Lucius Henry Gwynn

  • Born: 5 May 1873, Ramelton, Co Donegal
  • Died:  23 December 1902, Davos Platz, Switzerland
  • Educated: St Columba's College, Dublin University
  • Occupation:  University Lecturer
  • Debut: 22 July 1892, Vice Regal Grounds, Phoenix Park
  • Cap Number: 215
  • Right-hand bat, right-arm medium pace
  • Clubs: Dublin University, Phoenix, Stedalt, Dundrum, Gentlemen of England, Na Shuler  

Lucius Gwynn was a member of a famous sporting and academic family. One of eight sons and two daughters of Rev John Gwynn, Regius Professor of Divinity in Dublin University, he and his three immediate younger brothers all captained the School and University XI's and played the game at first class level. At school, he was mainly a bowler, his brother Arthur being the superior bat. This continued in his first University season, 1891, when he took 33 wickets, but, batting, averaged only 8.60.   The following season, he improved, under the expert coaching of Jesse Richards. A century for the seconds that summer was followed by 143 for the XI v Curragh Brigade the following year, after which he never looked back, while still heading the bowling 1893-1897. Establishing an enduring opening partnership, and friendship with AD Comyn, he based his technique on sound back foot defence with great speed on to the front to drive. In the words of the Club's History "He persuaded the ball away from him, and he could score with great speed while expending relatively little effort."  In all he scored over 3000 runs for the University with a highest of 179 (21 fours) v Leinster at Rathmines in 1896. The previous summer he had burst upon the English scene when the University's annual three-day matches were awarded first class status.  Hundreds against Cambridge University, "A brilliant display of batting," said Wisden, and Leicestershire, carrying his bat for 153* in the second innings, "Exceedingly brilliant," pronounced the Almanack, saw him gain a place in the Gentlemen v Players match at the Oval, on the recommendation of WG.  He made a first innings 80 in 210 minutes, exciting Wisden, The Times and the periodical, Cricket.   He headed the first class averages, 455 runs at 56.87.

The following season saw Gwynn; having been captain for the previous two, play under his brother Arthur, with another sibling Robin made up a formidable threesome. Lucius hit a brilliant 120 v MCC, besides the big hundred-v Leinster and 100 v Co Kildare. He narrowly missed the double, scoring over 1000 runs and taking 93 wickets, including  8-38 v Phoenix. He appeared again in the Oval Gentlemen v Players, but achieved little. This season also saw the origin of the suggestion, emanating from The Irish Times that he was asked to play in the Old Trafford Test v Australia, but had to decline because of examinations.  Space precludes a full discussion here, however it appears that, unfortunately, there is no real foundation for it.  1897, with Arthur again captain, was Lucius' last in the XI, though he continued to play for the Long Vacation XI until 1900, scoring 4 hundreds.  However his availability in 1897 was limited and his form suffered.

He had made his Irish debut in 1892,batting low in the order v I Zingari: however the following season he was at 3, scoring 35 and taking 5-31 in the match. His University form of 1895 followed him into Ireland's English tour later the same year under Jack Meldon's captaincy. He returned to the Oval with an elegant 63 v Surrey C&G;, then destroyed a weak MCC attack at Lord's to reach a cultured  80. He did not play for Ireland again until 1901, but was much in demand for Vice Regal XIs v I Zingari and for teams raised by JW Hynes against the same opponents under the banner of the Lord Chief Justice.  In 1898, at Ormeau, he made a career best 200* as Na Shuler totalled 335-8 to defeat NICC by an innings.

Lucius was also skilful rugby player, for the University, whom he captained, and Monkstown, whom he helped to win the Leinster Senior Cup. A formidable half back at University, often in partnership with Arthur, he won his 7 international caps as a centre, missing the only game that Arthur, as a wing, played in. Wisden, airing itself on rugby, said that Lucius was, "If not comparable with the great exponents that have filled the position, a thoroughly dependable player." The Almanack also commented that the Irish backs' style of play was too old fashioned. To which Lucius might have replied, but wouldn't have as he was modest to a fault, "Who played on one Triple Crown winning side and helped select another?" In 1901, Fellow of, and lecturer in, the University where his academic career had transcended even his sporting achievements, a Scholar and a double first, he married and returned to cricket full time. As leading Phoenix batsmen, he and Comyn were not affected by the 1901 selection row, when most of the other Irish clubs refused to send players to the South African match in protest at Phoenix controlling it. The two friends were among Ireland's best players, Lucius scoring 34 and 68. In 1902, now with a young daughter, he was available for the first two matches of Ireland's inaugural first class tour of England, arranged under the captaincy of Sir TC O'Brien to heal the split between the Irish clubs. Gwynn, an automatic choice, made 0 and 81 against London County, "a splendid display of correct stylish cricket," said Wisden of the second knock. Returning to Ireland he scored over 2000 runs mostly for Phoenix, for whom he hit 6 centuries, including 4 in succession: 166 v tourists Tayside Wanderers, the highest. All that remarkable summer he had been unwell, unable to sleep. Eventually Harley Street diagnosed tuberculosis. He went to Davos Platz's famous sanatorium, but it was too late, the illness was too far gone.  The Times published a fulsome tribute, a "Cricket" reader in New Zealand penned an emotive poem, The Irish Times wrote, in a leader, that his career "awoke unbounded admiration amongst his fellows and of envy or jealousy no trace." Even Wisden spared itself: "Had he played regularly in England he would have earned a high place among the batsmen of his day." Surely, he already had. 

"His daughter lived well into the 1980s, while his great grandson Dr Nat Carey  was the Home Office pathologist called on to work on the Soham and Ipswich murders. His re-examination of the evidence established that Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer's death at the World Cup 2007 was not murder as was first thought.

His obituary is in Wisden 1903; a biography is in Scores and Biographies Volume 15 and he is profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats.