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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
J Gilligan
  • Born 1835, Dublin
  • Died Q2 1995 , Dublin
  • Educated
  • Occupation
  • Debut 11 May 1865 v United South of England XI at Rathmines
  • Cap Number 77
  • Style Right hand bat
  • Teams Sandymount

James Gilligan had a somewhat strange cricket career in that he failed to score in any of his three innings for Ireland yet established a batting record in 1865, the year of his first appearance for the national side, that is almost certainly going to stand for all time.

An upper order batsman in club cricket, he was Secretary of the Sandymount side, when on 20 July 1865, some six weeks after his unfortunate debut for Ireland, he and his team-mates entertained Co Wicklow, a team which frequently made the 100 mile round trip from their base at Avondale to play the various teams. On this occasion the hosts won the toss and batted.... and batted! This was in the days before declarations were permissible and it was not unusual for a batting side to occupy the crease for an entire one day match. In this instance Sandymount were eventually all out for 594, but left their opponents only 30 minutes batting time. James led the way, scoring exactly 200, the first recorded double hundred in Ireland. Unless further research unearths another which, 152 years after the event seems unlikely, his record will ever be taken from him.

He was not, however, to remain the holder of the highest score in Ireland for long, a soldier called Hepburn making 207 in a military match at The Curragh four years later, though his "record" did not stand for long either. To return to the match under review, another batsman R. Snow also reached three figures, making 103. These scores suggest that some mercy was shown to the visitors, both batsmen throwing their wickets away on reaching their goals. The Wicklow captain cannot have been pleased by the score. A tall, dominating and rather intolerant man, he was used to having his own way. Even though, forsaking his wicket keeping gloves, he took three wickets with his lobs, he cannot have enjoyed his afternoon. Ten years later he was to give up regular cricket for politics, where he displayed many of the characteristics he showed on the cricket field. His name was Charles Stewart Parnell.

James continued to have a good season making 161 in another match. His reputation clearly spread to England as he is also to be found the following season - in September - playing for the Lancashire club Bootle against the United South of England XI, against whom he had made his Irish debut the previous season. Bootle, playing 22. were outclassed, even though they were reinforced by several "outsiders" including the formidable Yorkshireman Luke Greenwood. Batting halfway down the order, James made 0 and 4. In the first innings he was dismissed by Jim Lillywhite, later to become England's first Test captain. He was a slow left arm roundarmer whose hallmark was extreme accuracy. In the second knock Gilligan did slightly better, hitting a boundary, before falling to James Silcock, another essential member of the USE attack.

James' Irish career had begun against the USE at Rathmines on 11 May 1865, the first match to be played at Observatory Lane, with Ireland playing 22. Late, and perhaps suffering from seasickness or an over consumption of alcohol on the crossing from Holyhead, the visitors were bundled out for 59 with William Ashton and the Leinster professional Pat Smith doing the damage. However Ireland did little better, being dismissed for 84, Lillywhite taking 9-50 and Edgar Willsher, perhaps the best bowler in the World at the time, 8-34. At No 17 James was bowled by Willsher for 0. His next, and last, match for Ireland, again playing 22, came in College Park against the All England XI in 1868. This time the main destroyer was the slow underarmer Crispin Tinley. The visitors won by an innings with some ease. However, James contribution, again at 17, being a pair.

He was not asked to play for Ireland again and had, indeed, missed out on selection in a 12 a side match against I Zingari which took place between the matches with the professionals. Perhaps he was unavailable or possibly he may have had a reputation of being what John Bracewell might term " a flat track bully" - a term which he has never been forgiven at New Road, Worcester for applying to Graeme Hick. However, despite his triple failure for Ireland, James Gilligan had his day, 20 July 1865, which ensures his place in Ireland's cricket history.

NB It will be seen from the above that several of Gilligan's biographical details have not been discovered. We would welcome any assistance that might lead to their being unearthed. We believe the dates of birth and death but they may possibly be a misidentification. Any corrections would, therefore be welcome.