North Down & Leinster
David Milling, the first Ulsterman to captain Ireland - though Oscar Andrews had declined the honour four years before it came to David - was a good batsman, anywhere in the order, and an excellent wicket keeper, whose international opportunities were, unfortunately, somewhat limited.
David came from a well known Comber family which had firmly established links with cricket on The Green, by the time he, as a 14 year old, came to play for the North Down 1st XI in 1887. That year, still 4 months short of his 15th birthday, he appeared in the first ever NCU Cup Final, the first of eight occasions on which he was to be on the winning side in this match. He remains the youngest player to have appeared in the Final. He distinguished himself in nthe match , taking four catches.
In a first round match the following season, he played a match winning innings against Carrickfergus, when the Co Antrim side, visiting the Comber citadel, proved unexpectedly tough opposition, and would have knocked out the holders, had it not been for David's skill and resilience with the bat. He was to play three key innings in Cup Final wins over the next decade. The highest of these was 80 v Ulster CC in 1898, batting as low as number 8. David, well supported by Davy Taylor (61) topscored, the pair being almost alone in coping with a strong Ballynafeigh attack. They enabled North Down to total 225, which was enough to set up victory by an innings and 76 runs. He had also made top score - 46 - against the same opponents in an innings victory in 1893, but, perhaps, his most valuable innings was in the 1894 Final against Holywood at Ballynafeigh. This was a low scoring match, with bowlers ruling the roost on a dreadful wicket, North Down's first innings being the highest of a match in which the combined total of the four innings was only 212. David's first innings 22 was the highest score of the game, exactly matching his side's victory margin.
At the turn of the century work took him to Dublin, where he soon established himself with the Leinster Club proving to be one of the leading wicket keepers in Dublin cricket. As such he gained a place in the special two day trial match held in College Park before the Irish tour of England in 1902 when the country's inaugural first class matches were played. In fact David probably never had a chance of selection. Several of the players had been invited to tour before the trial, including Frank Browning, the long term wicket keeper/batsman. Also in the side was David's fellow Leinster man Sep Lambert, who though invariably played for his batting alone, was also a highly competent keeper.
David's wicket keeping was one of the highlights of a drawn match which his side, effectively the Possibles, were outplayed but held on for a draw. He held four good catches in the opposition's only innings, including dangerous opener Dan Comyn and fellow former North Down man Oscar Andrews. Oscar returned the favour, dismissing David cheaply when his turn came to, opening his side's first innings.
A trial was also held the following year before the visit of WG's London County XI. This game was styled Dublin University v The Gentlemen of Ireland as both sides were due to take on the Doctor's latest venture. The match turned out to be very disappointing with the "Ireland" side being so bedevilled by withdrawals that Edward French-Mullen, normally a University 2nd XI player, had to play for them at the last minute. David again kept superbly but Browning was ever present on most occasions until the end of the North American tour of 1909. However David did make his debut for Ireland during this period playing against Cambridge University at The Mardyke. The Light Blues were due to play two matches against Ireland that year, the second being at Rathmines. The Irish selectors chose two partially different sides. The one which took the field at Cork suffered from withdrawals, but, even before this, could best be described as half strength. David was an original selection, but though he kept well could not prevent Ireland losing by 5 wickets a match in which they were largely outplayed. He was, however, one of the more successful Irish batsmen of the match. Batting at 9 he fell to the leg spin of FB Wilson in the first innings for 12, and made 16 in the second before falling to the occasional bowling of Charles Eyre. On the latter occasion he helped George Meldon (55) put on 65 for the 8th wicket, easily the highest Irish stand of the match. Wilson, whose autobiography "Sporting Pie" contains an account of the match became a well known sports journalist, being followed in his profession by his son Peter, usually billed by The Mirror as "The man they couldn't gag", and grandson Julian, the former BBC Racing Correspondent. Eyre, a sound opening batsman, was to die in action at The Battle of Loos. The Irish side returned to full strength for the Rathmines fixture which meant there was no place for David.
After Brownian's retirement, it might have been thought that David would be an automatic selection. However the selectors chose him only twice in 1912 and 1914, both matches being at Rathmines against Scotland. Otherwise they went for Sep Lambert and Pat Hone, both, particularly the former worth their places for batting alone, and both, particularly the latter, somewhat inferior glovemen to David. The 1912 match saw the visitors scrape home by three runs, David unfortunately twice failing with the bat in tight situations. However his keeping was again of the highest order, particularly in the first innings when Ireland's debutant leg spinner Robert Gregory, later to win posthumous fame as "The Irish Airman" of WB Yeats' poem, took 8-80 at near medium pace on a difficult wicket. David gave him his first wicket, stumping opener James Sorrier for 7. He was to stump Sorrier again in the second knock, this time a remarkable piece of work as the bowler was left armer Basil Ward. Ward was distinctly sharp and, even though Leinster was one of his clubs so David was used to him, it must standing up, has been a difficult dismissal.
His last appearance for Ireland, in company with that of seven of his team-mates came, as we have seen, two years later. The match began on 18 July with Europe just 17 days away from cataclysm. Whether it was this that affected David's keeping or the fact that, surely rather bizarrely, he had been appointed captain, is unknown but his normally high quality keeping seems to have deserted him. In a closely fought match, who ended in the visitors pulling off an 11 run victory, he allowed 41 byes in the match, 24 in the first innings and 17 in the second. He also failed with the bat. One incident in which he was involved, however, says much for the way in which he played the game. Maurice Dickson, Scotland's captain, was in the early stages of his innings when he was given out caught at the wicket. Presumably David had not appealed for he promptly recalled his opposite number, who went on to ka half century. Dickson, a prominent lawyer and rugby international who was to win the DSO in 1918, later recalled Bob Lambert, also in single figures. Bob, hardly the man to pass up such an advantage, went on to make 68. The one dismissal David did make was, again, that of Sorrie, caught in the second innings.
Despite his rather unfortunate last match, David Alexander Hyndman Milling was a first rate wicket keeper who must be deemed unlucky not to have gained more Irish caps. Much of his career was, of course, coincicidental with Browning's. Thereafter he was, perhaps not always considered because of his work commitments and because - a Prior/ Foster scenario being no new development- of the superior batting ability of his rivals. The 1911 census shows him to have had, at that time one child, a daughter. If this piece should catch the eye of any of his descendants we would be most pleased to hear from them.