There is an enduring legend that during one game of cricket in Trinity College, a stray ball broke a window of the exclusive Kildare Street Club at the corner of Kildare Street and Nassau Street. The story is usually associated with the legendary British Cricket player W.G. Grace who did visit Dublin a number of times in the late 19th century.
In 1897, witnesses are on the record saying hit a ball from College Park in Trinity over the fence and onto Nassau Street. Since then however, the story has grown legs and numerous individuals have been credited with his achievement.
James Joyce was obviously a fan of the legend as he wrote in Ulysses (1922):
Heavenly weather really. If life was always like that. Cricket weather. Sit around under sunshades. Over after over. Out. They can’t play it here. Duck for six wickets. Still Captain Buller broke a window in the Kildare street club with a slog to square leg.
An online Joyce website has done extensive research on trying to find out who this Bulller referenced could have been.
Stephen Gwynn in his Dublin Old And New book, published in 1938, makes reference to the incident :
(In Trinity) more than one lusty man has lifted a ball to leg and broken a window in Nassau Street: indeed it sticks in my memory that in one of the first Australian teams, when Spofforth was dreaded as a demon bowler, a handsome giant, Bonner, hit a ball off an Irish bowler, to a measured distance of 175 yards
Sports journalist MVC in the Irish Independent on 19 July 1945 wrote:
Famous Cork County cricketer Major Parry … often delighted my young heart with some mighty hitting at College Park. Parry may not have accomplished the legendary feat of breaking a window in the Kildare Street Club but more than once I remember having to duck to avoid being decapitated by fierce hooks that went straight from the bat to the Nassau Street wall without the touching the ground. By way of a chance, can anybody tell me if the Kildare Street Club ever did suffer such an assault and by whom – or is the story as apocryphal as the one about somebody hitting from Rathmines to break the Town Hall Clock
He received a reply from an Enniskerry-based reader the following week:
A window of the Kildare Street Club was broken by a bat but (so far as I know) not by a cricket ball from College Park. In May 1922, I was in Kildare St. when some Army footballers returning from a playing pitch to Oriel House (Westland Row) kicked their ball football in the street. One kick resulted in the smashing of a Kildare St. Club window. The ball was kicked by Capt. Charlie McCable and I think that later McCabe defrayed the glazing expenses.
An Irish Times writer, on a bus home, was retold the Grace story by a friend.
In the paper on 16 September 1954, he recounted the conversation with his companion:
“We are now passing the Kildare Street Club. Nearly a century ago, W.G. Grace broke a window in it with a slog to square leg”. My correction was instantaneous and stern. “It was not W.G. Grace. The man’s name was Tyndall, he was an Irishman, and it didn’t happen nearly a century ago”.
In the 1956 book Cricket in Ireland William Patrick Hone quotes Captain Fowler, the oldest cricketer member of the Kildare Street Club, as saying that the only window he ever heard of being broken “was when a sniper had a shot at Lord Fermoy and missed”.
In The Irish Times on 10 July 1956, ‘Skipper’ suggested that the feat was actually accomplished by a Scottish student:
Scotland were meeting Dublin University … in College Park, and finding themselves a man short, invited “RH”, who was then a student at Edinburgh Veterinary College, to play for them. He accepted, and during his inning he hit two balls into Nassau Street, one of which smashed a window in a cab parked on the roadway, while the other rebounded from the wall of the Kildare street Club. The ‘cabby’ was amply recompensed for the broken window and the balls in question were retrieved in the ordinary way.
An Irish Times article from 11 October 1972 adds even more elaborate details :
W.G. Grace hit a six from Trinity College Park which landed in the Earl of Meath’s custard, thus giving rise to the timeless saying “Waiter, there’s a cricket ball in my soup!”
But while a football and a snipers shot did break windows of the Kildare Street Club, it would seem that that the Cricket ball story is indeed just legend.