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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Frank Hearne
  • Born 23 November 1859, Enfield, Middlesex
  • Died 14 July 1949, Observatory, Mowbray, Cape Town, South Africa.
  • Educated
  • Occupation Professional Cricketer and (later) Sports Goods Shop Proprietor.
  • Debut 9 July 1883 v Aldershot Division at Aldershot
  • Cap Number 177
  • Style Right hand bat, right arm fast round arm
  • Teams Kent, MCC Players of England, Players of The South, Major Warton's Team, England, Western Province, South Africa

Frank Hearne, who played Test Cricket for England and South Africa as well as appearing in one match for Ireland in 1883, was a diminutive, five foot five, batsman with a sound defence and wide range of shots, particularly on the off side. As a bowler, he was a fast roundarmer, who picked up useful wickets, but was never an all rounder. He was also a member of one of Cricket's most famous families. His father, George, and uncle, Thomas, played for Middlesex. His two brothers George Gibbons Hearne and Alec Hearne, followed Frank in playing for Kent and England, while his son George AL Hearne, though born in Catford, followed him in playing for Western Province and South Africa. Five other members of the family, some rather distantly related, also played first class cricket, two JT and JW Hearne being Test players.

Between 1879 and 1889, Frank played regularly for Kent, scoring over 3000 runs, normally as an opener, and making four hundreds. Statistically, his best season was 1887, when he made 921 runs at 25.28, including a career best 144*. This innings, during which he was hit by a beamer and had to call for a runner, was made following on v Yorkshire at Canterbury. "He batted very finely indeed," said Wisden, adding that he was, "never seen to greater advantage." In the previous season, he (142) and George (126) had put on 226 for the second wicket against a weak Middlesex attack at Gravesend."He played very finely throughout," reported Wisden. In its obituary notice of Frank, Wisden considered his 111 for South if England v The 1886 Australians to have been, "probably the best display of his career." Following on, after being yorked by Spofforth for 7 in the first innings, he opened the batting and, by adding 156 for the second wicket with JM Read made the game safe.

His one match for Ireland, for whom he had no qualification whatsoever, occurred in 1883, when Ireland - already fielding a rather strange looking side - were one short at the last moment. Pressed into service as an opening bowler, Frank had match figures of 5-98, including a highly respectable 3-48 in the second innings. The match was drawn, Frank, in the middle order making a second knock 32.

In 1888-89 he was one of the first English team to tour South Africa. Got together by Major RG Warton, who saw it as a profitable venture but lost the then huge sum of over 2000, the team had two very good players in Bobby Abel, the Surrey opener, and Johnny Briggs, the great Lancashire left armer. There were also some useful ones in Frank himself, the Surrey amateur Monty Bowden and the captain, the Sussex bowler, Charles A Smith. Smith was later to drop the Charles in favour of his middle name, and gain fame as the actor and film star, Sir Aubrey Smith. There were five other amateurs who were, at best, good club players. All but two of the matches were odds games, four of these were lost because of unfamiliarity with matting wickets and an over indulgence in generous hospitality. The two eleven a side matches v South Africa have since been designated tests, but their first class status rather than their Test status should be in question. Abel made a hundred in the second match, when Briggs, later to die in an asylum -according to one account bowling imaginary wickets down - swept the home batting away.

Allowed only two innings, Frank made 27 and 20 at 4. Another Irish connection was provided by the Gilford, Co Down born JEP McMaster, one of the club players. He played in the Second Test and made 0, becoming unique in Cricket History as the only man whose sole Test was also his sole first class match! He died in 1929. After the tour, Smith and Bowden, who had captained the side in the Second Test and so become England's youngest captain- a record he still holds, stayed in South Africa to pursue business interests. Smith, who remains the only player to have captained his country in his only Test, returned home to find fame of a different sort. Bowden stayed to die in what is now Zimbabwe after falling from a cart. His body was placed in an improvised coffin of whisky bottle boxes, and guarded by armed men to protect it from lions. Frank stayed as well, partly for health reasons, and became coach to Western Province Cricket Association. He was paid the then valuable salary of 250 per annum, with a free house and an annual benefit. He was joined by his wife and family.

For Western Province between 1890 and 1904 he made 407 runs at 27.47 with one hundred and four fifties. His best season was 1892/3, when he averaged just over 50 and made his final first class hundred, 102 v Transvaal at Kimberley in November. A week later on the same ground against Griqualand West, he made 96, and, in one of his increasingly rare spells of bowling, hustled out the Griquas tail in the second innings, taking 5/47, the only "5 for" of his first class career.

He also appeared in four Tests for South Africa v England. Though both teams were stronger in the matches in question, than when he had played for England, the matches hardly deserve Test status. In the one Test played in 1891/2, Frank top scored in both South African innings with 24 and 23, as the home side were destroyed by the left arm pace of the former Australian bowler JJ Ferris, later to die of typhoid during the second Boer War. The most interesting feature of the match was that Frank's brothers George and Alec, together with their distant cousin JT Hearne, were in the England side. This provided the second instance of three brothers playing in the same Test Match. The Graces, of course, were first! Frank also played in all three tests v Lord Hawke's side in 1895/6. This time the South Africans were destroyed by the fast medium bowling of the Surrey all rounder George Lohmann, who took 35 wickets in the three matches. Frank only managed 74 runs in 6 innings, but his last one was 30, his highest Test score, appropriately in front of his home crowd at Newlands. This series had an Irish flavour to it. Apart from Frank, the hosts included, for one match, the former Dublin University and Ireland paceman Clem Johnson, who had emigrated to South Africa for health reasons. They also played the Dublin born Army Major RM Poore, while the visitors included Sir Timothy O'Brien, who captained England in the First Test and was to leas Ireland seven years later.

Frank had also taken part, accompanied by Johnson, in the 1894 tour of Britain and Ireland. No first class matches were played but South African Cricket enhanced its reputation, proving to be of good county standard. Frank must have been disappointed with his overall form, he managed to average only 16.50, besides recording 8 ducks in 31 innings. He reserved his best performances for when WG was in the opposition. At Lord's v MCC, only Frank, with a first innings 48, could make anything of the Doctor's bowling, while at Bristol, when Gloucestershire were the hosts, he almost spoiled the "Old Man's" Party. Grace won the toss, and contrary to what he always said to others, inserted the visitors. He then took 9 wickets and caught the tenth off EM's bowling. Only Frank with 56 could cope. Then the Doctor scored 126, but anticipating an innings win, was held up by Frank rolling back the years with a splendid 104. Grace still won by 5 wickets. The tourists ran out of money while in Ireland and had to be bailed out by South African diamond magnates resident in London; Frank made 50 v NICC at Ormeau, distinctly useful as they had a narrow victory.

This tour also created an unfortunate precedent. The South African selectors wished to include T Hendrik, a Malay fast bowler, who would have greatly strengthened the team. The authorities in Cape Town blocked this choice. Thus, despite the subsequent selection of CB Llewellyn whose mother was a St Helenan of mixed race, was begun racial segregation in South African sport.

Frank lived to within four months of his 91st birthday. The Hearnes were a long lived family: Frank's son George AL Hearne, who played four times for South Africa in the 1920s, also reached 90 not dying until 1978, brother Alec lived to 88, but father George and brother George were mere striplings, both passing on in their mid seventies. Frank retained his cricket interest until the end, attending the Newlands Test between South Africa and England just seven months before his death.

Frank Hearne's obituary is in Wisden 1950. His biography is in Scores and Biographies Volume 15.