Obituary 1899

Mr. I. D. Walker

"On the morning of July 6th, two days before the Eton v. Harrow match, I. D. Walker passed away at his brother R. D. Walker's house in Regent's Park. Very few people except some of his most intimate friends, and the school at Harrow knew that he was ill, so suddenly was he taken from us. Indeed it was only with difficulty that he was persuaded on June 29th-as he was feeling ill-to leave Harrow and come to his brother's with the intention of returning for the old Harrovian match on July 2nd, in which he hoped to play, and captain the side as he had done for so many years. No one who was present at the Eton v. Harrow match can ever forget the sadness of the scene-the flags floating half-mast high, and the genuine grief that was expressed on all sides-for though perhaps there may have been cricketers who have had more friends than I. D. Walker, no cricketer could had so many dear and close friends. Those who had the privilege of this friendship came almost entirely from the cricket field, Harrow men being the most numerous. Throughout his long career he was wonderfully successful; four years in the Harrow XI.; twice captain; and then for 20 years he played for Middlesex, being captain for a great part of that time; in the Gentlemen v. Players match, and indeed all the important matches. He founded the Harrow Wanderers in 1870, and from that date until the time of his death, with the exception of one year, 1885, he played continuously for them. It was entirely due to him that the tour has been such a success for so many years, and those who were fortunate enough to be asked by him to play will never forget his unvarying kindness and the trouble he took to make them happy. We may safely say that devoted as he was to county cricket, Harrow cricket was the thing dearest to his heart, and when he retired from first-class matches after the season of 1884, he gave up the whole of his time to coach the boys at his old school. After the loss of Lord Bessborough and Mr. Grimston, Harrow has indeed been fortunate in having the services of such a successor for the last ten years, for not only did he bring the cricket up to a very high standard, but he gained the love and affection of the boys to an extraordinary degree. To Harrovians and Middlesex cricketers his loss is irreparable and indeed to the whole cricketing world, for he played the game throughout his career in the most chivalrous spirit, and it is impossible to estimate the value of his example."

For the foregoing tribute I am indebted to one of the late Mr. Walker's closest friends and I may perhaps be permitted to supplement this personal note on the famous cricketer with a brief biographical sketch, only slightly altered, that I wrote when the announcement of his death appeared:-

"With Harrow and Middlesex cricket Mr. I. D. Walker's name will be associated as long as the national game retains its popularity. He was captain of the Harrow eleven in 1862 and 1863, and had even then played for Middlesex, the formation of the county club being, as everyone knows, chiefly due to the Walkers. All the sons in the family played cricket, but only four became famous-John, who died in 1885, V. E., R. D., and I. D. It is, perhaps, a fair criticism to say that V. E. was the finest all-round player, and I. D. the best bat. Gradually improving after he left Harrow, Mr. I. D. Walker jumped to the top of the tree in 1868, in which year he had, by general consent, no superior as a batsman, except Mr. W. G. Grace. It was in 1868 that he played his great innings of 165 for the Gentlemen at the Oval, an innings which, after an interval of thirty years, is referred to in enthusiastic terms by everyone who had the pleasure of seeing it. No one but Mr. Grace, it may be mentioned, has ever made a bigger score for Gentlemen against Players, either at the Oval or Lord's. Like all other batsmen, I. D. Walker had his good and bad seasons, but he kept up his form wonderfully well, and even so late as 1883 he did one of the biggest things of his career, he and the Hon. Alfred Lyttelton for Middlesex against Gloucestershire at Clifton, scoring 324 runs together for the second wicket. Mr. Walker made 145 and Lyttelton 181. It is recorded that after the luncheon interval the two batsmen put on 226 runs in an hour and three-quarters. It is never safe to be dogmatic on anything connected with cricket, but one may question whether such an extreme rate of run-getting has ever been sustained for so long a time in a first-class match. Be this as it may, however, the hitting was altogether exceptional in quality. Mr. Walker scored 552 runs for Middlesex in 1883 with an average of 34, and though he had been before the public for more than twenty years, no one outside his immediate circle of friends knew that his career in big matches was nearing its close. However, he made up his mind that the season of 1884 should be his last, and he kept to his resolve, handing over the captaincy of the Middlesex eleven after 1884 to Mr. A. J. Webbe. He said at the time that he thought he could bat nearly as well as ever, but that he knew he was falling off in the field. Perhaps he was wise to retire while his powers were so little impaired, but the county team did not seem itself without him. He was the last of the Walkers, and the Walkers had made Middlesex cricket.

As a batsman, I. D. Walker was essentially a punishing player. Probably no one could hit harder on the off-side. He had one stroke which, if not peculiar to himself, has been possessed by very few batsmen. Shaping as if for an orthodox drive, he would often send the ball over cover-point's head to the boundary. The hit was too much in the air to be pretty to look at, but unless a fieldsman had been placed out deep it was safe, and the ball nearly always went to the ring. Sometimes against left-handed bowlers the hit would go as far back as third man, looking then to those not familiar with Mr. Walker's style of play to be quite a fluke. As pointed out in Mr. Grace's book on cricket, one of the other batsman noted for this particular hit was H. H. Massie, the fastest run-getter in the great Australian team of 1882. Like many Harrow batsmen, I. D. Walker stood at the wicket with his legs rather wide apart, but he made full use of his height, his style being quite different to that of A. J. Webbe and W. H. Hadow. He depended on driving for most of his runs, but could score all round the wicket. Though it is considerably more than twenty years ago, one recalls a tremendous hit of his at Lord's which went through the billiard-room window, and would assuredly have found its way into St. John's Wood-road, if there had been nothing to stop it. In the field Mr. Walker almost invariably stood mid-off, and in his young days no one in that position surpassed him. He was an extremely good underhand bowler but when his brother V. E. was on the same side, as was almost invariably the case in his earlier days, his services were seldom required. Later on when he himself acted as captain in important matches, he was always different about putting himself on. When he could be persuaded to bowl he was most successful, as the records of the Harrow Wanderers' tours will bear testimony. After he retired from the captaincy of the Middlesex eleven a presentation was made to him in the Pavilion at Lord's, the chief spokesman on the occasion being Lord George Hamilton. Even at this distance of time I have a vivid recollection of Mr. Walker's speech in returning thanks to his cricket comrades, in whose delightful society, he said, all the pleasantest hours of his life had been passed. Much more could be written, but it may suffice to say that one of the most notable figures in modern cricket has passed from among us. Born on Jan. 8th, 1844, Mr. Walker was in his fifty-fifth year."

The funeral on Monday, July 11, drew to Southgate Churchyard a notable band of cricketers. Whichever way one looked familiar faces were to be seen. Cricket of a bygone time was represented by Harvey Fellows, Canon McCormick, R. A. H. Mitchell, and C. E. Green, and not far from them stood such great players of the present day as A. E. Stoddart, A. C. MacLaren, F. G. J. Ford, and G. MacGregor. These two generations were, if one may say so, united by the presence of A. N. Hornby, A. J. Webbe, and A. P. Lucas, three batsmen who, though their early fame dates back a long time, are still playing first-class cricket. Among others present were the Rev. J. E. C. Welldon, E. E. Bowen, the Hon. Alfred Lyttelton-a personal friend, and President of the M. C. C.- Lord Harris, C. W. Alcock (officially representing the Surrey Club) and quite a number of past and present Middlesex players- E. Rutter, Stanley Scott. C. T. Studd, P. F. Warner, and Sir T. C. O'Brien. Professional cricket at the present time seemed to be represented only by J. T. Hearne. George Hearne, senior, who played for Middlesex in old days at the Cattle Market Ground was there, but his better known brother, the veteran Tom Hearne, was prevented by feeble health from being present. The body was laid to rest in the family vault of the Walkers, which stands just outside the west front of Southgate Church. Wreaths had been sent by cricketers and cricket clubs from all parts of the country, a prominent place being of course given to the one from the Marylebone Club. The coffin bore the simple inscription: Isaac Donnithorne Walker. Born January 8, 1844. Died July 6, 1898. S. H. P.

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