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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Finlay William Jackson
  • Born 21 November 1901 Belfast
  • Died 13 March 1941 Belfast
  • Educated Royal Belfast Academical Institution
  • Occupation
  • Debut 11 August 1923 v Wales at Cardiff
  • Cap Number 319
  • Style Right hand batsman.
  • Teams NICC

Finlay Jackson was, like his elder brothers Stanley and Harold, a fine all round sportsman. Apart from his deeds with the bat which brought him stacks of runs in NCU domestic cricket, as well as eight Irish caps, he was an outstanding centre three quarter or outside half, capped in the former role against England in 1923. Unlike his siblings, he had the benefit of being educated at "Inst.". It is probable that, over the many years of RBAI's existence, some have slipped through the net, but it is difficult to imagine that any talented game playing schoolboy would not have benefited from his time there. As Finlay also joined his brothers at Ballynafeigh, playing cricket for the famous Ulster Club, his development was as assured as it could have been.

Stanley and Harold Jackson were both to be found in the Ulster sides that reached the NCU Cup Final three times before the First World War, Stanley captaining them in 1912, when they lost to NICC by 7 wickets, after a tremendous battle of all rounders between him and Oscar Andrews, who was leading North. Ulster had won the Cup in 1909, with Harold contributing a dazzling 92 against North Down for whom Willie Andrews' 97 was in vain. Finlay almost certainly watched both matches and that of 1911 when the Ballynafeigh side defeated Cliftonville by 82 runs.

By 1930, a commanding, free scoring batsman whose stroke play could be every bit as sublime as Harold's, he was himself in charge of the Club, leading them to a 105 run victory over North Down, thanks, not only to his favourably commented on captaincy, but also to a strong all round performance by Billy McCleery. The two sides met again the following season, with Finlay again captaining the Ballynafeigh side. Once more an all rounder was responsible for a team lifting the Cup. This time, however, the all rounder was James Macdonald and the Cup went back to The Green.

The following year the Ulster Club folded for financial reasons, Finlay and Harold, even though the latter was past his 40th year, were welcomed to Ormeau. Finlay was to play for NICC for eight years, finishing in 1939, Harold having hung up his senior gloves in 1933. Finlay generally opened the batting with a variety of partners, all of whom were to win Irish caps, in schoolteacher Bill Loughery, future senior diplomat "Nick" Larmour, civil servant and England rugby international JG Cook and, needing no other introductory description, the young Stuart Pollock. Finlay's form for the Ormeau side - he was no stranger to the ground having been an NIFC regular - earned him a recall to the Irish side, which he had been out of for eight years, in 1933. He captained the Club in 1934 and 1935, but the decade was a barren one for silverware as far as North were concerned.

The first of Finlay's eight Irish caps had come against Wales at Cardiff Arms Park in August 1923. On a ground now submerged under the stands and car parks of the Millennium Stadium, Ireland had little trouble in winning. Bowling Wales out cheaply, the visitors then ran up a score of 418, before again dismissing the home side quickly to win by an innings and 23 runs. The bowling of William Pollock and the batting AP Kelly, Louis Bookman, and Jacko Heaslip ensured victory.

Finlay, who would have been playing along side his brother had Harold not cried off, had a quiet but not unsuccessful debut, making a stylish 23 at No 4. The following year at Ormeau, the tables were turned by the Welsh, who emerged victorious by 9 wickets. Finlay, who came into the side as a substitute for Bookman, was one of the few to have some sort of success with the bat. Batting at No 5 in the first innings, he made a hard earned 24 before being caught and bowled by the American born Glamorgan left armer Frank Ryan. He put on 46 for the 4th wicket with top scorer Heaslip. At 3 in his second knock, Finlay, again far from playing his normal free scoring game, made 19, one of three double figure scores in the innings. In this match, he was able to appear with Harold, whose last match for Ireland this was.

Three weeks later he was in the side against Scotland at Broughty Ferry. Rain washed out part of the first day and all of the second so there was never much chance of a result. This did not, however, prevent Finlay from playing his best innings for Ireland. Coming in at 26-1, he proceeded to dominate the attack with a brilliant performance. He was missed at 49 but this was "the only blemish in a fine innings." He put on over 50 for the 9th wicket with Gus Kelly (20*), being run out trying to keep the strike. Ireland totalled a beggarly 134 and were perhaps fortunate in the weather. Finlay made 23, again scoring freely, in the second innings.

Despite continuing to bat consistently, with for example a neat 38, caught behind off Middlesex medium pacer Henry Enthoven, against MCC at Ormeau in 1924, when surviving a near run out for 0, he added 51 for the 2nd wicket with opener Arthur Robinson, securing the innings against a possible collapse before rain intervened, he was not sure of his place in the side. Thus when he played against Wales at Llandudno the following summer, he did so as a replacement for Heaslip, and, with Bob Lambert again displaying his penchant for strange batting orders, found himself at No 8. He made 2, and, as Ireland hurtled to an innings defeat, was relegated to 10 in the second innings a most curious decision, even though the side, despite its poor performance was packed with batting. In this position, he tore into the bowling in, "half an hour of devil may care cricket," (Derek Scott), adding 59 for the 9th wicket with Clontarf's JG Aston. He finished on 44* but the match was lost by an innings and 36 runs, the bowling of Glamorgan paceman Jack Mercer and Kenneth Raikes being too much for Ireland.

Though he had batted with skill and courage, Finlay was discarded for 8 years before reappearing for a single match v MCC at Lord's in 1933, opening the batting with Tom Macdonald.. This two day game ended in a draw with Ireland disinclined to chase 177 in 100 minutes. Having seen MCC total 170, the openers put on 93 a stand in which both men, according to Derek Scott's report, "cut and drove freely." Finlay was out for 49, being deprived of a half century by the spin of Rockley Wilson, a clever bowler who turned the ball both ways. Wilson, a teacher at Winchester College, had played for England in the disastrous Ashes series of 1920-21, and would have probably done so on many more occasions, had it not been for his profession. Finlay made 21 in the second innings, but was not selected again.

As a rugby player, Finlay was at centre or out half for NICC for several post war seasons. He was a regular for Ulster, then, of course, playing only three matches a season in the old interprovincial championship, and was selected in the centre for Ireland v England in 1923,. An away match, it was played at Leicester and resulted in a convincing win for the hosts. A modern scoreline would have recorded an England victory by 32 - 7. Finlay was one of those who did not survive the debacle. One who did, though he might be thought to have had some responsibility for it, was legendary full back WE Crawford. Ernie Crawford, was a Belfast man who played his rugby in Dublin, except when wearing an Ulster jersey. He was also a useful cricketer, being a member of the Leinster Club, captaining the 3rd XI for a number of years.

Over eighty years later, the reasons for selectorial decisions are not all known. On the face of it, however, it seems, to this writer at least, that Finlay William Jackson, might have been better treated by those who chose the national sides in both the summer and winter games.