Lambert, Ham (Noel Hamilton) (1910–2006), sportsman and veterinary surgeon, was born 10 June 1910 in Dublin, the eldest son of Robert James Hamilton (Bob) Lambert (see below), veterinary surgeon and cricketer, of Rathmines, Dublin, and his wife Nora (née Mitchell). He was educated in Dublin, at Earlsfort House School and Sandford Park School, and then in Lancashire at Rossall School.
Rugby A keen sportsman, he played rugby and cricket for Rossall and joined Lansdowne RFC after leaving school. His first competitive match for Lansdowne firsts was in 1928 when he was a late replacement in the Leinster senior cup semi-final; he became Lansdowne's regular outside centre in the 1928/9 season.
A dynamic runner, capable of devastating opportunistic breaks and particularly dangerous when pouncing on a loose ball, he was also a skilled footballer and occasionally filled in as a stopgap out-half and place kicker. He was well worth his place in what was one of the great Irish club sides, which won five Leinster senior cups in a row (1927–31) and provided Ireland with its entire three-quarter line in three matches in 1931. With Lansdowne he won two Leinster senior cups and two Bateman cups in 1929 and 1931, scoring five tries in his two Bateman cup final appearances. Injuries cost him a further two Leinster medals and one Bateman medal and delayed his achievement of international honours. Between 1930 and 1934, he played six times for Leinster and participated in four final trials for Ireland.
Despite Lambert's being arguably the most exciting attacking player in Irish rugby, the international selectors harboured justifiable doubts over his defensive attributes. Moreover, non-Lansdowne teammates, being unaccustomed to him, were unsettled by his idiosyncrasies and tendency to hold on to the ball for too long. His outstanding form during the 1933/4 season compelled the international selectors to relent and award him two caps in 1934. He betrayed his worst flaw in a disastrous debut against Scotland and probably cost Ireland the match. Because he was part of an inexperienced backline and was denied the assistance of strong tacklers around him, his defensive shortcomings were ruthlessly exposed. Considered fortunate to be given a second chance against Wales, he produced a much-improved defensive performance while visibly struggling against admittedly formidable opposition.
Shortly before the end of that season he ruptured his cruciate ligament in a club match, forcing his retirement from rugby aged 23. This was the greatest disappointment of his life, denying a still-developing career the chance to fulfil its potential and making certain that he never played for Ireland in his club grounds at Lansdowne Road (his two caps were away matches). The injury left him unable to bend his knee and Dublin's leading orthopaedic surgeons declared that he would never run again. He turned to a quack osteopath in Cork known as Lane the Bonesetter who cured him sufficiently to permit the resumption of his non-rugby sporting activities.
Referee Rugby remained his first love and in 1936 he took up refereeing. Beginning at junior rugby level, by 1938 he was refereeing interprovincial matches. In January 1946 he refereed an informal international between England and Scotland, going on to oversee eleven official internationals during 1947–52 and enjoying in 1949 the rare distinction of refereeing four internationals within one Five Nations championship season. He also officiated at the annual Oxford and Cambridge varsity encounter in 1946. Regarded as among the best international referees of the post-war era, he brought a new dimension to refereeing in Ireland. While few important infringements escaped his whistle, his inspired application of the advantage rule and uncanny ability to predict the emergence of an apparently buried ball from a ruck or maul facilitated a flowing game. He possessed an unrivalled grasp of the minutiae of the ever-evolving rugby regulations, once halting a senior match to instruct the players in a new hooking law.
His weak knee forced his retirement in 1954 after which he served the Leinster Rugby Referees Association as coach, selector, president and senior assessor of referees, stepping down as assessor shortly before his death aged 96. In 2005 the IRFU awarded him a special cap in recognition of his status as the doyen of Irish rugby refereeing and of his contribution to the high standard of refereeing in Ireland. He served as president of Lansdowne Rugby Club (1961–2) and played a leading role in establishing in 1955 and in continuing the Irish Wolfhounds club, which promoted rugby in rural Ireland by bringing together players from Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and France, and enjoining them to play attractive rugby.
Cricket He pursued a noteworthy cricket career, first playing for Leinster Cricket Club aged 14 and becoming a regular in the late 1920s. A middle-order batsman, he had quick feet, enabling him to get to the pitch of the ball while also permitting him to hook or cut successfully off his back foot. He attacked the bowling from the off, preferring to play off his front foot and dispatch the ball with straight drives. This carefree approach made for fast scoring but not for consistently prolonged innings. He lamented that his father was never able to impart his impeccable technique, though Ham's flaws owed more to impatience. The strongest aspect of his game was his fielding, which, even after his cruciate injury, was characterised by strenuous application, immaculate ground fielding and low, swift returns to the wicketkeeper. He was universally regarded as the best cover point fielder in the country.
In a Leinster Cricket Club career that continued to 1950, he accumulated 5,980 runs at an average of 30.35, including five 100s, thirty-two 50s and a highest score of 149 not out against Dublin University in College Park in 1942. He won the Marchant Cup (awarded to the leading batsman in competitive Leinster cricket) in consecutive seasons, amassing 574 runs at an average of 37 in 1941 and 513 runs at an average of 57 in 1942. Having assumed the club captaincy in 1941 when the formerly invincible Leinster club was regarded as having sunk into irreversible decline, he provided leadership and batting that revitalised the team and immediately yielded a Leinster senior league and cup double.
In 21 matches for Ireland during 1931–47 he scored 577 runs at 18.03 with one 100 and one 50. In the nine of these games that are accounted as first-class matches he scored 213 runs at an average of 14.2. These figures do him little justice. The only Irish batsman of his generation capable of scoring from a wide range of strokes against accurate bowling, he provided a much-needed attacking element at a time when Irish batting was otherwise dispiritingly timorous. His affability also cultivated harmony within the Irish dressing room during a period of tension between the cricketing fraternities of the north and south. His most memorable performances for Ireland were his debut in 1931, when he scored a rapid and stylish 45 against MCC at Lords when batting at number 8, and his top score of 103 in 1938 against Sir Julian Cahn's XI at Rathmines.
A member of Delgany, Milltown, Grange, Castle (of Rathfarnham) and Carrickmines golf clubs, he played off a handicap of 4 for eight years and in 1941 won the Barton Cup as part of the Castle team. At badminton, he was an interprovincial player, international trialist and president of Ailesbury Badminton Club.
Veterinary surgeon During his childhood he often accompanied his father on his calls, inspiring him to continue the family profession and providing an early grounding in animal care. In 1930 he qualified as a vet from the Veterinary College of Ireland and practised with his father (who specialised in draught horses) in Richmond Street. Recognising that Dublin factories and shops would in time switch from horses to mechanised transport (this occurred rapidly from the 1930s), he developed his father's cattle practice. He knew little about cows, but he liked their placidity and learned from herders. The youngest vet in the Dublin area, he was obliged to take all the night calls (generally for calving): his physical fitness stood him in good stead during this gruelling period in which he built up a large cattle practice.
As a greater emphasis on hygiene led to the disappearance of cattle within the capital (he estimated that during his early career there were thousands of cattle kept in the inner city and suburbs), and as dairy farms receded before the Dublin sprawl, the cattle work required too much travelling and he relinquished it in 1954. In 1945, with the horse business in steep decline, he began treating family pets (particularly dogs), pioneering such treatment in Ireland. He converted his premises at Richmond Street from a horse infirmary into a small-animal hospital capable of catering to fifty-two cats and dogs. The Veterinary College had taught nothing about small animals so he observed his doctor friends as they were operating on human patients and found that much of what he saw was applicable to small animals. His small-animals practice flourished, becoming the largest in Ireland, in time boasting three associate vets, a trimming department and two branch practices.
Unorthodox treatments In 1945 he began treating dogs and then a variety of other animals with vitamin E, which yielded remarkable results. At that time only a few doctors (who were dismissed as charlatans) were treating patients with vitamin E and no vets were doing so. Critics contended that the cures were psychosomatic but he pointed out that this could not be the case with animals. He wrote a paper on the efficacy of vitamin E in dealing with circulatory and hormonal problems in small animals, which was turned down by the Irish Veterinary Journal before being eventually published in the Veterinary Record, a British periodical. In 1955 a leading Canadian pharmaceutical firm provided him with funding to treat with vitamin E horses with cardiovascular diseases, though nothing seems to have come from this. Believing that it delayed the ageing process, he took 400 units of vitamin E every day.
Lambert also turned for inspiration to the unorthodox osteopath who had righted his knee in 1934. After Lane the Bonesetter taught him how to perform osteopathic manipulations on humans, he discovered that this skill was also transferable to dogs and as a result he got a great deal of work with greyhounds. He found that osteopathy also enabled him to make accurate diagnosis without recourse to x-rays, though his veterinary colleagues treated both this claim and his outspoken advocacy of the healing qualities of vitamin E with pronounced scepticism, regarding him as somewhat eccentric.
His unconventional approach owed something to the circumstances of the 1930s when all veterinary medicines had to be ordered from London at six-monthly intervals: this often resulted in a shortfall, obliging him to improvise his own medicines, most successfully a hexamine sodium acid phosphate to treat urinary infections, which he continued to use even after veterinary antibiotics became widely available in the 1950s.
From the early 1940s, he served as unpaid vet to Dublin Zoo, looking after lions, tigers and the smaller animals. This stimulating work provided further confirmation of the efficacy of vitamin E; it was also hazardous, given that the lack of stun guns meant that the lions and tigers were restrained with ropes and chains. A member of the zoo council from 1945, he served as president for 1962–5. He acted as veterinary inspector in the RDS for eighteen years at the Bull Show and for fifty years at the St Patrick's Day Dog Show. In the early days he typically refused up to twenty dogs suffering from distemper, mange and ringworm.
Through the RDS Dog Show he became involved in the fund-raising for and the administration of the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind. Despite once being prosecuted unsuccessfully by the DSPCA for cruelty to a cow (the first case it ever lost), he worked voluntarily for the organisation for many years and called unavailingly for the banning of cutting dogs' tails purely for the sake of appearances. He sat on the council of the Veterinary Medical Association of Ireland in 1949 and was president in 1952.
Following advances in small-animal medicine and surgery, and stricter regulations requiring extensive alterations to his hospital in South Richmond Street, he sold his practice in 1979, working for another two years as part of a larger, amalgamated small-animals practice. He hoped to sell the South Richmond Street hospital as a commercial site, but to his distress Dublin Corporation designated it for residential use and it fetched a meagre price. After retirement he continued to treat animals at his residence and to assist Dublin Zoo. His myriad sporting achievements, prominence as Dublin's leading small-animals vet, and outgoing personality made him a well-known and well-liked figure within the city.
In 1948 he married Jean McIver; they had three children. In retirement he lived near Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, and remained active until some months before his death, which occurred at the Dargle Nursing Home, Co. Wicklow, on 10 October 2006. He was buried at Schull, Co. Cork. His youngest brother, Gordon (qv), was a noted businessman and collector of modern art.
Ham Lambert's paternal grandfather, Thomas Drummond Lambert (1837–1911), veterinary surgeon, was born in Old Trafford, near Manchester, son of Septimus Lambert, cattle dealer; nothing is known of his mother. Two of his brothers qualified as vets, most notably Colonel James Lambert (1835–1905), who pursued a distinguished career in the British army, serving as director general of the Army Veterinary Department (1891–7) and president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in London (1891–2).
Thomas attended Manchester Grammar School, before studying at Edinburgh Veterinary College, qualifying in 1859. After working as a veterinary assistant in Manchester, Liverpool and London, in 1862 he moved to Dublin to serve as assistant to J. J. Farrell, a leading practitioner based in Wicklow Street. He established his own practice on Dawson Street in 1866, having a separate infirmary for horses on South Anne Street.
In January 1866 the Irish administration, worried by the outbreak of cattle plague in Britain, dispatched him to England to study the plague and report on ways of preventing its spread to Ireland. Later that year his diagnosis of a case of cattle plague in Ireland was vociferously disputed by the farming community but the ensuing and vigorous preventative measures (mainly the slaughter of cattle to isolate the disease) undertaken by the government appear to have stopped the disease from becoming prevalent.
While Lambert also treated cattle and dogs, increasingly he specialised in – and came to be regarded as the foremost Irish authority on – horses, including draught horses, hunters, racehorses and trotting ponies. His most important client was the Guinness company, presumably the unidentified brewer on whose behalf he was purchasing draught horses in 1870. In 1898 he was formally appointed veterinary surgeon to the Guinness brewery. His bluff manner and habitual good cheer made him popular with his customers but could not deflect professional jealousy. In 1869 he was forced to deny rumours that he favoured wealthier clients in the provision of his veterinary services.
The business's rapid growth forced him to move to larger premises, first in 1870 at William Street, and then in 1879 to an eight-acre site on Store Street. The Store Street premises were considered the most impressive of their kind in the country, boasting a forge, a surgery, an infirmary for sick horses, stables, an indoor riding school and residential apartments for employees. In the late 1880s the Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford Railway Company claimed a portion of this property for a railway, overcoming his legal resistance and paying due compensation. As a result in 1892 he opened a new branch of his business at 47 South Richmond Street, moving his forge and horse infirmary to that location.
A member of the colleges in Edinburgh and London, he was made a fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in 1867. He served eight years as president of the Veterinary Medical Association of Ireland. For forty-one years (1869–1910) he acted as veterinary surgeon at the Royal Dublin Society's horse show, often as referee at the show, and he was appointed honorary veterinary surgeon to the Royal Agricultural Society in 1875. He had a high reputation in England where he was appointed to the board of examiners of the council (1870) and elected vice-president (1884) of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. The Royal Commission on Horse Breeding also engaged him for a number of years to officiate at the Islington horse show.
Irish-based vets did not wish to see the establishment in Ireland of a veterinary college; they regarded the lack of such an institution as a convenient way of preventing the overcrowding of their profession. As a result of such attitudes the Irish veterinary profession was for long excluded from attempts to organise an Irish veterinary college, an exclusion at which Lambert somewhat disingenuously chose to express his public indignation. When the Royal Veterinary College of Ireland was belatedly established in 1900, Lambert was appointed to the board.
Serving as veterinary surgeon to a succession of lords lieutenant, he attended professionally the royal stud of horses at the Viceregal Lodge during Queen Victoria's visit to Dublin in 1900, for which he was appointed by royal warrant veterinary surgeon to the queen in Ireland. This appointment was renewed upon the accessions of Edward VII (1901) and George V (1910). When King Edward visited Ireland in 1903 the sudden death of his Irish terrier Jack provoked suspicions that the dog had been poisoned. However, Lambert's post-mortem defused a potential political crisis by demonstrating that the terrier had died from overfeeding. The grateful monarch presented him with a diamond scarf-pin inscribed 'E.R. VII', which became a cherished family souvenir.
Lambert treated animals compassionately and disliked the cruel practice of 'firing' horses with hot irons to treat lameness. As early as 1867, he had prepared and was marketing alternative medicines for lameness. After years of experimentation, in 1889 (possibly in conjunction with his son Thomas, who later claimed to be the inventor) he developed a tar and iodine preparation called Reducine, which cured painlessly by absorption and left no blemish. Assisted by his brother James, he marketed it in America where it was patented and proved enormously successful. In 1908 they began marketing it in Ireland with similar success.
He owned and bred horses for sale including racehorses and was a regular attendee at race meetings, his best racehorse being the steeplechaser Artane. His greatest contribution to the sport occurred in the early 1890s when his ministrations saved the life of Henry Greer's (qv) subsequently renowned stallion Gallinule. Lambert also enjoyed cricket and was a member of Leinster Cricket Club.
Lambert married Kate Barrett in 1871; they had four sons. Having earlier lived at 11 Duggan Place, Rathmines, he settled in Mount Anthony, Rathmines. In 1898 he went into semi-retirement, dividing his practice between his sons Thomas and Robert. He died at Mount Anthony on 25 May 1911 and was buried in Mount Jerome cemetery. The Reducine business was continued by his son Thomas and eventually collapsed due to mismanagement.
Ham Lambert's father and Thomas Lambert's eldest son, Bob (Robert James Hamilton) Lambert (1874–1956), cricketer and veterinary surgeon, was born in Rathmines, Dublin, on 18 July 1874. He was educated in Dublin at Rathmines School and Wesley College, and then at St John's School in Preston, Lancashire, before studying at Edinburgh Veterinary College. After qualifying in 1898, he continued his father's practice at 47 Richmond Street. Under the 1898 partitioning of the Lambert practice, he was responsible for draught horses; his main customers were the Guinness brewery and the city dairies and bakeries. Later he diversified into cattle and meat inspections in butchers' shops. He settled at Highfield Road, Rathmines, and in 1907 married Nora Mitchell.
Raised in Rathmines, he joined the nearby Leinster Cricket Club, breaking into the first team in 1889 and scoring 89 not out against Laytown village. In recognition of this auspicious debut his teammates presented him with a bat as a momento. He continued his club career with Leinster, apart from a period from the mid 1890s when he played part of the season with Caledonian Leith while studying in Edinburgh; he also played for Scotland against Dublin University in 1898. In 1893, he was selected as a late replacement for Ireland against I Zingari and batting at number 10 scored 51 runs in as many minutes. Later that year he enjoyed a successful tour of England, hitting 115 against W. H. Laverton's XI, despite batting with a runner due to injury.
His right-handed batting technique was utilitarian and effective, mercilessly dispatching balls with powerful straight drives and hooks. He was quick on his feet and a good judge of when to leave a ball. Cautious on arriving at the crease, once established he rapidly bludgeoned an attack into submission with a succession of boundaries. He tended to bat at number 3 or 4, which suited his aggression. He hit 101 centuries in all forms of the game, including eight double 100s and 53 unbeaten stands; his highest score was 256 not out against Co. Kildare in 1904. A right-arm off-spin bowler, he was accurate and consistent, his medium-pace off-breaks lifting and turning unpredictably even on tame surfaces. Touring sides often found him unplayable on the invariably soft Irish wickets. He took five hat tricks during his career.
Among contemporaries, Lucius Gwynn (qv) was a superior batsman and Thomas Ross a better bowler, but Lambert was the most celebrated Irish cricketer of his generation by virtue of his versatility, longevity and relentless accumulation of records in Irish club cricket. Between 1889 and 1934 he amassed approximately 37,000 runs and 3,700 wickets in all forms of the game. In nineteen consecutive seasons, he scored 1,000 runs and took 100 wickets. On three occasions he scored over 2,000 runs in a season (1895, 1896 and 1906) and on three occasions took over 200 wickets in a season (1895–7). In 1895 his batting and bowling averages were 51 and 7 respectively and in 1896 they were 67.6 and 10.
Most renowned for his batting, he was a genuine all-rounder as capable of winning a match with the ball as with the bat, and also a reliable and diligent fielder, excelling at short slip. His capacity for winning matches single-handedly was exemplified in an encounter with Civil Service in 1906 when, having taken 14 wickets, he snatched an unlikely win by smashing 75 runs in the last thirty minutes.
Lambert played 51 matches for Ireland between 1893 and 1930, scoring 1,954 runs at an average of 27.91 (including four centuries, eight 50s and a top score of 116 not out) and taking 173 wickets (including twelve five-wicket and four ten-wicket hauls) at an average of 18.65, becoming the first man both to score 1,000 runs and take 100 wickets for Ireland. Only 23 of these internationals and one of his centuries are classified as first-class. In first-class matches for Ireland he had batting and bowling averages of 27.51 and 23.02 respectively. He captained Ireland thirteen times, winning four of these matches. Arguably his best display with the bat for Ireland was his 51 against a formidable South African attack in 1907. His most memorable bowling performance for Ireland came against Scotland in 1910. Having come on late in the first innings he finished with 3–3 before opening the bowling in the second innings with Scotland needing 238 runs. They collapsed to 32 all out with Lambert taking 7–11.
Aged 44 when the Leinster Senior League was inaugurated in 1919, he subsequently accumulated a further 3,277 runs and nine Leinster League medals up to his retirement in 1934. In 1921 he won the Marchant Cup as the province's leading batsman with an astonishing average of 217, beginning that season with eight unbeaten innings. On receiving the Marchant Cup he bemoaned the lack of first-class bowlers in Ireland, indicating his awareness that his continuing success owed much to declining domestic cricketing standards after the first decade of the twentieth century. He achieved his last remaining ambition in cricket in 1931 when he secured his century of centuries against Halverstown at Rathmines.
He shared a birthday with W. G. Grace, who was so impressed on seeing him play in 1903 that he arranged for Lambert to play for London County in a first-class county cricket match against Lancashire at Old Trafford. Lambert held his own in this company scoring 46 not out and 38. In 1912 he also played a game of first-class cricket in England for the Woodbrook Club against South Africa. The great disappointment of his career was his inability to prove his worth in the five innings he batted at Lords, which cumulatively yielded only 29 runs.
The Anglo–Irish War (1919–21) was a hazardous period. He stumbled upon an intended IRA ambush on the Templeogue Road when on a night call. The volunteers let him pass, pushing his car over the ditch they had dug across the road. While he was batting for Ireland against the Military of Ireland at Trinity College Park in June 1921, republicans fired on the pitch killing a female spectator. He also received a threatening letter demanding that he remove a crest of the royal coat of arms that was displayed outside his practice (a relic of his father's role as veterinarian to the royal family). At first he ignored it, but he took the crest down when he received a second threat three years later.
A founder member of the Irish Cricket Union in 1923, he served as its president in 1931, 1932 and 1947, and was for many years a selector for the Irish cricket team. An ardent sports fan, he enjoyed rugby, having played as a three-quarters back during his time in Edinburgh and later becoming a member of Lansdowne RFC. In badminton he was capped eleven times for Ireland between 1909 and 1926, winning both the Irish singles and mixed doubles titles in 1911. He was also Dublin's amateur billiards champion for three successive years. After quitting cricket he took up bowls and golf, continuing to play golf into his final year. He retired from his practice in 1955 due to ill health and died in Dublin on 24 March 1956.
His brother Septimus (1876–1959) was wicketkeeper for TCD and Leinster, winning fourteen caps for Ireland. Of his four sons, Drummond, Ham and Tom were keen cricketers with the first two being capped by Ireland. In fact Drummond's international career ended before his father's.