Rev Wilfred La Rive Bourchier

Born22 March 1884, Cahir, Co Tipperary
Died22 September 1973, Cork
EducatedSt Columba's College, Dublin University
OccupationChurch of Ireland Clergyman
Debut3 August 1908 v Philadelphia at College Park
Cap Number264
StyleRight-hand bat
TeamsDublin University, Co Kilkenny, Cork County
HistoryWilfred Bourchier, a solid opening batsman renowned for his strong defence, was an Irish version of Geoffrey Boycott for the Edwardian era. "No one," wrote Pat Hone, "played with a straighter bat and attended more strictly to the basic principle, that the first duty of a batsman was not to get out." At St Columba's, where four members of his family had preceded him in the cricket team, he was a member of the XI for four years, being captain in his last, 1903. He was also four years in the Dublin University XI, and again captain in his last, 1909. This was a time of powerful batting in College Park, and he lost little in comparison to GJ Meldon, often his opening partner, Pat Hone, stylish batsman and wicket keeper, and in his last year Harry Read, fellow Old Columban, and the batting antithesis of Bourchier. Wilfred scored two centuries for the XI: in 1905, when not regular member of the side, he hit a painstaking 127 v The Curragh Brigade in College Park as the University totalled 413, while in 1908, again in a home fixture, he hit 117 with ten 4s as the XI reached 299 v Leinster.

Consistent performance brought him Irish selection for three matches in 1908 and one the following season. It is to be regretted that he must be seen as a failure, though he began with three tough matches, two against the touring Philadelphians, in decline but still a powerful side, and the other against the full strength of Yorkshire. In the first Philadelphian game, Frank Browning won the toss and Bourchier (19) and George Meldon (25) had an opening stand of 40, before Ireland collapsed to the great swing bowler JB King. Bourchier made the second highest score. In the second innings, he fell for a single to Australian googly expert, Dr HV Hordern. At least he could claim that King, whose match figures were 30.1-6-63-14, had only dismissed him once.

Bourchier also reached 19 against Yorkshire, in the second innings, this time outscoring Meldon in a brief opening stand, followed by another, less dramatic collapse. The following year, however against the less testing opposition of Scotland at Perth, he failed again, managing only 5 and 2. He was not asked again.On leaving University, he became Rector of Monkstown in Co Cork a parish he was to minister to for many years. There is no hint of a suggestion that pastoral care took second place to cricket, but he certainly found plenty of time to play. He turned out regularly for Cork County of which he was Secretary in 1913, and also for Munster for over 20 years, the length, or venue, of the match proving no barrier. He usually opened the innings with either Willie Harman or, the grandly named, Pascoe William Grenfell Stuart, (who added French to his name in 1917) both fellow Irish cricketers of long careers. Sometimes Bourchier was at 3, as was the case against a strong Na Shuler side in 1913. Forced to follow on, after being routed by Bob Fowler, hero of the Eton Harrow match of 1910, in the first innings, the county reached 332-4 at the second attempt. French made 100 and Wilfred an interminable 85*, to save the match. He usually scored well against the University, as late as 1929 he hit an accomplished 56, having first appeared in the annual double header, on the other side twenty five years previously.

Edward Liddle, April 2007

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