|Born||20 October 1883 Dublin|
|Died||3 March 1969 Thurles, Co Tipperary|
|Educated||St Columba's College, Dublin; Shrewsbury School, Shropshire; Dublin University|
|Occupation||Colonial Administrator; Rubber Planter|
|Debut||24 July 1906 v I Zingari at Vice Regal Ground|
|Style||Right hand bat; wicket keeper|
|Teams||Dublin University; Europeans (Ceylon); Dikoya CC; Nondescripts CC; Ceylon; Federated Malay States; Singapore CC|
Robert Fox-Goodman, tall and dark haired, was a good upper order batsman and useful wicket keeper who might well have gained more than one Irish cap had he not left his native shores for the Sub Continent and Far East shortly after gaining it. The son of a legal clerk John Fox-Goodman, who is considered by some Joycean scholars to have provided the name for the bell ringer in Finnegan's Wake though as Joyce, an enthusiast from his earliest days brought cricket and cricketers into his writings, Robert himself more of an age with Joyce, is the more probable the origin. |
He entered St Columba's in 1893 shortly before his tenth birthday. Also among new boys that year, though some six years older, was future cricket impresario, Stanley Cochrane. The College was then a somewhat rough and ready institution. JT (Jack) Gwynn who joined the following year and was later to play with Robert for the University XI and against him in Ceylon, had vivid memories of fishing for rats through the floor of the Big Schoolroom. He and Robert, rats notwithstanding, opened the batting together for junior teams at St Columba's before Robert, in the spring of 1897 left for Shrewsbury School , set on its imposing cliff top above the River Severn. Rats may not have been in evidence here but the School Register records that one of Robert's fellow entrants Graham John Forbes " died at the School" in 1899. Among Robert's contemporaries who fared better than poor young Forbes, was Willie Napper later to bowl with distinction for Dublin University and Ireland. Robert never made the 1st XI, on a regular basis, though he batted well in House and 2nd XI matches.
Entering Dublin University in 1901, he gained his 2nd XI colours for three seasons from 1902, before gaining a regular place in the 1st XI, for whom he had caught three and stumped four in 1902. That summer he also made 102 for the Seconds against the Co Kildare side, Celbridge in College Park His path to the first team that summer was blocked by Sep Lambert, a fine bat and passable keeper, who was in his seventh year in the XI, while in 1903 TH Gibbon, a useful bat, kept wicket. However Robert should really have played in 1904 when the gloves, and a seat on the Committee, went to Cochrane an inferior keeper and a very poor batsman. There seems little reason to doubt Gerard Siggins' suggestion that Cochrane owed his place in the side to his offer to bankroll the Australian visit the following season. Truth to tell, Cochrane kept wicket well enough that summer with 27 dismissals but his batting left much to be desired with a total of 29 runs at 1.80 despite 24 innings, 5 of which were not out. When Robert did gain a regular place in the XI, he aggregated 466 runs at 22.200 in 1905 and 531 at 20.40 the following season. His highest score was 78 made in 1905, but his best match, also in that season, came when Essex, led by the Curragh Camp born FL Fane, who just over two years later was to captain England in Australia, came to College Park to play the University in early June. Besides Fane, they had all rounder JWHT Douglas, defiant batsman and a tireless medium pacer, destined some sixteen years later to foreshadow another Essex captain of England by leading his side to a 5-0 Ashes defeat, and a fast bowler Bill Reeves, who later became a well known umpire whose wit and choice remarks were to make him the origin of most funny umpiring stories.
The University batted first and were bowled out for 97 with Douglas taking 5-17 in 5.3 overs. Batting at 6 Robert finished on an undefeated 26, with only two other batsmen, the captain Charles Faussett (29) and Jack Gwynn (21). The County replied with 267, Fane making a stylish 68 and Douglas 40. On their second attempt the hosts did rather better reaching 279, largely thanks to half centuries from Gwynn, who made 57, and Robert unfortunately run out for 56. However Douglas again had a "5 for" and the visitors, needing only 71, won by 9 wickets.
The following season when, though he had graduated from the University, he still played for the XI while preparing for the Indian Civil Service, he was selected to play for Ireland in a 12 a side match against I Zingari. This was, in many ways, a historic game. It was the last in a series which had begun in 1859, and also the last match to be played on the Vice Regal ground. Unfortunately the cricket did not match the occasion. The ground had been specially reopened for the game and the wicket was thus somewhat underprepared. Further the IZ team, while containing some good players, was no match for Ireland, particularly the pace bowling of Gus Kelly. Ireland's 253 runs victory was achieved with some ease. The Irish batting was, on paper at least, very strong with every member of the side worth a place for his batting alone. Thus it was, perhaps, no surprise that Robert found himself at no 11 in the first innings and 12 in the second. He contributed 6 in his first knock, towards an Irish score of 234,before being caught by JG "Jungly" Greig off the bowling of EG Wynyard. Greig, an Indian Army officer on leave, was a heavy scorer in Indian cricket and also batted well for Hampshire. On retirement he became first the county's Secretary and then a Catholic priest. Wynyard was a good opening batsman, who had played three Tests against South Africa the previous winter. He was also one of the last regular underarm bowlers in first class cricket. In Ireland's second innings of 230, Robert was undefeated on 1.
At the end of the year, he left for Ceylon where he was to prove a most useful member of the cricket community. Gwynn, now with the ICS in the Madras Presidency, met him at Colombo in 1908 when Madras went there for the annual Madras v Ceylon match played over the Christmas period. In a letter home to his brother Robin also a cricketer of some note, Gwynn, while only mentioning , rather than as he usually did describing, the cricket, reported, "Fox-Goodman was there. Much improved, I thought." Robert played with success for the well known Nondescripts Club that year and forDikoya Cc, having a highest score of 81.
The improvement was clearly seen the following year when Ceylon, an all European side, played three matches in Madras. Against Mofussil, on Christmas day and Boxing Day, he made 30 and 21, opening the batting with George Thornton, a doctor who had played for both Yorkshire and Middlesex before settling in South Africa, where he had played one Test Match in 1902/03 against the Australians who called in on their return from England. Thornton made 1* and took the wicket of Warwick Armstrong. His son PAM Thornton played for Dublin University, Merrion and Ireland in the 1920s. In the four matches on the tour he averaged 57 the highest at that time ever achieved by a Ceylon batsman in India. He was also prominent again in domestic cricket in Ceylon with a highest score of 72 in club cricket.
Ceylon, thanks to the bowling of William Creswell and Archie Gibson, both of whom had first class experience in England, were far too strong for their hosts. They then played against the Madras Cricket Club where the two above mentioned bowlers were again on top form dismissing the opposition cheaply twice, Gibson getting one of his wickets through a stumping by Robert. In between the Madras innings Ceylon reached 300-8 declared with Robert, who made 79, putting on 137 for the first wicket with Thornton. The final match of the tour was against the full Madras Presidency side. The visitors batted first and made 309, Robert making what was described as " a brilliant 101." He put on 96 for the first wicket with Thornton before Gibson and Creswell again wove their web around the Madras batsmen. Ceylon had a fright when, having made their hosts follow on, they lost 6 wickets while chasing the 33 needed for victory. Robert, however, did not bat.
Shortly afterwards, he abandoned the ICS for rubber planting in Malaya and is to be found playing, without much success, for the Federated Malay States against the Straits Settlements in 1912, a match in which his team-mates included two of the Foster brothers Worcestershire septet.
The First World War saw him serve in the Northumberland Fusiliers, holding the rank of Lieutenant. This period also saw him marry, as his first wife Annie Margaret Traill, daughter of Anthony Traill, Provost of Trinity College (Dublin University) and, like Robert a "one cap wonder" Irish cricketer. Annie accompanied Robert to Malaya when he returned after the War. They had one son. He continued to play cricket for Singapore CC well into his fifties though the last match of which a score has been seen, against the Singapore Medical College saw him dismissed for 0 and 5.
"I am most grateful to Ger Siggins for directing me towards Robert's Singapore cricket and to Pat Bracken for providing extracts from the Ceylon Sports Annuals for 1908 and 1909.
Edward Liddle, January 2014, updated May 2018
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