Dedicated to the wisdom of Kathleen Ford and the humility of `Teddy’ McCook
At a much earlier time, the number `50’ was - when it came to age - a dreaded one. Having safely navigated that, so much so that there’s hardly the trace of a wake left behind, in January some of us past Kingston College students crossed another milestone. This past January marked fifty years since my seven-and-a-half year journey through Kingston College began. Each man’s journey through Kingston College is unique, because, every man absorbs stimuli differently. So this journey, mine alone, equipped me for life. Besides, I found it fun.
It began when my mother got up before dawn one morning to buy her copy of The Jamaica Gleaner from the vendor at Baldwin’s Shell Gas Station. “Thank you Massa God,” I remember her quietly saying when she found my name listed among the free-place winners to secondary schools. I had elected to attend either Kingston College or St. George’s College. And Kingston College it was. By my winning a free place to KC, my mother saw possibilities I could not yet have seen. I was just elated at the prospect of attending the same high school as the pigeon-chested fellow who lived across the street. He was already making a name for himself, having graced the pages of Sports Life a magazine edited by KC’s `Foggy’ Burrowes. Not an ordinary feat for a fifteen-year-old, I thought. Furthermore, I had the year before, been to the 1962 Championship Sports held at the dusty Sabina Park, and had seen them all: (Dwight) Anderson, Headley, Hoilette, Miller and the rest. And what an impression they made!
The Early Days:
So off I went in my short pants, as one of the 1,000 student body - the first for a Jamaica high school. Wearing short pants initially didn’t bother me until I saw that I was in the minority among my first-form peers. When I enquired as to why, I was told as a matter of fact: Only men wear long pants. And how could I have argued with that? Among my classmates in the room located at the far eastern end of the campus overlooking the tennis courts were Carl `Wagon-Belly’ Blackwood, Lance Campbell, Franklyn Creighton, George `Porcupine’ Edwards, Raymond Fong, Zadoc `Zeph’ Henry, Garth Hunt, Michael James - now Leahcim Semaj, Locksley Johnson, Paul Liu-Lim, Paul Matalon, Michael Pennycook, Ronald `Sammy’ Samuels, Chalmers Thompson, Hugh `Up-with-People’ Walker, Carl `Jimmy’ Walters and many more, whose names now escape my mind.
A Mr. Edward Brice MacDonald was the first teacher to stand out. Always donned in a crisp white shirt, tie, dark trousers and leather shoes, he had a slow gait, but was never late. He taught mathematics, English and geography and insisted that on his watch, no boy would be left behind. Then there were Messrs. Bramwell, Burrows and `QC’ Edwards (Mathematics); Mr. Victor Chang (English); Mr. Joe Earle (Chemistry); Mr. Earl `Wyatt Earp’ Jones (Geography); Mr. Jordan (Latin); Mr. J.A.H. Ramsey (Bible Studies); Mr. Whimpery (Physics); and Mr. Maurice `Theo-Peppe’ Wilson (French and Music). The gentlemen in-charge were Mr. Douglas Forrest, headmaster, and Mr. Jonathan Crick, his deputy. Those two drew my respect, fear and avoidance.
Later on, it was Mr. Earle who would identify me as one who would not be taking his chemistry at the GCE level, for fear I guess, of bringing his Chemistry Department into disrepute. I got around him be taking, and passing this my bugbear subject in the London exams. But as much as Mr. Earle eschewed me, Mr. Victor Chang my English teacher, embraced me. He was one of the younger teachers who having graduated from Kingston College, went on to attend the University of the West Indies (UWI), before spinning around to teach at his alma mater. Concave shaped and with thick black-rimmed glasses, this Chinese fellow for some reason, believed in me. And in getting English and General Paper in the GCE at the ordinary and advanced levels respectively, I didn’t disappoint.
Then there was `QC’ Edwards the `high-math’ teacher. He brought a university lecturing style to KC. Whether the classroom had one student or it was full, he would barrel ahead in the Queen’s English and in his inimitable style. He, unlike Mr. Edward (E.B) MacDonald, was no `no-child-left-behind’ lecturer. If I wasn’t prepared or didn’t keep up: `dawg-ate-mi-suppa’. But, in hindsight, he was teaching me an early lesson. Because as I went on to find out, that was how university professors lectured. Off center-stage though, `QC’ had a down-to-earth demeanor. That I would find out when I would occasionally run into him and his drinking partner `Wyatt Earp’ at some non-descript salon in Vineyard Town.
Breaks usually took me to the pavilion where Alan `Skill’ Cole held a captive audience by playing `sea-way-lash’ with something like a small sand sack. From as early as then, `Skill’ was pure skill. Lunch-breaks would find me at the canteen, run by the very pleasant Mrs. Fuller – Dr. Payton Fuller’s mother. We had to form lines which moved fairly quickly. And for two-and-a-half shillings, I would get a lunch consisting of either stew-peas-&-rice, stew chicken or curried goat. Either would be soothed with a `Chucomo’ chocolate milk packaged in a pyramid-shaped container. I was then in seventh heaven.
Chapel services were special when Bishop Gibson visited. But not much more so than when the recently deceased Reverend J.A.H. Ramsay presided. But so were the form sports. I finagled my way into Nethersole House as the fellow from across my street – Tony Keyes, was the recruiter. I had my mother buy me a pair of black spikes which even though not pliable, was functional. I looked forward to Weekly Meets, and form cricket played with Gunn & Moore goat-skin bats, cork-&-tar balls and wooden planks for stumps. When a batsman got bowled everybody knew it, because the ball would make an awful clunking sound against the plank.
Some days, a group of us including Hunt, Matalon, Thompson, Samuels and Walker would be chauffeured up (yes, chauffeured up) to an open lot in Swallowfield, better known as Cow Shit Park. The chauffeuring was compliments of services afforded Paul Matalon. The park wasn’t far from Paul’s house. And after playing, we would go over there to be greeted by his mother, her corned beef sandwiches, lemonade and the works. Paul’s father was Mr. Eli Matalon, who did so many great things for K.C., and later as Minister of Education, for Jamaica schools on a whole. Despite his family wealth, Paul was a cool sociable fellow who loved company and a good laugh. He didn’t make any of us, by his family’s wealth, feel second-class. To him, his father and mother, we were just a gang of boys having a grand time.
After sports I would catch the No. 22 `Jolly Joseph’ at the bus-stop on South Camp Road just south of North Street. It would take me to Cross Roads where I had the choice of the No. 3, 30, 31, 35 or 37 which plied through Half-Way Tree and on up to my Constant Spring Road/Dunrobin Avenue stop. But before, I might go up past the well-lit Nelson’s Drug Store and the Cross Roads Market, to Bruce’s Patties at the corner of Retirement Road across from the Empire Building. There I’d buy a delicious nine-pence-beef-patty – one with piping hot soupy meat inside. The meat could do serious damage if not properly dammed.
Between contacts from her line of work, membership in her Lodge and the St. Luke’s Church Women’s Auxiliary, my mother was part of a well-oiled social network. I don’t know how she made the connections, but I was never out of either a summer or a Christmas job.
During the summers, I found work stacking shelves at Hi-Lo in Cross Roads; sorting letters at the Central Post Office on South Camp Road; doing titrations at the Government Testing Lab buried at the back of Hope Gardens, or inspecting ground provisions at the south entrance to the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC) Coronation Market. During the Christmas break, I was in the thick of things wrapping gifts at Hanna’s Department Store on King Street. I liked the busyness of that job, the air conditioning and the location.
I know though, how I got the job at the Government Testing Lab. I use to take French lessons after church on a Sunday, with a brilliant lady – Miss Xenia Ellington on Lockett Avenue. This lady spoke four or five languages fluently and had a brother – another genius a Dr. Ellington. He ran the government lab and so that was the hook-up. It was there that I met a fellow who would go on to become a great keyboard player for Third World – Michael `Ibo’ Cooper. He was attending Jamaica College at the time and would use Dr. Ellington’s test tubes as drum sticks. It was almost inevitable that we would one day be caught playing the fool. I think we were asked one Friday, not to return to work. However, promising more professional behavior, we were spared.
The Best of them All:
But in more ways than one, the summer job at Coronation Market was the best of them all. Firstly, it introduced me to class divisions in a class-conscious Jamaica. I had to be there by 5:00am before the trucks bringing higglers and their produce from deep in the countryside began to roll in. My job was to access value-based user-fees to handcart loads before they entered the market. Roosters must have drawn heftier fees because they were always inhumanely hidden below other market stuff. A pitiful cackle and I would come to their rescue and then levy a heavier government’s fee – the penalty for attempting to deceive a government official, and tax avoidance.
‘Surely you could do better than that,’ was the derision that particular job drew. Little would my friends know that at Coronation Market, I would learn Shakespeare, poetry, compassion, and an appreciation for the struggles of others. My boss was a Mr. Buchanan who was the father of Paul Buchanan, a Jamaica Under-19 cricketer who attended Wolmer’s Boys School. Mr. Buchanan who was always properly attired would be the one recite poetry, quote Shakespeare and whoever came up with: `The heights that great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight………’ Those words still resonate.
Because I started that early in the morning, I got off fairly early in the afternoon. I would then mosey on down to Victoria Pier, passing the designer shops on King Street en route. From the pier, I would watch across the shimmering Kingston Harbor, airplanes coming and going from the Palisadoes International Airport. It was the beginning past-time which I still enjoy to this day. It had me wondering, when I would ever get to travel? But in addition to the gracefulness of the planes, I liked the solitude and the stillness in-between the maneuverings - the latter disturbed only by the sea water lapping against the concrete pier.
The Big Three:
Back at school, KC was into its second year of ruling Championship Athletics Sports. 1963 was the first year it was run at the National Stadium. It began a dynasty that would last as long as I was at school - for eight more consecutive years, by the time I left school in June of 1970, and for fourteen (14) years when all was said and done. The athlete who impressed most was Lennox `Billy’ Miller of Gibson House. `Billy’ was a no-nonsense guy who was always business-like. He had a professional work ethic and rarely cracked a smile. I can’t remember ever seeing Billy loaf. His father was a policeman, and he lived on Lyndhurst Road, across from Gadpaile Avenue where I first remember living. I guess he inherited his discipline and carriage from his father. Billy’s `slave-driver’ was none other than Foggy Burrowes who polio had slowed, but not crippled. He was one who was tasked to monitor Billy’s workouts. Moving around on his cane and with stop watch in-hand, he would bellow: `Go Billy go,’ as Miller powered through his routines. From then, it was evident that Miller would amount to something special. And special he was – medaling in the 100 meters in both the Mexico City and the Munich Olympic Games. Rupert Hoilette, always a little mystic, was another no-nonsense hard worker. Hoilette’s specialties were the 440 yards and some `wicked’ 110 and 440 yd relay legs. He went on to be an Olympian as well.
When the school won Champs in those days, the celebrations on the Saturday nights would visit the open-aired Maurice’s Restaurant located at the same Dunrobin Avenue/Constant Spring Road corner, just across the street from where I lived. It was a sprawling garden-like property which featured in-vogue drive-in service. For in-house dining there were several well spaced tiled oases bedecked with greenery and Christmas lights, to choose from. Soothing music was piped in as well. On Champs-nights, `Pops’ the elderly bald-headed waiter who normally had lots of time for me, all of a sudden, didn’t. There were bigger fish to fry.
In 1964 accompanied by sportsmaster/coach Donovan Davis and trainer William Youngster Goldsmith recently deceased, Kingston College became the first Jamaica high school to send a team to the famous Penn Relays held at the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklyn Field. The barrier-breaking team consisted of Alex McDonald (captain), Jimmy Grant, Rupert Hoilette, Tony Keyes, Lennox Miller and Lennox Tulloch.
I used to like watching the other two major feeder sports, Colt’s cricket and Colt’s football, from the second floor of the pavilion. The wiry left-hand medium fast bowler Philip Keane-Dawes was my favorite bowler and Dudley `Bulb-Head’ Watt my favorite batsman. `Bulb-Head’ would play and talk cricket all day long, if allowed.
Then in football, a Colts team with the likes of `Blackie’, Karey Coke, Alan `Skill’ Cole, Patrick `Pattu’ Kirkwood, Franklyn Morant, Neville Oxford, `Rawyo’ and Michael Vernon was no joke. Oxford playing outside-right, went on to play an important role in the KC 1964-65 football dynasty and actually was recruited by a crack professional team in Brazil.
Synergy and Men of Vision:
Men like Messrs. Howard Aris, Foggy Burrowes, Donovan Davis, `Teddy’ McCook and `Chappy’ McCook his brother, George Thompson, `Long John’ Vernon always equipped with Star in back-pocket and toothpick in mouth, and `Mollo’ Walker and with Mr. G working the back-stage, really worked as a unit. They had a collective vision of where they wanted to take KC in track & field. Later on Mr. Trevor Parchment did a reasonable job as well. He coached the three major sports and introduced some new ones such as gymnastics and field hockey. But, he used criteria beyond on-field performance to select his teams. This philosophy didn’t always set well with some. Nor was it well understood by many.
Extra Curricular Activities:
I began playing junior Colts cricket in 1964, and first played Sunlight Cup cricket in 1967 while still a Colts player. I left cricket briefly after Mr. Parchment took me off the field for a mis-field at a ground called Bumper Hall – a field whose name described it well. On that occasion, I had had enough. Then low and behold Mr. Parchment showed up at my home the following day, a Sunday morning, in effect, asking me to return. That was the first time I saw that side of him. And to visit me at home early on a Sunday morning was a good gesture on his part.
I was given the keys to the baggage room at Melbourne Park in 1969 I think. But on one Saturday – match day - I had arrived closer to the start of a match than he would have liked. And so with cause, I was relieved of the duty. Then here comes Champs in early 1970 where I was the fifth man on the Class I - 4 x 100 yds relay team which consisted of Bloomfield, `Ratty’ Dryden, West and McMorrow (I could be wrong) – no slouches among them. We all got along well. But at Champs, `Ratty’ Dryden showed up only minutes before a quarter-final. Nevertheless `Ratty’ was, at my expense, allowed to run.
Expediency had trumped principle.
The Greatest Show on Earth:
I regard the exploits of the KC 1964 and 1965 football teams as `The Greatest Show on Earth’. On football days some of my classmates and I, after catching a bus to Cross Roads would walk from there up to the National Stadium. Those walks gave us a chance to mingle. It was the first time that white footballs were being used in schoolboy football I think. And the artistry matched that symbol of purity.
I used to tag along with the 1964 football team captain Tony Keyes on a weekend when a game wasn’t on. On a Sunday, I would sometimes go along with him by bus to Harbor Head Beach. Then come evening-time, he would take me along to visit his Aunt Kate and Uncle Nymrod Dawkins in Hope Gardens where the latter was on staff. A mean fried chicken and just one Red Stripe beer would always be on-deck. After this, it was usually a challenge walking the unlit long stretch from the back of Hope Gardens all the way out to the main Hope Road.
But back to Harbor Head Beach. On one of those Sundays when I togged along, well before the 1964 season got going, Keyes met up with the St. George’s center-back Bruce Lyn, who I think was living in Harbor View at the time. After wading into the water chest-high deep and exchanging pleasantries, Bruce enquired as to how the KC football team was shaping up. Tony in his customary modesty indicated that the side was `young but coming’. What an understatement!
Ironically, it was Lyn who in a Saturday evening KC-St George’s classic, would be marking Keyes. I would have remembered, because I only could have afford to go into the grandstand on a Saturday.
Be that as it may, Keyes collected the white ball on the right side of the field just outside the penalty box at the south end, and going towards Warieka Hills, broke into one of his trademark quick stop-start dribbles. In tow was the same Bruce Lyn paying studious attention, and trying to keep up. Suddenly, and still being closely marked, Keyes unleashed a left-footed corker which in its execution, lifted him off the ground. It left Lyn sprawled in desperation, and the ball rippling the net in the right pigeon hole. How lucky then, was I to have been on-hand to witness not only that goal, but the preamble that took place at Harbor Head many Sundays before. I remember Tony’s quiet satisfaction, if not relief afterwards: “And they say I don’t have a left foot,” he said, as if freed by a jury from some grand accusation of a murder he knew he didn’t commit. Keyes’s 1964 football team was to become the first in schoolboy history to win Manning, Oliver, Walker and Roper in one fell swoop. The feat was repeated in 1965, under the captaincy of Dennis Johnson.
Off the field, Tony was a cool customer. He served as village barber, counselor, cook and peacemaker. No wonder he studied psychology (I think), before going on to dental school. On some Saturdays he would `sail a boat’ as cook-ups were called in the day. My jobs were to partially fund and to procure the ingredients - usually the codfish, some ackee, flour, green bananas and coconut oil, all from a little Rastaman by the name of Bro Joe. Tony was also a trend-setter, introducing some of us to Flagg Brothers shoe styles such as the Bossa Boot and Lucky Seven and Clark’s cheese-bottomed Desert booties which he would bring back from his sojourns to the Penn Relays. Not to mention men’s colognes such as Brut of French origin and Jamaica’s own Pirates Gold. Whatever Keyes wore, most wanted to. His key spar in the area was the ever-cool Lennox `Bongo Len’ Tullouch – tall, elegant, bouncy with his wrap-around shades and flat-top hair cut.
The Reality of Death:
The concept of death was reinforced when at KC the promising hurdler Michael Charles who came from Stony Hill drowned one summer; the sleepy-looking Byron Jones a spin bowler at KC was stabbed to death in a fight, and the brother of our Wayne Stephens died tragically. On the larger stage, John F. Kennedy – November 22nd, 1963; Donald Sangster – April 11th, 1967; Martin Luther King, Jnr., - April 4th, 1968; and Bobby Kennedy – June 6th, 1968, all passed on while I was at KC. And so I began to get a sense that things and time were finite. And then there were the riots in Kingston on October 16th, 1968, over the expulsion of Dr. Walter Rodney.
Friends for Life:
John Prescod, Jnr., and I go back a long ways. I used to spend time with him at his Brunswick Avenue, Spanish Town address. As my first Sunlight cricket captain in 1967, he knew when to ignore my blustering, or when to let me have my say. Off the field and over the years, we drank several beers and went on many excursions. In his capacity as Equerry to the Queen, he even invited me as a guest at a reception held in Her honor at Kings House. I also served as best-man at his wedding. Douglas MacDonald who was the son of my first form mathematics teacher Mr. E.B. MacDonald, hit it off with me in fourth form 4AD1 as well. We have remained friends ever since and our respective immediate families are close.
Mr. Mabricio Ventura assisted with cricket at KC in 1969 while he was still playing club cricket. I use to bowl to him in the nets at KC after the team had finished practicing, and so I got to know him pretty well. Mauve didn’t have to say much, but around him, I instinctively knew right from wrong. Being in pharmaceutical sales at the time, he travelled frequently to Curacao, and he bought me a nice tiger’s eye gold ring and chain from down there, from money I had saved up. It so happened, that Mauve lived next door the great Mr. George Headley in Havendale. And so, I was privy to a few great front-gate conversations with the great man. Mr. Headley’s son Sydney and I also played Colts and Second XI cricket together.
Along with Mauve, there was Jimmy Richards, whom I did not know as well, but well enough to appreciate him. Jimmy, a sportsman in his own right and co-author of an important work on West Indies cricket statistics, was one who hung around the cricket team. He was always ready to lend solid advice. But what I remember Jimmy more for, is his laughter. It was so shy and `school-boyish’, who could forget it. And lastly, he opened up his Swallowfield home to at least one party for our cricket team that I can remember.
Michael Holding and I:
Michael Holding is now a sought-after after-diner speaker, and a veritable cricket analyst of UK’s Sky Sports. Before, he was a member of the most formidable West Indies cricket teams. I saw him come to Kingston College, and in June of 1970, I left him there. To leave him out of my annals, would have raised suspicion that Rose Mary Woods (Richard Nixon’s secretary) has been reincarnated.
A few years back, when at Kensington Oval, I referred to Mr. David Holford, in his presence, as (quote): ‘the cousin of Sir Gary Sobers,’ the gentleman snapped: “I am David Holford. Not the cousin of (Sir) Gary Sobers.” Sometimes I feel the same – the fellow (not one of the fellows), who bowled alongside Michael Holding when he was at KC.
At the Queen’s Park Oval back in 2009, one of my cricket magazine editors, Mr. Keith Holder, during a Test match, had me on his radio show Line and Length,as a lunchtime guest. As I took my seat at the microphone, his studio producer Barry Wilkinson said: “Hey Ray Ford, don’t bother with your cantankerousness. Ok.” I said, “Shame on you Barry.” So the mike is opened and Keith Holder opens up with: “I have with me Ray Ford who bowled with Michael Holding in his days in high school.” By that time, I was covering Test matches for Keith’s magazine, and I would have preferred to have been seen as such – a struggling freelance writer, in my own right and not some sycophant of Mike Holding. Without thinking and with a little pique, I retorted (on air): “Thanks Keith. But always remember, Holding bowled with me. Not me with him.” Barry nearly had a stroke. “I told you not to start your cantankerousness, didn’t I?,” Barry said at the first commercial break. I said to him, all in good fun, “But Barry, Keith is the one who started it. Not me.” But I was only telling the listeners the truth.
I began playing Sunlight Cup cricket on and off for KC in 1967, and Holding started in 1970. For whatever reason, he preferred to play Minor and Junior Cup cricket for Melbourne Cricket Club. I would never say that I was the one who convinced him to play Sunlight Cup cricket for Kingston College when he did. But, as my friend Douglas MacDonald will attest, I was always on him to do so. “Mikey, it wouldn’t look good if you won for Melbourne while leaving KC to flounder.”
The year before (1969) when we played Wolmer’s in the Sunlight Cup fixture at Wolmer’s, I saw our pacer Norman Henry break the Jamaica Under-19 opening batsman Sam Morgan’s off-stump. I knew then that KC was just one fast-man away from winning the whole shebang. I knew also, that by encouraging Michael Holding to play for KC, and if he did, that I would be relegated to a first-change bowler - that is, if I played any at all. But, I knew that for KC’s sake, Michael Holding had to play, and it was only right for me to encourage him to do so. And thank goodness, in hindsight, I was on the right side of history. When Mr. Parchment in the 1970 season, chose on occasion to play an extra batsman, at my expense, I was teased to no end – particularly by a fellow, a class-mate of mine, who is now a doctor. If I am to see him now, to save my life, I would pass on the chloroform, thank you very much `doctor’.
Some thought I was bitter. Pity them. I would rather have played intermittently and won, than to have played every game and end up winning nothing. Besides, while not being my bosom-buddy, Michael and I have always got on fairly well. After Mr. Cyril Reid did, Michael’s dad used to pick me up at my Constant Spring Road bus stop and take me to school. He wrote me quite a few times when he first toured Australia 1975-76; he sent me a copy of The Cricketer International Magazine with himself leaping off the cover when he was featured for taking fourteen wickets in the Kennington Oval Test against England in 1976. What else could I ask for?
If I am to write a piece on cricket, he to this day, when consulted, is unfailing in giving me his insider-input; he was a guest at my wedding; he gave my wife and son, tickets for all five days of an England-West Indies Test match at Headingley some years back, (even though that Test only lasted a world-record two days), and he’s patient with my elder son in providing photo opportunities. End of story.
All is well that Ends Well:
The academic year 1969-70, was my last at KC. By that time, I was in Sixth Form and my `crew’ consisted of Zadoc Henry, Garth Hunt, Douglas MacDonald. Zeph (Zadoc) Henry’s father ran a driver’s education school in Spanish Town and had bequeathed a Prefect motor car to him. It hauled us around – to fetes at UWI’s Student Union and to other places. Besides, when Zeph was engaged in Manning Cup football at the National Stadium, it was our job to get the car up there for him. It was not unusual for some who chose public transportation, or even to walk on foot, to reach the stadium before us. Let’s say that Zeph’s car was not the most reliable. But Zeph was also the Sunlight Cup cricket captain, and so my opinion about his car, had to be expressed discretely or with taste. More importantly so, when we relied on it to transport us home from Mumsie’s - a watering hole located just southwest of KC.
In 1970 my final year at KC, I was once dropped from the Sunlight cricket team but fought back to regain my place as their first-change bowler. I got back in time to play critical matches against Excelsior and the play-off match against Wolmer’s Boys School at Sabina Park.
The year before, I had bowled the Wolmer’s opening batsman Vincent Hartley and picked up a couple of others, and so I think Mr. Parchment must have remembered that. Besides, I had picked up a four-for way back in 1967 in the Zone play-off against Kingston Technical High School also at Sabina Park getting Lyndel Wright the current Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) boss, and his elder brother Floydie in the process. Nevertheless, Mr. Parchment chose to include me for the big occasion. I was thankful for the chance and I didn’t disappoint. I had Phillip Rae ballooning to be caught by Michael Holding, and caught Harold Richardson myself at mid-wicked to where he had slapped my good friend the leg-spinner Donald Clare. We won that play-off match and thus the Sunlight Cup, and I was elated. And in order not to disrupt things Mr. Parchment included me in the Spaulding Cup final against Vere Technical High School in Clarendon.
The Ball of my Life:
In that curtain-closer, KC had batted first and thanks to the elegant left-hander Devon Barnes (48) and Ludlow Henry (21) we mustered 127. Norman Henry and Michael Holding opened the bowling as usual. But when my turn came, I was in rhythm. Errol Barrett of football fame pulled me hard for a couple. From the small crowd came a Vere supporter’s voice: `Lick di glasses man again.’ In response and for distraction and decoy, I had Grantley White brought in tight at forward short-leg. I then ran in harder, but delivered decidedly slower, fuller and straighter. High on adrenaline, `Bunny Grant’ (Barrett), launched into a big-shot well before the ball arrived, and was bowled middle stump. The crowd went silent. The snake had been beheaded. Vere went into disarray, and crumbled to 79 all out.
Years after in the early 1980s, when I began working at Alcan’s Kirkvine Alumina Refinery, `EB’ was already working there in the Accounting Department. And of course we had a good laugh about it. But on that day in Clarendon the KC bowling figures read Raymond Ford: 6-1-11-3; Norman Henry: 8-3-16-3 and Michael Holding: 12-6-20-2. It had taken me six years to bowl the ball of my life, and to achieve my best bowling figures as well. And finally, I was part of an all-island champion schoolboy cricket team.
Heroes there were two:
First there was Donald Clare – `The Quiet Assassin’ as he was called. Danny was a lanky right-arm leg-spin bowler who patterned his action after that of the Australian Peter Philpott. We came through the cricket ranks at KC together, all the way from Junior Colts to Sunlight, and on to Spaulding Cup. In the summer of either 1968 or 1969, Danny lost an eye in a freak accident. He came back to play the full 1970 all-conquering season, and with a smile at that. He never complained, nor did he pity himself. He just got on with it.
Then there was my mother, Mrs. Kathleen Ford. From hardly an exorbitant salary as a clerk at the beverage company Jureidini’s Limited locatedat 203a Spanish Town Road, she almost single-handedly put my sister and me through high school. While at KC, I lacked nothing. I wore clean school uniforms, fine clothes, nice shoes, gold jewelry and a wafer-thin gold wrist watch. I had books, athletic and cricket gear, took private French lessons, went to all the Christmas/Boxing Day stage shows, the Pantomine, and had my summer and Christmas jobs. Along with her two sisters, she hosted fund-raisers for the Women’s Auxiliary, and Christmas parties for her fellow Jureidini workers. But most importantly, she implanted in me, her compass. What else could I as a young man have asked for?