In the center of the above photograph of the Irish XI that played against Birkenhead Park in Phoenix in 1858 one can see Charles Lawrence who was the cricket entrepreneur responsible for the setting up of an All Ireland XI in 1855 and the pro employed by Phoenix in 1851. (He is the one in the centre with the black beard) He organised visits to the Park by major English clubs. He was a round arm fast bowler who often reverted to underarm lobs later in an innings.

As a young boy his models and heroes in London were the legendary Alfred Mynn and Fuller Pilch. His first job as a cricket pro was in Scotland at the Perth club. In 1849 he took all 10 wickets, including Mynn's, for Scotland against the wandering professional All England XI, which was organised by William Clarke, the founder of Nottinghamshire's home, Trent Bridge and who was the driving force for professional cricket. It was Clarke who recommended Lawrence for the job in Phoenix.

Phoenix Club pro Charles Lawrence (State Library of NSW)Phoenix Club pro Charles Lawrence (State Library of NSW)
Lawrence also became coach for Viceroy Carlisle in 1855, set up the new ground at the Vice Regal Lodge and organised matches there as well as in Phoenix. He also played for Surrey and Middlesex. In 1858 the Gentlemen of Ireland played the MCC at Lords, winning by an innings. Lawrence took 12 for 57 in the match.

After 10 years at Phoenix he toured Australia with HH Stephenson's team, which was the first touring side to travel to Australia. He stayed on to do a similar job to the one he had done in Ireland as pro to the Albert club in Sydney which was the first home of the New South Wales Cricket Association and returned to the UK in 1868 as captain, coach and manager of the first Australian side to tour which was made up of Aborigines.

From rubbing shoulders with the aristocracy in the Vice Regal Lodge to travelling around the outback in Western Victoria, organising and coaching native Australians who were sadly mistreated by colonials and their political leaders is a stirring story. He played in 40 of the 47 matches played on that famous tour and became widely respected and trusted by the players.

The Daily Telegraph, in doubtful mid nineteenth century colonial parlance, reported that "All are as black as night, these Indian fellows are to all intents and purposes, clothed and in their right minds." 20,000 turned up at the Oval to see them play. Lawrence encouraged his team to perform Aboriginal skills after play every match and this proved hugely popular and profitable.

Lawrence's team of Aboriginal cricketers with Lawrence and William Shepherd, who helped manage and umpire the XI, on tour in Swansea, 1868 (State Library of NSW)Lawrence's team of Aboriginal cricketers with Lawrence and William Shepherd, who helped manage and umpire the XI, on tour in Swansea, 1868 (State Library of NSW).
He played his last match at the age of 70 and was a superb pro/manager/organiser. Melbourne and the MCG became his home and work place and he is described by Australian cricket historian and test player Ashley Mallett as the one most deserving of the title "The Father of Australian Cricket". He can also lay claim to the title "Father of Irish Cricket".