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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Reverend James Byrne
  • Born Born Q4 1847 Castlerea, Co Roscommon
  • Died Died 7 June 1887 Wychote, Bournemouth, Hampshire
  • Educated Santry School, Dublin University
  • Occupation Church of England Clergyman (Chaplain at Vice Regal Lodge)
  • Cap Number 146
  • Style Lower order batsman, slow round arm
  • Teams Dublin University, Vice Regal, Armagh, Dudley

James Byrne was a very good bowler whose decision to persue his vocation on the other side of the Irish Sea meant hat he was seen very little in irish cricket which was a great loss to the game. As he was also unable to find time to play at a higher level in England, which - in his younger days would have been frowned upon - he was unable - except one one occasion - test his considerable talents aginst the best players of the day." He gained a considerable fame as a schoolboy at Santry and, in his holidays, played for XXII of Armagh against I Zingari in 1865, failing however to take a wicket. Byrne was at Dublin University 1869-73, playing for the Seconds in 1871 and then spending the next two years in the First XI, under the captaincy of GD Casey. The XI also included JC Kerr-Fox, who later played for Gloucestershire. Byrne was very successful, taking 33 wickets in the first season and 24 in the second, at an overall average of 8.42. His economy rate was very good, though it should be remembered that many of the pitches were poor and 4 ball overs were the norm. He received a bat for an unspecified performance v Phoenix, probably a hat trick.

A mystery surrounds his style of play which has again not come down the generations, though Pat Hone, whose father and uncles played with Byrne, wrote that, "Byrne's bowling looked extremely easy." He also gained his Colours for Rugby.

On graduating from the University in 1873 - and having received one of the coveted Scholarships of Trinity College in 1871 - he was ordained into the Church of England by the Bishop of Worcester and became curate of Netherton, Dudley in Worcestershire. He appears to have played some cricket for Dudley on that club's famous ground, which had to be abandoned some 20 years ago as it was subsiding into mine workings. However he soon returned to Ireland as Chaplain at the Vice Regal Lodge. His cricket abilities may have had something to to do with this, but he was also a classical scholar. He was,in any case, fortunate to receive so suitable an appointment.

His first appearance for Ireland was in a 12-a-side match v I Zingari at Vice Regal in 1873. As this match involved more than 11 players a side it is not shown in his statistics on this site and does not appear as his debut. However it is well worthy of mention. He took 9 wickets in each innings, returning match figures of 18-85. Batting at 11, he made 0 and 9. In 1875 he again routed the Zingaros, this time in a remarkable second innings spell of 25-19-10-5 enabling Ireland to win by 201 runs. His most prominent victim was AJ Webbe, a fast bowling all rounder who was to captain Middlesex from 1885 - 1898. In the following year Byrne did not shine as a bowler but revealed hidden batting talents to score a second innings 35, which set up an exciting finish. The visitors won by 3 wickets. Had the Chaplain's bowling been any thing like its normal self they would surely never have got close.

Just what he could have done was shown later in the same week when he bowled the Vice Regal Club to an innings victory, taking 14 wickets. This enabled self-satisfied academic, fellow cricketing cleric, and famed wit, JP Mahaffy, to comment on how the apparent ease of the Chaplain's bowling had deceived the visitors. He quoted Aristotle, " to the effect that it is the simplest things we find the most unintelligible." (Hone). I Zingari played 12 men and their hosts 15. The Vice Regal batting was very strong, including not only David Trotter but Ireland's first centurion Frank Kempster (92) and the two William Hone cousins, the younger making 96. Byrne, his earlier batting feat ignored, was at No 14!

In 1876 he returned to England and - after playing for 22 off Dudley against the All England Eleven, failing to take a wicket he had a variety of curacies before becoming Vicar of Wychote, where he also gave private tuition in the classics. James Byrne, a great unfilled talent talent as an Irish cricketer, was still a comparatively young man when he died, survived by his wife.

I am indebted to Ms Aisling Lockhart of the Trinity College Manuscript room and Ms Carly Dickinson of the Lambeth Palace Library for their assistance.

He is profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats.