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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
William John Napier
  • Born 30 October 1837 at 17 Mountjoy Square, Dublin
  • Died 3 December 1874, South Dublin
  • Educated Rugby School, Dublin University
  • Occupation Barrister
  • Debut 26 May 1862 v MCC at Lord's
  • Cap Number 65
  • Style Hand Unknown
  • Teams Dublin University

William Napier was born into the Anglo-Irish establishment. His father Joseph, who was created the first baronet, was MP for Dublin University- in the Conservative/Unionist interest - from 1848 - 1858, a position later held by one Edward Carson. Joseph, who was educated at RBAI, then became Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

William was sent to school at Rugby, where one of his contemporaries was that magnificent all round sportsman, but tragic figure, Thomas Wentworth Wills, the founder of Australian Rules Football. Wills was, of course, a member of the 1st XI - he was an outstanding all rounder - but William, did not rise above the Seconds, known as the XXII at Rugby. Nevertheless having entered Dublin University in January 1855, he was in the XI for the next five seasons, winning his colours each year. Unfortunately averages were not kept, so no record of his performances survives. In 1857 he opened the batting for XXII of Dublin against Charles Lawrence's United Ireland side. Unfortunately he failed, being bowled for 1 by Joseph McCormick in the first innings and run out for the same score in the second. Wills, incidentally, won a Cambridge blue in 1855, though he was never in residence at the University.

William's only match for Ireland came in 1862, after he had left University and was in practice as a barrister in London. He must have been playing cricket there but no record of him doing so has been found. He seems to have owed his place in the side to his domicile, as did at least two other members of the XI. Ireland won a narrow three wicket victory, thanks largely to the bowling of Samuel Barry, Arthur Samuels and the Nottinghamshire professional "Jemmy" Grundy and the batting of RA Fitzgerald, another "bird of passage" in the side, who, the following year, became Secretary of MCC, the first of real significance in the Club's history.

William made 3 in his only innings. Batting at 10, he was caught off the former Cambridge blue GR Johnson for 3. Johnson later emmigrated to New Zealand. This strangely, in those days of minimal birth qualifications, enabled his son PR Johnson to play for Somerset in the 1920s, on the grounds that he had been born in Wellington. The fact that the Wellington concerned was some 13000 miles from the one in Somerset was of no concern!

William Napier continued his barrister's practice, but his days of major cricket were over. He predeceased his father, thus his younger brother succeeded to the baronetcy. NB: This player has, in the past been shown as WR Napier. However neither Rugby School or Dublin University have any record of such a person at this time while both have records of WJ Napier.

As it has always been agreed that the Irish cricketer attended these two institutions our records have been amended accordingly. I am indebted to Rusty Maclean of Rugby School and Aisling Lockhart of the Manuscrippt Room, Trinity College, Dublin, for their valuable assistance.