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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Blayney Balfour Hamilton
  • Born 13 June 1872 Mellifont, Callon, Co Louth
  • Died 2 January 1946 Dundrum, Co Dublin
  • Educated Hailebury, Hertfordshire
  • Occupation Farmer, Land Agent and Auctioneer
  • Debut 26 August 1891 v I Zingari at Phoenix CC, Phoenix Park, Dublin
  • Cap Number 214
  • Style Right-hand bat, slow left arm
  • Teams Phoenix, Dundrum, Woodbrook

Blayney Hamilton, usually known as 'Bud', was the sixth son of Canon Hamilton, Church Of Ireland Rector of Taney, Dundrum. He was, following his three immediately elder brothers, a supremely talented all round sportsman. A quadruple international, he was arguably the most natural athlete of the four. Like his seniors he excelled at Hailebury in most activities he put his mind to. Thus, he was in the XI in 1888 and 1889, College Racquets Champion and had a good singing voice, though, in this respect, he did not match his elders.

As a cricketer, Bud could be a magnificent attacking batsman. Usually in the upper middle order, but quite capable of opening if required, he could, on his day, destroy the best attacks. However his scores for Ireland, and in other major matches he played in, did not often reflect this. Pat Hone thought that this was because it all came too easily to him, "Possibly he did not bother enough." As a fieldsman, generally in the covers, he was superb. Jack Meldon, his captain on the American tour of 1892, thought him, "A sort of Jessop." This was about the highest possible praise a cricketer of Jack's generation could lavish on a cover fielder. One particular catch on that tour, from a full blooded slash off an Archie Penny long-hop, was, according to Meldon, "The best I have ever seen." As a bowler, he had a beautiful action, possessed the ability to make the ball break both ways, and a remarkably high strike rate for Ireland, for whom he had seven "5 fors."

In club cricket he was always a force to be reckoned with. In one extraordinary match for Dundrum v the full Pembroke side he and Lucius Gwynn, a right arm medium pacer, bowled the opposition out for the grand total or 4. Gwynn had 5 for while 'Bud's' figures were 4.3-4-0-5. There were three extras. After his Irish career was over he played a number of matches for Stanley Cochrane's Woodbrook side. For some reason best known to the promoter - entrepreneur, his bowling was hardly used. On the one occasion, of which a score has been seen, that he was given a fair spell, he responded by taking 9-37 v the visiting University of Pennsylvania XI, having just scored 127 in the Woodbrook innings.

Otherwise in the 3 day fixtures against first class opposition, he seems to have been played for his batting alone. Thus in a 12 a sider v the 1907 South Africans he made 13 and 5 at 7, but had to watch Walter Brearley, a formidable amateur paceman from Lancashire, and JT Newstead, the Yorkshire off spinner bowl out the visitors out for 251. Walter's five wickets cost 113, perhaps 'Bud' might have been introduced and the innings defeat avoided. He was also to fail against Northamptonshire in the same year and in 1910 made 0 and 1 v Cambridge, falling to the pace of the speedy but wild Alex Cowie in the first innings, and the leg spin of Scottish fly half John Bruce-Lockhart in the second. Possibly he wondered why Cochrane, always one to field the strongest possible side and to make his guests work for their lavish entertainment, had asked him!

He was seen to better advantage in representative cricket. This includes not only his matches for Ireland, some of his performances in which are described below, but also in matches for The Lord Chief Justice's XI v I Zingari in 1897 and 1898. In these two years, these were the most important matches the visitors played because the weakness of the IZ team of 1896, which had been destroyed by a combination of Bud's bowling and the batting of his brother Drummond and Dan Comyn, thus resulting in IZ not being offered an Irish match for two seasons. In 1897 Bud opened the batting and scored a breezy 31 before being caught and bowled by HG Tylecote, a frequent 'Zingaro' visitor to Ireland. 'Bud' then took 3-38 in the first innings before Bill Harrington spun the visitors out with his square arm off spin. Also in 1897, in a rain ruined draw he took a further 3 wickets to help his brother Lowry (86) put the Vice Regal XI at a distinct advantage before rain intervened.

The following season, he had yet another three wickets, again it was Harrington who bowled the LCJ's XI to victory. His Lordship, aka Sir Peter O'Brien, was neither cricketer nor cricket enthusiast. His side was raised by Barrister Jack Hynes. The 'Chief' thought it befitted his social status to be linked to the visits of IZ. Bud should probably judged by his performances for Ireland. He took, in all, 95 wickets at 15.12. First selected when just past his 19th birthday, he marked his debut, v I Zingari in Phoenix Park, by taking 3-27 in a match ruined by rain when the visitors had gained a slight, but not overwhelming, advantage. Bud's first wicket was that of JA Turner, a good all rounder and former Cambridge Blue, who had to give up cricket a year later, when he lost an eye in a racquets accident. Bud made 7* in the lower order, defying the pace of Oxonian AH Evans, father of 'one cap wonder' Test cricketer and serial POW escapee AJ Evans, who took 9-36. Interestingly Bud, and his brother Lowry, only came into the team as substitutes, Bud replacing another quality left armer Henry Bruen, son of Sir Henry Bruen MP who had gained one Irish cap in 1858. Bruen then turned out for IZ instead!

By the late summer of 1892, Bud had done enough to gain selection, as the youngest member, of Jack Meldon's team which toured North America. Several leading players were unable to travel, including TC O'Brien, Bud's brother Drummond and Frank Browning, who would certainly have given depth to the batting. Hone asserts that Bud had also been asked to take part in the 1888 tour under Dominic Cronin's captaincy. As he was a 16 year old schoolboy at the time, who had just broken into the Hailebury XI, this seems highly unlikely. He now found that he, together with the Dublin University man Archie Penny, was the mainstay of the bowling. Clem Johnson, the fast bowler, who might have been expected to rattle some transatlantic stumps, had been almost lost overboard during a horrific storm on the voyage, and was but a shadow of his normal self throughout. The team did not perform badly, considering its problems, and Bud, particularly as a bowler, was one of the successes. In all matches on the tour he took 49 wickets at 8.60 in the five cap matches he had 29 at 12.48. He was by far the leading wicket taker. Hone says that his batting was disappointing. However he showed to advantage in some of the cap games when runs were needed and, in all matches, his total of 216 runs was surpassed only by the left hander MW Gavin, probably the best batsman in the side as Hynes was no longer the force he had been, and Meldon.

Against All New York at Staten Island, Bud played a leading part in Ireland's victory. He began by taking 4-54 as Meldon used 8 bowlers to dismiss the hosts for 225. Then, as Ireland lost cheap wickets, he "hit well", for 80, his highest score for Ireland. The next highest score was 20, contributed both by NICC keeper William Vint and by Jack Hynes. Thus Bud's knock was crucial in keeping the first innings deficit within bounds. He then took a second innings 2-32, following with 39, second top score, as Ireland successfully chased 208 to win by 4 wickets. Ireland's best match on tour was the first of three played against the powerful Philadelphians at Manheim. This game resulted in a resounding 127 run win for the visitors. Bud had 8-75 in the match to play a notable part in the victory, though the key to success was the second innings batting of Meldon (81) and Gavin (90*). Bud failed with the bat, managing only 5 and 0, having the unusual experience in the second innings of seeing all three of his stumps knocked out of the ground. The bowler was Henry 'Parson' Bailey, a kind of American SF Barnes who bowled lethal off and leg breaks at over medium pace. He owed his nickname to a cherubic face and not to theological employment! The second match saw the Americans regain control with a 23 run victory. However this defeat could not be laid at Bud's door. He had 6-54 in the first innings, removing some of the cream of the hosts batting besides helping Johnson mop up the tail. In Ireland's abortive second innings run chase he top scored with 38, but of the other recognised batsmen, only the openers Vint and Gavin reached double figures.

Back in Ireland, he was for several years a thorn in the flesh of visiting IZ and MCC sides. Thus in 1894, he had match figures of 12-109 to bowl Ireland to a victory over IZ by an innings and 44. This was a strong Zingari batting side and in the first innings Bud narrowly missed recording Ireland's second hat trick. Having been hit for a towering six by TC O'Brien, then a frequent opponent of the team he was later to captain, Bud tossed the next ball up again. The future baronet went for another big hit and the bowler held on to the miscued skier. He then bowled another future England captain HDG Leveson - Gower next ball, and would have had his hat trick had not Frank Browning missed stumping George Kemp, like Bud a talented all round sportsman, from a relatively easy chance. Next ball Kemp was caught at slip by Drummond Kemp, who was to become an MP and a knight, was later created Baron Rochdale.

In a match lost to MCC the following summer, Bud was one of the few Irish successes. He took 6-100 to give Ireland an 85 run lead on the first innings, having scored a respectable 28. His victims included O'Brien, HW Studd and the remarkable Captain William Oates. No relation of the ill fated polar explorer, Oates was a few weeks later to score 313* in a military match at The Curragh. Though 'The Irish Field' dismissed the match as a farce, the innings remains the highest recorded in Irish cricket.

In 1896, at Rathmines, Bud had 6-35 and 4-95 to help Ireland to an easy win over MCC. Only the visitors' wicket keeper, future Test Umpire J Carlin faced him with any confidence. At the end of the summer he took 6-51 to complete the rout of an IZ side already on the ropes following the batting displays of Dan Comyn and Drummond. That match ended Bud's great days for Ireland. He did appear against both the 1901 and 1907 South Africans but was not seen to great advantage in either match. As described above his cricket for Woodbrook did not often allow him to give full range to his talents. He continued to shine in his other sports. He gained one hockey cap for Ireland, also representing his country at tennis and badminton. He was also a superb racquets player. In 1892 in Boston, with the Irish team hardly recovered from their hazardous transatlantic voyage, he took on J Petit, the then World Champion and took a game off him. A farmer and land agent for the Right Reverend The Hon BJ Plunket, Bud later founded an auctioneers firm, Hamilton Brothers, with his brother Willoughby, a former Wimbledon Champion.

In 1898, Blayney Balfour Hamilton married Irene daughter of Commissary General J Long. Irene, through her mother, could trace descent from the Plantagenet kings. When Bud was in full flow with bat, ball or racket, it was in his veins that the blood royal appeared to flow.

He is profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats.

I am much indebted to the Hailebury Archivist Mr Toby Parker for his valuable assistance and information.