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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Hugh French
  • Born 30 July 1871, Cuskinny House, Cuskinny, Cobh, Cork
  • Died 22 March 1950 Cuskinny House, Cuskinny, Cobh, Co Cork
  • Educated Winchester College
  • Occupation Landowner, Justice of the Peace, Peace Commissioner
  • Debut 15 June 19 v London County at The Mardyke
  • Cap Number 249
  • Style Right-hand bat; right arm medium pace
  • Teams Cork County

Hugh French was a member of a well known Co Cork family, being the second of four sons and three daughters of Savage French and Frances Maria Gough. He succeeded to the family estates on the death of his elder brother, becoming a Justice of the Peace. He was clearly well respected across the community in this role, as he was one of the comparatively few JPs who were reappointed as Peace Commissioners by the Cosgrave Government after the establishment of the Irish Free State. As a cricketer Hugh was a good medium pace bowler, one of the best to appear regularly for Cork County in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, but was, as a somewhat negligible batsman, a permanent No 11.

His bowling was often seen to good advantage in the County's annual August match with Na Shuler. On his first appearance in 1898, he had 9 wickets in the match dismissing Dublin University and Ireland batsman Marshall Porter in each innings. Always known to have a safe pair of hands, Hugh held five catches in the game, three off his own bowling in the Shulers' second innings.

In 1899 he helped his side to a good win over the visitors with a 7 wicket haul in the first innings. He again had the wicket of Porter and also that of GWF Kelly, who, though better known as a fast bowler, was a most dangerous hitter when set. He had one more wicket in the second innings, Porter again succumbing to him. The following year he had another "5 for" in the Shulers first innings and claimed a further three in the second, this time twice dismissing double international Harry Jackson.

Hugh was also often "in wickets" against Dublin University, usually a more formidable batting side than the Shulers. His best performance in these matches came in 1898 when his haul included future internationals in Robin Gwynn and Sep Lambert as well as George Harman, himself a Cork man, a rather ordinary cricketer, who was generally in the University Second XI, but played for the 1st XI in their inaugural first class match of 1895. He was also rugby international, gaining several caps in the centre. His claim to fame lies in his age. He died in 1975 aged 101, the oldest rugby international from the 4 Home Unions, and the longest lived Irish first class cricketer. His younger brother WA Harman was a prominent Cork cricketer, who played once for Ireland.

Despite his good performances in these matches, Hugh undoubtedly owed his two Irish caps to the fact that the matches concerned were played at The Mardyke. In 1903 he came into the side against London County, led by WG Grace, as one of several substitutes. Three bowlers, in paceman Robert Adair and the "Old Firm" of Bill Harrington and Tom Ross were among those who had withdrawn. Hugh found himself opening the bowling with off spinner Bob Lambert, who disposed of a reluctant WG in the first over. Hugh took 1-45 in that innings, his first dismissal for Ireland being the wicket of Percy Gale, a prominent London club cricketer. Hugh batted sensibly at 11, helping Ireland to a useful lead before he fell to the medium pace of future England captain JWHT Douglas, who once, when captaining England against Australia, had the temerity to take the new ball himself instead of the great Sydney Barnes.

Hugh was back in the Irish side the following summer when Cambridge University came to Cork, but he only played because the selectors had chosen a half strength side for the game, reserving the full strength of Ireland for the encounter at Rathmines which followed. More withdrawals further weakened the hosts who were outplayed throughout. Hugh had one wicket, that of Cambridge opener JWW Horne, who never played for the University in a first class match. With the bat, Hugh, still at 11, made 1 and 13, being out in each innings to the leg spin of FB Wilson, whose autobiography "Sporting Pie" gives some account of the match.

Hugh French was never to play for Ireland again. Indeed his appearances for the County became fewer, possibly because of his work in public service. He was a wealthy man at the time of his death.