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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Robert Gayer Traill
  • Born 21 December 1839 Ballylough House, Ballylough, Co Antrim
  • Died 4 April 1908 Belfast
  • Educated Mr Stackpool's, Belfast Dublin University
  • Occupation Army Officer
  • Debut 11 May 1865 v United South of England XI at Rathmines
  • Cap Number 85
  • Style Right hand batsman; slow right arm round arm
  • Teams Dublin University, Phoenix

Robert Traill, younger brother of cricket playing academic Anthony, was a useful all-rounder who was five years in the Dublin University XI from 1862, being captain in 1863 and 1864. No averages were kept for the first three years that he was in the side, but in 1865 he totalled 134 runs at 11.50 with a highest score of 34 while in the following year he had 96 runs at 13.10 with a highest score of 35 besides taking 10 wickets at 12.90. The College Park wickets at his time were somewhat rough and ready, as these figures suggest.

Robert also made a number of appearances for Phoenix, touring England with them in 1863. Against Old Cheltonians, a team which included Irish international JN Coddington, he topscored with 19 in Phoenix's first innings of 91, being supported by William Hone, snr who carried his bat for 17. Then Robert took 5 wickets as the Old Cheltonians were dismissed for 90. Certainly a Man of the Match performance.

His highest innings for Phoenix, of which a score has been seen, was 21 against I Zingari in September 1864. Batting at No 4 Robert was one of the few batsmen to make much of the fast underarmer Henry Awkright, ADC to the Lord Lieutenant, who - just over a year after the match, was killed in a Mont Blanc avalanche. IZ, who won the match by 8 wickets, also included Army officer FJ Fane, father of Irish born English Test cricketer, FL Fane. The Fanes shared the unlikely experience of each reading their own obituary.

Robert's one match for Ireland came in 1865 against the United South of England XI at Observatory Lane, the first match Ireland played on that ground. Fielding a XXII, the Irish held the visitors to a draw, bowling them out for 59 in their first innings. However the accuracy of James Lillywhite, later to become England's first Test captain, and the round arm deliveries of Edgar Willsher, then probably the best bowler in England, made short work of the Irish batting, Lillywhite finishing with 9-50 and Willsher 8-34. Robert, batting at No 18 was bowled by the latter for 2 and did not bat again, time running out with the USE in a strong position.

Also a Rugby player, Robert was the first man to captain both the cricket and rugby clubs, though it should be said, that rugby in the University was somewhat disorganised and no external matches were played. It was only with the arrival of Charles Barrington, appropriately educated at Rugby School, that proper organisation, laws and a fixture list were introduced, Barrington becoming captain in 1867.

Robert had joined the Army, prior to his University sojourn, being an Ensign and an Instructor in musketry. His promotion to Lieutenant (by purchase) was cancelled in 1861; he had apparently changed his mind about a military career. However, by 1870 he was Lieutenant, later promoted Captain, in the 19th Foot, from which he retired with the rank of Honorary Major in 1880, having married Alice Crawford in 1878.

However, his retirement is shrouded in mystery. In 1882, when he was installed as a magistrate in Claremorris, Co Mayo, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, the famous or notorious - depending on the political stance of those describing him - "Buckshot" Foster, answering a House of Commons question from Nationalist MP Justin McCarthy, admitted that Robert had been "rebuked in front of his fellow officers" for an incident in Sheffield in 1880. Foster maintained that Robert's retirement had been voluntary, occurring because there was no vacancy for a major in the regiment. It would anyhow, he concluded, be grossly unjust to dismiss him as a magistrate as he had been two years in the post.