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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
James Francis Kempster
  • Born 15 October 1892 Ranelagh, Dublin
  • Died 21 April 1975, Kilternan, Co Dublin
  • Educated St Stephen's Green School, Dublin
  • Occupation Solicitor
  • Debut 22 July 1920 v Scotland at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh.
  • Cap Number 299
  • Style Right-hand batsman; slow right arm.
  • Teams Co Galway, Phoenix, Leinster

Jimmy Kempster, tall and bespectacled, was an elegant free scoring middle order batsman, who, like many of his contemporaries, lost some of his best years to the War. He came from a well known cricketing family that had strong links with the Co Galway club. His father, Frank, scored Ireland's first century, 105* v I Zingari in 1876, while Jimmy's uncle Jack also played for Ireland, in an odds match in 1869.

Jimmy appeared for both Co Galway and Phoenix before conflict erupted, taking part in the match between the County and Woodbrook at Stanley Cochrane's Ground in August 1909. Though he did little, the performance of Cochrane's South African professional, leg spinning all rounder, AE Volger, made the match a historic one. Winning the toss, Galway scored a respectable 236, thanks largely to Jack Meldon's 117*. Jimmy at 3 was caught and bowled Volger for 2. The South African finished with 6-72. More was to follow. Woodbrook responded with 350 all out, Volger making 100. WW Meldon took 10-126. Volger then proceeded to take all 10 of the County's wickets for 41 in the visitors' second innings, bowling Jimmy for 0 early on. Woodbrook won by 10 wickets, Jimmy, though he had failed with the bat, had the consolation of having played in one of the most remarkable matches in Irish Cricket history.

When play resumed in earnest in 1919, he joined Leinster as League cricket came to Dublin, though it was, a first, of a rather leisurely two day nature. Between 1919 and 1938, he played 163 matches scoring 3617 runs at 24.43 with a highest score of 115. He was according to Pat Hone, "One of the soundest batsmen and keenest cricketers of the Leinster Club." In 1926 he headed the LCU averages with 372 runs from six matches at an average of 62. He had, however to cede the Marchant Cup to Jim Ganly, as he had not played in enough matches to qualify. In 1933 he and Eddie Ingram put on 228 for the third wicket in a League match at Rathmines, Jimmy made a century but Eddie stole the show with 213 as Leinster totalled 506-9 declared: no 50-over limitations then!

Jimmy's two appearances for Ireland were both against Scotland in the early 1920s. He was one of a somewhat experimental Irish side which travelled to Edinburgh to take on Scotland, for Ireland's initial post war game, in 1920, being one of eight new caps under the leadership of his friend Bob Lambert. Ireland retired beaten by 9 wickets, but Jimmy was not outclassed. Batting at 7 he made a first innings 33, adding 58 for the sixth wicket with the Dublin University captain RW Power. Jimmy was bowled by AE Sellers, a Nottinghamshire born groundsman. In the second knock he managed only 8, before falling to TD Watt, like Sellers a medium pacer, and, like Jimmy a solicitor. When he played for Ireland again two years later in a drawn match, he was at 3, but promotion in the order did not improve his record. He fell for 9 and 10, with medium pacers again being responsible in the shape of Willie Walker, a sugar refiner from the Greenock Club and JAW Kirk, a plumber.

James Francis Kempster was probably a much better player in the years after he played for Ireland. It seems a shame that he was not given a further chance. His obituary is in Wisden 1977.