Obituary

Albert Hornby

HORNBY, MR. ALBERT HENRY, who died at North Kilworth, near Rugby on September 6, aged 75, captained Lancashire from 1908 to 1914. Born on July 29, 1877, the son of A. N. ("Monkey") Hornby, of England cricket and Rugby football fame, he first appeared for the county in 1899, and during his career he scored 9,541 runs, average 24.78, with 129 against Surrey at The Oval in 1912 his highest innings. Also in 1912, Hornby (96) shared in a partnership of 245 in two and half hours with J. Sharp (211) against Leicestershire at Old Trafford, a Lancashire seventh-wicket record which still stands. Another noteworthy performance of this free-hitting batsman occurred in 1905 when, going in No.9, he hit 106 from the Somerset bowling at Old Trafford, he and W. Findlay who afterwards became Secretary of M.C.C., adding 113 in half an hour for the ninth wicket.

The following appreciation by Mr. Neville Cardus appeared in the Manchester Guardian:--

Those who were boys at Old Trafford just before the war of 1914 will wish to express gratitude for the pleasure given by the cricket of A. H. Hornby. He was no mere chip from the old block; any metaphor suggestive of solidity, woodenness, or any object or body not endowed with spirit and volition is out of place in a discussion or description of the Hornbys. Albert, like his father, played the game for fun, and would have been as ashamed to refuse the challenge of a good ball as the challenge of a stiff jump on the hunting field.

A batsman so constituted and sharing his ideas might easily seem eccentric and anachronistic nowadays. He was known as a dashing batsman. We used strange categories in those old-fashioned years so as to get our players in their right degree and pedigree. There were also stonewallers; one in every county eleven but not more than one as a rule, though Warwickshire boasted two, Quaife and Kinneir, each of whom scored his centuries at the rate of 25 runs an hour, which is the speed of our contemporary "Masters."

Albert Hornby for years was content to go in for Lancashire number seven or eight in the batting order; and usually he sustained an average of round about 23-28 an innings. Considering the quality of first-class bowling then and first-class bowling now, Hornby's figures can safely be raised in the present currency to 32 an innings. He played for the Gentlemen against the Players at Lord's in 1914, went in first, and in the second innings, in spite of a nasty wicket, scored 69 ("hitting brilliantly," says Wisden) against the attack of Barnes, Hitch, Tarrant, Kennedy and J. W. Hearne --and what an attack! He batted in the manner of C. S. Barnett and H. Gimblett, not as good and as well organised as either maybe, but he was in the same class. We could always be sure that if he stayed at the wicket half an hour he would for certain show us every time at least six great and thrilling strokes. Only of Gimblett can as much as this be said in 1952.

He was a gallant and purposeful captain for Lancashire, and a superb fieldsman. To this day I can see his catch near the off-side boundary at Old Trafford in June 1906; he ran yards like a hare to hold a really magnificent hit by E. W. Dillon of Kent. It was in this same match that on Whit Thursday J. T. Tyldesley scored 295 not out and was fielding at third man at six o'clock; Lancashire had made 531 at more than a hundred an hour. This was Woolley's first game in county cricket; he missed one or two catches -- one of them gave Tyldesley a second innings at about 130; he was bowled by Cuttell for none and took one wicket for a hundred odd. But in Kent's second innings he drove and cut in a way that heralded the coming of a new and incomparable star.

Perhaps Hornby himself would wish to be remembered most of all at Old Trafford for his innings of 55 not out against Nottinghamshire in June 1910. On the third day -- a Saturday -- Nottinghamshire, all out second innings, left Lancashire 403 to get to win in five and a quarter hours. Tyldesley and Sharp attacked ruthlessly and scored 191 in two and a half hours. But there was work to do after they had both got out, and Hornby, so we thought, would not bat because of lameness. At the pinch he hobbled to the field on invisible crutches. He scarcely needed his runner; he drove right and left -- off the back foot, an unusual position for any Hornby to be seen in during the act of belabouring a bowler. Lancashire won the match -- 403 in a fourth innings in less than five and a quarter hours. On this occasion -- and I can remember no other -- the crowd rushed across the field to cheer the conquering heroes near the pavilion. One small boy remained gazing in awe at the wicket on which only few moments ago his heroes had stood and walked and run and played. He was mightily impressed by the depth of the holes made by the bowlers... O my Hornby and my Tyldesley long ago!

© John Wisden & Co