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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Joseph McCormick (later Reverend Canon J McCormick)
  • Born 29 October 1834, Liverpool
  • Died 9 April 1914, Westminster
  • Educated Liverpool College, Bingley Grammar School, Cambridge University
  • Occupation Anglican Clergyman. Honorary Chaplain to Queen Victoria, King Edward VII, King George V
  • Debut 10 September 1855 v Gentlemem of England at Phoenix CC, Phoenix Park
  • Cap Number 7
  • Style Right hand bat, slow right arm round arm
  • Teams Cambridge University, I Zingari, Phoenix, United Ireland XI, United England XI, Gentlemen of England, MCC, North of the Thames, Gentlemen of the MCC, Stanley Club.

Joseph McCormick - always known as Joe by his friends - stood six feet three inches in height, and, weighting 12 stone 3 in his playing days, was broad shouldered and powefully built. He used his height and reach to be a powerful front foot player. Arthur Haygarth, in Scores and Biographies, thought him one of the most dangerous hitters the game had seen.

He received no formal instruction in cricket until he went to Cambridge. He was also an excellent roundarm leg break bowler, having learned his trade from the great Billy Buttress, who helped out in the nets at Cambridge, and on whose style McCormick's bowling style was based. It is to be hoped that, as a future pillar of the Anglican Church, bowling was the only part of Billy's life that the undergraduate Joseph took a lead from. Billy was denied a lasting career in the first class game, as he was frequently the worse for drink, once being found up a tree, singing, when supposed to be batting, at Lord's.

Though born and educated in Liverpool, McCormick's Irish connections were strong. His father was, at one time, MP for Londonderry. Further Joseph was unable to play in the 1855 University Match as he had to go to Ireland for, unspecified, family reasons. The bulk of his schooldays were spent at Liverpool College, whose first Blue he was to become in 1854. The school had to wait until JAD Hobbs, the Oxford opener of 1957, for another.

Its most famous cricketer, however, was neither McCormick nor Hobbs, but the Lancashire dentist Ken Cranston who opened the bowling for, and captained, both his county and country (once), in 1947-1948. McCormick is also referred to, in the list of Cambridge Blues, as having been at Bingley. This is assumed to have been Bingley Grammar School, a venerable institution, which counts scientist Sir Fred Hoyle and the soap actor Derek Benfield amongst its alumni, but does not mention its only Double Blue.

McCormick's cricket career had two distinct parts. From 1854 to 1857 he was regularly seen in English cricket, gaining his Blue, playing for MCC and in the 1857 Gentlemen v Players Match. During this time he also played for Ireland. However in 1858, he was ordained and, though he continued to play in Irish Cricket for a further two years, often using the name J Bingley, which suggests an affection for his second school, he was not seen in major cricket in England until the late 1860s. This was because, as he explained in a Wisden article in 1895, clergy were thought, "to have deserted their cloth by appearing on the tented field."

For Cambridge he scored 195 runs at 12.18 and took 39 wickets at a low cost, full detais are not available. Fenner's had only recently become the University's ground, it had no pavilion until 1856 and, in McCormick's own words, "It lacked a mowing machine but was well kept and sheep eaten." Though he wrote that wicket was true, his highest score was 52* against The Cambridge Town Club, complete with Buttress, in 1856, the year of his captaincy. He also had 5 wickets in the match, so contributed well to a 2 wicket win.

The previous year the University had collapsed for a second innings 61 but he was easily top score with 34, only RA Fitzgerald (14) also reaching double figures. His low scores may partly be explained by his comment in the article that in those days batting all day was considered bad form, batsmen were expected to go for their shots after reaching 30. In that year, an eight year old boy was already showing the talent, in his Gloucestershire garden, for doing both. McCormick showed greater talents with the ball. For example against MCC at Fenners in 1855 he took 13 wickets in the match to gain an 8 wicket victory. His best bowling feat in a first clas match was for MCC v Sussex at Lord's in 1856. He took 9-26 in the match when, as he recalled 57 years later, "Sussex were about the best county in England."

He failed in his two University Matches aggregating only 17 runs and taking only two wickets. He did however have the satisfaction of leading Cambridge to what was, at that time, a rare victory. His team included, as a last minute substitute the Australian TW Wills, who had no real qualification to play. Wills, the founder of Australian Rules Football, and the first man to teach cricket to the Aborigines, despite his family having been killled in a massacre which he narrowly escaped, was also an alcoholic depressive, was destined to take his own life. That year he opposed McCormick for the Gentlemen of England v Ireland in Phoenix Park and played for Charles Lawrence's United Ireland XI.

McCormick was also to fail on his one appearance for Gentlemen v Players. With the ball he took 1-33 and 1-2, but opening the batting with future Irish batsman and MCC President, Spencer Ponsoby (later Sir Spencer Ponsonby-Fane), he was out for 4 and 1. He described the 4 in Wisden 1913, in some recollections of the Almanacs founder, "Wisden bowled at the pavilion end at Lord's. The second ball I cut for four, the third was a leg stump shooter and hit my wicket."

McCormick played five times for Ireland betweeen 1855 and 1858. The match that he reserved his best performance for was against the United England XI, as this involved Ireland fielding more than 11 players his statistics from it do not appear on ths site. In all but one of the matches his batting failed to live up to expectations.He managed only 115 runs - including the odds match - with a highest score of 56 v the Gentlemen of England in 1856. His bowling was a different matter.

He never failed to take wicket and for XXII Ireland v the United England XI at Phoenix CC in the same year, he played a major part in a famous victory. He made a pair opening the innings, being bowled by Wisden in the first innings and giving "Terrible Billy" Caffyn a return catch in the second. However with the ball he had 11 for 71 in the match, sweeping away the top order in each innings, as Ireland won by 6 runs. He also helped Ireland to a good win over MCC on the occasion of the first Irish visit to Lord's in 1858. The wicket was very muddy and McCormick and Charles Lawrence bowled unchanged throiughout the match. Lawrence was almost unplayable in the first innings with 8-32, however, they needed 63, 4 ball, overs to dispose of the hosts in the second with McCormick claiming 5-27 as Ireland won by an innings and 10 runs.

He appeared in other Irish cricket at this time also. In 1856, after the Gentlemen of England had played Ireland, they transformed themselves into MCC, added him to their number, and played XVI of the Vice Regal Lodge. He made 20 and 0, besides taking two wickets. His best performance with the bat in Ireland came in 1857 when he turned out for Lawrence's United Ireland XI v XXII of Dublin. The Citizens were swamped with McCormick, living up to his reputation for big hitting, striking a powerful 75, as well as taking 11 wickets. He also played in a number of minor matches in Ireland, often turning out for an XI raised by his friend Fred Ponsonby. on one such occasion, against the Officers of the Clonmel Garrison, he performed the hat trick, against a somewhat weak batting side.

After each wicket, he turned to Ponsonby, who was umpiring, and said, "That is about the rottenist ball I have ever bowled.

In 1856, he was ordained and thus his final Irish cricket was played under the alias of J Bingley. These were for I Zingari against Ireland in 1859 and 1860. In the former year he took 7 wickets in the match to see his former colleagues to an innings defeat. The following year, when he also helped IZ defeat Phoenix by an innings, he had a good all round match. He took 6 wickets in the second innings as Ireland collapsed for 94 to set IZ only 78 to win. Wickets fell, but "Bingley", who had made 12 in the first innings, held the side together with 32 to gain a four wicket win.

He now dropped out of cricket for almost ten years. First as Rector of Dunmore East, and then in various posts in England, he had little time to play, though his interest remained as keen as ever. Then in 1866 he returned to the first class scene and was a regular in the annual Canterbury Festival for the next three years.

Batting did not prove easy at first and he frequently fell to the medium pace roundarmer, the famous oarsman, William Lipscomb. McCormick's bowling remained as useful as ever as 5-32 for Gentlemen of the MCC v Kent in 1867 testifies. In his last season he finally found his batting form, playing what Wisden', the Almanac not the bowler, was later to call, "The innings of his life." Opening the batting he hit a magnificent 137 for North of the Thames v South of the Thames which was widely praised. His dominanc eof the match, though, wa short lived. A young 20 year old from Gloucestershire, sporting a shiny new black beard, was even then, being second to no one. WG scored a century in each innings, avenging McCormicks dismissal of him in an IZ match two years before. .

Ten years later McCormick played two matches for the Stanley Club of Liverpool v Dave Gregory's Australian toutists. He failed in both, but at least his wicket was claimed by "The Demon" Spofforth and by Frank Allan, "the Bowler of the Century", who had, earlier that year, turned down his his invitation to play in the First Test Match of all to attend an agricultural show.

Away from Cricket, McCormick was distiguished in other sports. He rowed in the Cambridge Boat in March 1856, helping to defeat Oxford in 22 minutes 45 seconds. He was also, as his physique might suggest, an excellent boxer. In the Church he became a Canon and Chaplain to three Monarchs. He also published a collection of sermons entitled "What is Sin?" This writer has been unable to find a copy but feels that McCormick, as an old Cantab, may have gained some pleasure from delivering the sermons at Oxfod!

His two sons resembled him in build and both followed him into the Church. Joseph Gough McCormick (1874 - 1924) became Dean of Manchester. He played with distinction for Norfolk 1899 to 1909, scoring 4 hundreds. William Patrick Glyn McCormick played for Devon and had one first class match for MCC in 1907. He also played Rugby for Transvaal. In old age their father retained all his cricket interest, remaining a regular at Lord's for the University match until 1913. He wrote two articles for Wisden, the first of which in 1895 seemed to suggest that the players of the day, apart from WG, were no match for those of his playing days! Yet we can leave him with a quotation from that article, which, even if it seems to contain a statistical exaggeration, is well deserved, "When I could play I was admitted to the best matches and made my century, while my bowling for such seasons as I could obbtain stood at the top with about nine runs per wicket."

His obituary will be found in Wisden 1915 and his biograbhy is in Scores and Biographies Volume 4 with an addendum in Volume 6. He is also featured in Talks with old English Cricketers by WA Bettesworth (1900).