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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Thomas Martin
  • Born 15 January 1911 Lisburn, Co Antrim
  • Died 7 December 1937 Lisburn, Co Antrim
  • Educated Lisburn Intermediate School, Queen's University
  • Occupation Schoolteacher
  • Debut 21 July 1930 v Sir Julien Cahn's XI at Ormeau
  • Cap Number 373
  • Style Right hand bat; right arm fast medium
  • Teams Lisburn; Queen's University

Tommy Martin is one of the tragic figures of Irish cricket. After making an impressive debut in 1930, he played only two more matches before his early death seven years later. This was, in part due to the vagaries of selection policy, but in the main to his long battle with tuberculosis, which eventually claimed him. He began his career with Lisburn as one of "Awty's Boys", a group of highly talented young cricketers, nurtured by the club's professional Joe Awty. Joe was an unremarkable English league cricketer, but had a rare ability to recognise and develop talent. Besides Tommy, he was responsible for the rise of, for example, George Crothers, Tom McCloy,Tommy's close friend Sammy Edgar, also to die before his time, and Maurice Robinson who played with success for Glamorgan and Warwickshire after the War.

Tommy was a strongly built man, who stood over six feet. He used his height to make the ball lift off the pitch at a distinctly sharp fast medium. He also had the ability to move it both ways, through the air and off the wicket.

One of his best matches for Lisburn was the NCU Cup Final of 1929, at Ormeau. This was against Willie Andrews' all conquering North Down who, at this time regarded the trophy as their own personal possession. Batting first Lisburn struggled against Jackie Shields but reached a reasonable 165. North Down were then shot out for 52, with Tommy taking 5-15. Following on the Comber side did rather better totalling 141, with Tommy having 4-37. This, however, left Lisburn a seemingly simple task of 28 for victory. Shields had other ideas and the Co Antrim men lost five wickets in getting there. Tommy rounded off an outstanding performance by smiting the ball to the boundary to bring the Cup to Wallace Park.

His debut - and best match - for Ireland came against Sir Julien Cahn's XI at Ormeau the following year. Cahn's XI had already played Ireland in a three day match in Dublin, the Irish selectors made wholesale changes for the Belfast match, in an attempt to boost local interest. The side comprised ten NCU players and the captain wicket keeper/ batsman AP Kelly of Phoenix. Ireland batted first and were bowled out for 98, never enough against Cahn, who always raised a powerful batting side.

Their chief destroyer was Nottinghamshire leg spinner Tom Richmond, who had played one Test for England in the humiliating Ashes series of 1921. In fact he had disposed of the Australian vice captain, Herbie Collins, a very sound opening batsman, and the great all rounder Jack Gregory, and should not have been condemned to join the "One Cap Wonders" of Test cricket. He took 6-41 in the Irish first innings, including Tommy for 10.

Ireland, thanks to a hostile spell from Tommy, fought back well at first. He was the main reason for the visitors collapsing to 95-6. They recovered but Tommy finished with 6-97. He clean bowled Cahn himself for 9, but his other wickets were all good cricketers, including George Heane, later to be a long term captain of Nottinghamshire, who was smartly stumped by Kelly, no mean feat taking a bowler of Tommy's pace. Other wickets included Stewart Rhodes, who shared the Nottinghamshire captaincy with Heane in 1935, and Freddie Nicholas, one of the leading Minor Counties batsmen of the time, who had scored over 2000 runs for Cahn the previous season. Removing Sir Julien was, perhaps, not in Tommy's personal interest. The millionaire allegedly was in the habit of distributing largesse, in the form of money and more dubious gifts to players who pleased him. Those who got him out, or scored runs off his slow donkey drops, did not qualify for his favours. Tommy made a hard hitting 21 in Ireland's second innings but Cahn, who liked to win, departed happily victorious by an innings.

Tommy played two more matches for Ireland, both against MCC in 1934. In the first he had some success. This was the first Irish match played in the NWCU area, the venue being Sion Mills. Batsmen on both sides took full advantage of a near perfect wicket, none more so than Sammy Edgar, who made a debut century. As only two days had been allocated for the match, a draw was always the most likely result. In the end both sides had brief second innings collapses, MCC's being instigated by Tommy who took all three of their wickets which fell, before rain intervened. By this time, however, it was too late for Ireland to have forced a win. Tommy's three victims were openers Reggie Butterworth and Jake Seamer, both University blues, and former Middlesex captain Harry Enthoven. Butterworth was to die in action, as part of the rearguard in the retreat to Dunkirk. Enthoven, a very good all rounder, played in the corresponding match at Rathmines eighteen years later.

Another draw, this time in a three day game in College Park followed Sion Mills. Wicketless in the first innings, when Jimmy Boucher destroyed the visitors, Tommy did not bowl in the second.

Thomas Martin, like his younger brother Herbie, classic Irish opener of the 1950s and 60s, was a fine all round sportsman. A good footballer, he signed as an amateur for Glenavon, playing regularly at centre half. However it is a cricketer that he was most missed.