CricketEurope Irish Cricket History logo
Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Somerset Albert Middleton Smythe
  • Born 19 October 1847 Co Louth
  • Died 27 November 1874
  • Educated Kingstown School; Dublin University
  • Occupation Army Officer
  • Debut 21 June 1868 v All England XI at College Park
  • Cap Number 120
  • Style Batting hand unknown, slow round arm
  • Teams Dublin University, Stoics, Phoenix, Military of Ireland

Albert Smythe was one of the large family of Edward Meade Smythe and Frances Barbara Cooke, differing records showing him as having either eight or eleven siblings. Albert entered Dublin University in 1866 and was a regular member of the XI in 1868 and 1869, playing under the captaincy of Tom Casey in a strong side, which included seven others who had played, or were to play, for Ireland. We may note that Albert's immediate elder brother Ingoldsby Thomas William Smythe had been in the XI for two seasons before Albert found his place and that Somerset and Ingoldsby were forenames inflicted upon several of their siblings, male and female alike.

Albert was a highly capable all round cricketer, standing out well in the good company of the University side. He was therefore not a surprise selection in the XXII of Ireland which entertained the mighty All England XI in College Park in June 1868. He was acquit himself well, though he began with failure being out first ball, caught at point off the formidable paceman George "Tear Em "Tarrant, when he opened the batting with fellow debutant Tom Reeves. Ireland, having won the toss, were dismissed for 84 with fast left round armer JC Shaw and Crispin Tinley, now a slow underarmer, doing the damage. When the professionals batted, however, Albert came into his own. Bowling for most of the innings, in a slow round arm style, he sent down 61 four ball overs, 25 of which were maidens, to take 4 prime wickets for 72. It was, of course no easy matter to score runs when batting against 22 in the field, but even so, he was clearly an accurate bowler who was difficult to score off. His efforts were highly praised in the Dublin press. When Ireland batted again they reached 161, but Albert contributed only 2 before the visitors cruised to a 9 wicket victory.

He was also in action against I Zingari later in the season, playing for Lord Fitzwilliam's XXII at The Vice Regal ground. The hosts were heavily defeated though Albert again bowled well taking four wickets in the match, including that of Edward Tritton, probably the best batsman in the IZ side. Among Albert's team-mates in this game was a certain CS Parnell who had a reputation for the same sort of autocracy on the cricket field that he later displayed in politics. On one occasion when his own side Co Wicklow were in the field and had what he considered a poor umpiring decision against them, he led the other 10 players off the ground and refused all entreaties to start the match again.

Perhaps, however, the most interesting aspect of his participation in this match was his first innings dismissal. He fell to the bowling of left armer Horner, caught by Lord Hyde. Hyde was later to become the 5th Earl of Clarendon and was thus directly descended from the 1st Earl who had organised the restoration of Charles II and was the father of Queen Mary 1I, wife of William III. Hyde the cricketer, was also the nephew of the Hon Robert Grimston, for years the autocrat of Lords, who insisted that the grass be cut by grazing sheep and hired a gang of thugs to smash up a horse drawn mowing machine when the MCC Secretary dared to introduce one.

Both in this season and the next Albert also played several matches for the Stoics, a team which was normally composed of past members of the University XI, it may be assumed that they were short of players on some occasions. He also, as was often the fashion in those days, sometimes appeared under an assumed name, though his choice of Ehtyms as an alias can hardly have made it taxing for those who wished to know his real identity.

Albert's international career continued the following season with matches against the All England and the United South of England Elevens, both being played at Rathmines. In the former match, which the hosts at one time threatened to win, he took 3 wickets, including in the second innings that of Bob Carpenter of Cambridgeshire, regarded for about 15 years as one of the best batsmen in England. A batsman of exemplary patience, he was famed for his leg side hitting and his ability to stop shooters, a common hazard on the under prepared pitches of the day. Albert also made his highest score for Ireland in this match, 14 in the first innings. However in the second he was bowled for 0 by Tarrant as Ireland, needing 135 to win, succumbed to 41-14 before rain and time caused the match to finish.

Later in the season Ireland were outplayed by the USE with the combination of the slow round arm off breaks of James Southerton and the slinging left arm pace of Edgar Willsher proving too much for them. Falling to Willsher in the first innings and Southerton in the second Albert contributed 0 and 3 to the Irish cause. That was his last appearance for Ireland and, having apparently left the University without taking a degree, he was now enlisted as an Ensign, by purchase, in the 16th Lancers As such he was qualified to play for the Military of Ireland against the USE in a match which immediately followed the Irish one. The game ended in a draw, with the Military, who fielded 22, on 25-2 needing 66 to win. Against Willsher and Southerton this would have been no easy task. Albert had four wickets in the match, including in the second innings those of Tom Hearne, a fine strong driving batsman, and George "Ben" Griffith a skilful left handed all rounder. As a batsman, however, Albert was unsuccessful, falling for another duck to Willsher.

Albert's subsequent life, which does not appear to have included any more major cricket, has proved a challenge to trace. In 1869 he married Evelyn Casey at St James Westminster. I have been unable to ascertain whether or not she was related to his cricketing colleague Tom. However, though they had a son Robert, born the following year, the marriage ended in divorce in 1871. 1872 saw him promoted to Lieutenant in the Lancers, but thereafter it has proved impossible to find any further details of his life. Robert is reported as having "disappeared in North America" in 1932. Sporting genes did continue to run in the Smythe family as Albert's great niece was Patricia (Pat) Smythe the noted British horsewoman of the 1950s.