Barclay Wilson, tall and bespectacled, was a fiercely competitive slow left armer. He was, perhaps unlucky that his career overlapped with those of Scott Huey, Jack Bowden and "Sonny" Hool, three expert practioners of the art, and, that most of his cricket was played far from the eyes of the media and selection committees. As his rivals' waned, he dropped out of mainstream cricket, and the left armers role passed to Dermot Monteith for almost the next 20 years. As a batsman Barclay had few pretensions to style, but a belief that a cricket ball was supposed to be hit.
Born in Clonmel, he was educated at an English public school, Wrekin College in Shropshire. Then on the outskirts of the small market town of Wellington, it still stands an oasis of green in resplendent grandeur, defying the ring roads and housing estates of Telford New Town that now surround it. Barclay was two yeas in the XI, being one of the successes of his second summer, 1950. He took almost twice as many wickets, 30, as anyone else, finishing second in the averages at 12.53. "IBJ Wilson shouldered the main burden of the bowling," reported Wisden, which also showed him to have had a batting average of 14. 75, with a highest score of 34*. This had been made against traditional rivals Worksop College in the annual two day match between the schools. Worksop narrowly escaped with a draw, despite Barclay having a good all round performance, also taking 5 wickets in the match. It had been Wrekin's turn to escape had the previous season when Barclay was wicketless but made 20.
Back in Clonmel, he played regularly for Cahir Park, helping them to win the Irish Junior Cup in both 1954 and 1955. In the latter year, he played a key role in the closing stages. These began with the Munster Semi Final of the competition, when Park found themselves pitted against Mount Juliet from Co Kilkenny, they of the beautiful but wasp infested ground. Park made only a modest score but then Barclay with 3-21 helped Willie Nolan 6-9 dispose of the opposition for 33. This brought them to the Munster Final against Wanderers at The Mardyke. The visitors managed 157 and saw their hosts reach 85-3 before Barclay struck. "Some inspired bowling by Barclay Wilson halted the Wanderers advance." (Pat Bracken "Foreign and Fantastic Field Sports") He took 8/54 as Park emerged victorious by 44 runs. He also bowled well in the semi final Galway, where former international Tommy Williams was the hero, then joined his team-mates to take on Balrothery at Sydney Parade. This was a low scoring Final but Park won by 23 runs Nolan and Barclay (12-2-27-5) having shared the wickets.
Cahir Park had also been performing credibly in the Munster Senior League, with Barclay their outstanding bowler. Together with gallant bowling for an invariably heavily defeated Munster side in their two annual Interprovincials, in the old pre Guinness Cup tournament, these performances won Barclay a place in the Irish side in 1956. His matched therein are discussed below.
In 1962, through no fault of their own Cahir Park was forced to disband, but by this time Barclay was playing in Dublin. For three seasons, 1962 1964 and 1966, he was a regular in the Phoenix side, as well as continuing to represent Munster. For Phoenix he took 85 wickets at 14.35. He was chosen captain for 1966, but did not play any cricket, being replaced by David Pigot. He did, however, continue, not always regularly, to turn out for Cork County.
Barclay's international career was somewhat brief, for reasons already outlined above. It has been suggested that he did not always make the most of opportunities presented to him. If his Irish matches are examined that hardly seems a fair judgement, circumstances often denying him a fair crack of the whip. His first match v Sussex, at Rathmines in late August 1956 was washed out by rain, after Ireland had collapsed disastrously. There was time for the County to lose two quick wickets to the pace of Wesley Ferris, before the deluge came. Only one over of spin had been bowled by off spinner Frank Fee.
MCC were the visitors at College Park in better weather, but on a poor wicket. Ireland lost by 22 runs, defeat always been on the cards after a first innings collapse of 46, despite excellent bowling by Fee who took 7-56. With Scott Huey also in the side, Barclay only got on for 6 wicketless overs. However he proved the "star" of Ireland's dismal first innings, making a top score 12 at No 9, putting on 16, the best stand of the innings, for the last wicket with Ferris. He had a longer bowl in the second inning taking 2-40, the wickets of former Warwickshire all rounder John Marshall and MCC captain and destroyer in chief of Ireland's batting, medium pacer George Cheterton. With 18 in the second innings, Barclay could claim to have made a reasonable start to his Irish career.
The following year Ireland beat Scotland by 38 runs in College Park, in a match best remembered for Fee's first innings figures of 9-26. Barclay bowled only two overs, both maidens, in the first innings, but chipped in with his best figure for Ireland of 10-6-7-3 two to catches by Fee. He retained his place for the MCC match at Lord's later in the summer but had 0-47. MCC won by 7 wickets, with Barclay also contributing a first innings duck to Ireland's demise. He was caught by Gloucestershire off spinner "Bomber" Wells off the leg spin of West Indian CB Clarke, at least a reasonably distinguished pair to fall to. He made 12 in the second innings. He was then left out of the side for four years. He returned to face the Scots at The Mardyke in 1961. This was the first match there since 1947 and was a great disappointment, being a very boring draw, with Stan Bergin's monumental hundred being principally to blame. Scotland batted first and Barclay had 2-48, being seen as the premier spinner rather than Ken Hope, then at the high point of his all too brief bowling career. However it was the pacemen who did most of the bowling. One of Barclay's wickets was that of off spinner George Goddard, the other was Mike Denness, later to captain Kent and England, besides playing for Essex,. He was a fine player of all types of bowling, except that provided by Lillee and Thomson on his ill fated tour of Australia in 1974/75, so was a notable scalp for Barclay to conclude his career with.
He had one more major representative appearance to come. In 1969, a team of current or aspiring Test players from Pakistan, under the banner of Pakistan International Airlines, toured Ireland playing four matches, the last of which was v Munster at The Mardyke. Up to a point Munster did very well, but collapsed to 90-9 declared in their second innings. Barclay who had not batted in the first innings and was wicketless in the match, made a robust 19, sharing with Irish opener and guest player Robin Waters, the dubious honour of being second top scorer.
He continued to play Guiness Cup matches for Munster until 1981, though his appearances became somewhat spasmodic. He was one of the most reliable bowlers in a struggling side, twice having 4 wicket haulls. Against Ulster Country at The Mardyke in 1967, he disposed of Ray Hunter, Tom McCloy, Herbie Martin and Bobby Matier at a cost of 40 runs but was unable to avert a 3 wickets defeat. Seven years later, on the same ground and again in a losing cause, he sent back four South Leinster batsmen for 44, his wickets including Ginger O'Brien, Sandy Smith and Gerry Duffy.
Ian Barclay Justly Wilson had a limited international career and was not seen enough in Ireland's major cricketing circles. He was, however, a wholehearted player whose attitude to the game will always be treasured by those who played with him, or saw him play.