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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Charles William Billingsley
  • Born 1 January 1910, Belfast
  • Died 4 November 1951, Belfast
  • Educated Tennant Street School, Belfast
  • Debut 19 August 1935 v MCC at Lord's
  • Cap Number 398
  • Style Right-hand bat, Right-arm fast medium
  • Teams Woodvale

Charlie Billingsley was probably the fastest bowler in Ireland in the years leading up to the Second World War. Together with players such as footballing genius Billy McCleery, batsman Charlie Posnett and all rounder George Wilson, he was responsible for lifting Woodvale from the ranks of Junior Cricket in the Qualifying League, to win four NCU Challenge Cup Finals and be runners up in two more between 1933 and 1941,as well as taking two Senior League titles in 1935 and 1943. Billingsley's pace was instrumental in achieving much of this success: even when he was not amongst the wickets, he troubled the batsmen so that the task of his teammates became easier.

Two performances in Cup Finals stand out, even though the first of them ended in defeat. This was in 1934, when Woodvale were heavily defeated by North Down. However though Willie Andrews' men triumphed by 131 runs they had been troubled by both Billingsley and Billy McCleery in the first innings, with the Linfield star taking 6-66. In the second the Comber side fell for 147, with Charlie claiming 6-48 against a formidable batting line up, including not only Andrews but also heavy scoring cup specialist Albert Anderson and the McDonald brothers. Three years later North Down were beaten by one wicket despite a first innings 338. This would have certainly reached match winning proportions, had it not been for Charlie's 5-83.

For Ireland he played 13 of a possible 20 matches between his debut in 1935 and the game with Sir Julian Cahn's XI in late August 1939. His debut v MCC at Lord's saw his best bowling figures of 5-54 as Ireland won by 6 wickets chasing 192. MCC, almost 150 behind on the first innings had reached 263-1 in their second when Charlie took five wickets in a row, including ex Test player Nigel Haig and HP Ward, on leave from India where he was an outstanding batsman, to force a declaration. Another fine spell of bowling came in 1938 at Hamilton Crescent, Glasgow, when he took 4-18 as Scotland collapsed to 82 all out and never recovered. This was classic fast bowling. He removed numbers 1 and 3 as the hosts subsided to 8-3, and then returned to mop up the tail. His last appearance at Lord's saw him take 4-34 in MCC's first innings. He clean bowled MCC opener, future Daily Telegraph cricket correspondent EW Swanton for 3, thus, perhaps, proving that one who spent much of his 70-year cricket writing career criticising England openers who succumbed to pace early on, was no past master of the art of countering it himself.

Charlie had few pretensions to batting, his 22 innings for Ireland including 8 ducks. His highest score for Ireland, 22*, was made v Sir Julian Cahn's XI at Stamford Hall, Nottingham in 1937, against an attack including two South African pacemen, Denjis Morkel and future war hero Bob Crisp, as well as "chinaman" bowler Jack Walsh, who could lay claim to being the best spinner never to have played for Australia. However his most famous batting feat was against the Australians at College Park in 1938. Despite some fine bowling by Eddie Ingram and a fighting three-hour 56 by EDR Shearer, Ireland were routed by the great Bill O' Reilly, going down by an innings. However with scores of 14* and 6, bowled by left armer Ed White, Charlie had the distinction of taking part in the highest partnership of each innings, Both were for the 10th wicket, 29 in the first knock and 22 in the second.

Charles Billingsley played no major cricket after the War. He died, from cancer, still young at 41, and widely mourned.