John Elicius Benedict Bernard Placid Quirk Carrington ‘EB’ Dwyer, born May 3, 1876, is typically remembered for his absurdly long name. However, there was more to Dwyer beyond that. A decent fast-medium who used his height well, Dwyer had his days of glory in the first decade of the 20th century. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the career of a New South Welshman who carved out a niche for himself for Sussex.
Even if he had not done anything remarkable, John Elicius Benedict Bernard Placid Quirk Carrington Dwyer would have stood out among all cricketers on sheer virtue of his behemoth of a name. Indeed, only names of such imposing length are rarely seen outside Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka, of course, is different. Sri Narayana Ratnayake Herath Mudiyanselage Senadi Bandara Malmeewala easily matches Dwyer’s eight-word. And we are not even bringing Amunugama Rajapakse Rajakaruna Abeykoon Panditha Wasalamudiyanse Ralahamilage Rajitha Krishantha Bandara Amunugama, the Godfather in the realm of long-named cricketers.
But Dwyer was special. He did a decent job in First-Class cricket, playing all his 61 matches for Sussex between 1904 and 1909, taking 179 wickets at a shade under 28. In fact, 154 of these came from 46 matches in 1906 and 1907. Also a hard-hitting batsman, he scored 986 runs at almost 12.
What was Dwyer the bowler like? Christopher Lee wrote that he “bowled with a high right-arm action that produced lift and not a little turn.” “Although having good pace, he was an unequal howler, but deadly on his day,” added Wisden.
The noughties were the decade when KS Ranjitsinhji and CB Fry dominated Sussex cricket, overwhelming one opposition after another with their heavy scoring in contrasting styles. The bowling stars were the right-handed Albert Relf and the left-handed George Cox, both of whom could bowl both seam and spin. There was also Fred Tate, with whom Dwyer had a small overlap.
A deported Irishman
Before we move on to JEBBPQC Dwyer, let us make a brief detour of Ireland in the closing years of the 18th century. While cricket was taking shape in England (with under-arm bowling, of course, and striped shirts and top-hats, and hundreds of pounds at stake), the Irish Rebellion had broken out across the Irish Sea.
That was in 1798. One Michael Dwyer, then 26, fought under the famous Joseph Holt at Arklow, Vinegar Hill, Ballyellis, and Hacketstown. Unfortunately, the rebels were thwarted in the Midlands Campaign.
Thus dispersed, the rebels regrouped under Dwyer, who masterminded several guerrilla campaigns on small, unsuspecting groups of soldiers. The British hunted for his head, but in vain — till they discovered him in one of three adjacent cottages.
Despite there being a bout of gunfire, Dwyer escaped unscathed — though that had to do with Sam McAllister taking bullets for him by protecting the door and allowing Dwyer to escape. He later communicated with Robert Emmet, promising him help provided Emmet found initial success. Unfortunately, Emmet never managed to break through.
Note: The cottage, in the Glen of Imaal, County Wicklow has been given National Monument status by the Irish Government. It goes by the name Dwyer-McAllister Cottage.
This gave the Government hope. They either announced rewards or intimidated the people, making sure Dwyer was denied shelter. Following a negotiation, Dwyer surrendered in December 1803 on the grounds that he would be granted passage to North America.
Unfortunately, the Government did not keep their promise. He was imprisoned at Kilmainham Jail, Dublin till August 1805. Then he was deported to New South Wales, Australia with his wife Mary Doyle. There, as free settler, he was granted 100 acres of land.
Dwyer fathered seven children. In a letter to Freeman’s Journal (Sydney) dated April 23, 1898, Mary Anne Donoghue, a descendant, wrote that “the number of grand and great-grandchildren of Captain Dwyer is 130.”
John Elicius Benedict Bernard Placid Quirk Carrington Dwyer was one of these great-grandsons. The exact lineage is not clear, but we can make a guess: Michael’s second child John had a son called John Elicius Benedict; our hero may be his son, given the names.
Exactly why (or who) decided he should have eight words in his name is not known. One can only hope it was in the best interests of the man.
The Sussex Cricket official website takes a dig at Michael: “Perhaps it was during those long days in hiding that he thought it might be fun if one day a descendant of his had seven initials.”
Plum and Fry
Tim Heald, in The Character of Cricket, narrates a conversation with Ossie Osborne, Honorary Librarian of Sussex CCC. Osborne mentioned Dwyer playing a match “for a relatively minor team” against Plum Warner’s MCC when they toured Australia in 1903-04. Warner, impressed by what he saw, said “well bowled, you must come and play in England.”
Note: I failed to find a scorecard of the match. There was a Dwyer who played for Melbourne Juniors XVIII against the tourists. This Dwyer claimed 3 for 77, getting rid of Len Braund, Bernard Bosanquet, and Dick Lilley. Exactly why a New South Welshman would play for Melbourne Juniors is not clear, but it is the only scorecard that features a Dwyer. However, this is probably not our Dwyer, since The Age mentions him bowling left-handed. The person also played football for Richmond, while our Dwyer played cricket for Redfern — and there is no mention of him playing football.
While it is generally accepted that Dwyer played for Redfern Wednesday CC and later Redfern CC, The Sun (Sydney) came up with an interesting addition: “His services were sought by all the principal clubs in the district of Sydney, and he created some fine records. After giving of his best to one of the leading clubs (Paddington) he joined the Sydney Club.”
Did Dwyer play for Redfern or Paddington? Or was it both? We do not know.
Warner had probably made a casual comment (we are going by Osborne here), but Dwyer took it rather seriously. He left Australia on March 12, 1904 and showed up in England on April 28. There was no one to receive him. Refusing to get demoralised, he managed to find Fry, and even impressed him with his bowling.
“Well bowled, come down to Sussex and we’ll have a look at you,” said Fry, almost echoing the words of Warner. But Fry kept his word: after having a long look at Dwyer in the nets, Fry decided he had it in him.
He made his Sussex debut that summer, routing Cambridge with 4 for 70 and 4 for 56. He was still ineligible to play the Championship, and was restricted mostly to the Second XI.
However, when the Australians came over in 1905, he opened bowling and sent down 53 overs for his 6 for 178. His wickets included Victor Trumper, Bert Hopkins, and Joe Darling.
That season he had an outstanding stint with Brunswick Club, Hove: he topped their batting charts with an average of 66.91 and claimed 100 wickets at 7.40.
The next season he made his Championship debut.
Rise and decline
Dwyer took 1 for 29 in the first innings of the match, against Derbyshire. In the second innings he got first over: he justified Fry’s faith on him, bowling unchanged to take 9 for 35 (7 bowled, 1 leg-before).
It was unlikely that he would improve on this anytime soon, but Dwyer did exactly that in a month’s time, against Middlesex. This time he bowled unchanged throughout the match, taking 7 for 56 and 9 for 44 (6 bowled, 1 leg-before in the second innings).
Dwyer’s match figures of 16 for 100 remain the second-best for Sussex, bettered by only Cox’s 17 for 106. This excludes William Lillywhite’s 16-wicket haul back in 1826, where the number of runs conceded is unknown.
Later that season against Surrey he walked out at 125 for 8 and smashed a 50-ball unbeaten 63 with 10 fours — after taking 5 for 83.
He finished that season with 96 wickets at 26.80. His 58 wickets in the next season came at 27.65. That included the match against the South Africans, whom he routed for 49. Once again he bowled unchanged, this time taking 6 for 25. “He had a great deal to do with the Colonials being dismissed for 49, their smallest total during their tour,” reported Wisden.
Then began a slide: in 1908 he got a mere 5 wickets from 9 matches, and there were 4 more from 3 matches in 1909. He never played again.
An abrupt end
However, there was no shortage of cricket for Dwyer. In 1910 he became the first professional to sign up for Rawtenstall in the Lancashire League. In fact, Dwyer and fellow New South Welshman Alex Kermode (who got a contract with Bacup) were the first professionals to play in the league.
Dwyer finished the season with spectacular figures of 83 wickets at 11.07. Towards the end of the season he had a run of 6 for 13, 7 for 43, 6 for 41, and 7 for 48 in consecutive innings.
He signed up with Crewe Alexandra in the North Staffordshire and District Cricket League the following year. “There is general disappointment at his leaving Rawtenstall,” reported The Referee.
John Elicius Benedict Bernard Placid Quirk Carrington Dwyer was suddenly taken ill in July during his second season for the club. He died in Crewe two years later, at a mere 36.