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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Walter Johnston (later Sir Walter Edgeworth Johnstone)
  • Born 24 June 1863, Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire), Co Dublin
  • Died 4 January 1936 London
  • Educated St Columba's College Dublin, Dublin University, RMA Sandhurst
  • Occupation Army Officer then Chief Commissioner Dublin Metropolitan Police
  • Debut 5 July 1883 v MCC at Lord's
  • Cap Number 175
  • Style Right-hand bat, Right Arm Fast Medium also reserve Wicket Keeper
  • Teams Dublin University, RMA Sandhurst

Walter Johnston changed his name by deed poll to Johnstone. In the early 1890s he adopted the Edgeworth suffix. He was a leading all round sportsman and public servant. He won Irish caps at Cricket and Rugby besides, later, being a highly successful boxer. He had a distinguished military career, then, in retirement was the last Chief Commissioner of the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP). Tall and strongly built, he entered St Columba's in 1874, proving outstanding on both the Cricket and Rugby fields. Surprisingly, for one who later showed himself an accomplished leader of men, he was never given a position of authority within the College. He was, however, able to benefit from its excellent wicket and professional coaching.

Entering Dublin University in 1880, he was a permanent member of the XI in 1883 and 1884, his powerful frame and heavily moustached face, standing out in team photographs, along with such fine players as Dominic Cronin and John Hynes. In 1883, playing for the University 2nd XI v Rathmines School Past and Present, which would have been a strong side at anything like full strength, he hit 100*, the only century he made for the University of which there is a record. He was selected for the Irish tour of England later that summer, making his debut at Lord's v MCC. Rather unusually he kept wicket. He did not have a successful debut, making 2 and 12, low in the order. In the first innings he fell to the Nottinghamshire medium pacer Thomas Attwell who had 12 wickets in the match. Against the Aldershot Division, a match in which Ireland acquired the services of Frank Hearne who was to play Test cricket for both England and South Africa, he failed again with the bat though, thanks to sharing the keeping duties with AJ Fleming, was able to take his first wicket for Ireland. He did not play again until the American tour of 1888.

By this time he was a commissioned officer in the Army, having attended RMA Sandhurst, where he had a short but successful cricket career. The American tour, arranged by Hynes but captained by Cronin, was not undertaken by a fully representative Irish side. It was heavily reliant on present or recent members of the University XI or Walter would never have got in. Nor did he have a very successful time on the tour which was dominated by the all round play of Hynes and, to a lesser extent, by the remarkable Army batsman John Dunn. Walter struggled with the bat, even in the odds matches for which caps were not awarded. His highest score was 17 v All New York who had the assistance of Test cricketer Charles Absolom and John Grundy, son of the great bowler James who had played once for Ireland in 1862. Grundy accounted for Walter, poor Absolom, a ship's purser, was to die a lingering and agonising death in Trinidad less than a year later, crushed by a dockside crane which fell on him as sugar was being loaded onto his ship.

Walter did have more luck with the ball. He took five wickets in two of the odds matches, v Northern Counties XV at Orilla in the pipe opener and again v XVI of Hamilton. His best bowling, however, was in the tour's most important match against Philadelphia. Philadelphia were very strong at this time and gave good accounts of themselves against first class opposition on English tours. Ireland lost by 7 runs amidst great excitement. That they got so close was, in no small way, due to Walter's first innings figures of 21.4 -11 - 25 - 5. Even with 4 ball overs this was a remarkable feat of accurate bowling. His wickets included two of the best known American cricketers of all time, all rounders Francis Brewster and Daniel Newhall. Walter was not seen in Irish colours, or indeed in any major cricket, after the tour. Also on the tour was his brother Ralph, who, however appeared only in odds matches v weak opposition so did not gain a cap. Against XV of Orilla he made 2 and 0* at number 11 and did not bowl. Ralph, who was two years younger than his brother, was better known as a Rugby player, and gained 3 Irish caps.

Walter had always been a good Rugby footballer, sharing the captaincy of the University in 1883-4, having gained his solitary cap for Ireland, as a loose forward in the terminology of the time, against Wales. At Sandhurst he was captain of the XV, hardly surprisingly as he would have been somewhat older than the rest of the side, but as with Cricket, no record of his participation in major matches thereafter has been found. Instead as his military career advanced so did his boxing. He was Army heavyweight champion in 1894 and English amateur champion the following year. These achievements gained him the honour of being the subject of A Spy "Vanity Fair" cartoon, entitled "Hard Hitter." He later wrote a book entitled, "Boxing the Modern System of Glove Fighting", attempts to find a copy have proved fruitless. He was also an expert swordsman, being foil champion of the Army in the same year.

His military carer also advanced. He finished as a Lieutenant - Colonel in the Royal Irish Regiment, having served in India, and been decorated for his part in colonial skirmishes in Africa. However his most arduous public service came after his retirement. In 1913, back in Ireland, he became Chief Commissioner of the DMP. He took over when the force was unpopular in the city following its role in the notorious lock-out of that year. Walter's achievement was to make it acceptable again, and, it has been claimed, by preserving its unarmed status, preparing the way for how the Garda were to operate in the years ahead. The DMP, apart from its intelligence branch the "G men, suffered much less than the RIC in the "Troubles" of 1916-21, though Walter took his men off the streets on Easter Monday 1916, when an unarmed officer at Dublin Castle became the first man to die that day.

The respect in which he was held may be seen from the fact that he was continued in his post until his retirement in 1923, though his force was renamed Polini Atha Cliath. It merged with the Garda in 1925. Walter settled in London and was knighted in that year. His son, who died in 1994, was later to gain fame of a different sort, being Professor of Chemical Engineering in Nottingham University. Sir Walter Edgeworth Johnstone is commemorated by a likeness in the National Portrait Gallery in London, a rare achievement for an Irish Cricketer.