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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Montiford Westropp Gavin
  • Born 1858 Kilpeacon House, Cecora, Co Limerick
  • Died 15 July 1922, Kilpeacon House, Crecopra, Co Limerick
  • Educated Clongowes Wood College; Dublin University
  • Occupation Landowner
  • Debut 11 July 1890 v Scotland at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh
  • Cap Number 209
  • Style Left hand bat
  • Teams Dublin University, Phoenix, Na Shuler

Montiford Gavin was born in the early months of 1858, the son of Major George Gavin, formerly of the 16th Lancers, whose distinguished military career had included fighting in Afghanistan, and his wife Jane Westropp, a member of a long established Anglo-Irish landed family. George was Liberal MP for Limerick, but resigned his seat over Home Rule, to which he was strongly opposed. The Major had, in fact, been married before and had a son who later taught at Beaumont College in Berkshire. Descendants of this first marriage knew nothing of the second until conducting genealogical research in 2004.

Montiford went to Clongowes " aged ten and a half", according to the College records. He briefly left during his time there but returned to complete his schooling before entering Dublin University in 1876. Cricket did not really become established as properly played sport at Clongowes until the 1870s, when regular fixtures against other schools were played. A two day match was played v Stonyhurst in 1870, though Montiford was too young to have participated. He was, however, the first Old Clowgonian to achieve real fame on the cricket field, though some of the first generation of the remarkable Meldon family had preceded him there. Montiford appears to have had only one year in the University XI, 1877, when he was a member of a powerful side that also included Frank Kempster, John Nunn, Arthur Exham and, the captain, master batsman David Trotter. Montiford was a successful member of the XI that summer and also appeared with some success for Phoenix, but, increasing responsibilities at home, particularly following his father's death, meant that he was not seen in Irish colours for many years, though when in form, he was an outstandingly good player.

He did not play for Ireland until 1890, when he was one of the side which travelled to Edinburgh to play Scotland at Raeburn Place in July. Considerable difficulty had been experienced in raising a side for this match, only four of those originally selected eventually making the trip. Montiford was one of five making their debuts, one of whom fast bowler Clem Johnson, was to become the best known, playing a Test for South Africa, and being a member of that country's team which toured Britain and Ireland in 1894. The Irish were no match for Scotland, captained by the famous amateur wicket keeper Gregor McGregor and including MR Jardine, father of Douglas, being distinctly lucky to escape with a draw. Montiford's contributions, opening in the first innings and batting 4 in the second, were 12 and 15. Ireland had to follow on, and the match ended with the hosts, needing 100 to win, on 94/5, extra time having been played.

Montiford was again in the side for the other match that season v I Zingari at Phoenix CC in late August. Ireland were victorious by 3 wickets but Gavin's contributions were slight. Opening again, he was bowled by the fast medium of Middlesex amateur CE Cottrell in the first innings and by HW Studd, one of that remarkable brotherhood that included evangelist test Cricketers Charlie and George, for 3 in the second. HW, a Cambridge Blue like his brothers, followed a military rather than religious vocation, finishing as a brigadier. He must have been pleased to get Montiford's wicket, he took only one in first class cricket!

In the autumn of 1892, Gavin was a member of Jack Meldon's Irish team which toured the United States and Canada. In all eight matches were played, of which the 5 eleven a side games are now regarded as official cap matches. Several key players declined Meldon's invitation, but the side gave a good account of itself, losing only the second of the three Philadelphia matches, and the opening non-cap match v XV of Boston, when they were still recovering from an horrific sea voyage which almost cost Johnson his life. Montiford was the leading batsman on the tour. He aggregated 266 runs in all matches at 29.55, comfortably topping the tour averages. Readers who peruse the tour averages in "Lillywhites Annual 1893" will find that they bear scant relation to the scores of the matches provided. Montiford, probably also feeling the effects of the voyage - if not so badly as Johnson - took some time to find his form, and reserved his best performances for the strongest opposition, Philadelphia. He came into the first of these three matches, with an aggregate of 53 runs at an average of just under 9. Had Ireland had any alternative he could hardly have expected to play in the three most important matches of the tour. It was as well that he did.

In the opening game, the visitors were in trouble at 21-4, when Montiford, down the order because of his poor form, came to the wicket. JB King was in full cry. King was later to become a magnificent swing bowler, fit to rank with exponents of the art from any country and any era. Then, aged 18, he was a pace bowler pure and simple, but a most formidable one at that. The wicket was rain affected and there were frequent interruptions. Gavin showed a sound defensive technique, and stayed while 68 runs were added, for a most valuable 13. The spinners, Bud Hamilton and Joe Hynes, bowled Ireland to a 52 run lead. Montiford's defensive technique saw him promoted to open in the second innings. He carried his bat for 90, which, though he was missed three times, remains today one of the best and most valuable innings played for Ireland. He combined his defensive skills with hard hitting, particularly in a last wicket stand of 44 with George Green, who played excellently for 18. Hamilton, Hynes and Archie Penny, then bowled Ireland to a victory, which deserves almost to stand with Sion Mills and Sabina Park in the annals of our game. Philadelphia won the second match by 23 runs. Montiford was again the batting hero for the visitors, top scoring in each innings with 39 and 37. Had he been better supported, Ireland would probably have forced another epic win. As it was, only Green, promoted to 10, in the first innings and Hamilton and wicket keeper William Vint in the second, showed similar skill and resolve. The final match in the "series" was left drawn, with gale force winds and conditions of near freezing conditions, making good cricket difficult. It was fitting, however, that Gavin, down the order again, was 33* at the finish.

Unfortunately, he was never to play for Ireland again. He continued to play in Co Limerick cricket for some time and was also seen on Na Shuler tours.

The 1911 Census shows him to have been married with three daughters. He kept a considerable household, requiring six servants.