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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Reverend Robert Malcolm Gwynn
  • Born 26 April 1877, Ramelton, Co Donegal
  • Died 2 June 1962, Dublin
  • Educated St Columba's College, Dublin University
  • Occupation University Lecturer later Professor of Hebrew and Biblical Greek
  • Debut 10 June 1901, South Africa at Phoenix Park
  • Cap Number 243
  • Style Right-hand bat, Slow Right-Arm Off and Leg Breaks
  • Teams Dublin University, Phoenix, MCC

Robin Gwynn, the third of four brothers who captained Dublin University for six of the ten seasons between 1894 and 1903, is generally thought to have been the least talented of the quartet. Few would argue the point, but he was a very useful all-round cricketer, both for the University, and, later, for Phoenix. At school his spin bowling was rated more highly than his batting: however on gaining a place in the University XI in 1895, his first season, he fell under the tutelage of "the sarcastic tyrant" Jesse Richards, as he described the University's famous coach (Introduction to Hone's Cricket in Ireland) and his batting blossomed.

He was six seasons in the XI, Playing on after graduation, following the tradition set by his brothers he collected double firsts and gold medals, he scored all told 6 centuries for the XI, with a highest of 135 v Pembroke (14 fours), in 1900, the year he was captain. That season he hit a remarkable 110* v Cork County, out of a total of 150-5 declared. As late as 1903, when on the staff of the University, he hit a brisk 104* for the Long Vacation XI v Dundrum. He also bowled effectively; his best bowling, v Cork County, again for Long Vacation in 1903, being 7-14 with match figures of 13-46. He played in the University's four first-class matches in 1895, aged just 18. He played a key role in the victory over MCC, with second innings figures of 3-21 removing the visitors' most dangerous bats, Tim O'Brien and WC Oates. He also dismissed Frank Mitchell, destined to play test Cricket for England and South Africa, in the first Cambridge match. Though not as good as his elder brothers, Robin was also a member of the University XV and gained Interprovincial honours for Leinster.

In 1899 he appeared for the University XV against Stades Francais, the first French team to play in Ireland. The French were not well versed in the art of the drop goal and when Robin scored in this manner, he was astonished to be kissed by the admiring French captain. In 1919 he was one of the founder members of the Dublin University Central Athletic Committee (DUCAC) the governing body for all sports within the University.

One oddity about his career was that, apart from the 4 matches just referred to, his other appearances in major cricket were as a substitute because many were unavailable. Thus, in 1895 directly after the University match, MCC were one short for the game v Ireland at Rathmines. Robin, presumably as the youngest member of the University XI he had little choice, was recruited to play. He made five at number 10 in the first innings. In the second O'Brien, showing his gift for eccentric captaincy, promoted him to open. He was caught by his brother Arthur off Bob Lambert for 10. Then in 1901, he found himself in the Irish side v South Africa, because most of the other Irish clubs boycotted the match. He fell for 6 and 4.

In 1905, the Australians played the University Past and Present XI in College Park. Robin turned up to watch the match and found himself in the side, as Rev WS Caldwell, a former prominent batsman, arrived late from England having been delayed after assisting Worcestershire. Pressed in to open the batting with his friend, bowling all-rounder Ernest Ensor, a strange decision as two experienced openers, Robin's brother Jack and wicket keeper Frank Browning were at 3 and 4. Robin and Ensor were both yorked in "Tibby" Cotter's first over, and, despite the absence of the fastman, did little better in the second innings. He now pursued a long and distinguished academic career, but was to retain an involvement and interest in cricket for many years. For example, he was an Irish selector in 1905, when he chose his brother for a match against Essex. The selection was well deserved but he might have been expected to know that his sibling was in London undergoing final training for entry to the Indian Civil Service! He was President of the University Cricket Club from 1941 to 51.

He also played a part in public life. For example, in 1913, horrified by the brutality of the Dublin Metropolitan Police towards strikers during the infamous lockout, he made his University rooms available to trade union leaders to discuss how to defend their members against such tactics. The result was the Irish Citizen Army, though he did not approve of the use to which it was put in 1916. In 1937, as a senior member of the University's board, he used his veto to prevent his colleagues from awarding an Honorary Degree to JL Garvin, Editor of The Observer, because Garvin was a strong supporter of Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia.

His obituary is in Wisden 1963, but unfortunately attributes to him the feat of bowling WG Grace first ball in a match in College Park. WG was indeed dismissed first ball in the London County match of 1903. However he was caught and bowled, and the bowler was future Church of Ireland bishop Tom Harvey, not Robin. who was not even playing in the match. The Irish Times erred like the Almanack, but at least they were both an advance on The Times, which said "the feat should more properly be attributed to his brother Lucius." Robin, at least was on the ground watching, Lucius had died almost six months before.

I am indebted to Trevor West The Bold Collegians. The Development of Sport in Trinity College Dublin for some details of Robin's rugby career and DUCAC involvement.