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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Robert Allan Fitzgerald
  • Born 1 October 1834 Purley House, Berkshire
  • Died 28 October 1881, Chorleywood, Hertfordshire
  • Educated Harrow School, Cambridge University
  • Occupation Cricket Administrator
  • Debut 17 May 1858 v MCC at Lord's
  • Cap Number 28
  • Style Right-hand bat; right arm fast round arm.
  • Teams MCC, Cambridge University, I Zingari, Gentlemen of England, Middlesex, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire.

Bob Fitzgerald - or 'Fitz' as he was widely known, cut an impressive figure on the cricket field. A powerfully built man, he impressed onlookers by what Lord Harris called, "the magnificence of his swagger." He also had a large, very prominent black beard, which might have become the most famous in cricket history were it not for WG's. He was also, amongst his circle hugely popular, his humour - now, from his writings, very dated - being widely admired. He was also a famed and mighty hitter, often striking the ball clean out of Lord's, and was capable of generating real pace when bowling. However his performances, in the first class game, never matched the regard in which he was held.

In 46 first class matches, spread over a 19 year period he managed only 1123 runs at 15.59. He never made a hundred, his highest score at this level being 91* for Cambridge University v The Cambridge Town Club, on his first class debut in 1854. He reached 50 on only four more occasions. Winning a Blue in 1854 and 1856, he failed to impress in either match with Oxford. On the former occasion he fell to CDB Marsham, future Oxford captain and Anglican clergyman, seven others of whose family played first class cricket, for 6 and 0. Two years later, at number 10, he was dismissed for 1, caught off the very fast roundarmer Walter 'Lightning' Fellows, another future cleric, who once drove a cricket ball 175 yards and, according to S&B, had a playing weight of over 17 stone.

'Fitz' was no more successful with his bowling. He was not often put on and managed only 7 first class wickets in his career, he usually batted down the order and wickets were often poor, but his all round performances suggest that he was not of first class standard. It has to be admitted that hi s performances at a lower level were not always far superior. For over twenty years, he played upwards of 50 matches a season, yet statistics that are available suggest that he only once, in 1866, passed the 1000 run mark. That year, however he made 1420 runs, mostly for MCC or IZ.

He had a long connection with Irish cricket which began in Ireland's first ever match. One of the Gentlemen of England's players Walter Creyke was unavailable for the second innings and the Irish captain, J N Coddington, allowed Fitz to replace him. He made little difference, falling for 0 at 11, as the visitors crashed to 38 all out, allowing Ireland a comfortable win. Fitz had, presumably been staying with some Irish relatives. Apart from his name which suggests Irish origins, he was connected through his grandmother, to the Jervoises, one of the leading Anglo-Irish landowning families of the time. He played three times for Ireland v MCC at Lord's. The conclusion is inescapable that he was selected because he was there. On his debut in 1858, MCC were overwhelmed by the bowling of cricket history maker Charles Lawrence who had 12/57 in the match. Fitz's bowling was not required and he made only 4, being bowled by Edward Hartnell who had played for Cambridge in 1844.

In 1862, by which time Fitzgerald had played for I Zingari against Ireland, he had a major part in Ireland's victory. He did not start too well being bowled by Nottinghamshire professional and paceman George Wooton for 0 in his first innings, the ball finishing 39 yards behind the stumps. However in the second, Ireland, with a rather weak side, were set 100 to win, often too much in a Lord's fourth innings at the time. Fitz smashed 33* and saw Ireland home by three wickets, his knock was widely praised. His final match for Ireland was in 1867, by which time he was Secretary of MCC. Rain washed out all but the first few overs, and Fitz never got out of the dressing room. Perhaps he was able to get on with his growing administrative workload.

He was a regular for several years on I Zingari's Irish tours, accompanying his close friend and brother-in-law Edward Chandos-Leigh, who was a frequent visitor to Ireland, even appearing for Charles Lawrence's United Ireland XI. Fitz who was a keen photographer, taking some of the earliest cricket photographs, was also a chronicler of IZ in Ireland. his account of the Cork section of the 1866 tour is reproduced in Colm and Catherine Murphy's collection of Cork County scorecards, '150 Not Out.' While very interesting, it does not inspire the reader to peruse more of Fitz's literary endeavours. His best match for IZ v Ireland was the drawn match of 1863. He was in form, having just made a fifty v Knickerbockers at Vice Regal Ground. IZ had run up 268, then the highest team total recorded in Ireland. Things were different further down the road at Phoenix CC. IZ struggled to take a one run lead in the first innings, 105 to Ireland's 104. Fitz made a hard hitting 59 before giving George Barry a return catch. Only two other double figure scores were made. He made a duck in the second knock, as IZ played out time.

He also played several matches for Buckinghamshire, never better than at The Antelope Ground, Southampton in 1866. This was a return match. Earlier in the season, he had made a second innings 48 to set up a 115 run victory over their visitors at Newport Pagnell, being severe on James Southerton later to become the oldest Test player on debut, and the first Test cricketer to die. However on the south coast Hampshire, not hen a first class side, were able to set their guests 274 to win. With Southerton 'on song' with his slow roundarmers only Fitz stood firm. He hit a magnificent 111*, but saw his side go down by 53 runs.

Having captained an MCC side in Paris, Fitz raised his own team to visit North America in the late summer of 1872. The tour was organised by the former Cambridge and Surrey player Thomas Pattenson who had settled in Canada a few years earlier. On his visit to England to arrange things he was accompanied by Army officer Nesbit Willoughby Wallace, now stationed in Canada, who had played for Ireland, when stationed there in 1865. They had to provide a considerable financial inducement as WG Grace was an essential part of the side if it was to prove a crowd draw.

Far too strong for all opposing teams, Fitz's side, which included two other future England captains in Lord (George) Harris and AN "Monkey" Hornby, enjoyed themselves hugely and, thanks to lavish expenses, most certainly - unlike the promotor - did not lose out financially. Their deeds were chronicled by Fitz in WICKETS IN THE WEST which, while it did not become the best seller he intended, was well received amongst his circle. His scrapbooks also show some of the other activities they got up to, these may well have hastened him towards his untimely and unpleasant death.

His main contribution to cricket however was as neither player nor writer but as administrator. In 1863, he became Honorary Secretary of MCC at a time when the Club's fortunes and reputation were at a low ebb. Seen as 'sagacious, cheery and amusing', he succeeded during his term of office in enlarging the pavilion, doubling the membership, and improving the state of the dangerously bad wicket. It is not going too far to say that the eminence which MCC gained in the game, and was to hold until the creation of the Cricket Council, forerunner of the TCCB and ECB, was due to his groundwork and that the Club would have continued to decline without his contribution. He also introduced the famous red and yellow MCC colours though this upset some IZ stalwarts, largely the same people as MCCs Committee, as the two Clubs' colours were now almost identical. In 1866 he persuaded the Committee to purchase the freehold of the ground which they had failed to do six years earlier. Called to the Bar in 1860, he had rarely if ever practised. Fred Ponsonby persuaded the Committee, into which Fitzgerald had installed some overdue new blood, to pay him a salary 400 a year- a large sum in those days.

Many other constructive changes were carried out but in 1876 he was forcibly retired by the MCC Committee. HIs scrapbooks reveal, with a savage intensity, his descent into madness which accompanied his illness. His resignation affected not only the Club but also his friend WG Grace. Fitzgerald had been about to organise a tesdtimonial for the Doctor with the aim of buying him a good practice. However the new Secretary Henry Perkins, who was chosen ahead of the former Scotland and Ireland batsman JS Russel, proved unable to raise enough money which explains why Grace became an asylum medical officer in Bristol and continued in his outrageous shamateurism. Fitz had contracted tertiary syphilis and, becoming increasingly violent, had to be confined in Chiswick Asylum, for his own and his family's safety.. However he was eventually so far gone as to be totally harmless. He was returned to his family home in Hertfordshire where he died in the care of his wife who had, despite everything, remained loyal to him.

His biography is in Scores and Biographies Volume VIII. He died before Wisden began to feature obituaries in 1892.

There is a great of information about Fitz and the American tour in Richard Tomlinson's Amazing Grave - the man who was WG, to which this updated notice on Fitzgerald is greatly indebted.