There are many contenders for the accolade of delivering the best bowling spell in Wales, including Don Shepherd and Johnnie Clay who each played a leading role in some of Glamorgan’s finest hours, not least the winning of the County Championship titles in 1969 and 1948 respectively. However, a performance by a 28 year-old bowler called Horace Hamilton, whilst playing for the Phoenix Club from Dublin in their match against the Bryn-y-Neuadd club in 1883 at Llanfairfechan trumps even the best efforts of ‘Shep’ and Johnnie with the young solicitor taking seven wickets in the space of eight balls.
Above – the cricket ground at Llanfairfechan and close to the palatial home of Sidney Platt, which was the setting for Horace Hamilton’s remarkable bowling performance. Photo Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.
Born at Inistioge in County Kilkenny in November 1854, Horace was educated at Felsted School as well as Dublin University. Given that his mother Emma was the daughter of Sir Frederick Pollock, a prominent legal academic and professor of Jurisprudence at Oxford University, it was no surprise that Horace trained as a solicitor, but not before he had enjoyed a successful, if brief, career as a cricketer for Ireland.
Horace was a right-handed bowler who delivered the ball at speed in a round-arm style, and it soon after he had started his legal training that he made the first of seven appearances for Ireland. His debut came in 1877 against I Zingari, with Horace appearing two years later for Ireland against Surrey, besides touring North America in 1879/80 where he made further first-class appearances against the Philadelphians.
His remarkable bowling performance in North Wales came shortly before his sixth and penultimate game for Ireland against the MCC at Lord’s in July 1883. With many of the Irish team playing for the Phoenix side, the Dublin club arranged a two-day match against the Bryn-y-Neuadd club, run by Sidney Platt of Llanfairfechan, on July 2nd and 3rd, giving the Irish amateurs a day to catch a train to London for their match with the MCC.
The first day of the game saw the Phoenix club make 174 with Horace despite batting at number ten top-scoring with 34. Sidney Platt, the Oldham-born businessman, had recruited some prominent sportsmen for this game including Monkey Hornby, the Lancashire and England cricketer who the previous summer had been the losing captain in the Test match against Australia at The Oval which gave rise to the Ashes. Also in Platt’s eleven was Francis Birley, an Oxford-educated barrister who had played county cricket for Lancashire and Surrey, besides being an England football international and a member of the Wanderers team which won the FA Cup on three occasions.
Despite these star names, Bryn-y-Neaudd were dismissed for 88 before following-on and being dismissed for 31 with Hamilton claiming eight wickets as his team won by an innings and 45 runs. His outstanding bowling performance also included a spell of seven wickets in the space of eight ball, with Hamilton claiming a hat-trick before delivering a dot ball and then clean bowling the next four batsmen in as many deliveries with Sidney Platt being one of the men to have his stumps uprooted by the feisty fast bowler in what remains one of the finest bowling performances ever to take place on Welsh soil.