Inside the Region & WICB News
Date Published: 2020-07-31
Region & WICB News
EULOGY: Sir Hilary Beckles says Sir Everton Weekes was “the harbinger….”
Bridgetown, Barbados, July 31 - (www.bcacricket.org) - Following is the eulogy by Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, at the official funeral of legendary Barbados and West Indies batsman, Sir Everton Weekes, at Kensington Oval on Thursday, July 30:
Little Evee, his mother Lenore would say, without the blemish of pride, “didn’t do too badly at all”.
On the surface, such a statement revealed the dignity of the understatement so carefully concealed within the polished Barbados vernacular.
But deep beneath it revealed an unshakable aspect of popular philosophy; the unanimous indigenous rejection of hubris, and an insistence upon the celebration of humility and gentility as preconditions of greatness.
And so, here this morning we are gathered to celebrate and salute that special gift of Grace, “Gentility in Greatness”, a consciousness so precise and profound, as to be near extinction in the competitive culture of modern humanity.
In the life and times of Sir Everton we were called to bear witness to the effect of this phenomenon in our midst. The volcanic eruption in Westbury village of a man little in physical form and even less so in monetary value, rising to become the greatest giant in a global world filled with giants- completing the near impossible climb to the top.
Everest awaited Everton. Everton conquered Everest. And the rest, we know, is historic.
I recognize our beloved Governor General, Her Excellency Dame Sandra Mason, and our beloved Prime Minister, the Hon. Mia Mottley; members of the Weekes family, and I recognized especially Sir Everton’s children, Andre, Sharon, Christopher, Eareal, Maureen, and David; our two immortals of West Indies and global cricket, The Rt. Excellent, Sir Garry Sobers, and Sir Wes Hall; legends of West Indies cricket; distinguished Members of Parliament, the Judiciary, Clergy, and Civil Society; President and officials of Cricket West Indies; President and officials of the Barbados Cricket Association, and the Barbados Cricket League; members of the West Indies and international cricket community, Adrian Donovan and friends of Sir Everton who we especially celebrate.
Barbados was chosen 400 years ago by the English as the site of the world’s first black slave economy. Into it England poured some 600,000 enslaved Africans. Sir Everton was a descendant of the mere 83,000 survivors who make it to Emancipation. This demography of human destruction provides the background context of his life, best understood as a study in courage, confidence, commitment and consciousness.
His ancestors were not brought hither to be CRITICAL THINKERS; they were not brought here to be artistic and CREATIVE; they were not brought here to pursue FREEDOM AND Greatness; they were not brought here to be disruptive innovators or LEADERS, or to be EXEMPLARS of EXCELLENCE. They were not expected to escape the perimeters of estates and conquer the world far beyond.
Sir Everton, then, was one of the greatest revolutionaries of our world because by his deliberate design he turned that history upon its head. He emerged as a dignified man representing everything he was meant NOT to be.
If ever a bat became a bridge.....if ever a bat became a beacon.... if ever a bat became a baton..... it was the bat in the hands of Everton de Courcey Weekes.
We know of the performance statistics that defined his cricket; the proof that constitutes his phenomenal, prophetic achievements. They are etched in an architecture that holds and preserves many resilient records, standing in bold defiance of the corrosion of time; evidence of a West Indian monument forged in the fire of an audacious mind.
We know of the evidence of his Test career between 1948 and 1958- ten Years of Weekes”.
We know of his 4,455 Test runs at an average of 58.61.
Of his 15 centuries, the first five of which were consecutive, with the highest being 207.
We know that twice, in 1950 and 1956, the pundits and peer reviewers deemed him the best batman in the universe.
We know that with his brothers in batsmanship, Sir Frank Worrell and Sir Clyde Walcott, he laid the cornerstone for the West Indies rise to global greatness.
But we also know that such data represent but a distillation of the truth that defined the destination; the thousand steps in the journey of a foot soldier, LANCE CORPORAL Weekes of the Barbados Defense Force.
Making his first-class debut at the age of 19, and Test debut at 22 in 1948, and making his first century, number one of five in a row-in his fourth match-and making history in India that has stubbornly refused to be erased, rewritten or forgotten.
After India, he continued In England the streak of ruthless runs manufacturing. It was the historic tour of 1950, Cricket lovely Cricket, London Bridge has fallen down, the end of Empire, and so on, but it wasn’t done before the little giant of giants had made SEVEN centuries, including five-double, and a triple.
Two years later, 1952-53, he celebrated the Indians once again, with an average of 102.28 against the allegedly unplayable spin.
And again, two years later, 1955-56, he took a liking to New Zealand where he mass produced three consecutive Test centuries and ended the tour with an average of 83. 60.
But numbers are never enough. They never are. It is the narrative that matters most, and of which the numbers are a part. Behind the numbers there is the hidden history. With Sir Everton the truth of this statement seemed even more palpable. Once, when I asked him why ‘under the heavens’ did he deliver those super-human back-to-back hundreds, not once but twice, his gentle reply was:
“Back in those colonial days performance on the field and selection didn’t always go hand in glove. A poor boy like me who couldn’t vote when I was selected to play for my country had to shame the selectors. You had to make a selector lose sleep if he didn’t pick you”.
In the 1950-1951 period, when adult suffrage was admitted to Barbados, the global cricket fraternity expressed its peer appreciation of Sir Everton and designated him the best batsman in the game. In this recognition and elevation he became the first Barbadian to be classified and celebrated as number one in the world in an approved and respected endeavor.
This was a seismic, seminal, moment. Barbados, not yet a nation-state, and under colonial oppression, had received its first international endorsement as a place that could produce performance excellence. The island entered the annals of international popular culture as a society that gave life and nurture to a native recognized as a special gift to humanity.
The wisdom shown by ‘Wisden” after the war was finally beginning to unshackle the island’s inhabitants from the old plantation scaffold. But Weekes was more than just a wise choice. He was the metaphor that was to define the mentality involved in the making of the nation. He placed his country above the cruelty of history. He became a champion of achievement and liberation with dignity.
The masses that followed Clement Payne in rejecting colonialism in preference for democracy had produced an icon that represented the dream for future generations. In the inner city of Bridgetown this recognition knew no boundary. In the four corners of the planet Everton was hailed a hero, an artist, a humanitarian, and the expression of goodness within greatness.
He took the captaincy of his country before the nation was created and faced the ferocious resentment from an element born with the entitlement of Empire. Ironically, his beloved Empire Cricket Club, the greatest community club of all times in terms of producing excellence, represented the struggle against Empire. This was his incubator. His rise to the leadership...club and country...was a victory from communities below that were pushing for the ending of colonialism to open all doors to the poor.
The transformations driven by his genius were expressed as the results and products of confidence, courage, commitment and consciousness, the very qualities required to build a nation from the rubble of empire. It was the beginning of the regional recognition that the power of merit would transcend the hegemonic machination of money. Sir Everton was the symbol of the revolution that made the Caribbean nation possible and sustainable.
He was the harbinger, the one who announced the coming flood of greatness that found identity in the priceless person hoods of Sir Garry and Sir Wes. These men became the bearers of God’s truth that a people can be enchained and disenfranchised, a people can be tortured and tormented, but their intellect and eternal inner sovereignty can never be driven from the fertile soil of their soul.
And not only in Barbados, but especially in the Eastern Caribbean where he coached and scouted for talent, opening the door for giants like the Antiguan Knights...Sir Viv, Sir Andy, Sir Curtly and Sir Richie.
Here was a giant whose enormous spirit could not be broken. Here was a majestic man who withstood the pressures of the parochial to claim the victory of the global. Here was a human with the generosity of a gentlemen who knew that he was sent with a message which said, behind me there are many others, and I am here to pave the way.
The presence of humility in every aspect of his living and legacy tells a narrative that invokes images of humanity at its finest, from subtle wit to the firm grip on the handles of principles not to be breached but played with a straight bat.
On and off the field the display of dapper deportment spoke to a mind made up that elegance and eloquence should define the art of living.
There is no greater gift a man can give his society than that of the highest standards. In this regard Sir Everton was eternal in his giving. Our communities from Kingston to Georgetown were enlarged by his giving and seemed more sophisticated with his presence.
Cricket was his craft, but art defined his contribution. The demonstration of gentleness and greatness at the intersection vision and victory was the evidence of his art not as a performance but as a way of life and being.
His manner remained a mystery to many who observed his moments and movements. His humor became legendary. His wit as shape as a new razor.
He loved attending cricket matches at the 3Ws Oval, Cave Hill Campus, where he served as patron. He would invariably admonish me for allowing rowdy spectators to misbehave on the spot on the mound we had chosen as his resting place. He took a very keen interest in any activity on the area. Sacred ground he would say, not to be desecrated.
He was my friend whom I failed to fathom; possessed of too complicated a consciousness honed by a history and domesticity that produced elegance in form and excellence in performance. He gave more than anyone could imagine. It came from a very complex interior; only the discipline of a sage could have produced results such as his upon a public stage.
Now, with his departure to a higher pavilion, we recognize as we celebrate the essential truth, that a prophet had passed our way to show us the path.
I offer condolences to his family and friends, and to the people of Barbados and the Caribbean. May his soul be settled with peace.