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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
William Francis Thompson
  • Born 2 November 1862 Kilkeel, Co Down
  • Died 8 July 1934 Royal Dublin Hospital, Baggot Street, Dublin
  • Educated Rathmines School Dublin University
  • Occupation
  • Debut 11 July 1890 v Scotland at Raeburn Place Edinburgh
  • Cap Number 162
  • Style Hand unknown believed to be right handed
  • Teams Phoenix; Dublin University; MCC; Kensington Park

William Thompson was a useful batsman who occupied most places in the batting order without ever - at least in matches of whom scores have been seen - attaining consistency. Born in the Co Down fishing village of Kilkeel, he was educated at Rathmines School, a small and now long gone establishment, famed for its cricket and cricketers. Besides William, its alumni numbered such leading lights of the Irish game as David Trotter, DNB Emerson, John Brunskill and - albeit briefly - the Lambert brothers. William was not quite of their standard.

He entered Dublin University in 1880, but was not a regular member of the XI until 1885, the year after his degree was conferred. In that season he had 16 innings, but managed only 196 runs at 14.00. His highest score was 32. However in the previous season he had made exactly 100 for the University Long Vacation Club against Pembroke. He did not bowl and should possibly be seen as one of the few who did not flourish under the eagle eye of the great University coach Jesse Richards.

Later that summer, he appears to have played several matches for MCC. The term is used advisedly, because while cricket statisticians of greater fame and ability than this writer are assured that he was the WF Thompson concerned both for the MCC and, seven years later, for the leading London club, Kensington Park, the identification, while accepted here, is not absolute. In these matches he had a highest score of 30, opening the batting against Rutland in a two day match at Lords, but otherwise did little. A team-mate in the side for that match was John Sommerville Russel, a Scotsman who played for NICC and Ireland (in an odds match) while working in Belfast. Russel also nearly became Secretary of MCC on one occasion.

Against Staffordshire, when William came in well down the order and was dismissed for 3 and 0, he found himself in the same side as the professionals left arm pacemen Derbyshire's William Mycroft and Leicestershire's Arnold Rylott. Mycroft is commonly supposed to have provided useful cricketer Arthur Conan Doyle with the first name of Sherlock Holmes' corpulent brother, while Rylott, at one time NICC's professional had accompanied the first Irish team to tour North America in 1879 as an umpire. Not everyone in the Land of the Free had approved, the Philadelphians declaring that "In a match between gentlemen, gentlemen must umpire!"

In 1892, having played once for Ireland in 1890, William had, as we have noted a season with London's Kensington Park Club. Several prominent players were amongst his team-mates: from an Irish perspective the most interesting was JG O'Brien, younger brother of Sir Timothy and destined to gain one Irish cap, against Scotland in 1910. William had 26 innings for the Club, scoring 236 runs at 15.11, rather similar figures to those he had achieved for Dublin University. Most of the matches he played were two day ones, including a match against Hampstead when he rubbed shoulders with the great by being bowled by AE Stoddard for 15.

His Irish debut had come against Scotland at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh in 1890. He had come into the side as a substitute, seven of the original selection having withdrawn. Two of his fellow debutants were to make more of a name for themselves, Montiford Gavin, stylish left hander, and fast bowling all rounder Clem Johnson, later to become the first of two Test cricketers from Co Kildare. Scotland had lost the first match played between the two countries two years earlier, but they were on top for most of this match, being denied victory by a superb second innings 92 from Jack Meldon. Batting at 4, William did little to justify his call up being dismissed for 4 and 9. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the match from an historian's point of view was the inclusion in the hosts' line up of 21 year old Oxonian Malcolm Jardine, who twelve years later, would have a son called Douglas.

In September 1892, Ireland, under Meldon's captaincy made their third North American tour. Originally a very strong side was put together, but no less than eight of the original selection withdrew, including players of the calibre of Frank Browning, Lucius Gwynn - then seen mainly as a bowler - TC O'Brien - not yet a baronet - and PWG Stuart, whose place William took at the last minute. Under these circumstances the team performed very well, once they had got heir land legs after a hazardous Atlantic crossing. Several of them took a long time to recover from its effects, notably Johnson who was almost swept overboard.

Perhaps William was also a sufferer; certainly his form on the tour was extremely poor. In all matches, he managed only 37 runs at an average of 5, hardly the figures for a specialist batsman. His best score - 10 - came in an odds match against a Boston XV, when he was dismissed by the hosts' English professional "Ike" Chambers. In the three cap matches in which he played, the Canada match and the first and third Philadelphia ones - he managed just 11 runs at an average of 2.75. His whole tour might be said to have been summed up by the match against XV of Baltimore. These non cap matches often presented a chance for runs against opposition of lesser calibre than that encountered in the eleven a side games. William batted at No 9. The scorecard reads WE Thompson hit wicket b Howard 0. It is not altogether surprising that William Francis Thompson did not play for Ireland again.

NB Every effort has been made to establish Thompson's date and place of death. It's strongly believed that the details shown above are correct. If the wrong person has been shown we apologise for the error and would welcome any details which might help to correct it.