Peter Doyle

  • Born: 8 August 1831
  • Died: Date unknown
  • Occupation: Professional Cricketer.
  • Debut:  10 September 1855 v Gentlemen of England at Phoenix Park
  • Cap no: 3
  • Style: Right-hand bat, slow round arm
  • Teams:  Phoenix, Players of Dublin, United Ireland XI

Peter Doyle was a trail blazer. He was the first Irish born professional cricketer to learn the game in Ireland and to achieve some notice on a wider stage. Thus he began a path which could be said to lead to the present day when several such players are regulars in county cricket.  According to Scores and Biographies, Doyle was, "entirely a self taught cricketer," though Hone states that, Charles Lawrence, then the Phoenix professional, "took him in hand and trained him into an excellent bat and a fair bowler." Some may find it hard to see a mid 19th century English professional doing something for nothing, but there may have been some streaks of cricket altruism in Lawrence. However it is known that Doyle began as a ground boy at Phoenix, fielding while the members practised. It seems probable that he began by copying what he saw, and had an obvious talent which Lawrence may well have spotted and encouraged.

Either way, standing just below six feet and of strong build, he was established as a reliable batsman by 1853, when he went in first for the Players of Dublin v the Gentlemen of Dublin at Phoenix Park. This series has been seen as an attempt by Lawrence to establish a financially rewarding, for him, version of the Lord's fixture. Unfortunately, the Players had to rely on the promoter and Doyle, as the remainder came from soldiers of the garrison, who were of very mixed ability. On this occasion the Players were defeated by an innings with Doyle getting 12 and 46, easily the top scores as Lawrence failed in both innings. A second match took place later in the season. Doyle carried his bat for 24 out of a total 66. In the follow on, Lawrence, who had been run out 0 at 11 in the first innings, joint top scored with Doyle with 25, before again being run out. It might be stated here, that whether Peter was taught by Lawrence, or by himself, the instructions do not seem to have included running between the wickets. A depressing number of his or his partners' innings ended in run outs! A third match he appeared in that season was against the United England XI, for XXII of Phoenix. The home side won by an innings, which caused suggestions that provided the United men got their money and their beer, though some were more partial to champagne, they were not so worried about the result. Doyle, at least, enhanced his growing reputation. He was second top score with 37, the amateur JN Coddington getting 51 and Lawrence 29, but then ran himself out. He then came to the fore as a bowler for the first time, sharing the wickets with Lawrence. Two other good scores in such matches may be noted here. In 1854, the Phoenix XXII again defeated the United XI. Doyle, going in at 9, was easily first innings top score with 20, bowled by the legendary "Jemmy" Dean. In the second innings, he held the batting together with 31*, though two of his partners were run out! Three years later, playing for Lawrence's United Ireland XI v XXII of Dublin, he took 5 first innings wickets, then made 25, second top score to Rev J Mc Cormack's 75, before being out. The reader may guess the manner of his dismissal! It should be remembered that the matches described above are but a snapshot of Peter's career. Lawrence's XI travelled the length of Ireland that railways allowed, and Phoenix had a full fixture list. Doyle had many impressive performances not shown here.

He made his debut for Ireland in the first of all Irish matches v The Gentlemen of England at Phoenix Park. From then, he was a regular in the side, except when an all amateur side was picked, until 1863. His overall aggregate and average may not seem high, but they stand up well against those of most of his team mates. The wickets were often poor and underprepared, while, in the matches with the Professional XIs, the bowling was of a very high standard. On debut he made only 4 and 5, having the ill luck to fall both times to the fast roundarmer Edmund Willes, one of the few members of the Gentlemen of England side to play with any degree of success and regularity in major cricket in England. Four of Doyle's other Irish matches stand out. In 1857, again against the Gentlemen of England, at Rotunda Gardens, he was out for 0 in the first innings to the pace of CTW Fiennes. However in the second he made second top score of 35, before being caught by Irish International Fred Ponsonby off the bowling of Reginald Hanky, one of the best amateur batsmen of the day and also a good round arm bowler. The following season, Doyle again had a useful second innings v Birkenhead Park, a strong club side, which had been playing Phoenix for some years. They beat Ireland by 31 runs despite a second innings 35 by Doyle. Easily the top score, it was a highly praised knock and might have brought Ireland an unlikely victory. He added 57 for the third wicket with an army officer JG Boothby, who later became a Major General. Alas, Peter was yet again run out. In 1860 Lawrence took the United Ireland XI over the Irish Sea for what, though it was an odds fixture, is seen as an official Irish match v Colonel Buchanan's XVI of Scotland. Ireland won with three men getting passed 20. Doyle's 27 was highly admired and won him a bat presented by the rest of the side. His final match for Ireland was v I Zingari at the Vice Regal Ground in 1863. The match was dawn. He made an excellent 43, before being bowled by Henry Arkwright, a Cambridge Blue and fast underarmer, who was later to die swamped by a Mont Blanc avalanche.

This match marked the end of Peter Doyle's Irish career. He was not seen again in major cricket and research in recent years failed to establish what became of him. Wisden's Births and Deaths has him living in 1912, but this may very well be wrong as there are several errors in this section of the Almanac at this time. Many of his English contemporaries came to grief when their careers ended, workhouses and asylums being not uncommon places of final residence. It is to be hoped that Peter Doyle was spared this and that he was able to look back on his cricket life with happiness. There is a brief biography of him in Scores and Biographies Vol 6.