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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Wallace L Sproule
  • Born 17 April 1891 Killyleagh, Co Down
  • Died 10 May 1957 Belfast
  • Educated Royal School, Armagh; Dublin University
  • Occupation
  • Debut 21 June 1923 v Scotland at Rathmines
  • Cap Number 318
  • Style Right-hand batsman; right arm fast medium
  • Teams Dublin University, Downpatrick, Dungannon, NICC, Bangor.

Wallace Sproule was a good fast medium bowler, whose batting, while not in the same class, was sound enough for him to be rated as a useful all rounder. Light haired and of average height, he learned the game at Armagh's Royal School, one of a number of fine cricketers produced by that institution. Entering Dublin University in 1909 he was three years in the XI from the following season, forming a useful pace attack, first with Belfast born medical student John Crane, a tall and tireless left armer whose batting would have made that of Monty Panessar look world class, and then with another "southpaw" the distinctly sharp Basil Ward. Added to the leg spin of Australian Bernard Quinlan and the batting of such as Harry Read, Dickie Lloyd, and Quinlan's brother Pat, they made a formidable team, as Europe's storm clouds inexorably gathered.

Wallace had two chances to show his talents at the highest level. In 1911, the full Nottinghamshire side came to College Park. They emerged victorious, having shot their hosts out for a paltry 46 in the first innings, Wallace at 8 being third highest scorer with 8*, before going on to win by 7 wickets. However the University bowlers were not disgraced, with Wallace having 5 wickets in the match, including Test men John Gunn and Joe Hardstaff, father of another Test batsman, as well as James Iremonger, a football International, who was one of the best batsmen of his era not to gain Test selection, though he was a member of the victorious MCC party in Australia in 1911/12.

The following summer the University welcomed Hampshire as their English guests. The county ran up a huge total of 449, but Wallace with 4 -122 was the best bowler. Bernard Quinlan also had 4 but was rather more expensive. Wallace also showed his batting worth in this match, top scoring with 24 in the inevitable follow on.

Like many other cricketers, he lost some of his best years to the War, but, unlike several of his University contemporaries emerged unscathed, and, back in his native Ulster, resumed playing when serious cricket began again. Prominent in the early 20s, he not only gained three Irish caps but also played for Ulster in May 1923 against the West Indian tourists. This was in the Windies pre Test days, but they included some who were later write their names in cricket history, including the great Learie Constantine, who played in the match at Ormeau, but did little. Wallace was at 3 in the batting line up, but found the medium pace of Joe Small and the express deliveries of George John, one of the first of the battery of great Carribean fastmen, too much for him. However though Wallace had lost some of his pace, not that it ever matched that of John or Constantine, he proved formidable in the second innings, taking 4-53, including the visitors' captain HBG Austin and future Test batsman "Snuffy" Brown. The match ended in a tense draw.

In June, he made his overdue Irish debut against Scotland at Rathmines. This match was dominated by a brilliant undefeated "big hundred" by the Scots opener John Kerr, but Wallace with 4-64, was Ireland's best bowler in the first innings. He then played a vital role in Scotland's second knock, when, having forced Ireland to follow on, they chased 95 in 75 minutes. They finished on 51-6, having foundered on Wallace's opening spell of 14-5-19-2.

Later in the season, at Cardiff Arms Park, he played an important role in an innings victory over Wales. Firstly, having failed to take a wicket in the hosts first innings, he went in at 11, surely one of the best batsmen to have gone in " next to the roller" for Ireland, he helped Ireland to an impressive first innings score of 418, adding 84 in 55 minutes for the last wicket with Bill King, a left hander, later to be POW of the Japanese but to survive and father a family in his 70s. Wallace then took 3-71 in 27.3 second innings overs, cleaning up the tail to give Ireland victory.

The following year, at Ormeau, Wales turned the tables, winning by ten wickets. Like most of his colleagues Wallace found the left arm spin of American born Frank Ryan too formidable, but he had 3-52 in the Welsh first innings, including Norman Riches, Glamorgan's best batsman at this time, and Billy Bates, whose similarly named father had taken test Cricket's first ever hat trick at the MCG in January 1883. Wallace's victim had played for his native Yorkshire, before becoming a mainstay of the Glamorgan side. He eventually held several coaching appointments in Northern Ireland, but died in Belfast, just months before Wallace.

Wallace Sproule was not to play for Ireland again, though he continued to play senior cricket in the NCU area until 1936, when he joined Bangor, still a junior club at that time. He celebrated the opening of the new ground at Ward Park in the following year by winning the Batting Cup. In 1939, aged 50, he was Club Captain.