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Biography
Anthony Traill
  • Born 1 November 1838 Ballylough, Co Antrim
  • Died Provost's House Trinity College, Dublin 16 October 1914
  • Educated Mr Young's School, Belfast Dublin University
  • Occupation University Academic, Provost of Trinity College 1901 - 1914
  • Debut 20 May 1861 v All England XI at Coburg Gardens, Dublin
  • Cap Number 55
  • Style Right hand batsman
  • Teams Dublin University, Stoics CC, Gentlemen of Dublin

Anthony Traill, a tall and powerfully built man, came from a long established Co Antrim land owning family descended from a Scottish Cromwellian officer, James Traill, who had settled in Antrim about 1660, possibly to avoid the repercussions of the Restoration.

One of the large family of William and Louisa Traill, Anthony was educated at a small Belfast day school, before entering Dublin University (or Trinity College, the terms are synonymous) in October 1855. He won his 1st XI cricket colours every year from 1857 to 1861, apart from 1860 when he does not appear to have played. No averages were kept at his time; however his highest score, of which a record has been seen, was 43 made in College Park in 1862, when he was no longer a regular member of the XI, against Mr Hone's XI. The University XI played only 18 matches during the years he was a regular member, which was a pity as the sides were usually strong.

The 1859 team, for example, included 10 current or future Irish internationals one of whom, JP Mahaffy was to be a bitter academic rival of Traill for more than half a century, the feud and animosity between them putting those of the imaginary Oxbridge Dons of CP Snow and Colin Dexter firmly in the shade. They did, however- together with leading oarsman and champion pole vaulter, George Francis Fitzgerald, Professor of Physics, best known for an attempt to fly off the College Park pavilion, wearing a top hat - often combine to further the interests of sport in the University, achieving much by doing so.

Anthony was a useful batsman but WP Hone in Cricket in Ireland is probably correct in saying that "Traill was not in the first rank as a cricketer." He was also a good golfer, an outstanding racquets player who was 14 times Champion of the University and also a fearless mountaineer. Mahaffy used to say that the erosion of the Rockies was caused by Traill's frequent ascents of them. However Hone and others are incorrect in saying that he "was the first man to captain the University at both cricket and rugby." This honour more properly belongs to his younger brother Robert, who also played cricket for Ireland. Another brother, Edmund Bernard Traill, was in the University XI in 1867, while a third William Acheson Traill, a noted oarsman, was a distinguished engineer, best known for the construction, in 1883, of the world's first hydro-electric railway, from Portrush to the Giant's Causeway. "I have seen a tramway," declared one visitor, "I have seen a railway. Now I have seen a Traillway."

Anthony had clearly established a reputation by 1861 when, in early May he was included in the Gentlemen of Dublin side which took on the Players in a two day game at Phoenix, one of a series of matches arranged by Charles Lawrence in which the Players were usually heavily outclassed. This was because apart from Lawrence and Peter Doyle there were very few professionals in Ireland at the time and the team had to include a number of soldiers from the Garrison. On this occasion, however, the Gentlemen were fortunate to win by 12 runs as Lawrence was joined in the Players' attack by Michael Flanagan, a fast round armer who, though he had begun as a ground bowler at Phoenix was by this time on the Lord's groundstaff. The Gentlemen batted first and were bowled out for 121 with only 3 batsmen making double figures. Anthony was not among them. Batting at No 4 he bowled by Flanagan for 9, a score he repeated in the second innings after his team had gained a first innings lead of 35. This was to prove vital as the Gentlemens' batting failed again, Lawrence dismissing Anthony. Despite a fine innings by Lawrence the Players fell just short.

Later in the month Anthony was in the Ireland XXII against the All England XI at Coburg Gardens, Dublin a ground now mostly covered by the National Concert Hall. The famous bowlers Edgar Willsher and John "Foghorn" Jackson proved far too much for the Irish who were defeated early on the third day by 8 wickets. Anthony, batting at No 19, was yorked by the fearsome pace of Jackson for a first innings duck but managed 5* in the second. Mahaffy, opening the batting did no better which may have given his rival some pleasure. On the final morning the famous batsman Richard Daft - ancestor of one time Harrow School wicket keeper Sir Robin (now Lord) Butler Cabinet Secretary to John Major and Tony Blair - was dropped three times before Anthony caught him for 8.

Anthony's other appearances in major cricket also ended in failure. As late as 4 and 5 October in that same year Dublin University took on I Zingari in a match played at the then newly laid out Vice Regal Ground. The match ended in a draw, the University, requiring 221 to win being fortunate to hold out at 60-6. Batting low in the order Anthony fell for 7 and 0, though he lost his wickets to such accomplished bowlers as James McCormick and the long serving Eton schoolmaster RAH Mitchell, a more than useful leg spinner. Though he held two catches in the IZ second innings, Anthony may well have been somewhat disgruntled at the identity of his side's bowling hero, Mahaffy who took 9 wickets in the match.

In early May 1870, the University played host to the United South of England XI. Fielding 22 players the home team was a past and present side and also included the legendary coach Jesse Richards, then at the beginning of a 28 year career in College Park, who almost bowled the hosts to an unexpected victory. Unfortunately the University batting failed twice, Anthony being no exception. In the first innings he was bowled for 0 by the slow roundarmer James Southerton, who would become not only the oldest man - at 49 - to play a Test for England, but also, in July 1880, the first Test cricketer to die. Southerton's son Sidney was to become Editor of Wisden, best known for his attack on bodyline. Returning to the match, Anthony did little better in the second innings, being dismissed by fast round armer Frank Silcock for 3. He continued to play cricket for many years, usually for the Stoics, a club made up mostly of former members of the University CC, for which Mahaffy also appeared on many occasions.

Anthony's academic career was much more distinguished than his cricket one. Obtaining both a scholarship and a First Class Honours degree in Mathematics, he became a Fellow of the College (University). "A man of restless energy" (Dictionary of National Biography) he also took - though a few years later - degrees, with First Class Honours, in Law and Medicine. A somewhat bluntly spoken man who was totally unlike the typical image of the University don, he became Provost in 1901 - the post equivalent to that of Vice Chancellor - because he was seen as more politically and theologically reliable than Mahaffy, who was the better scholar.

Mahaffy was no nationalist and was also an ordained Church of Ireland clergyman - but his views in both areas were thought to be unorthodox. Traill, who was a defender of the position of the Church and of landowners - he owned a Co Antrim estate - in a changing environment, was also among the first to advocate a separate state and parliament for Ulster should a Home Rule Bill be passed. As Provost, however, he saw off an attempt by the Government to amalgamate the University with the Royal University of Ireland but was also instrumental in implementing modernising internal reforms. He was probably pleased that the Provost then automatically became President of the Cricket Club.

He married Catherine Stewart - also from an Antrim landowning family- in 1867, they had eight children. At his death he left the then not inconsiderable sum of 10199.

NB: Unlike Mahaffy, Traill has not been the subject of a full biography. However there important studies of him in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and the Cambridge Dictionary of Irish Biography. His influence on University sport is well described in the late Trevor West's The Bold Collegians. The Development of Sport in Trinity College Dublin.

Edward Liddle, June 2013

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