Arthur Douglas was a fine all round sportsman.
Arthur Coates Douglas
- Born: 16 August 1902 Belfast
- Died: 27 June 1937 Stranmillis, Belfast
- Educated: Royal Belfast Academical Institution; Queen's University, Belfast
- Occupation: Schoolmaster
- Debut: 11 July 1925 v Scotland at College Park
- Cap No.: 322
- Style: Right-hand bat, right arm fast medium.
- Teams: NICC, Instonians, Collegians
Arthur Douglas was a fine all round sportsman. A free scoring but sound middle order batsman, and fast medium bowler, who might well have been used more by Ireland, he was also a very good Rugby footballer, gaining five caps as a strong running winger , or on one occasion, an attacking full back. Yet tragedy awaited him. An injury at Lord's, in what was to prove his last match, was, eventually, to be fatal.
As a cricketer, he learned the game at "Inst," always a fine nursery for aspiring sportsmen. On leaving school, though he turned out briefly for Instonians, he was soon into the NICC team, playing in two Cup Finals. In 1925 he helped his team take the trophy as Cliftonville went down by 10 wickets at Ormeau. However he played a larger part in the 1928 Final v Willie Andrews' North Down at Ballynafeigh, the ground of the Ulster Club, alas long demised. Almost needless to say, the Comber men returned home with the silverware, but Arthur was one who made them work for their trophy. In the first innings he took 4-32, only TJ "Tom" MacDonald (60), facing him with comfort. However the Co Down side's all round strength was too great to be overcome. In the first round of the Cup that year Arthur scored a brilliant 196, thereby establising a Cup record. His record was to be short lived. Two years later James Macdonald - who else one might ask? - surpassed it with 197* for North Down against CPA - it took 57 years and Raman Lamba for that record to fall. However Macdonald and Arthur still hold second and third place. Arthur was in good form against Lurgan again three years later, this time with the ball, destroying their batting with 7-16.
Subsequently, he achieved a rare distinction on the sports fields of Northern Ireland, an Instonians who played for Collegians at cricket! This was because he had taken up a teaching post at "Methody" and thus qualified for selection. His first match for Ireland was v Scotland in College Park in 1925, playing under Bob Lambert's captaincy. He had a useful debut, helping Ireland to a convincing 179 run victory. The hero was his fellow debutant Major MC Parry of Cork County, who had played for Warwickshire before taking an appointment for the Beamish brewery in Cork. Parry made a century backed up by a brilliant knock from Cambridge Blue and Middlesex all rounder, EL Kidd, a Guinness brewer. After the Scots, who did not field any employees of William Younger's as a counter to the Irish selection, had finally broken through, they reduced Ireland to 282-8 on a wicket where any score below 350 was not going to be enough. Then Arthur, batting too low in the order at 10, though it was a strong bating side, joined "Derrick" Hall, a Cork man educated at Dover College. They "hit freely" to add 70 for the 9th and Ireland posted 364. Arthur eventually made 36, third top score for the innings before being dismissed by the medium pace of Robert Strang, a Buckinghamshire doctor with a Scottish qualification. In the second innings Hall and Arthur were promoted to the middle order, the former being run out for 1, the latter making 17. Ireland won comfortably. Arthur hardly got on with the ball as the spinners held sway.
He shone with the bat in the 1928 match at Raeburn Place. The game ended in a draw with Scotland set 357 to win on 302-9, Arthur taking the last two wickets to fall. Batting at 6, he made a half century in each innings, a feat also achieved by dashing left hander George McVeagh. Arthur hit 57 in the first innings helping John MacDonald (132) add 54 for the 5th wicket. In the second innings Arthur made his highest Irish score, 63, putting on 120 for the 5th with McVeagh. It was no fault of his that they could not quite force a victory.
In 1930, the Scots match at Aberdeen finished in two days with the hosts victorious by ten wickets. Arthur's contribution had been far from outstanding. The following day, a one day non-cap match was played. Both sides introduced new players, but Arthur remained in the Irish side. Bating first, Scotland made 180-9 before declaring. The Irish XI responded with 180-8, Arthur playing a large part in making an attractive 72*. As he had also disposed of the great - and the term is used advisedly - Scottish batsman John Ker for 0, though John was batting at 10, Arthur could claim to have been man of the match.
However his best all round match was the 1932 Scots fixture at Greenpark, Greenock, under the captaincy of Tom Dixon, Dublin University's Indian born Australian engineer, who, as a fellow fast medium bowler, gave Arthur a good "crack of the whip" with the ball. There were many fine performances in what Derek Scott has called, "One of the finest matches ever played between the two countries." Arthur made 22 and 37 at No 7, besides taking 7-57 in the match. Ireland won by 58 runs with 15 minutes to spare. The hosts made a good fist of the run chase but, "clever bowling by Douglas, Ingram and Boucher was too much for them." (Derek Scott).
The following year Arthur was appointed captain but had only two matches in charge. He began well, leading Ireland to a 23 run victory over Scotland at Ormeau. He failed with the bat, and, opening the bowling, took only one wicket. However as that was Ker, again for a low score and batting high in the order, he had played a significant part in securing a narrow victory. In the MCC match at Lord's, disaster struck. Having won the toss, he put the home side in, but in attempting to catch a lofted drive, badly injured his hand. He batted, at 11, in Ireland's first innings, but was out for 0. The match, a two day affair, petered out into a draw so he did not have to go to the crease again. He was never to do so.
Before looking at the tragic consequences of a seemingly routine injury, we examine, in brief, Arthur's career as a Rugby footballer. He played his club matches for Instonians, who had been given senior status after the War. Arthur quickly made a name for himself and was selected for the first of his five Irish caps v France at States Colombes in April 1923. Playing on the left wing, he scored Ireland's solitary try, but this was not enough to stave off a 14 - 8 defeat It might be as well to recall here that a try was worth only 3 points. The following season he played against England and Scotland but both matches were lost. Arthur did, however have the satisfaction of scoring his second, and last, try for Ireland in the England match. His final two matches were in 1927/28 against the touring New South Wales "Waratahs" and Scotland. The Australians won though Arthur, playing out of position at full back, was impressive. He was back at left wing for the Scots match at Murrayfield in what proved to be his final game for Ireland who won 13 - 5. An interesting feature of these two matches was that two other Irish cricketers were in the back division, Mark Sudden, all rounder, at scrum half, and dashing batsman Jim Ganly in the centre.
Arthur's Rugby career, like so much else, was ended by the injury at Lord's. His hand never recovered and blood poisoning gradually affected his whole system. A four year illness was finally ended by his untimely death.