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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Horace Gordon Pollock Hamilton
  • Born 16 November 1854, Inistoge, Co Kilkenny
  • Died 17 January 1891 Carlow
  • Educated Dublin University
  • Occupation Solicitor
  • Debut 20 August 1877 v I Zingari at Phoenix CC, Phoenix Park
  • Cap Number 158
  • Style Left-hand bat; right arm round fast bowler.
  • Teams Dublin University, Phoenix, Carlow

Horace Hamilton was, by all accounts, one of the fastest bowlers to represent Ireland. A contemporary account describes his style of play as, "Fast round hand bowling, hard hitting bat and lively in the field." He reputedly bowled off a run of only two or three paces. For a fast bowler, he was remarkably accurate, having an economy rate in his Irish matches of 1.34. A high proportion of his wickets were bowled or lbw. From Rossal, he entered Dublin University in 1874, being in the XI, in 1876 and 1877, heading the bowling averages in the latter year, when he also made his Irish debut v I Zingari.

However the most spectacular feat of his career came for the University Past and Present XVIII against Billy Murdoch's Australian side of 1880, the first to visit Ireland, and the second, not counting Charlie Lawrence's Aborigine side of 1868, to tour England. They might well not have come to Ireland, where they also played XVIII of NICC, had they not had considerable trouble arranging fixtures. This was because of a riot at Sydney during Lord Harris' team's tour of Australia in 1878 - 79, following an umpiring decision which gave Murdoch run out. Harris, who had written, "We never expect to see such a scene of disorder again - we can never forgive this one," was a power in English cricket and did his utmost to prevent the tourists finding fixtures. Eventually he relented and captained England in the first Test Match to be played in the country, at the end of the summer.

In College Park, The Australians found more opposition than they expected. After Murdoch was out for a duck to HW Jackson, Hamilton inflicted the same treatment on Alec Bannerman, champion stone waller, who twelve years later batted seven and a half hours hours for 91 to win a Test in Sydney. Then Horace bowled Harry Boyle,' partner in crime' to Spofforth in the famous Ashes Test of 1882, first ball, breaking the off stump in two places . Jack Blackham, the great wicket keeper, and by no means a negligible batsman, managed a single before he was yorked, and George Bonnor, the mighty hitter, fell for a duck in the same manner. Fortunately for the visitors Tom Groube, the Number 3, who had been watching the carnage from the other end, restored order, and, helped by the tail, lifted the total to 156. Horace struck again in the second innings with a further 4, to give him match figures of 8-76, but 'The Demon' Spofforth ensured that the Australians left Ireland victorious.

Horace had, of course, already played for Ireland, on either side of the Atlantic, and had achieved some remarkable figures. He had 3 on his debut v I Zingari, in a match best known for Tom Hanna's hat trick, the first for Ireland and destined to remain the only one until Trent Johnson's v Gloucestershire 130 years later. It was also the last match that champion chess player and veteran skipper George Barry appeared in. Horace showed his fielding ability with a brilliant one handed catch off the bowling of fellow paceman DN Neill. He also had a long and accurate spell in the second innings of 18 overs for 5 runs. However in the following year, Hamilton produced a spell of bowling which ranks amongst the best returned for Ireland. Against an average strength IZ side he, bowling 4 ball overs, had analyses of 16-9-15-7, as the visitors were shot out for 35. Six of his wickets were bowled the other caught behind by Leland Hone. They did rather better at their second attempt, notching over 200, which was not enough to prevent a good Irish win, Horace this time having 4-78 in 54.2 overs.

He shone as a batsman against an all amateur Surrey side in a rain affected draw at the Oval in 1879, before joining Nat Hone's team for the first ever North American tour by an Irish side. All members of the team were Phoenix players, five being of the Hone family. Landing at New York, Horace was faced by tragic news. A few weeks earlier, on 3rd September, his younger brother Lieutenant Walter Richard Pollock Hamilton had been killed in the massacre of the British Residency at Kabul. The last officer left alive, he had been hacked to pieces while attempting to capture a gun which was wreaking havoc against his men. He had killed the gunners. In April he had been awarded the Victoria Cross for an action of exceptional bravery at The Battle of Futtehabad. His statue may be seen in the Irish National Museum in Kildare Street, Dublin.

One can only imagine how the news affected Horace However he continued on the tour and produced some fine figures, bowling in tandem with the skilful slow round armer Arthur Exham. The 'New York Courier' described their differing styles after they had routed XVIII of Central New York by an innings, despite the Irish being all out for 57. "Hamilton sends the ball hopping at a high rate of speed, while Exham seems to depend more on handwork and a slow movement." The pair carried all before them in odds matches, for example dismissing XVI of Whitby for 35 with Horace returning figures of 20-13-8-7, while Exham had 20-7-20-7.

Two cap matches were played v Philadelphia. In the first, which the Americans won, Hamilton was praised for a long and accurate spell of 3-54 in 34 overs. However he tended to overpitch and could be driven. A one day match followed, regarded as a cap match though it was hastily arranged when the first game finished in two days. Ireland won this, possibly with the help of controversial umpiring decisions from Arnold Rylott, a left arm fast bowler from Leicestershire, who wrote poetry and was for some time professional at Ormeau. Horace was more of a bowling force in this match, not overpitching, he had 4-27 bowling with his customary accuracy. In Canada Horace attended the Athletic Sports of the Toronto Lacrosse Club. Paticipating in the polo vault, he reached a height of 10 foot 1 inch, thus setting the Canadian amateur record of the time.

Ireland played no further matches until 1883, though Horace continued to be a force in Carlow cricket. His final matches were v MCC at Lord's in 1883 and Philadelphia at Phoenix in the following year. His exceptional pace and hostility were shown when, on their way to play MCC at Lord's, Ireland took on the Welsh club Byrnnewadd at Llandudno; Horace destroyed the hosts second innings, taking seven wckets in eight balls. He took only one wicket v MCC, not being available for the next match, but renewed his acquaintaince with the visitors in a satisfactory manner, with first innings figures of 34-17-35-3. He was to play no more for Ireland as his legal work became more demanding, but the family name was continued in Irish sides for more than twenty years by his three first cousins the brothers, WD, FCL and BB Hamilton.

Horace was still a young man when he collapsed and died while playing billiards in Carlow.