One hundred years of magnificent cricketing history flew out of Barbados this evening.
Empire Cricket Club which is marking its centenary anniversary this year, left the Grantley Adams International Airport this afternoon for England as part of that significant ongoing celebration.
President of Empire Club, Adrian King, told Barbados TODAY the club had been planning the tour for quite a few years but at the same time this was a chance for the club which was establish in 1914 to give back to its players.
“We have been planning a tour for quite a few years and we always had an interest in touring as a club. We were not able to get the full base of the club this time but we had a few that felt the first division had given so much service to the club over the years that it would be good if they could go away to the Marylebone Cricket Club at Lord’s,” King said.
Among those travelling with the club were past West Indies players and icons Sir Everton Weekes, Seymour Nurse and Charlie Griffith. Current players former West Indies batsman Ryan Hinds, Jason Haynes and Barbados’ one-day captain Kevin Stoute are also a part of the team.
While on tour the club will play at least seven matches against a few English sides and according to King they opted to carry a few seniors players like Hinds and Haynes because of the contribution they had made to the club over the years.
“Those are the senor division one players in our team and those are the players who have characteristically given us their service over the years and we like to give back to our players. People who give their service should be rewarded in some way and this is one of our ways of giving back to our players who have given us so much over the years,” the president said.
Sir Everton, who started playing for Empire back in 1946, told Barbados TODAY the club had done very well and he hoped it continued to go from strength to strength.
“Very few organizations can last for a hundred years, especially people with colour. We seem to want to move away from cricket to join better and nothing is wrong with going better but I do not see why we want to leave those behind that help you to get there. But unfortunately that is how we operate and not only in sports but in general. We want to move on so hastily that we start forgetting where we came from which is very unfortunate. It has not touched me yet because I believe there is a lot of humility still and I have achieved a fair amount and I am happy about it and I would only hope I would be a great example to some who came along from
my roots,” the West Indies great said.
Empire Cricket Club was founded as a result of an injustice done to black Barbadian cricketer Herman Griffith, who between 1909 and 1914 could not find a club to accept him.
Griffith was a schoolboy cricketer at Combermere School but in the early part of the last century the school was limited to the Second Division and though Griffith was a talented young fast bowler, no club on the island was prepared to find a place for his talents however promising they were. There were the white teams Wanderers of the Bay, Pickwick of Kensington, neither of which was ready to select a black man. There was the school team Harrison College and Spartan, the club of the coloured elite.
Stanton Gittens, a member of Spartan Club, was impressed with the fast bowling skills of the young Griffith and recommended him for membership to the club. The proposal was rejected.
Stunned and horrified at the action of his fellow club members Gittens, along with Christopher Brathwaite, a leading political figure of the 1920s and 1930s, decided that they could no longer be associated with Spartan.
It was against this background that the Empire Club was formed on May 24, 1914. The club adopted blue as its colour and it would take a further two years before the established clubs granted Empire permission to play in the Barbados Cricket Committee First Division Competition. Each time the Empire application came up, a reason was found to deny entry into the fold. Either the standard was not high enough or the ground facilities were inadequate.
Finally in 1916, the Bank Hall-based club gained entry into the BCC First Division competition and provided the hunting ground for outstanding Barbadian cricketers such as Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Conrad Hunte, Courtney Selman, Mannie Martindale, Foffie Williams, Pampie Spooner, Dolly Crick, Roland Holder, Carlisle Best, Tony King, Hallam Moseley, Albert Padmore, Francis Scott, Charles Alleyne, Rawle Branker, and journalist Neville Clarke, among a host of others.