Ireland's Greatest Cricketers 8: EDR Shearer
Edgar Donald Reid Shearer
Donald Shearer was a complete all round sportsman, who contributed greatly to Irish cricket in general, and that of the North West in particular, both off and on the field. He also played rugby at senior level and was a hugely talented footballer and could have certainly made his way in the English professional game.
He was educated at Aldenham in Hertfordshire but was not mentioned among its famous cricketers in Barclay's World of Cricket; a strange omission considering the quality of some of those mentioned. He was however in both the cricket and football XIs. On leaving school, he took up an appointment in textile manufacturing in Derry and was soon in the City of Derry XI making 50 on debut on a snow-covered pitch in April 1927.
After some disappointments, he became established in 1931 as one of the leading batsmen in the NWCU area. Wonderfully quick on his feet, he was equally at home playing forward or back, dismissing all types of bowling from his presence. He created all sorts of records in NW cricket. He was, for example, the first to score a century in the NWCU Cup Final 110 v St Johnson in 1932. This was also his first ton in the North West: he had been out for 99 in the semi final out of 139-4.
Billy Platt, tireless historian of North West cricket described the innings; "Shearer played a faultless innings and hit 20 fours with 11 consecutive scoring strokes reaching the boundary." Altogether, he hit 11 hundreds in NWCU competitions. The highest was a brilliant 233 v Killaloo in 1933 in the semifinal, the first such score in NW competitive cricket.
He often made runs in partnership with the former Cliftonville and Ireland bat RW Moore. Thus against Killaloo, in the League in August 1935 they added 199 for the 4th wicket, Shearer 102* in 75 minutes, Moore 101* in 67. He also made 115 for NWCU v Lancashire at Sion Mills in 1934."He gave a brilliant display of batting, driving and pulling with great power and showed magnificent footwork." (Platt).
A further ton came in an NCU Cup game v Cliftonville in 1935 No NWCU player had ever been selected for Ireland, a somewhat jaundiced and patronising view of the area's cricket being taken by both Dublin and Belfast authorities. However by 1932, Shearer's performances were such that he could no longer be ignored.
Doubters in the LCU, who wished to block his selection, were silenced when he scored 80 in an hour against Jimmy Boucher and Eddie Ingram. He was an automatic choice for the remainder of his career. As Clarence Hiles has pointed out," He gave North West cricket a strong presence at the highest level in Irish cricket." It is inarguable that he paved the way for the many excellent cricketers from the NWCU who have since pulled on the Irish Sweater.
His performances for Ireland were, in many instances outstanding, and it is surprising that he did not exceed the 1300 runs at 23.21 with which he finished. However his record stands up well to those of his contemporaries. His first half-century for Ireland was against MCC in July 1934 in a drawn match at Sion Mills. He made 59, adding 156 for the second wicket with Sammy Edgar, who hit a debut 103. A week later Don was in runs again against the same opponents with 30 and 40 falling to South African Test player DP Morel in each innings.
His best match was in 1937 v Sir Julian Cahn's XI at Stanford Hall, Nottingham. His 52 and 102 made him the first Irish batsman to score a fifty and a century in the same match. Two more firsts that season were, first to four consecutive 50s and first to 300 in a season. He also impressed against the 1938 Australians on a gloomy September afternoon in College Park. He defied an on song Bill O'Reilly for a three-hour 56, none of his teammates managed double figures.
When cricket resumed after the War, he had moved to Belfast where he played for NICC until 1955, though he was briefly "poached" by Willie Andrews for North Down. His best innings for Ireland, until his retirement in 1952, were 43 v South Africa at Ormeau in 1947, sharing a match winning stand with Bobby Barnes and a second innings 101* v MCC at Lord's in 1951 (one 5 nine 4s), the first hundred for Ireland at the famous ground.
During the War he had served in the Royal Artillery, having been a Territorial Officer. He reached the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, was mentioned in despatches and finished the conflict with an OBE. He also finished his football career. After winning an army match 2-1 at Tobruk in 1944, he decided his skills had gone and threw his boots into the sea.
He had played with great distinction for Derry City and turned down a trial with Arsenal. He was in two Irish League sides that won memorable victories over the English League. He also gained 7 Amateur International caps for England and won an FA Amateur Cup Medal with Corinthians in 1934.
He was also surely the only Irish cricket international to appear in the notorious "Hitler's Games" at Munich in 1936, as part of the British football team. There remained a career in public life, as well as being ICU President in 1966, ADC to the Governor of Northern Ireland and to the Queen; he was chairman of the Sports Council of Northern Ireland in late 1960.
He did not please everybody as he could be blunt, but he established the importance of the body, even though he was not reappointed. He was awarded the CBE for services to Northern Ireland.
His obituary is in Wisden 2000 and he is profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald Ireland 100 Cricket Greats.
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