William Drummond Hamilton

  • Born:  4 August 1859 Mellifont, Callon, Co Louth
  • Died:  8 March 1914  Park Town, Oxford
  • Educated:  Hailebury, Hertfordshire;   Oxford University
  • Occupation: Land agent.
  • Debut: 27 August 1883 v I Zingari  at Phoenix CC, Phoenix Park, Dublin
  • Cap Number: 181
  • Style:  Left-hand bat, slow left arm, reserve wicket keeper
  • Teams: Oxford University, MCC, Leinster, Dundrum.

Drummond Hamilton was the third of six sons of Reverend Canon Hamilton, who was, for many years, Church of Ireland Rector of Taney, Dundrum, Co Dublin. Two of Drummond's younger brothers, Lowry and Blaney, were to follow him into the Irish XI, while a third, Willoughby, a talented cricketer, was to make his name as a  tennis player, defeating the great William Renshaw in the Wimbledon Final of 1890. Their cousin, Horace, was a round arm bowler of great pace whose speed for Dublin University troubled the 1880 Australians, and who was a formidable prospect in his brief Irish career. 

'Drummie', as he was known to family and close friends, was an outstanding all round sportsman. As a cricketer, he was an elegant and powerful batsman, "Probably," wrote his obituarist in 'The Irish Times', "the best left hander Ireland has produced." Quick footed he had the ability to hit the steadiest of bowlers off his length. This attribute sometimes made him over adventurous.  He was also known as a brilliant field either at point or in the deep. Versatility was his key, he also kept wicker for Oxford in several first class matches. He was also a talented athlete, winning his Blue, an International Footballer, besides being a Fives and Tennis champion. These sports are discussed later in this biography.  

At Hailebury, which he entered in 1873, he was in the 3rd XI in 1875, before gaining his place in the XI for his final two years. The great days of Hailebury cricket were yet to come, being dated from the 1890s, when cricketers of the calibre of Edward Lyttleton and PH Latham joined the staff. Nevertheless Drummond was able to establish himself as a consistent bat in good company. 'The Haileburyian' described him as, "A thoroughly good left hand bat, who always plays the game and hits well to all parts of the field. A capital point." He was also an outstanding rackets player representing the College in the Public Schools Championship.

Though going up to Queen's College Oxford in 1878, he did not gain a place in the XI until 1882, the year of his graduation. He was, as we shall see busy in other sporting pursuits, but he must have been happy to gain cricket recognition at last. Unfortunately he is best remembered for a somewhat disastrous University Match. The presence of two other Irish born players in the team failed to inspire him as he fell for 9 and 0. However what gained him notoriety was when, in the much quoted words of his Wisden obituary, "He was so nervous that he once set off in the other direction when called for a run." That match apart he had a not unsuccessful season, aggregating 204 runs at 20.04. He made several useful scores, including 54 v The Gentlemen of England, but his best match was probably his first v The Australians in mid May. This was perhaps the most famous of all Australian sides, the one which, by defeating England by 7 runs at The Oval in the solitary Test of the summer, created the Ashes legend. In cold and gloomy weather the 'Cornstalks' led off with 362, of which opening bat HH Massie hit a magnificent 206, before being caught on the boundary by Drummond. Wisden described this as, "a good catch." 'The Oxford Magazine' (April 1914) in its notice of Drummond's death said it was still talked about by those who saw it. Massie, incidentally, had not finished his connection with Irish cricket.  Almost two decades later, aged 57, he turned out for Stanley Cochrane's side at Woodbrook. Drummond failed in the first innings of the match, being caught by the great all rounder George Giffen off 'The Demon' Spofforth for 5 as his side were bowled out for 189. In the follow on he, and his team-mates, did much better. Wisden described the 234 total as 'capital' and Drummond's 37 at 8, as, "an excellent innings." Writing long after the event in PF Warner's Imperial Cricket', Ernest Ensor, never one to stint praise for those of a certain status, claimed that his big hitting almost saved the match. A study of the scorecard suggests that this is unlikely, but Drummond's knock was clearly most impressive. He bade farewell to first class cricket the following season with three matches for MCC, two against his former team-mates and one v Cambridge. In the first Oxford match, in The Parks, he made a first innings 54 at 4, in a drawn match, but otherwise achieved little. He did however, that season, achieve every batsman's dream of a century at Lord's, albeit in a minor match. Opening the batting for MCC v Devon, he struck a quick fire 114, before retiring hurt. He was then fit enough to open the bowling, though he was not usually asked to turn his arm over, and to take the first wicket to fall. He failed with the bat in the second innings and the match was drawn. 

He announced himself in Irish cricket with a brilliant 116 for Leinster v Phoenix in the summer of 1883, and later that season made his debut for Ireland v I Zingari., scoring 27 and 9. In all he played 14 matches for his country scoring 505 runs at 28.06. These are somewhat disappointing figures for so talented a player. It may also be noted that he only passed 50 on four occasions and never went on to three figures. The reason is not hard to find. Almost all match reports contain phrases such as, "Hamilton hit at everything." Sometimes the situation demanded it, but the writer is left with the impression that he also threw his wicket away on occasions.  That having being said, it is to be regretted that he was available for only just under half of the matches played during his career. His batting could well have made the difference in close fought matches with Philadelphia on the American tours of 1888 and 1892, when Ireland was short of class batsmen.

His first fifty was v Canada at Rathmines in 1887. A captaincy decision by JH Nunn, which may be seen as either strange or inspired, found Drummond at number 10 in the order, coming in at 223-8 to join Jack Hynes who was batting at 9! Together they added 96, Drummond contributing, "a very lively 62." The more cautious Hynes had 31* and Ireland were able to win by an innings. He also made crucial runs v Philadelphia in Phoenix Park in 1889. He failed in the first innings as the visitors gained a narrow first innings lead. In the second he came in to join Jack Meldon at 191-5 with the match in balance. They put on 48 before the Galwegian was out. Then, "Hamilton began to play brilliantly." His 62 took Ireland to a declaration at 300. Poor fielding then let them down, but the hosts had the better of the draw. Arguably his best innings was at Rathmines in 1894 v the South African tourists. No first class matches were played by this side and their results in England were disappointing. Further on the Irish leg of their tour they ran out of money and had to be bailed out by wealthy countrymen resident in London. However they had some fine players and were too strong for Ireland.  In their first innings the hosts were routed for 153, by a varied attack which included their former team-mate Clem Johnson. Out of this paltry total, Drummond, "hit at everything" to make a brilliant 68 out of 80 in 40 minutes. He hit two as and ten 4s. Johnson, who had not bowled earlier on in the innings, clean bowled him and took two more quick wickets to wrap up the innings. Unfortunately Drummond was unable to repeat these heroics in the second innings.

His final two matches were in 1896, when he captained the side. He began by leading them to victory over MCC at Rathmines. He batted at 8 and made a first innings 36, but Ireland's rather easy victory was due to the left arm spin of his brother Blayney and the off breaks of Bob Lambert who, between them, twice routed the opposition. In late August a rather weak IZ side was beaten by an innings at Phoenix. This was largely due to the batting of Drummond and Dan Comyn. The pugnacious Galway man plundered 157, while Drummond, missed once at the wicket, played superbly for a two hour 93, including fifteen 4s. Their 6th wicket 201 was to remain a record until beaten by Ivan Anderson and Alec O'Riordan in 1976. Their record had a shorter lifespan, being overtaken by Andre Botha and Alex Cusack in 2007.

Drummond played no more matches for Ireland, though he did appear for the Lord Chief Justice's XI v IZ in 189. There was no Ireland fixture for the visitors that year, this being the major match. Alas, Drummond was unable to produce an innings to match the occasion.

Cricket was by no means the only area in which he distinguished himself. Mention has already been made of his athletic ability. An outstanding runner at school, he continued in this mode at Oxford. He won the Queen's College mile in 1879 and in 1881, was second in the 3 miles v Cambridge. He also continued another Hailebury activity, singing. He had a remarkable tenor voice and sang in the Queen's choir from 1878 to 1883. The 'Oxford Magazine' of April 1914 recalled, "His voice at its best was a tenor of rare purity." This attribute was to prove profitable when he settled in Dublin after leaving University. He was Professional Tenor and Soloist at Christ Church Cathedral. He also shone as a tennis player. Some ranked him in Willoughby's class. This seems unlikely, but he had an impressive list of championships to his credit, either side of the Irish Sea.  As a footballer, he had changed codes after leaving school, he played for Dublin Combination and, together with Willoughby gained a cap v Wales in 1885. Even after he gave up active participation in his main sports, this remarkable all rounder was not finished. Settling in Co Donegal, he took up Golf and became captain of the Rosapenna Club.

In 1891 he married Alice Kinahan, whose father George had been a member of the first ever Irish XI in  1855. Later Alice's sister was to marry Drummond's younger brother Lowry.  After leaving Donegal, the couple settled in Park Town Oxford, Drummond again singing in the Queen's Choir. They were still there when his fatal illness struck him. According to 'The Oxford Magazine', he bore this "with characteristic fortitude." He was only 55 when he died. He was buried in Dundrum where the bodies of his and Alice's parents, and of their only son George, already lay.

His obituary is in Wisden 1915. His biography is in Scores and Biographies Volume XV and he is profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald 'Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats.

Finally this biography would not have appeared in its present form without the considerable assistance of Mr Toby Parker, Hailebury Archivist. I am very much indebted to him.