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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
John Harris
  • Born
  • Educated
  • Occupation Semi Professional Footballer
  • Debut 25 June 1924 v Wales at Ormeau, Belfast
  • Cap Number 324
  • Style Right hand bat, right arm fast medium.
  • Teams Lisburn, NICC

NOTE: Extensive research by both cricket and football historians has failed to establish John Harris' date and place of birth and death or details of his education and employment outside football. There are, for example, some sis people of the right name and approximate in the 1911 Irish Census who might be him, while family history websites have also been searched to no avail. What can be stated is that he is not as has sometimes been thought the J Harris who played first class cricket in India in the 1930s. Though little is known of this player either, he was John George Harris a Karachi born Anglo- Indian leg spinner. We would, therefore, welcome any information about John Harris, cricketer and footballer, which might help to fill in the gaps in this biography.

John Harris was an outstanding all round sportsman. Apart from his cricketing ability, he was an excellent footballer of which brief details o appear later in this notice. As a cricketer, he was a useful lower middle order batsman, who was, however, no stranger to a higher position, but primarily a very good bowler at something above medium pace. He appeared for Lisburn with distinction for most of the decade after the first World War. However silverware always eluded him. Nevertheless he turned in some remarkable performances.

Thus in a Cup first round match against Ulster in 1925 he had 7-20, dismissing the Ballynafeigh men for 92 and seeting up a 7 wickets victory. He was, however, on the losing side against the same opposition three years later when, despite a remarkable bowling feat bringing him 9-72, a fine innings by Stanley Watson, saw Ulster post what proved to be a winning total. By the time Lisburn lifted the NCU Challenge Cup in 1929, John had moved to NICC. It may have been some consolation that the following season, when he made 10 appearances for North taking 18 wickets at 18.88, he reserved his best bowling figures for the match against the Wallace Park side, returning an analysis of 15-4-25-3.

Of his seven matches for Ireland, four were played at Ormeau and five against MCC. The former figure suggests that he may, sometimes at least, have owed his selection to the desire of the Irish selectors to choose a side which would augment the gate at Ormeau. Though he was not an outstanding success in all of his games for the national side, this, if true, seems a rather unjust reflection on his ability.

His debut match - played at Ormeau, was also his best, though Ireland, captained by William Pollock, ended by losing to their visitors, Wales by 9 wickets. Ireland, winning the toss and batting were bowled out for 134, John at 10 falling to Glamorgan all rounder Trevor Arnott for 0. Arnott was a very good medium pace swing bowler, who narrowly missed test selection, touring the west indies in 1934/35. Opening the Irish bowling with Pollock, John had the highly creditable figures of 11-1-34-4, removing the two openers Frank Morton and John Bell before returning to help dispose of the tail. Bell, of Yorkshire and Glamorgan, who later became a first class umpire, scored almost 9000 first class runs, including two double hundreds. He was probably the most distinguished wicket of John's career.

John's figures do, however, present a mystery. The match was closely fought in the first innings until the last three Welsh wickets added 175. During this time John's bowling seems to have been ignored, match reports not suggesting that he was off the field. Less successful bowlers bowled twice the amount of overs. His rather strange treatment continued when Ireland batted again. Pollock took him in to open the innings. Unsurprisingly he was out for 7. Wales, needing only 63 to win, had little difficulty in reaching their target.

His one other match of note for Ireland was against a weakish MCC side at Ormeau in 1928. Rain on the second day saved the visitors from defeat after they had been routed for 85 their first innings by excellent bowling from the hosts pace attack of John, who came on first change, and the Dublin University pairing of Tom Dixon and Pat Thornton. Dixon had 5-30 while John finished with the commendable figures of 10-4-18-3. The best known cricketer whom he dismissed was Charles Hill - Wood, who, however, as a clever medium pacer, was much better known for his bowling than his batting.

John was probably better known as a footballer playing as a midfielder - left half for those such as this writer whose knowledge of the game is based on antediluvian childhood memories - for Cliftonville, where he played alongside fellow cricketer Billy McCleery, and later Glenavon. He appeared both as an amateur and semi-professional, winning four amateur caps for Ireland / Northern Ireland between 1919/23, captaining the side on one occasion. He also gained two full caps for Northern Ireland (then despite partition still playing as Ireland) between 1921 and 1924. Unfortunately both matches were lost, Wales being the winners in 1921 and the touring South Africans in 1924, the margin being 2 - 1 on each occasion. John also gained one Irish League Cap in 1921.

John Harris disappeared somewhat abruptly from the cricket and football scene at the turn of the decade. As already stated we would be most grateful to receive any information that would enable this biography of a remarkable all round sportsman to be completed.