace.
In all matches for Ireland, he scored 379 runs at 12.22. His performances in the odds matches v All England XI and in 12-a-side ones with I Zingari were not very impressive. His lack of success against the professional bowlers is not surprising, considering his youth and inexperience, but it is somewhat disappointing that he did not do better in the IZ fixtures.
He began with a pair against All England at Coburg Gardens, Dublin, one of Ireland's lost grounds. The playing area is now covered by the National Concert Hall, part of the outfield being the Iveagh Gardens. William was bowled by the canny Edgar Willsher in the first innings and in the second caught by George Parr, 'The Lion of The North', one of the wealthiest of the professionals, off the bowling of John 'Foghorn' Jackson, who 40 years later, destitute and forgotten, died in a Liverpool workhouse.
William's best performance in an odds match came later the same year, when Ireland played Colonel Buchanan's XIV of Scotland, in a fairly easy win, at Drumpelier. His 36 in the first innings was enough to give Ireland a lead. Derek Scott's match report describes it as " a splendid innings." His best scores in the 12 a side IZ matches were 18 and 15 in 1866, when Ireland won by 151 runs. This match was played in dreadful conditions, Ireland's win being due to the bowling of JP Mahaffy and the Army officer CC Oldfield. Hone's 18 was second top score in the first innings.
In his 11-a-side matches he only passed fifty on one occasion. This was in the IZ match of 1868 at the Vice Regal Ground. He made a five hour 91, and was heavily criticised for taking too long. It was claimed that, despite vigorous hitting from Tom Harris, an Army officer and cousin of Lord Harris, Hone's innings took up too much time and prevented an Irish victory. Two other innings stand out. Against the Military of Ireland at Coburg Gardens in 1861, his 29 was the top score of the match. He put on 51 for the second wicket with H Hodgson, building a total for an innings victory. This match, played in glorious weather, is known for reasons other than William's batting. Firstly, it was the latest date that Ireland have ever played a home match, October 7th and 8th. Secondly, it was the last match Charles Lawrence played for Ireland. He signed off in some style with 11 wickets and two weeks later, sailed for Australia, on a life changing expedition. William's other match of note was the 1876 Zingari match. Ireland lost by 3 wickets in a game best remembered for Frank Kempster's 105* the first century for Ireland. In the first innings Ireland collapsed for 105. William's 30, opening the batting, was top score. His 30, which included a 5 from, "a fine hit to leg", was seen as an excellent innings.
He did not play a cap match for Ireland after 1878, though he did go with his brother Nat's team on the North American tour of 1879. He had at first been reluctant to take part as he had just got married. However he and his wife both travelled, taking it as their honeymoon. His batting was missed in the two Philadelphia matches, but he made a half century against XV of Whitby on the Canadian leg of the tour, as Ireland piled up 396. His wife's singing was much enjoyed at the many functions the team attended. His two sons, Joseph, born in 1884 and Patrick, two years later, both showed aptitude for cricket. Pat, of course, went on to captain Ireland, and was probably a better player than any of the older generation, with the possible exception of 'Young William'.
Joe was a talented batsman also, who made good runs in Na Shuler and Co Wicklow matches before the First World War. He was a talented writer having a biography of WB Yeats, among others, to his credit. He was, to say the very least, the literary consultant, for his brother's Cricket in Ireland. Joe's grandson, also Joseph, is a well known thriller writer, perhaps best known for The Sixth Directive. William Hone's biography will be found in Scores and Biographies Volume VII.
Edward Liddle, December 2007