William Andrews

Born25 August 1886, Comber, Co Down
Died22 December 1966, Comber Co Down
EducatedRoyal Belfast Academical Institution
OccupationCompany Director Andrews Spinning Mill
Debut10 July 1928 v MCC at Ormeau, Belfast
Cap Number360
StyleRight-hand bat
TeamsNorth Down, Ulster Province)
HistoryWillie Andrews was one of the most remarkable men ever to step onto an Irish cricket field. He was born into a famous sporting, legal, political, and industrial family. His cousin, Oscar played cricket and hockey for Ireland, while his father "Thomas of Ardara" was a sporadic cricket player but a visionary and highly successful businesman. Willie's three brothers were also distinguished cricketers with North Down, but were better known in public life. Thus John, the eldest was, albeit briefly, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, James was Lord Chief Justice and Tommie Managing Director of Harland and Wolf, the shipbuilders, died when the "Titanic," which he designed, sank in the North Atlantic on 15 April 1912.

Willie was two years in the RBAI XI, even though he began with three "primaries." He first appeared in an important match in the NCU Junior Cup Final in 1904. In all matches, not just for his club, in 1908, he scored 976 runs and appeared in the junior Interprovincial v Leinster. In 1910. he became captain of North Down, a position he was to retain until 1949 except fot the 1947 season when ND Murphy was captain. In the words of Clarence Hiles, to whom anyone writing about the Andrews clan is deeply indebted, Willie was, "a tall and ponderous figure with a piercing squeaky voice", but he was an outstanding captain who led his team to 12 Senior Cup Final victories and to nine Senior League titles. Hiles describes his batting as having, "a bat as broad as an oak tree and his patience never ending."

In the 1913 Cup Final v Waringstown, he scored 111, putting on 163 for the sixth wicket with Albert Anderson who made 80. The Comber team thus totalled 423. Willie scored over 2000 runs in Cup matches alone, a feat unlikely to be surpassed in limited overs cricket. He was the leading North Down batsman eight times with 939 runs at 31.12 in 1922 his best. In 1928 he hit his highest score in the Cup, a brilliant undefeated 170 against Waringstown at The Lawn. Together with a fine 115 from Tom Macdonald and a seven wicket haul by Tom's brother James this was too much for the Villagers who succumbed to a first round defeat by 297 runs.

His only appearance for Ireland was v MCC at Ormeau in 1928. Batting at 8, he was bowled for 5. At 42 he was, though he would not have agreed, past his best. He should probably been tried earlier, though he had not always been available. When finally prevailed upon to retire from senior cricket, he continued playing at minor levels until he was 76. He was also a prominent administrator. From 1948 until 1966, he was Chairman of the NCU, though the title was not then used. He was also twice President of The Irish Cricket Union, having been one of its founders in 1923. Awarded the MBE for services to Cricket in 1952, he spent much of the rest of his active life visiting Test playing nations to try to persuade them to include Ireland on their itinerary. His obituary, in Wisden 1967, describes him as "The Grand Old Man of Irish Cricket." The Almanack has not always been strictly accurate about Irish cricket, but few would question this verdict.

Edward Liddle, April 2007, updated February 2012, December 2014, March 2021

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