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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
John King Wilson
  • Born 24 December 1908 Belfast
  • Died Unknown
  • Educated
  • Occupation
  • Debut 9 August 1937 v Sir Julien Cahn's XI at Stamford Hall, Nottingham
  • Cap Number 409
  • Style Right hand bat.
  • Teams Cliftonville

John Wilson was a very correct opening batsman, a mainstay of the Cliftonville order for many seasons. Unfortunately, he was a complete failure in his three matches for Ireland, though on two of these occasions, he was faced by Test Match bowling of genuine pace. He was the fourth son and seventh of the eight children of David and Mary Wilson as recorded in the Census for 1911. David is shown as a "Grocery Merchant." Mary, one feels, must have had quite a hard life with an 18 year span within her family, while one might also spare a thought for Emily Elliott, the 30 year old "domestic servant" who also lived with them. Appropriately, perhaps, their house was in Clifton Park Avenue, which, some 40 years before, had been the sight of the first Cliftonville ground when as Enfield CC, they had had a short excursion into Ulster cricket.

John, just slighter than average build, and, in his playing days, slightly balding, was a first rate player at club level. In 1935 his batting was one of the main reasons for Cliftonville reaching the NCU Challenge Cup Final, where, however they were defeated by North Down by an innings and 6 runs. The Cliftonville attack could make little impression on James Macdonald who hit a magnificent 159* as his side posted 303. Cliftonville were then bowled out for 114 with 3 bowlers - including, of course, Macdonald - each taking 3 wickets. John, stylish and composed as ever topscored with 24, but they had to follow on nearly 200 behind. Second time around they reached 183, largely thanks to John who topscored again with an elegant 65 before he fell to Macdonald. He received good support from WH Fee but the inevitable Macdonald weighed in with a "5 for" to extinguish all hope. John was selected for Ulster v Leinster that season and in the following when he headed the club batting averages.

In 1937, the year of his three appearances for Ireland, he again played for Ulster and headed the club averages making a brilliant 101 against North Down at The Green in the League. He also took part in a remarkable opening stand with Charlie Fee in the second round of the Cup when they put on an unbroken 204 to win by 10 wickets, Charlie reaching three figures. Unfortunately Cliftonville fell by the wayside in the semi final. John was captain of the 1st XI, a position he had already held in the Hockey Club, in 1940. Regrettably his captaincy was marred by the pavilion being destroyed by a German bomb.

John's three matches for Ireland must have been a great disappointment for him and were in no way a true reflection of his ability. Selected as one of the 13 tourists who went o England in 1937 under Jimmy Boucher's captaincy, he found himself opening the batting on a fast but true wicket at Stamford Hall, Nottingham, the private ground of Sir Julien Cahn. Cahn, a millionaire furniture magnate, had raised a powerful - apart from himself - side and opened his attack with two South African Test players, Bob Crisp, who was extremely fast and Denijs Morkel, a lively fast medium with a high action. John reached 6, which was to prove his highest score, before Crisp yorked him. The rest of the Irish batting was dominated by Donald Shearer and Eddie Ingram who both made fifties, no one else was able to make much of unfancied amateur leg spinner Reggie Butterworth. Cahn hardly had to call upon his two professional spinners from New South Wales, Harry Mudge and Jack Walsh. Cahn's XI easily passed Ireland's first innings score and made short work of their guests in the second innings. This time John fell lbw to Morkel for 1. The hosts had little difficulty knocking off the runs required.

Ireland then moved on to Lord's where they lost by 9 wickets to a moderate MCC side, having declined to enforce the follow on when in a position to do so. Opening again with Connell, John was out almost at once for 2 falling to Oliver Battock, a right arm medium pacer, who- an amateur - was said to have taken over 6000 wickets in club cricket. By profession an actor - his stage name was Oliver Gordon - he played for Buckinghamshire for over 30 years. He was too good for John - batting at 4 and failing to score - in the second innings as well as Ireland collapsed to lose the match. Ireland then returned to the East Midlands for another match with Cahn. Rain probably saved them allowing each side only one innings. Ireland were dismisses for 94 with Crisp - later a decorated war hero - taking 8-21, including John, back at No 2, contributed a single to the total before Butterworth caught him.

In company with several of his Cliftonville team-mates John was also a very accomplished hockey player and was a member of the Cliftonville XI which won the Irish Senior Cup in 1931/32. He captained the XI in the 1933/34/35 seasons.

It will be seen from the details at the start of this article that some important details of John King Wilson's life are lacking, notably his education, occupation and place and date of death. We would be most grateful if anyone can help with providing the missing information.