This is a personal history of football (soccer for North Americans) in Barbados from the perspective of a Lodge School boy during the period 1955 to 1964. While it is a personal perspective, I hope to capture the environment and evoke memories for others who lived through this period.
Two of the influences in those days to take an interest in football was the radio broadcast of the English F.A. Cup and English boys’ magazines, such as the Tiger magazine and its Annual book which featured Roy of the Rovers football club. Roy and his team were the main characters and I lived for the arrival of this monthly magazine. Many of the other stories and characters were good but not as enjoyable as the ones about football.
Cricket was the number one sport in Barbados and at Lodge School. The season lasted about nine months and football was only played for about three or four months. But my friends and I played all year round in whatever manner that we could.
In those days, the boots had brads that were leather studs held into the bottom of the boot by means of small nails. As the leather became worn, the nails would protrude and become lethal weapons if stamped down on an opponent’s shins. Boots in those days also had solid tips that could impact a serious wound on an opponent’s shin.
No allowance was made for our size when we were juniors (9 to 12 years old) and we played in full size nets on the Junior Field with a full size ball. As a result, any shot within the top three feet of the cross bar could not be reached by me. It was great fun. The balls were of leather strips sewn together and were often well past their prime, some were like balloons. They had a rubber bladder inside with a tube that had to be forced back inside a laced up slit. The leather laces could be very painful if you headed them by accident.
In lunch hour the boys would persuade the head groundsman, Bill Forde, to let them have a ball and this led to the game of “brinks”. Brinks consisted of a free for all on the playing field, where the objective was to grab the ball and kick it as high as possible. The pleasure came from kicking the ball as hard as possible but it was a very rough game, no rules, with the bigger boys happily knocking the smaller ones out of the way to get their brinks. There would be easily 50 or 60 kids on the field at the same time.
We also played an informal form of football at lunchtime where two boys would team up and playing against all comers to try to score on a single goal. After they had scored three goals they would get the pleasure of goal-keeping.
There was also ‘small ball football’ (usually with an old worn tennis ball). This was a favourite of the Goddard brothers (Noel and David “Curly”, who later played for Barbados in 1967 – see photo below), Vincent Daniel, Ken Agard and others. They would play every lunch hour, usually with one goal-post. It required great skill to dribble, shoot and head this smaller ball and was a good developmental exercise.
One of the masters at Lodge at this time was Graham Wilkes. He was reputedly the best football player in the Caribbean in his day. He was originally from England and had been in the Royal Navy. In those days it was legal to charge the goalie and hit them with your shoulder to intimidate the goalie or dislodge the ball. It was said that Graham Wilkes had once hit an opposing keeper from the penalty spot right back into the goal-nets. Earl Glasgow, a teacher, also played at that time, but my memory of their playing days is meagre.
At Lodge, there was incredible excitement watching the official games against visiting teams. Our “big boys” at that time included Tony Cozier, Cobb Alleyne, David Vidmer, Nicky Herrada, the Mayers brothers, Ken Harewood, Ronnie Hall (who came back as a Teacher after university and played when I was on the school’s first team). Just before game time, the Massiah Street boys would arrive. These were the young men from the neighboring village, who were real fans, cheering on the Lodge Boys, and enjoying every minute of this free entertainment. They always occupied the far side of the field while the pavilion side was occupied by the masters and boys. I do not ever remember seeing many students’ parents in attendance.
Our school fielded three different football teams. There was a school league, and we were also in both the first and third divisions of the island league. We were about the third division standard and held our own in those matches. However, traditionally, the main schools, like Lodge and Harrison College, were included in the first division because it was felt that the boys, upon leaving school, would join these clubs and it eased the transition. As a result, we as young teenagers were playing against the best players in the island, such as: Reggie Haynes (who had represented Barbados on a West Indian football team to England), “Pow Pow” Hinds (the only player then able to execute the bicycle kick), and Victor “Gas” Clarke, the best Bajan player of his day. They usually beat us about 6-0 and I am sure it could have been more. We were lucky to get through to get a good shot on their goal. The good part was that my friend, Lloyd Seale, got great practice from the bombardment of shots from the top players, thereby improving his skills and proving his abilities to the island’s football team selection committee.
When the other school teams visited Lodge they often brought a team to play our “intermediate” team. This was supposedly below a certain age (15?). However, we often believed the rules were broken by the other schools regarding the age limit as some of the supposedly under -15 opponents had beards and were towering above us. We used to joke that they were already married as they looked so old.
The matches against the other schools, especially Harrisons and Foundation, were extremely rough. Some of them got really out of hand and looked more like wrestling than football.
One of the highlights of playing for Lodge was that we got to play at Kensington Oval, the primary football field in the island. We were the early card before the big game on a Saturday afternoon. Even though the stands were not yet full, as many in the crowd came later for the main event, it was wonderful to play on a smooth pitch surrounded by the big stands – it almost felt like being at Wembley!
Below are some of the Lodge School football teams over the years 1957 to 1961:
After our game at Kensington Oval, we could stay and watch the first division teams. That was terrific football. Carlton, where I knew most of the players, had stars such as Paul Rapson (island player), Jerry Lloyd, Dr. Snow, Michael Evelyn and the captain Reynold Hutchinson. Everton and New South Wales were the leading clubs. Everton’s goalkeeper, Dennis Cumberbatch, represented the island before Lloyd Seale of The Lodge School.
Occasionally, Barbados would get visiting teams such as Air France from Martinique. They were much better than our local team and could do all the juggling tricks we aspired to. After they had scored a major lead they would then “freeze” the ball. This consisted of passing the ball around among themselves with no attempt to score but to make the local players look embarrassed. The crowd loved it as it showed superior skill and was very entertaining, albeit not for our players and in hindsight was probably in bad taste.
A unique historical tour of a West Indies football team to the United Kingdom was in August 1959. The team consisted players from Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Guyana, namely: Patrick Gomez (Captain), Ronald Gray, Tyrone Dela Bastide, Willie Rodrigues, Doyle Griffith, Alvin Corneal, Errol Aleong, Hubert Braithwaite, George Greene, Monty Hope, Compton Julian, Anthony Hill, Ken East, Owen Parkes, Karl Largie, Cax Baptiste, Walter Chevannes, Noel Daniel, Reggie Haynes (of Barbados’ Everton club), Sid Bartlett, Lionel Leggard. Noel Puchet (Coach), and Eric James (Manager). They played against English and Irish teams, winning 4 games and losing 14.
The touring Barbados National Football Team to British Guiana in 1962 was: Alvin Corneal (Everton), Claude Gregoire (Everton), Dudley Downes (Rangers), Victor ‘Gas’ Clarke (New South Wales), Harcourt Hinds (Everton), Reggie Haynes – Captain (Everton), Lloyd Seale (Lodge School), Michael Evelyn (Carlton), Paul Rapson (Carlton),Dennis Cumberbatch (Everton), Rawle Pickering (Everton) Horace Hunte (Rangers), Carlos Griffith (New South Wales), Lenville Small (Everton), Gregory Williams (Everton), Martin Gill (Everton), and Harold Griffith (Manager).
The single best football we saw in those days was in the mid 1960’s when two English teams, Chelsea FC and Wolves (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), came on a tour (likely as a reward). The two teams played an exhibition match and then Chelsea played against our local island team. They won handsomely and although our team played to their best the difference in pace and skill was evident. Lloyd Seale was in goal and had his thumb broken as the pace of a shot from outside the area was so much faster than he had ever experienced.
Football in the 1960s
Football equipment and style of play has changed quite a lot since the 1960s. For the younger generation, here are some of the differences.
Footballs tended to be all made of brown natural leather, i.e. no colouring or designs. They consisted of a leather outer shell and an inner rubber bladder with a tube to attach a pump for inflation. The tube was then bent over to stop air escaping, tied, and pushed inside the hole and then the leather laces were pulled tight. The leather laces could be quite hurtful when heading a ball, so one had to not only head the ball but watch and decide if the pain of connecting with the laces was worth it.
Football boots in the 1950s were brown leather and in the 1960s were usually black. There were no colourful boots. The toe of the boot was usually hard leather, both designed to protect the toes and to allow for hard ‘toe punches’.
The studs (also called ‘brads’) were of hard leather which were nailed into the sole of the boots. As the leather in the studs wore down, the nails became more exposed and could inflict cuts to opponents’ legs if the wearer was of an evil disposition.
Up until the 1950s, the goalkeeper holding the ball could be charged by an opposing player, i.e. hit should to shoulder and knocked back into the net or down. Goalkeepers had to bounce the ball every five steps if they moved.
Style of play
Nearly every team used the same formation, namely, two full backs, three half backs and five forwards. The big decision at the time was whether the forwards would play the ‘M’ or ‘W’ formation. The full backs were always the biggest strongest players who could kick the farthest, e.g. at Lodge School there were the big Mayers brothers, Trevor and Colin. There was never a thought that full backs would be running forward down the wings to attack, as is done today.
In the late 1960s, the formation evolved to having three full backs with the centre back called the ‘Stopper’.
Once a team got the ball in their possession, it was a mad dash towards the opponent’s goal, passing the ball among the forwards, until a goal was scored or possession was lost. No passing back to the goalie or seldom backwards to another player.
I trust that I have brought back some memories for older readers and helped younger readers to appreciate what the old days were like playing football in what is now becoming old Barbados. We really enjoyed ourselves and the memories are still with us.
This post is by guest contributor John Fraser. He was born at Spooners, Four Roads, in St. John and attended Lodge School from 1955 to 1964. John Fraser worked for Bovell & Skeete (later Coopers & Lybrand) from 1964 to 1973 in Barbados, St Lucia and Dominica. In 1973, he emigrated to Toronto, Canada and became a Chartered Accountant. He is now retired and just celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary. He has three children and six grandchildren.