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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
John Simpson
  • Born 1 December 1920 Lisburn, Co Antrim
  • Died 13 January 1997 Lisburn, Co Antrim
  • Educated Wallace High School, Lisburn Technical College
  • Occupation
  • Debut 17 July 1954 v Scotland at Whitehaugh, Paisley
  • Cap Number 467
  • Style Right hand batsman; right arm fast medium
  • Teams Lisburn

Jack, or Jackie, Simpson was the sort of player whom everybody wanted to have on their side. Dark haired, strongly built and described as "one of cricket's gentlemen", he was whole hearted and tireless fast medium bowler, most unlucky to have received but one solitary Irish cap, a no nonsense hard hitting bat in the lower order and a successful captain with a rare penchant for winning the toss.

For some two decades he was an essential part of the Lisburn side, taking part in five League title wins, including three in succession from 1950 as well as six outright and one shared Challenge Cup successes.

He had several successful bowling returns, often in tandem with slow left armer Jack Bowden, who was undoubtedly the leading Lisburn player for much of this time. Thus in a second round match with Muckamore in 1943 the two Jacks ran through the Moylena side after Lisburn had scored 217, Jackie having 4-5 and Bowden 4-20. They were at it again in the Final of 1946, the match having reverted to a two innings affair. Batting first Lisburn totalled 217 against a keen NICC attack led by Clontarf off spinner John Hill, then working in Belfast, who took 4-74, Lisburn owing much to 55 from "Snooker" Blayney. Then with Jack S taking 5-42 and Jack B 5-33 North were bowled out for 77, a position from which they never recovered, Lisburn winning by 66 runs. Jackie also played a key role in getting Lisburn to the Final in 1955 taking 5 North Down wickets for 17 as, bowling in tandem with Billy McCloy (4-10), he took 5-17 to dismiss the Comber side for 35!

Jackie was captain in 1957, when the Cup was won and 1958 when the intervention of the elements caused the Final to be abandoned with Lisburn in a strong position against Sion Mills. He thus had the enviable record of having never lost a Cup match as well as winning the toss in every match of the competition.

The 1957 Final against Woodvale resulted in a win by an innings and 127 runs. It is best remembered for a memorable hundred by the 19 year old Ray Hunter, who, ignoring his captain's instructions to take things easily destroyed the Ballygomartin Road bowlers from the start. Classic bowling by Jack Bowden wrapped up the match, in which Lisburn had a 14 year old, 12th man called Monteith! Jackie helped his side on the way to the rain ruined Final of 1958 with a fine bowling spell in the Quarter Final against Cliftonville. After Lisburn had posted 257, with the McCloy triumvirate all batting well, the captain had 4-31 leading the way to victory by 188 runs.

It was unfortunate that his sole Irish cap should have come in July 1954 in a match played on the flattest pitch that the Whitehaugh ground in Paisley could provide and in which the Irish catching varied from the bad to the abysmal. Jackie was one of four new caps in the match, the others being leg spinner Godfrey Graham, later a renowned RTE cameraman, Rugby international Jimmy McKelvey and Robin O'Brien, who just missed a Cambridge Blue that season, but was awarded one in the next two, scoring 146 in the 1956 University Match.

Batting first Ireland made 330, with Larry Warke hitting a superb 120. Jack came in at No 9 and "hit about in great style" (Derek Scott). He made 26 in 21 minutes, with 2 fours. He was eventually bowled by JM (Jimmy) Allan then a current Oxford Blue, a nagging slow left armer who was later to play with distinction for Kent and Warwickshire as well as Scotland and Edinburgh Academicals. Allan had begun his first career, in successive matches, by bowling a handful of maidens to Len Hutton and dismissing Keith Miller. It was thus no disgrace for Jackie to be added to his haul.

Jackie opened the Irish attack with bank manager Joe Burke of Merrion but neither made much impression on the hosts' batting. Scotland racked up a massive 489 with Presbyterian Minister James Aitchison making 103. In the end Ireland were glad to save the match on 156-7, O'Brien, the son of a Masonic School educated British Army general and unrelated to the Park Avenue clan, making a stylish 76.

Jackie Simpson did not play for Ireland again. On the grounds that a player good enough to play once deserved at least one more chance, he was unlucky as was Graham who was also not asked again. They were not the only Irish bowlers to pay the price for Scotland's total; the great JC Boucher never played again either.

Jackie continued, as we have seen, play for Lisburn into the next decade and was subsequently Chairman of the Club before becoming its Senior Vice President. He will be remembered far beyond Wallace Park, not only for his friendly good nature but also for his cricket. He was, as Alfie Linehan described him, "A fine fast bowler."