Stanley Francis Bergin
Stan Bergin was the best Irish opening batsman of his generation: some would stretch that timescale further. Bespectacled, sandy haired and short in stature, he had technical limitations, but overcame these by harnessing his tremendous powers of concentration to his natural ability as a games player.
He was "our best defender against high class bowling," wrote Pat Hone in Cricket in Ireland. He scored mainly square of the wicket. Hone, a shrewd judge of a player, if an imperfect historian, wrote that Bergin "exploits with unerring eye his two chief scoring strokes, a square cut and a square pull." This writer, who saw him play several big innings cannot recall many shots played in the V.
At school, he played Gaelic games, excelling at both football and hurling and winning Interprovincial honours for Leinster at that level. He also became a leading junior player of Association Football and played senior rugby for Monkstown at full back. A league table tennis player, he had a golf handicap of 15. Cricket was however his first love; he appeared for Pembroke aged 14 and by the time he retired in 1965, had scored 7713 runs, then a record in Leinster competitive cricket, at 36.90.
His early seasons were played under the nom de guerre of B Stanley to avoid the GAA ban. He still ranks among the top 10 Leinster batsmen. Four of those above him honed their early skills in sunnier climes than Sydney Parade! His 8 hundreds and 47 fifties stand up well against those of his competitors. It is true that the cricket he played might have been made for him: play to a finish cup matches and no overs limits in the league allowed his innings to be long and drawn out resembling Trevor Bailey's description of a Ken Barrington knock, " Like a musical hall mother-in-law: unattractive to look at and mostly stays a long time."
The same qualities appeared in his Irish innings. Considering the strength of much of the opposition and the fact that he often lacked support, taking part in only three century stands, his figures are remarkable. He was the first to 2000 runs, the first to score 1000 against Scotland and the only batsman, at the time of writing, to carry his bat against a Test playing country. Some of his Irish matches serve to highlight his success and style.
Though he already had fifties to his name, against MCC and Scotland, it was the second South African match in 1951 that first showed his real class. Crumbling to an innings defeat at College Park, Ireland were bundled out for 130 in the second innings by slow left armer "Tufty" Mann and Cuan McCarthy, a very fast bowler, who was said to throw almost every ball. Bergin stood firm, carrying his bat for 79*. Wisden described it as "a grand display (which) showed that the bowling could be mastered." He hit one 5 and nine fours, batting 165 minutes.
1959 was a remarkable season: he scored 429 runs at 53.62, only failing to reach double figures in his final, tenth, innings. He began with 137 and 49* v Scotland in College Park, when Scotland's Presbyterian Minister James Aitchision (190) seemed to have set up an innings win. After scoring 34 and 10 against Lancashire, Bergin faced Yorkshire at Ormeau. The Irish bowlers kept the visitors runs in check, but only Stan's batting prevented a defeat. He scored 60% of Ireland's runs with 69 in the first innings from a total of 126, defying the pace of Bob Platt and the left arm spin of Don Wilson. In the second knock, Ireland needed 174 but collapsed to 93-7, Bergin 63*. Only two other Irish players Tom McCloy and Louis Jacobson reached double figures in the match.
Against Leicestershire at Grace Road, Ireland collapsed again, after a respectable first innings. However Bergin showed his remarkable powers of defence and concentration. Wisden reported that Leicestershire had little difficulty winning but "Bergin at times set them a problem with his stubborn batting. In all he batted six and three quarter hours in two innings for 54 runs."
If these matches saw the best of Bergin that v Scotland at The Mardyke in 1961 arguably saw the worst. Derek Scott commented in Wisden that the match "proved to be a deadly boring affair with the blame largely lying at Ireland's feet." For Ireland read Bergin! After the Scots had been bowled out quickly for 166, Ireland took until the end of the second day to score 235. To quote Scott again, "SF Bergin … scored a monumental 125, which lasted over seven hours."
Twice captain of Ireland, and once banned for a season for accepting an award, he retired from all cricket in 1965 and died four years later. His single minded approach to batting did not always make him popular and led to accusations of selfishness, but his club and country had much cause to be grateful for it. He also inspired his sons to follow the family tradition of cricket just as he had followed his brother Bernard. Several of them played for Clontarf, one, Brendan, for North Leinster.
A journalist, Bergin was cricket correspondent of The Irish Times and then The Evening Herald. His reports of matches he was playing in, though never under his own by-line made fascinating and compelling reading. He wrote the section on Ireland in the first edition of the massive World of Cricket.
In Mihir Bose's biography of Keith Miller is a photograph of Miller bowling for MCC v Ireland at Lord's in 1959. Len Hutton stands at mid on. The unidentified backing up non-striker, positioned beween them is Stanley Francis Bergin. He is well placed in such company.
His obituary is in Wisden 1970 and he is profiled in Siggins' and Fitzgerald's Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats.