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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Nesbit Willoughby Wallace CMG
  • Born 20 April 1839 Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Died 31 July 1931 Lea Holme Waterden Road Guildford Surrey
  • Educated Rugby School, Warwickshire
  • Occupation Army Officer
  • Debut 11 May 1865 v United South of England XI at Rathmines
  • Cap Number 86
  • Style Right-hand bat, slow right arm underarm, occasional wicket keeper.
  • Teams Gloucestershire; Hampshire; MCC; Gentlemen of the South; Godalming; Knickerbockers; Phoenix; Armagh; I Zingari; Southgate; United Services Portsmouth; Gentlemen of Hampshire; The Garrison, Halifax; British Officers Portsmouth Borough

Nesbit Wallace, Canadian born of an English family, had a long and varied cricket career spanning 41 years and two continents. He also had a long, though not very warlike, military career and two marriages .Even for someone who lived three months beyond his 92 birthday, he could be said to have had eventful life, of which cricket was clearly a major part.

He was a useful batsman, usually in the upper order until his later days, who was constantly in demand for leading amateur sides - only a handful of which are listed above for reasons of verbal economy - while in England, found that in Ireland his services were in demand from Phoenix Park to The Mall. In Canada he seems to have been more often on the cricket field than the parade ground, apart from the arduous summer of 1870 as is related below. Though batting was his major suit, he was also somewhat of a "golden arm" slow "lobster", and, when needed, a capable wicket keeper.

Educated at Rugby School, whose buildings still dominate the skyline of the Warwickshire town despite the all intrusive cement works, he played occasionally for the School XI in 1856, being an exact contemporary at school of John Vansittart Danvers Butler, later Earl of Lanesborough, who was also to gain one Irish cap. In their early years there they must have watched the legendary Australian Tom Wills, magnificent all round athlete, co founder of Australian Rules Football but ultimately alcoholic suicide victim, ply his trade on both the cricket and football fields. Wills was joined in the XI by William Kempson and Edward Vicars, who would, like Nesbit, play for Ireland on account of military postings. As Wills remained in the lowest forms throughout his time at Rugby, Nesbit and Butler were very probably in the same classes as him.

Here we will examine Nesbit's first class career and brief foray into Irish cricket, before looking at the highlights of his long career in other matches. His first class record must be describes as distinctly unimpressive. Between 1863 and 1885 - military postings in Ireland and Canada did, of course, limit his opportunities, his batting average reads 6 - 9 - 1 - 66 - 25 - 8.25.

He also had bowling figures of 0-6. His two successful matches came for Hampshire in 1883 when he returned to the first class game after a 13 year absence. Against Surrey at the Oval he batted no 4 and made 25 in the second innings before being bowled by the "The Guv'nor", Surrey's master batsman Bobby Abel who scored over 30,000 first class runs but was also a distinctly useful off spinner who took 263 first class wickets. The match was, however, lost by 7 runs.

Against Kent at Southampton he made 24 in an innings dominated by FE Lacey, later Secretary of MCC, who made 201. Nesbit failed in his second innings when Hampshire, set 148 to win after Kent had followed on, squeezed home by 3 wickets. His final appearance at this level came the following year, when he played for an MCC side, led by Irish and Scots cap JS Russel, but was dismissed for 0 in his only innings.

In Ireland on a military posting in 1865, he gained his one and only cap for the XXII of Ireland against the visiting United South f England XI at Rathmines in early May. Ireland began well by bowling their famed visitors out for 59 but then fell themselves to the bowling of Edgar Willsher and James Lillywhite, jnr - destined to become England's first captain, for 89. Batting at No 12, Nesbit made 10, before Tom Hearne, one of the talented Kent brotherhood, caught him off Lillywhite. Otherwise only the Leinster player R Hudson, with 23 reached double figures. Lillywhite took 9-50 and Wllsher 8-34.

Poor weather prevented Ireland from batting again, which was probably just as well as USE posted a challenging 171 in their second innings. Otherwise, however, Nesbit did not distinguish himself in the more important matches he played that summer.

Playing for a strong looking Phoenix side against I Zingari, he was absent in the first innings and, batting at 11 - was this a retaliation by the captain George Barry for his earlier absence? - could manage only 2 in the second. It must be said that, in a match which the visitors won by 9 wickets, few batsmen showed to advantage, the top score, achieved by Barry and by the IZ batsman and future General William Hutchinson, being 36. Nesbit then travelled north as part of the IZ party but played against them for an Armagh XVIII in the next match. The visitors won by 146 runs, their "demon bowler" Henry Arkwright, ADC to the Lord Lieutenant, disposing of Nesbit for 0 in the first innings, a score he minutely improved on in the second. He joined the tourists for their match with XVIII of NICC at Ormeau, but was one of only two batsmen to fail to reach double figures in a total of 353, Charles Stelfox, the Andrew Flintoff of his day, bowling him for 0. The hosts won by 9 wickets.

Nesbit's other cricket was a long and varied experience. He was much in demand, when available in England, as likely to be found playing in Co Durham as Devon. He could usually be relied on to make a score in the 30s often against strong opposition. For example playing for the Surrey Club in 1863 against Southgate, a side dominated by the well known Walker brothers, he made 36 at No 3 as the Surrey side totalled 159 in response to Southgate's 300. It was his team's top score but his performance was eclipsed by a commanding all round display from Edward Walker for Southgate. After making an undefeated 75, he then bowled his opposition out taking 8-71, including the wicket of Nesbit. By the following season, Nesbit had, perhaps wisely, changed sides. On this occasion Surrey were bowled out for 90 which Southgate easily passed with 318, Nesbit making 51, before bowling their visitors out for 159.

Another good performance with the bat came in 1868 in a match played for Godalming against the Australian Aboriginal XI as late as 15 October. Nesbit had returned from military service in Canada, where - needless to say - he had been prominent on the cricket field and he was soon to recross the Atlantic. He appears to have returned for his wedding, though his bride hailed from Montreal! At any rate, the visitors, captained and coached by Charles Lawrence, formerly of Phoenix and Ireland, began by dismissing their hosts for 37 with Lawrence taking 6-18 and the remarkable Aboriginal all rounder "Johnny Mullagh" 4-18. However they could only manage 78 in reply. Nesbit then found his touch when it was most needed, knocking up a valuable 55 at No 4 before being bowled by "Cuzens", after "Mullagh" the best of the Aboriginals. Mullagh's real name was Unaarrimin and Cuzens' was Yellanach. In the end the visitors finished on 25-5, in pursuit of 33 to win.

Nesbit's best bowling performance came at Lord's in 1863 when playing for the South Wales Club against MCC. he had joined them for their annual late summer tour of southern England. It should be noted that geography seems to have been the least important qualification to play for this side. The Grace family were frequent participants in its matches, though they, at least, could see South Wales across the Severn Estuary. In the match in question the visitors had batted first and scored 211 before dismissing a weak MCC side for 87. However in its second innings the premier club had reached 59-5 and the match seemed headed for a draw when, in his third over Nesbit struck, performing the hat trick. The most notable victim was WH Parnell a frequent IZ visitor to Ireland. Another wicket fell in the next over before Nesbit wrapped up the match by taking the last one. He finished with 4.1-1-10-4.

Army duties took him to Canada in 1868 where he was to experience the one major military expedition of his life which is outlined below. However despite this, and the possible meeting with his future wife Susan Copley, he found plenty of time for cricket with matches for sides such as the Montreal Garrison, British Officers and Halifax. Opponents included St George's CC of New York, Canada and Philadelphia. He often captained his teams, batted well and kept wicket. For the Garrison against St George's in 1868, he took two wickets in the visitors' second innings but also made two stumpings. Then when his side were struggling in pursuit of 93 to win, he weighed in with a stylish 42* to bring about a 4 wickets victory. In 1872 he played a leading role in securing a tour by a team of English amateurs led by MCC secretary and former Irish batsman Bob Fitzgerald, which included WG Grace. Nesbit, whom a contemporary photograph shows resembling an extra in

The Prisoner of Zenda was also the driving force behind the Halifax International Tournament in August 1874 which brought together three teams representing Canada the United States (Philadelphia) and England (troops based in Canada). His best match of which a score has been seen came in 1874 for Halifax against a side called All Comers which rounded off the Halifax International Tournament, The All Comers, who included the leading American player Frank Brewster, had begun with 214. Halifax gained a lead of 25 largely thanks to a fine 68 from Nesbit, before dismissing their visitors for 162. They went on to win by 5 wickets, Nesbit making 24.

Back in England in the 1880s, he resumed his cricket where he had left off, becoming a founder of the Green Jackets Cricket Club, a military side, and playing for wandering sides such as Incogniti, as well as numerous MCC matches. He also played a number of games for the United Services Portsmouth. Against Portsmouth Borough in 1884, he caught the opposition's opening batsman, a local doctor and talented all rounder, with financial problems, for 11. The doctor was, at the time, struggling to become a historical novelist. His switch detective fiction lay two years ahead. Nesbit and Arthur Conan Doyle were to meet again on the cricket field, but by this time A Study In Scarlet had been published. and financial worries were over.

Nesbit continued playing into the new century. The last match he featured in, of which a score has been seen, was for MCC against Hertfordshire in 1903, when he was just past his 64th birthday. He was out for a duck. Away from the cricket field, though as we have seen never too far, he was commissioned into the 60th Rifles in1858, became a captain in 1859 and a major in 1880. He was finally made Lieutenant - Colonel in 1886.

In 1870, while in Canada, he took part in the Red River Expedition under the then Colonel Garnet Wolsey. This was to crush an uprising by the Metis tribe led by Louis Reil. The Metis were of mixed Native American and early French settler descent and wished to establish independence from British rule in what is now Manitoba. A long and arduous march, which had to include bridge and road building ended in anti-climax when the Metis melted away as the British approached. Reil escaped to the United States, though he was later to return, lead another rising and be caught and hanged, an event which still causes bad blood between English and French speaking Canadians. Nesbit was later to write and lecture about the expedition, his lecture is still available on the Internet.

Even during this long and cricketless summer it is probable that the game was never far from his mind. A fellow officer on the march was Frank Northey, whose military postings had also won him an Irish cap as well as appearances for Phoenix and NICC. They had played together for MCC on more than one occasion. Surely they must have talked cricket to while away some difficult times. Frank who had already seen real action in the Indian "Mutiny" was to die in the Zulu War. Nesbit was clearly deeply attached to his regiment, he was later to produce a book A Regimental Chronicle and List of Officers Of The 60th Or King's Royal Rifle Corps which is still in print today.

As already mentioned he married Susan Copley of Montreal in London in 1868. They had four daughters and a son, Charles who followed his father's profession and achieved the same rank. Susan died in 1894. Their youngest daughter Evelyn, known as Daisy, unmarried at 34 fell in love with an Anglo-Catholic clergyman, Richard "Bertie" Townsman who was sixteen years older. He abandoned his family and parish took up farming and lived with Daisy as Mr and Mrs Wilson until his wife's death many years later,. They then married, he having changed his name to Wilson.

Nesbit himself appears to have "moved on" after Susan's death. The 1901 Census suggests that he was living with Agatha Constance Hodgson, described as "journalist and author." They married in 1903.

Nesbit Willoughby Wallace was made a CMG in 1904 and also for some time commanded the 4th Company of the London Imperial Yeomanry. His will shows his estate, left to his son Charles, to have been worth 346- 2s-4d.

His obituary may be found in Wisden 1932.