Seymour Macdonald Nurse was one of the cricketers who clearly illustrated the role cricket has played in sociological development in Barbados and the West Indies at a time when opportunities were limited for the masses in the region.
He was born on November 10, 1933, in Jack My Nanny Gap (Wavell Avenue , Black Rock), St Michael. The young Nurse was educated at St Stephen’s Elementary School a stone’s throw away from home. There was no free secondary education in Barbados during his boyhood, and like most boys of his generation his education ended when he left primary school at the age of 14.
Nurse took to sports like a duck to water. He was a talented footballer who played as a striker for Barbados. He once scored eight goals for Empire Club in a First Division match. A tall powerfully built right-handed stroke-player, a superb driver off the back foot and a specialist close to the wicket fielder, Nurse was a batsman worthy to rank with the best of his generation.
Even though Carlton Club was located almost in his backyard, Nurse, the son of a carpenter, could not even dream of becoming a member of the club whose membership was drawn from people of a lighter hue.
Therefore, like so many Barbadians of a similar background including Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Charles Griffith and the late Sir Conrad Hunte, the budding young batsman joined the Barbados Cricket League (BCL).
His talent began to flourish at the BCL and he soon joined the Bank Hall-based Empire Club in the 1950s which allowed him to display his skills in First Division competition of the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA). Among his teammates at Empire during his early days were the legendary West Indies batsman Everton Weekes, Charles Alleyne, Charlie Griffith and Rawle Brancker, while Herman Griffith, the formidable West Indies fast bowler of the 1920s and 1930s was the president of the club.
Nurse made his debut for Barbados in a two-match series against Jamaica played in Jamaica in 1958. He scored 21 in the first innings and top-scored with 35 in the second innings as Barbados was bundled out for 90. In the second match, he scored 128 runs, his first century in first-class cricket.
In 1960 against the MCC, Nurse stroked an elegant 213 and shared a 306-run partnership with Sobers. Nurse was in and out of the West Indies team after making his Test debut in the third Test against England at Sabina Park in 1960 due to an injury to Frank Worrell.
He scored 70 in the first innings and 19 in the second innings, and yet he was dropped for the fourth Test and replaced by Clyde Walcott who had retired from Test cricket two years earlier. Nurse’s next Test was the second Test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1960, he scored 70 out of a total of 181, Rohan Kanhai top-scored with 84.
Nurse scored 43 and 11 in the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground, 49 and 5 in the fourth Test at the Adelaide Oval and was dropped for the fifth Test. He did not play another Test until the fourth Test against India at the Queen’s Park Oval in 1962 where he scored one and 46 not-out and was left out of the fifth Test.
He was selected for the West Indies tour England in 1963, but received an injury and did not play much on the tour. After the series against England in 1963, the West Indies did not play a Test series until Australia toured the Caribbean in 1965.
Nurse was placed in the unusual role of opener in the first Test at Sabina Park scored 15 and 17, once more he was dropped for the second Test at the Queen’s Park Oval, and then recalled for the third Test at Bourda in Georgetown. He batted at number five and compiled 42 and six, which somehow was enough for him to retain his place in the team.
The fourth Test was played at Kensington Oval, Nurse scored a majestic 201 that included 30 boundaries and which finally earned him a permanent place in the team. On the West Indies tour to England in 1966, Nurse scored 501 glorious runs at an average of 62.62.
He began the series with an attacking 49 at Old Trafford in the first Test, followed it up with 64 and 35 in the second Test at Lord’s, flogged England’s bowlers for 93 in the third Test at Trent Bridge and batted for five and three quarter hours to compile 137 in the fourth Test Headingley. For his outstanding batting in the series Nurse was named one of the Five Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 1967.
Nurse managed only 82 runs in the two Tests he played when the West Indies toured India in 1966/67. He made 434 runs at 43.40 including 134 at Queen’s Park Oval against England when they toured the Caribbean in 1968. Nurse played a gem of an innings in the second Test against England at Sabina Park in 1969.
The West Indies were forced to follow on after they were shot out for 143 in their first innings on a pitch with cracks wider than some of the potholes on the island, Nurse opened in the second innings and scored 73 that contained 12 fours. The Test ended in a draw.
In 1968/69, he toured Australia and New Zealand, Nurse registered 348 runs at 34.80 in the Test series against Australia, scoring 137 in the Sydney Test. Nurse dominated the three Test match series against New Zealand. He hit 95 and 168 in three hours and 35 minutes in the first Test at Auckland.
He had his finest hour in the third Test at Christ Church, where he struck a career best 258 in eight hours. He retired from Test cricket in a blaze of glory.
Even though he had retired from Test cricket, Nurse continued to play first-class cricket until 1972. Many fans can still remember the flogging Jamaican fast bowler Uton Dowe received from the master batsman in his final first-class season that inspired the Bajan commandment “Dowe shalt not bowl”.
In addition to cricket Nurse was an avid race fan, a coach with the National Sports Council, a member of the BCA’s Board of Management, a national selector and a manager of the Barbados senior and youth teams.
Nurse amassed 2523 runs at an average of 47.60 in 29 Tests with six centuries, he scored 9489 runs in 141 first-class matches at 43.93 with 26 centuries. He is survived by his twin daughters Cherylanne and Roseanne.
Blessed with a sense of timing reserved only for the best of batsmen, Nurse was a joy to watch at the crease. His play off his pads was something to behold. His influence on a generation of Barbadian batsmen was phenomenal, none more so than former West Indies opener Desmond Haynes whose leg-side play often evoked images of his mentor.
Seymour Nurse – gone but never to be forgotten. May he rest in peace.