There are some things in one’s life that stand out forever.
For me, one such occasion was my first attendance at a cricket Test match — the West Indies versus Pakistan in 1958.
Across the vale of years, I can still vividly remember my first sight of Everton Weekes, and his magnificent 197 on that occasion. To my childhood eyes, watching him bat was akin to witnessing a form of magic. But there was something more and special to the occasion, it was the opportunity to see, in the flesh and at his best, a man who was, in every best regard, a legend and a hero to us, the young Barbadians of the 1950s.
We wanted to be like Weekes.
The Test career of Everton Weekes is an important, classical part of Barbados’s social history. His excellence as a batsman and the great artistry and gallantry that he brought to the game were all an essential part of his contribution to cricket.
But there was about Weekes always something that was bigger and greater than his extraordinary skills as a player. He was of the Bridgetown poor, seeking a place for himself, and those of his class, in a society that was limited in the opportunities it offered, and socially rigid in the way in which those opportunities were created and extended. Through his excellence on the cricket field, Sir Everton helped in a fundamental way to change Barbados for the better, forever, by proving that true excellence cannot be constrained by social barriers.
And as early as 1950, he and the other members of the West Indies cricket team helped to start the process that led to the “end of the Empire,” as Learie Constantine so eloquently termed it, by establishing that the people of these, our West Indian islands, could better the British who, at the time, exercised political control over our affairs.
Everton Weekes’s cricketing career was therefore an assertion of excellence from the grassroots at a time when that assertion was required as part of our general claim to rights of self-determination.
Of course, there was much more to Sir Everton than his cricketing exploits. His remarkable intellect, his wonderful sense of humour, his sophistication in every respect, caused us to ponder as to the heights he could have scaled had the opportunities available to us today been available to him in his youth.
Without fanfare and with little or no personal gain, he provided sterling service to the game of cricket off the field, to his nation, and by his mentorship, to young aspiring Barbadian cricketers too numerous to mention. His characteristic graciousness and generosity of spirit, and above all that special but indefinable touch of Barbadianness, marked him out as one of our greatest citizens of all time.
Born in Pickwick Gap near Barbados’s Kensington Oval, Everton DeCourcey Weekes was a keen player of both football and cricket as a boy, but it was in the latter game that he rose to fame. Playing for Barbados against Trinidad, he made his first-class debut in 1945 — two days short of his twentieth birthday — and his Test debut for the West Indies in 1948, alongside fellow Barbadians Clyde Walcott and Frank Worrell. They soon became known as “the Three Ws.” Often considered the best batsman of the trio, Weekes is remembered as one of the hardest hitters in the history of the game. From 1948 to 1958 he played forty-eight Test matches, and he scored more than 12,000 first class runs over his career.
Owen Arthur is a former prime minister of Barbados. This text is adapted from his foreword to Mastering the Craft: Ten Years of Weekes, 1948–1958, by Sir Everton DeCourcey Weekes with Hilary McD Beckles, published in 2008 by Ian Randle Publishers. Reprinted with the kind permission of Ian Randle Publishers. Find out more at ianrandlepublishers.com