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Historic 19th century book on cricket speaks volumes

By Ian Callender

Published 27/05/2015

Piece of history: the Rev David Lapsley rediscovered The Jubilee Book of Cricket (Fifth Edition) in his uncle’s cottage
Piece of history: the Rev David Lapsley rediscovered The Jubilee Book of Cricket (Fifth Edition) in his uncle’s cottage

A classic work on cricket, written in the 19th century, is being donated to the library of Cricket Ireland after the historic book was found on the outskirts of Donemana.

The Jubilee Book of Cricket (Fifth Edition) was written by Prince KS Ranjitsinhji, who played 15 Tests for England at the turn of the century, and was entitled to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897 with the dedication "by her gracious permission to Her Majesty the Queen Empress".

It remains a definitive discourse of the sport, basically a manual on the game of cricket, covering everything from clothing to batting, bowling, fielding and captaincy to profiles of the (then) 15 English counties.

The finder of the book was the Rev David Lapsley, a Presbyterian minister, born in Derry in 1927 but brought up during the war years three and a half miles from the cricket-mad village of Donemana.

And it is that link with Donemana which David is keen to preserve.

"Donemana is a cult for cricket. William Porterfield, the present Ireland captain, is from there, Andy McBrine, another current international, plays for the club, along with his father and uncles and his grandfather Alex McBrine played cricket with me," said David.

"Although I played a couple of games for Donemana and for Brigade, I was just as happy to play in leagues in the townlands around Donemana. But this recreates that atmosphere of times gone by and I'm giving the book to Cricket Ireland as a contribution of one of the clubs."

In sport, the name David Lapsley is probably better known in rugby circles where he played for CIYMS and Malone and was good enough to play for Ulster against Leinster in an inter-provincial although the match did not live long in the memory - it was abandoned after 10 minutes because of ice on the ground!

As a student he played cricket for both Queen's and Trinity before joining North Down in 1957, and he stayed there for seven seasons - also playing hockey for the North Down club.

It was David's uncle, Irwin Craig, who came into possession of the book more than 50 years ago.

The youngest in a family of seven, Irwin was a cricket fanatic but without the discipline to make it even into club cricket.

"He was too rash in his shot selection," is David's recollection but he attended Test matches in Manchester and Leeds in the 1950s.

Although he cannot confirm the story, David believes the book was a present from Irwin's host in Manchester but as a cricket fan himself, it proved a must read for the young Lapsley.

Many years passed and the book was soon out of sight, out of mind, until David found it again.

He recalls: "When Irwin died, the farm passed on to his sister and she left it to her four children so we took ownership in 1994."

Looking through the cottage shortly afterwards, David found a box full of old cigarette cards of cricketers, and tucked in beside it was the (then near 100-year-old) Jubilee Book of Cricket.

"The book was in a sorry state but intact and when I moved to my present home I decided to get it bound and took the decision to put it to a more permanent place."

Cricket Ireland have accepted the book with grateful thanks and it is sure to prove a valuable addition to their library, created by former Irish Cricket Union secretary Derek Scott.

Belfast Telegraph

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