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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Alexander Brenan
  • Born 1833 Dublin
  • Died 26 February 1898, 2 Langdale Villas, Margate, Kent
  • Educated Royal Naval School, London; Dublin University
  • Occupation Church of England Clergyman
  • Debut 6 August 1860 v Colonel Buchanan's XVI of Scotland at Drumpelier
  • Cap Number 41
  • Style Hand unknown thought to have been right handed; wicket keeper
  • Teams Coolatin; Dublin University; United Ireland XI

Alexander Brenan was a good upper order batsman, and, although he did not always fulfil the role, a highly competent wicket keeper. He learned the game at The Royal Naval School, New Cross, London where his contemporaries included Sir George Nares the Arctic explorer whose name is today commemorated in the Nares Strait between Greenland and Ellesmere Island.

RNS was a good cricket school. It was later to produce Clem Johnson, fast bowler for Dublin University, Ireland and - once - for South Africa. The school was intended for the sons of naval officers who had fallen on hard times. In Alexander's case his father, another Alexander had been forced out of the Navy by illness, but had already played a part in its history. As a 14 year old midshipman, he saw action in the Battle of Trafalgar on board "HMS Temeraire" - the ship immortalised in the Turner painting (JMW not Glen!). "Temeraire" drew the French fire away from "Victory", at the height of the battle as Nelson lay dying. Alexander, incidentally, was the youngest officer on the ship, but far from the youngest on board. All told there were 41 boys, including an 11 year old.

Nine years later, now a Lieutenant, Alexander, senior, was on one of the three vessels that escorted an unwilling Napoleon to his - albeit temporary - exile on Elba. In 1827, however, Alexander had to retire because of illness. He became a coastguard on Ireland' south east coast and led the rescue of two ships, but illness forced him out of this post also. Hence the need for the semi charity of New Cross.

Alexander, the younger, entered Dublin University in July 1857. He was three years in the XI from 1859. One of his most important matches for the University, and his penultimate game in Irish cricket, was against I Zingari in early October 1861. Played at the Vice Regal Ground, it saw him run out 0 in the first innings, but - well supported by JP Mahaffy - make a stalwart undefeated 18 in the second to save the match.

He was already prominent in Irish cricket by 1859, however, having played - without much success for a Coolatin XXII v the United England XI in 1857. To be fair to him, only the Cambridge Blue Joseph McCormick was able to make any showing against an attack which included the "Little Wonder" John Wisden, who deserves to be remembered as much for his pace bowling as for his publishing ventures which began sis years later, and William Martingell a medium pace round armer from Surrey, who had destroyed the Gentlemen's batting at Lord's in 1853, taking 7/19. Alexander, batting at 3, made things easier for this feared pair by running himself out for 1 in the first innings. In the second as the hosts slumped towards a 10 wicket defeat - even though the visitors had only made 99 - he fought his way to 8, considerably more than the majority of his team-mates, before he was caught by John Lillywhite off Wisden.

An appearance for a Dublin XXII against Charles Lawrence's United Ireland XI at Phoenix in 1857 brought him no further luck as he fell for 6 and 1, the bowlers concerned being Lawrence and Thomas Quinn. It might be noted however that in Dublin's first innings of 69, that reliable performer in these matches Mr Extras was top scorer.

Alexander was clearly scoring well in other matches for by 1860 he was part of Lawrence's XI when they undertook a tour which included the first visit by an Irish side to the other side of the Irish Sea. Prior to the tour he now played against the XXII of Dublin and made a useful 15 in the XI's only innings as they chalked up their normal victory in this match. Having done little in the match in Belfast v NICC, he came in to his own when the XI found themselves in Glasgow taking on XVI of the Clydesdale Club. The hosts eventually won the match, but not before Alexander had played two worthy innings. In the first innings of 84, he easily topscored with a breezy 34, while in the second he again reached double figures, finishing with 12.

The match which followed v Colonel Buchanan's XVI of Scotland is now regarded as an official cap match and thus marks Alexander's debut. In common with the two games he played against the All England XI, it will not be found in the statistics on this site as one of the teams fielded more than eleven players. Ireland won by an innings thanks mainly to the bowling of Lawrence and Arthur Samuels, but Alexander was one of the successes of the match, making a well received 23 at No 4.

His two matches against professional bowling also showed him to some advantage. In August 1860, at Lord Palmerston's ground in Upper Rathmines, he made 16 in Ireland's first innings as Edgar Willsher and Crispin Tinley swept the Irish batting aside. The only other double figure score was 21 from a young army officer EA Berger, then stationed in Ireland. He later became a general. Alexander's innings was ended by a fine catch at short leg by the Surrey batsman Julius Caesar, off Tinley. He did little in the second innings, but his batting again attracted praise the following season at Coburg Gardens. In the first innings he came in at 10 and stood firm as the remainder of the wickets crashed to Willsher. In the second he reached 17, being one of only two double figure scores, Robert Gordon's 33 was the other. He also kept wicket well in these matches, gaining a stumping in the second when he stumped Nottinghamshire's leading batsman Richard Daft off the crafty lobs of Mahaffy. Daft's great grandson, also a wicket keeper who played for Harrow against Eton at Lords, was to win a wider fame away from the cricket field. As Sir Robin (now Lord) Butler he was Cabinet Secretary to the Major and Blair administrations.

Alexander also batted usefully in the I Zingari matches of 1860 and 1861, In the former year he was the only Irish player to reach double figures in both innings. Topscoring with 12 in the first as Ireland collapsed for 46 to the pace of Henry Awkright, he reached 10 in the second while Berger topscored with 43. In the latter season a varied IZ attack bowled Ireland out for 62 in reply to their own 102. Only Alexander, with 21, really came to terms with the visitors' bowling. He made 21 before being bowled by Reverend H W Fellows, still a useful performer if no longer possessed of the raw pace that had gained him his nickname of "Lightning". He did little in his final match, when Ireland recorded an innings win over the Military but finished with 113 runs at 12.55. Moderate figures perhaps, but they stand up well against those of his contemporaries.

He left Ireland shortly afterwards and was ordained in the Church of England. He spent the rest of his life in his ministry, mostly as a curate in a variety of parishes in the south of England. He was, however, vicar of a parish in the Kent seaport of Ramsgate when he died eight months short of 93 years after his father had seen action in Britain's most famous naval battle.