Civil Service Cricket Club was first conceived in the Spring of 1863. One George Howard, or to give him his full title, His Excellency Mr George William Frederick Howard, Earl of Carlisle, K.G., P.C., Lord Lieutenant-General and General Governor of Ireland, donated to the Club the ground which it occupies to this day, and as such he must be regarded as one of the prime movers in the founding and establishment of the Civil Service Club.
The Earl of Carlisle, ensconsed as he was in the Vice Regal Lodge, (now of course Aras an Uachtarain), must have been thrilled to get a break from interminable Court Banquets (the Misses Belmont in particular seemingly never missed a function in Dublin Castle), tedious inspections of military installations, and above all the endless attempts at placating the wild Irish. Howard was clearly something out of the ordinary for a man of his rank, being notable for introducing the first Womens' Suffrage Bill in 1851.
The Earl's donation of the ground was a generous act, though in fairness he could well afford the gesture - he already had his own cricket ground in the Vice-Regal Lodge. It was there, suitably enough, that Civil Service Cricket Club fulfilled its first ever fixture, turning out a team of twenty two against an eleven of the Vice-Regal's, as Howard's team was called, on Saturday 25th April 1863.
Under the grandiose heading "Sporting Intelligence" the Dublin Evening Post of Tuesday 28th April 1863 noted that "the first match of the season on the Vice-Regal grounds was played .... between eleven of the Vice-Regal and twenty two of the Civil Service Cricket Club. The Civil Service is but recently formed but it includes some very good members, and the Lord Lieutenant, in order to encourage games of this kind, graciously gave his permission that the match be played on the Vice-Regal ground. In the evening a vast number of carriages passed the ground containing the rank and beauty of the metropolis. His Excellency Himself, in order to acknowledge the interest which he feels in athletic games of this kind, kept the score."
The scores were - Vice-Regal's 104, CSCC XXII 59 and 44. Civil Service were always a little rusty at the start of a new season, but given that the Lord Lieutenant was responsible for The Army and the Public Service perhaps the Civil Service Twenty two, in not wishing to trouble the scorer, did not quite play to their abilities.
Arthur Samuels, in his 'Early Cricket in Ireland' published in 1888, had reported that in 1855, during a match at Phoenix, "we observed an officer riding in great haste to the Pavilion where his Excellency, Earl Carlisle, was sitting, as usual, keeping the score." The Earl brought the message he received straight out to the middle and "taking off his hat, asked us to give three cheers, as he held in his hand the announcement of the fall of Sebastopol I never witnessed such excitement before...."
Cricket in general at this time, and Leinster cricket in particular, was very much in its infancy. Sport in those days revolved around the racecourses and the regattas, and the serious cricket fixture was the annual Gentlemen of Ireland Vs I.Zingari match. I Zingari were and are a famous and well established English side, and this match was usually played at the Vice-Regal's, sometimes commanding crowds of 3,000.
Many matches were of a ceremonial nature, often accompanied by the brass bands of the Huzzars and watched, with varying degrees of interest, by the aristocracy, military top brass, and Those Accustomed To Rule.
All club fixtures were played over a day, with two innings a side.Wickets were pitched at around noon, and play finished at seven in the evening. Neither wicket preparation nor the finer arts of batmanship had reached their zenith, and so the completion of four innings in an afternoon was never out of the question. In most cases the winner was declared on the basis of the first innings score.
League and Cup registrations were a concept that lay in the distant future, and it would seem from match reports that Mr Arkwright, The Earl of Carlisle's aide-de-campe, turned out for Phoenix Cricket Club, Civil Service Cricket Club, The Vice- Regal's, and indeed any one else who would have him.What is more, Arkwright was an Oxford Cricket Blue, had played for Marylebone Cricket Club against Ireland, and was reputed to be a "fine slow round arm bowler and slashing bat". Whenever he played he was almost always accompanied by the Lord Lieutenant himself
Reporters approvingly noted that the Earl "always took a keen interest in the feats performed on the field of play", and that he was ever keen to muck in as far as the scoring duties were concerned. (These same reporters studiously avoided reference to the then notorious but widespread practice of gambling on match results).
In its first season Civil Service Cricket Club shared the Phoenix Park with, amongst others, the Garrison C.C., (popularly known as the "Blue Caps"), Brunswick C.C., (based in the Nine Acres), Brunswick's neighbours, the quaintly named Erin-GoBraghs, the Vice-Regal's (or "Light Blues") and of course Phoenix Cricket Club. Civil Service played a handful of matches that summer, the last of which was a return fixture against the Vice-Regal's in what was the Club's first home game. The match was played on 27th September, and not surprisingly bad light finished affairs early, with the Civil Service Twenty Two precariously placed on 116 for eleven after a Mr Gladstone, of all people, had scored 51 for the Vice-Regal's.
1864 was one of cricket's Big Years, a year vital to the development of the summer game: W.G.Grace, the Great Cricketer, scored his first hundred; the first county Championship took place, over-arm bowling was legalised and, most important of all, the first Wisden Cricketers' Almanack was published.
The Leinster cricket season of that year opened with a set-piece Gentlemen Vs Players fixture in Phoenix Cricket Club in front of an audience, which, the Freeman's Journal primly noted, "contained a large sprinkling of the fair sex". Similar language had been used in an Irish Times editorial of 1860 which praised "the upper classes generally" for "acting wisely for the public interest in giving their countenance and encouragement to these athletic sports" such as cricket. "Mothers and sisters", the piece continued, "may be present to behold them, and stimulate the combatants by their approving smiles and affectionate sympathy."
In that 1864 season's pipe-opener, one Captain Boycott of the 29th Regiment opened the batting for the Gents, scoring a "handsome" 17 in the first innings. Perhaps it was an omen that he contributed less than one to his side's paltry second innings total of fourteen.
Boycott in later life of course became a land agent in Co.Mayo and his treatment or eviction of lowly tenants so aroused the ire of the Land League Association that he was sent to a "moral Coventry" and shunned by all and sundry, eventually being forced into exile.
One of the prime agitators in the Land League Association, and as such Boycott's future Nemesis, was Mr Charles Stewart Parnell. Parnell batted in the middle order for the Co.Wicklow club around this time, and in July of that year he scored a fine 49 against the Fourth Huzzars.The future "Uncrowned King of Ireland" also turned out against Civil Service Cricket Club in the Park, scoring nought and six not out. Civil Service began that year by being beaten by TCD 2nds, the match reporter expressing an ironic hope that "as the season advances and the members of CSCC get into play their fielding may improve".
That said, now that they had made an entree into Leinster cricket, Civil Service made themselves at home straight away, playing at least one match a week throughout the summer. They began to win matches too, their first victory coming on 13th June against the Fourth Huzzars, and one J.Doran scored the Club's first fifty. with 62 against Merrion on June 18th, 1864.
Doran was easily the club's best player in their opening couple of seasons, with nine wickets in two matches at the end of 1863, an innings of 86 against Bray, 44 against the Fourth Huzzars, and 41 for a combined English/Irish Civil Service eleven against the Military.These were all fine scores, given the conditions then prevailing.
However Civil Service Cricket Club did raise a few hackles with their timekeeping. The Freeman's Journal's report of the Wicklow match noted that Civil Service played much of it with eight men, "perilling both the name and the prestige of the Club". The report added that "it is much regretted that members should disappoint at the last moment without giving time to procure substitutes". So some of the organisational problems of Irish cricket clubs, it seems, are at least as old as the game itself.
CSCC's members performed even worse against Navan that year, with none of the Civil Service members being on the ground at the start of play. Civil Service took the field an hour later with four fielders and ended up with nine players on the field, one of whom was not a Civil Service member.
In an 1864 match against Co.Westmeath in the Park, we get an early description of the state of the pitch - a good wicket, stated the Irish Times, "the copious use of the watering cart assisted greatly in obtaining this desideratum while the action of the scythe secured the full value of his hits to the batsman, not a blade of grass intervening to retard the progress of the ball."
One long hit, we are told, finished "in the pond, giving the fieldsman an opportunity of cooling his heated extremities by damping them well in his exertions to fish out the ball." The match itself finished inconclusively.
Throughout the summer of 1864 the newspapers were full of allusions to the Earl of Carlisle's rude good health, and it is sad to relate that he later resigned from the Lord Lieutenant's Post and died in England soon afterwards, genuinely missed and greatly mourned. The Gentlemen Vs I Zingari fixture continued to be played in the Vice-Regal's Lodge for some years afterwards, but the Earl's demise marked the beginning of the temporary decline in importance of the Vice-Regal's as Dublin's prime cricketing venue.
Carlisle's faithful servant, Captain Arkwright, survived him only by a couple of years, dying with his sister in an avalanche which took place when they were making an ill advised attempt to climb Mount Blanc. Arkwright's body was found thirty years later, perfectly preserved in the ice and snow.
From the mid 1860's to the early 1880's the progress of Civil Service Cricket Club, and indeed of all of the other Irish cricket clubs was charted and detailed in cricket Annuals published and prepared by John Lawrence, "Cricketing and Archery Outfitter, 39, Grafton Street". Lawrence also had the gall to describe himself as a "Pyrotechnic Artist". (He arranged fireworks displays for regattas and the like.)
In the 1860s the aristocracy were the only people to have the time and the money to play team games. After all, it was only fifteen years since the Great Famine, and most of the country was dragged down in abject poverty. Cricket, imbued as it was with old world traditions and essentially Victorian values, was virtually unchallenged as the team game of the ruling class.