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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
David Robertson Taylor
  • Born 26 October 1880 Comber, Co Down
  • Died 8 November 1941 Belfast
  • Educated RBAI; Cambridge University (Queen's College); Edinburgh University
  • Occupation Surgeon
  • Debut 24 June 1924 v Wales at Ormeau
  • Cap Number 325
  • Style Right hand bat, slow right arm, previously wicket keeper
  • Teams North Down; NICC; Queen's College,Cambridge; Edinburgh University

Davy Taylor was a sound upper order batsman, who often opened the innings. Though not a prolific scorer of hundreds, he was very consistent, at club level. Unfortunately, his chance to prove himself on the International stage - at cricket, he won a Rugby cap aged 22 - came somewhat late in his career, and, after one failure, he was not persevered with. A brilliant, fast moving cover point, having come into the senior game as a wicket keeper, he became a very useful bowler, who, according to a contemporary source quoted by North Down's authoritative historian, Ian Shields, "bowled a capital length with a bit of spin."

Davy came into the North Down side aged fifteen, owing much to the coaching and encouragement of Harry Baines, active not only at The Green, but also at Ormeau. Davy was a member of NICC, playing for them in the Cup Final of 1902 against Holywood at Cliftonville. It was a low scoring match, and, opening the batting, his second innings 34* was crucial in guiding his side to an eight wicket win.

He was, by this time, no stranger to Cup Final success. In 1898, he and future Irish captain and wicket keeper, DAH Milling made certain that their side reached a competitive score, after winning the toss and batting against Ulster at Ormeau. Milling made 80 and Davy 61. An interesting member of the Ulster team was George Gaukrodger. Belfast born, despite some records showing him to be a Yorkshireman, he was an accomplished footballer, capped for Ireland against Wales in 1895, as a teenager, and a consistent goal scorer for Linfield. He was also a high class wicket keeper. By 1900, he had qualified for Worcestershire, for whom he played 114 matches, besides appearing for the Players against the 1902 Australians. That summer, on the first days of August, Davy played in the Junior Interprovincial against Leinster at Ormeau. Ulster won by 180 runs building up a useful total of 231 before Leinster collapsed for 57. Davy led the way with 88. In the Senior match, played at Rathmines at the same time, Gaukrodger compiled a massive 179, allowing his province to total 334. However the Lambert brothers were also in good form and the match was drawn.

Also in 1898 Davy made 99 in the League against Cliftonville, and, "up" at Cambridge the following summer, played in the Freshman's Trial. He acquitted himself well, scoring 23 and 72, but, disappointingly, was not given a chance in the University side which was captained by the legendary hitter, Gilbert Jessop. It is possible, that Davy's methods which were as far removed from The Croucher's as it is possible to imagine, did not greatly impress the Light Blues' skipper.

Davy continued, when available, to play in Ulster cricket, while at Cambridge and subsequently at Edinburgh. He really enjoyed his cricket at the latter institution, and for years afterwards, would wear the University's blue cap, which became faded by time However, he still contrived to head the North Down batting averages in 1903, 1905, and 1907 making an undefeated 117 against Lisburn in the first of those seasons, his highest score in senior cricket. He was also captain in 1908 when the Cup was won as Cliftonville went down by eight wickets. Despite some time spent elsewhere during those three seasons, he hit 317 runs at 43.87 in 1903, 507 at 31.69 in 1905, and, in his last season on top of the list, 464 at 42.17.

Thereafter the captaincy and the batting averages became almost the property of one man, Willie Andrews, but Davy remained an essential member of the side. He took part in 18 Cup Finals, and won twelve, one being with NICC as we have seen. Aged 46, in 1926, and now batting down the order, he made a key 55*, helping James Macdonald (80) to post a formidable total of 337 and bring the Cup back to The Green. As late as 1931, aged 51, he helped his side to yet another title, beating Ulster by 146 runs.

Unfortunately, he did not show his true form on a wider stage. Though a consistent run maker for Ulster in Interprovincials, he missed the chance of doing well against first class opposition when representing the Province against the touring Gentlemen of Philadelphia in 1908. The Americans were a strong g side with two world class bowlers in the great swing bowler, JB "Bart" King and the future Australian Test leg spinner HV "Ranji" Hordern, like Davy a medical man. Ulster were outclassed with Davy's scores of 7 and 11 being by no means the lowest among the recognised batsmen. He could take some consolation in not being dismissed by King, who cleaned up most Irish batsmen he encountered. Instead Davy's first innings was terminated by Frank Green, a fast left armer, the teenage wicket keeper Charles Winter catching him. Winter, even at this age, was a highly accomplished gloveman, and owed his place in the side to his ability to "read" Hordern. This was evidently more than Davy could do, as he as leg before to the Australian's googly in the second innings, just as he seemed, together with William Pollock, to be establishing a partnership. He then had to wait a further sixteen years for his first and only match for Ireland. It is true that four seasons were lost to the carnage on the Western Front and elsewhere, Davy serving with the RAMC and being a Lieutenant, but if he was worthy of selection in 1924, at the age of 44, he was surely worth a match some time earlier.

He eventually got his chance against Wales at Ormeau in 1924. He was one of seven Northern players in the side, possibly this was an attempt to boost spectator numbers, but the only member of the side, who might be said to have not really been worth his place, was Sir George Colthurst from Blarney Castle. Davy batted at 3, but made only 2 and 0. In the first innings he was bowled by medium pacer Gordon Phillips, who played for the Minor Counties and Monmouthshire for over 20 years. In the second he, in company with six of his team-mates was deceived by the "Chinaman" bowler Frank Ryan, who, first for Hampshire and then Glamorgan, took a total of 1013 first class wickets. Apart from King and Hordern, he was, very likely, the best bowler that Davy had faced. He made 11, before being lbw. Many thought that Ryan was worth an England cap, but his fondness for drink, which once resulted, according to Glamorgan historian Dr Andrew Hignell, in him sleeping under the wicket covers on the ground, because he had forgotten the way to and name of the team's hotel, probably stood in his way.

If Davy may be classed as unlucky to have been dropped after one match, he was even more unfortunate to have received the same treatment at the ands of the IRFUs selectors. In February 1903, aged 22, he was chosen, in the centre, to play against England at Lansdowne Road. He was out of position, as the speed which made him a great cover point, was also earning him a growing reputation as a winger. He took the field with two other well known cricketers. At half back, also a new cap, was Harry Corley, who was to be capped at cricket the following year. In the pack was Tom Harvey, already capped at both games, and a few months away from dismissing WG caught and bowled first ball in College Park. Ireland won 6 - 0, Corley kicking a penalty, but failing to convert the only tries of the match. (A try then being worth 3 points). Davy was one of those dropped for the next match, which Ireland promptly lost? Together his Rugby and Cricket International appearances gave him a distinction, which may is certainly unusual. There are comparatively few double internationals in any sport. To gain only one cap in each is thus fairly rare, to gain them twenty two years apart may be unique.

Away from his sporting interests, he had a highly successful medical career. After holding minor surgical appointments first in Comber, then Downpatrick, he eventually became a surgeon in Belfast's Royal Victoria and Maternity Hospitals.

Though he may have been disappointed at his performances in Irish colours, David Robertson Taylor achieved much on and off the field during his lifetime. So much in fact, that it comes as a surprise to recall that he was only 61 when he died.

I am much indebted to Irene Ferguson of Edinburgh University Archives Department for providing several previously missing details about DR Taylor's career. It would also be impossible to write about any North Down cricketer without the help of the Club's informative website, and, Ian Shields' One Shot More... For The Honour of Down. I am much obliged to both these sources.