George Herbert McCormick

Born6 April 1886 Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire), Co Dublin
Died 24 April 1954 Sevenoaks, Kent
EducatedThe Leys School, Cambridge; Avoca School, Blackrock; Dublin University; Didsbury Theological College, Manchester.
OccupationMethodist Minister
Debut4 August 1908 v Philadelphia at College Park
Cap Number266
StyleRight-hand batsman, occasional wicket keeper
TeamsDublin University
HistoryGeorge McCormick was, like many of his University contemporaries, a good all round sportsman. He was primarily a Hockey player who was an automatic choice for Ireland when available. He had learned the game at Avoca School, one of the main nurseries of the sport in Ireland for almost 70 years. Even now, the Avoca hockey tradition survives at Newpark Comprehensive School at Blackrock, which submerged Avoca and nearby Kingstown School in the early 1970s. However, George was also a useful cricketer, a sound upper order batsman, who made a number of good scores for Dublin University, which he entered in 1905, being a regular in the XI for two seasons from 1907. Besides his batting, he was renowned as a fieldsman, moving quickly to the ball, as befitted one with his hockey skills. He could keep wicket also, being, together with Pat Hone and George Meldon, one of three whom the University tried out at this time, with only limited success. All three found the left armer Willie Napper, who seems to have been an Edwardian Derek Underwood, rather difficult to take.

George did little in the University's matches against first class opposition, seemingly finding pace bowlers of first class standard rather too much to handle. His first such game was against Warwickshire at Rugby in 1907. Pat Hone, who made 40, considered it to be one of the best innings of his career against the county's pace attack, headed by Frank Field. The wicket was, "something like an Indian maiden without a blade of grass." Hone enjoyed himself, but George, in company with several of his team mates could do little. . George at 8, reached 4, before falling to the medium pace of Fred Moorhouse. Rain prevented a second innings, whereupon the visitors moved on to Fenner's where they were routed by Cambridge. George, still at 8, was out for 6 in the first innings; not as bad a score as it seems, with only Hone (10) reaching double figures. Most of the damage was one by the leg spin of Harold Goodwin, though George fell to the pace of Arthur Morcom, as the visitors crumbled to 54 all out. He and his team did marginally better in the second innings. George made 17 out of 94 all out. It is possible that he kept wicket on this tour, as Meldon and Hone both batted at the top of the order, where George would also have been expected to feature. He was there, opening with fellow future cleric, Wilfred Bourchier, the following summer, when Cambridge came to College Park. George fell, yet again to pace, for 14, but the hosts gained a first innings lead, and, despite George being yorked first ball in the second innings, had made the match safe, when Napper, now captain, suddenly declared, leaving Cambridge less than an hour to get 123 to win. They did so and Napper, normally most popular with his team-mates, suddenly found that he no longer was!

Though George had failed in these matches, he was in good enough form to come into the Irish side, as a substitute for the injured Jack Meldon, in the hastily arranged second Ireland v Philadelphia Match in August 1908. Hastily arranged because the scheduled three day match had ended in a day and a half with Bart King, the great American swing bowler, taking 14 wickets in the match. Neither King nor future Australian leg spinner "Ranji" Hordern bowled in the second match, which was drawn in Ireland's favour, with Bob Lambert scoring 116* and taking 10 wickets. In his only innings, George made 6, the most interesting point being the identity of man who bowled him. This was fastman Harry Sayen, who later became a multi-millionaire and a close follower of the English Test team in the 1950s. He was popular with the players because his visits, be they to The Oval, the SCG or Newlands, generally coincided with an English win, and always saw his largesse distributed. Len Hutton was said always to welcome him. Sayen, with the help of cricket historian Gerald Brodribb, wrote, not always accurate, memoirs "A Yankee Looks at Cricket", and died in 1965 aged 82.

Ireland's next match, against Yorkshire, also in College Park, began a day after the Philadelphian match. No Ulster players took part, as, by an unfortunate lapse in fixture making, they were playing for their province v Philadelphia, at the same time. However there was no place for George, though he spent a great deal of time on the field, acting as 12th man for both sides. He fielded for most of the first day, as Bill Harrington, perhaps for once seeing to his farm in Co Kildare, was not present until the second. George had the substitute's nightmare, dropping a catch at mid on in the first over off Tom Ross, a bowler who was even less pleased than most when such an event occurred. Later, however at third slip to the pace of Gus Kelly, he caught Yorkshire batsman Harold Wilkinson, from a skied attempted hook.

George had played his last major cricket match, but both cricket and hockey had always been very much secondary to him. Brought up in a strongly Methodist family, he had always been destined for the Ministry. After spending time at a theological college in Manchester and having married, he went to India in 1912, where he was to remain until 1925, his war service as a Chaplain to the Forces also being spent there. Though he learned local languages and was trusted by all races he came into contact with, most of his work was with Europeans, having charge of the Methodist Ministry in Bangalore for several years.

He returned to England in 1925, and had a variety of posts until he retired to Sevenoaks, where his English Ministry had begun. He was widely respected by his Church, being seen, in an obituary notice as, "A man of deep mystical piety and a preacher of quiet, thoughtful and sound strength."

I am much indebted to Rev Robin Roddie of the Weslyan History Society, Belfast, for help with details over George McCormick's life in the Methodist Church.

Edward Liddle, August 2008

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