by Douglas Henderson

[This article is awaiting photos]

One grim Sunday afternoon in 1986, the Old Cliftonians were playng the Repton Pilgrims in the Cricketer Cup, the competition for Old Boys (see link on the left). It was one of those all too typical May days when the weather was seriously damp but play was just about possible. As play proceeded, the two respective professionals of the schools, Jim Andrew of Clifton and Mike Kettle of Repton, were huddled together watching this dreary spectacle.

As they watched, they lamented that schools cricket so often had to be played in such dismal conditions. Also, that it was impossible, for geographical reasons, for schools such as Clifton and Repton ? both with long and proud cricketing histories ? to play each other. How would it be, they mused, if schools from different parts of the UK who could not normally play each other might meet somewhere with guaranteed good weather, and they hit on the idea of such a festival to be held in Barbados, as Mike knew a Barbadian travel agent based in London: Don Gooding.

Thus the idea was born of a festival ? abroad – of six or so UK schools, from different parts of the country with perhaps some local opposition too if possible. No sooner had Don Gooding begun to arrange this for 1987 than the idea was hi-jacked by the Barbados Tourism Board (Minister one Wes Hall, the fearsome fast bowler of earlier times) and very quickly it became the Sir Garfield Sobers International Schools Cricket Festival. Sir Garfield has always taken a very keen interest in the Festival and is usually around.

The inaugural event was in August 1987 and featured, along with Repton and Clifton, Uppingham, Gresham?s, Ipswich and Emanuel from the UK; from Barbados, Coleridge & Parry, Combermere and Harrison; from Trinidad Fatima (Trinidad), Queen?s and St Mary?s, and from Canada Appleby ad Upper Canada. 14 schools in all.

The event was not without minor controversies, mainly owing to slightly varying umpiring interpretations and quite a hiccup at the final when rain curtailed the match without any provisions for deciding the winner in such circumstances. However, the festival is still going strong, and Don Gooding is still very much involved.

The outstanding players in the first tournament were John Meadows of Clifton, Chris Adams of Repton and Brian Lara of Fatima. The first did not pursue a career in professional cricket, but Chris Adams was captain of Sussex and played for England, and Brian Lara needs even less introduction

Barbados itself is a lovely island. The story goes that the people are the most charming in the Caribbean owing to its geographical location: Barbados, the most Easterly in the chain, was the first port of call for the appalling slave ships and had the pick of the unfortunate folk on offer. Whatever the reason, it is certainly true that the people are invariably smiling and welcoming and it is as delightful a place to visit as the Tourist Board would have you believe. Happily, unlike much of the Caribbean, it is barely touched by hurricanes though in July/ August it rains rather more than you might think (usually ? but not always – in sharp bursts and often at night).

Pear-shaped, Barbados has distinct regions. Bridgetown, the capital, is in the South West. Up the West coast there are large numbers of fairly luxurious international style hotels which are a little like gated communities and hardly ?the real Barbados?. Interspersed are some charming small towns and beaches. The East coast is pretty wild and rugged, but very pretty (especially Bathsheba as featured in many a glossy advertising promotion). Much of the interior has the feel of the Middle Ages about it and is relatively uninhabited; strange oil-wells ? still working – and deserted sugar plantations testify to a different world.

It is the South Coast, a few miles from Bridgetown, where the thriving pulse of Barbados can be felt most keenly, and a wealth of bars, restaurants and the more interesting hotels can be found, the latter lined by those glorious white sandy beaches from the tourist ads. The bars seem to be the nightly haunt of Barbados?s most famous cricketing sons. It is quite difficult not to bump into any of Sir Garfield himself, Charlie Griffith, Wes Hall, Desmond Haynes, Gordon Greenidge, Everton Weekes, Joel Garner (and many others) enjoying a Banks beer.

For touring – especially the Sir Garfield Sobers tournament – , we recommend our sponsors Sporting Getaways from whom further details of the Sobers tournament and other tours can be obtained. Just click on the link to the right.

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