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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Francis Frederick Kilkelly
  • Born 28 November 1862 Dublin
  • Died 23 April 1901 Donnybrook, Dublin
  • Educated University College, Dublin
  • Occupation Solicitor
  • Debut 22 July 1892 v I Zingari at Vice Regal Ground, Phoenix Park, Dublin
  • Cap Number 216
  • Style Right-hand bat, fast right arm.
  • Teams Phoenix, County Galway

Frank Kilkelly was a very useful all rounder. As a batsman, generally in the middle order, he had a strong defence, but could hit powerfully, having the ability to change the course of a match in a few overs. His right arm pace bowling was little used at international level but could be highly effective, The Irish Times (18 August 1892) describing him as "an extraordinary fast bowler and brilliant field". His all round skills showed to advantage he "guested" for United Services (Portsmouth) against Leighton CC at WH Laverton's ground, the scene of several Irish matches, in Wiltshire, in 1893. He took six wickets in Leighton's first innings, being thus mainly responsible for dismissing them for 240. He contributed 15 to the Services' innings of 203, then took a further three wickets to leave his side wanting 151. His typically belligerent 42 helped them to victory. He also batted to good effect against quality opposition when Phoenix entertained a strong Eton Ramblers team in 1896, his last season of major cricket. His first innings 49, ended by fast left armer Hugh Bromley-Davenport, a Test player in the early matches against South Africa, enabled the hosts to build a useful first innings total, from which an eventual 10 wickets victory was gained.

For Ireland, Frank scored 282 runs at 14.10 and took 4 wickets at 44.75. These are not tremendously impressive figures, but he had a habit of scoring runs when they were most needed, his best innings for Ireland invariably coming in tight circumstances. His debut match v I Zingari in July 1892 saw an easy Irish victory, by an innings, in a single day. Another match was arranged for the following day, and this time, Frank, who had done little in the first match, featured more prominently. Ireland collapsed for 99 to the pace bowling of John Turner, who had been a prominent member of the Cambridge side in the mid 80s. He took seven wickets including that of Frank, who had hit out in typical fashion to top score with 27. IZ had little difficulty in winning by 5 wickets. It was the last match of any importance that Turner played. Later in the summer he lost an eye while playing rackets and had to give up the game.

Frank was a member of Jack Meldon's Irish side which toured North America in the early autumn. It was a fairly strong team, even though eight of the original choices were unable to travel. In company with several of his team-mates, notably the fast bowling all rounder CL "Boy" Johnson, later to play for South Africa who was almost swept overboard, Frank took some time to recover from the hazardous crossing, making only 18 runs in four innings in two non cap matches against local XVs in Boston early in the tour. However by the time Ireland came to Staten Island CC to play All New York, who included the former Cork County man Henry Lambkin in their XI, he was restored to full fitness. This was more than could be said for Johnson, who is described in Derek Scott's vivid account of the match as having been "too ill to play." The hosts held the advantage after three innings with Ireland needing 203 to win, managing to get that close thanks to a splendid first innings 80 by "Bud" Hamilton. They were in some degree of trouble in the second innings with 5 wickets down, when Frank joined the Limerick left hander Montiford Gavin, who was defending well but making little impact on the scoreboard. Frank, though Gavin was soon out, proceeded to win the match. To quote Derek Scott once more "Kilkelly by a furious onslaught made 37* in only 10 minutes."

He played a similar knock in the first Philadelphia match in which as the Philadelphian cricket historian JA Lester, himself a fine player, recorded, "The Irishmen were not a strong side on paper, and rather shocked Philadelphia by winning by 127 runs." Lester rightly commented on the excellence of the visitors' spinners, Hamilton and Archie Penny, and pointed to poor fielding by his side, but makes no mention of a remarkable innings by Frank. Coming in the first innings with 5 wickets down and Ireland on the verge of collapse, he hit his first ball for four, and greeted the hosts' captain GS Patterson with a 4 and a 5, the latter being hit over the ropes did not count 6 as it did not carry out of the ground. Vigorous hitting by Penny, who came in when Gavin was out carried the score to 175 a which, eventually, was enough for a useful first innings lead. Thereafter the bowling of Hamilton and Penny added to a marvellous second innings 90* from Gavin, saw Ireland to victory.

Frank did little in the second match, in which the Irish were introduced to Bart King, then a teenage fast bowler without his later control of swing. He still managed to get Frank in the first innings, on his way to taking 10 in the match. In a non cap game played between the two major fixtures, against XVI of Baltimore, Frank did hit his tour highest 42. A third match against Philadelphia, ignored by Lester in his history was arranged to decide the series. However neither side had much heart for it in cold and wet conditions. Frank still contrived to hit a rumbustious 27 in the second innings of a rain enforced draw.

His one remaining match of real distinction, though he was to play for Ireland until 1896, came at Rathmines in 1894 against the South Africans. This was a weak touring side whose programme did not include any first class matches. They attracted little spectator interest and ran out of money while in Ireland, having to be bailed out by a consortium of their country's London based businessmen. They bowled Ireland out for 153, the slow left arm of George Rowe and the pace of Johnson, who had had to leave Ireland for sunnier climes because he was suffering from TB, proving too much for most of the home batsmen. Frank with a valuable 10* at No 9, showed his defensive powers in staying with Drummond Hamilton (67) while a semi respectable total was attained. In the second innings he batted in a more typical fashion for a hard hit 34, but only he, Dan Comyn and Arthur Gwynn were able to cope with the attack and the visitors had only a simple task.

Away from cricket Frank was successful solicitor. The son of Charles Kilkelly and Louise Isabel Routh, he, himself, married Lillian Taffe of Co Meath in 1899. Unfortunately they were not to enjoy a long married life together. Having been ill for some time Frank died at their home in Eglinton Road Donnybrook, seven months short of his 39th birthday.