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Henry Frederick Boyle (1847–1907)

by Ian Johnson

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Henry Frederick Boyle (1847-1907), cricketer, was born on 10 December 1847 at Sydney, son of Daniel Boyle, brickmaker and store-keeper, and his wife Charlotte, née Hibbert. He was baptized in the Church of England, although his parents had been married by a Presbyterian minister on 17 October 1843. Boyle and Hibbert names appear often in local cricket records in the 1840s. The family moved to Victoria and settled near Bendigo. In 1857 they were living at Peg Leg Gully between Eaglehawk and Sydney Flat, and Harry was making a name as a 'wonderful boy cricketer'. At 15 he was picked for a Sandhurst 22 against a Victorian 11, and took four wickets in each innings. In 1870 he repeated that performance in a colts' match in Melbourne. Two years later he played for Victoria against New South Wales. In December 1873 he was selected for a Victorian 18 against the all-England 11 led by W. G. Grace. In the first innings Grace had made 33 when his 'leg stump fell to a shooter from Boyle', to the immense enjoyment of the crowd who thought the England captain unbowlable. Next year Boyle was recruited by the East Melbourne Club for challenge matches and soon became its captain, though he also played with the Civil Service Cricket Club.

Boyle toured England with Australian teams as a player in 1878, 1880, 1882, 1884 and 1888 and as manager in 1890. As a medium pace bowler with a deadly leg break his performances were 64 wickets at an average of 9 in 1878; 39 averaging 16 in 1880; top of the averages with 144 averaging 11 in 1882; 67 averaging 17 in 1884; and 11 averaging 18 in 1888. He and Frederick Spofforth became a legend and were considered the greatest bowling combination in the world. In 1878 they dismissed a powerful English side at Lords for 33 and 19, winning the match for Australia by 9 wickets; Boyle's figures were 8 wickets for 17 runs and Spofforth took 11 for 20. Although Australia had defeated England in a Test at Melbourne in 1877, it was not until this match at Lords that Australian cricket was taken seriously in England. Boyle's 6 wickets for 42 against England at Manchester in 1884 was his best Test match performance. In all his Tests he took 32 wickets at an average of 20 runs each. He played for Victoria from 1872 to 1888, was captain from 1875 and a selector from 1880. In intercolonial matches he took 60 wickets for Victoria at 19 runs each. An all-rounder he was also a competent batsman and excellent in the field. He virtually created the position of silly mid-on, where he took some remarkable catches. Over six feet (183 cm) in height, he was well built, alert and active, always ready to sacrifice himself for his team. He 'played the game right up to the handle'.

In 1879 Boyle became a partner with David Scott in the Australian Cricket, Football and Sports Warehouse, Bourke Street, Melbourne. On overseas tours he selected bats and other stock in London, and was reputed a good judge who would take nothing less than the best. His firm gave trophies to country cricket clubs and produced at least three editions of the Australian Cricketers' Guide, crammed with useful advice and information. Above all they encouraged junior cricket. Boyle married Scott's sister, Margaret Wilson. The partnership was dissolved in 1892 and he returned to Bendigo, where he became a collector. After a long illness and a serious operation he died at Bendigo on 21 November 1907.

Select Bibliography

  • Argus (Melbourne), 27, 29, 30 Dec 1873, 22 Aug 1874, 22 Nov 1907
  • Australasian, 12 Dec 1891.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Ian Johnson, 'Boyle, Henry Frederick (1847–1907)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 28 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


10 December, 1847
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


21 November, 1907 (aged 59)
Bendigo, Victoria, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.