Tributes To Colin Wiltshire

Date Published: 
Guyana Chronicle
Calvin Roberts

MOVING tributes filled the St George’s Cathedral yesterday morning as a thanksgiving service for the life of former national opening batsman, Colin Francis Wiltshire, was held there.

Chairman of Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) Yesu Persaud, who was the first speaker to deliver his tribute, described Wiltshire as an individual who had respect for all, was hated by none and loved by many. According to Persaud, Wiltshire carried himself with dignity at all times, which gave him the respect without even having to utter a word and he has never seen him angry throughout the many years he had known him prior to his death.

"Colin was a very close and good friend to me over the years leading up to the time of his death. He was an exceptional person and a role model who was filled with exceptional qualities for those who wanted to emulate him and certainly his family will miss him," Persaud stated.

Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Guyana Cricket Board (GCB) Mr Terry Holder, who spoke on behalf of the local cricket fraternity, remembered Wiltshire, who died on the December 18 in Trinidad and Tobago at the age of 74, as a man who loved cricket, with the sport being a lifelong passion to him.

"To understand the birth and growth of Colin Wiltshire the cricketer, you have to appreciate the time and place of his growing up.

It was in British Guiana, in the late forties and fifties. Cricket was unchallenged as the national sport and for Christmas, a father gifted a cricket bat instead of a Nintendo set, hoping the boy could be inspired by the gift to reach cricketing heights. Every backyard was turned into a cricket pitch with glass windows being constantly threatened.

Growing up in Queenstown, Colin would have been advised by his parents that if he and his friends had to hit the ball so hard, they should look for some open area to play. They found the Queenstown pasture, now occupied by the Convent of the Good Shepherd and St Gabriel’s. Here he represented the ward of Queenstown against teams of boys from wards like Alberttown and Kingston.

When he recognised the need for more organised competition, Colin joined the Demerara Cricket Club (DCC). One of his later teammates, Lennox Hunte, remembers him as one of the reliable batsmen for the club and talks of the learning experience he had playing alongside him.

Colin, too, would have benefited from playing under cricket knowledgeables such as Berkeley Gaskin, a formidable personality and that versatile legal luminary, Fred Wills, and it must have been from them that he acquired his wide knowledge and the ability to interpret and analyse the game. The DCC team then included Cecil ‘Bruiser’ Thomas, Lance Gibbs, Rudy Franklin, Vibert Rodney and later on, Clive Lloyd, his friend Ossie Gibson, Vincent Mayers, Carlyle Miller, Vibert Darjun, Lennox Bouyea, Philbert Blair, Ronnie Willock and Terry Cadogan.

I remember, with Wills as captain, Brian Patoir the national leg-spin googly bowler, representing the British Guiana Sports Club (BGSC), describing the DCC team as made up of a lawyer (Wills) a slugger (Clive Lloyd) and nine hooligans. A decent man, like Colin, became muddied by association.

It was under the leadership of Wills, that DCC won the first division competition, which was called the Case Cup, on six occasions, with Wiltshire who played a major part in those successes being the leading run-getter. Those performances were enough to earn him a place on the national team and he made his debut for British Guiana in 1959. That would have been 50 years, half a century ago.

Colin’s first game for British Guiana was against Barbados at Kensington Oval. He made 9 in the first innings and 6 in the second. Not a memorable start to a career. The team then consisted of Glendon Gibbs and Ivor Mendonca (as openers), Colin at three, Clyde Walcott (the captain) and then there was Leslie Amsterdam, Sonny Moonsammy, Norman Wight, Brian Patoir, Charlie Stayers, Pat Legall and Seranga Baichu.

The Grim Reaper has been busy and of the lot (and of those who remained in Guyana) only Ivor Mendonca remains alive today.

Colin represented British Guiana between 1959 and 1964, playing in 8 matches and his most memorable performance was a century (197) against the Combined Islands at Bourda in 1961, which went along with a couple of fifties and in fact he ended his career with a reasonably decent average of 34. Clearly, Colin was able to do as the coaches advised - to keep both eyes on the ball. But he was able to do so even while recognising that there was life after cricket and he worked on developing himself in preparation for that life.

And so it was, after he hung up his boots and put aside his bat, he was able to take his place in a management position in the private sector. And it taught him respect for everyone, the benefit of a good team spirit and team work, of the importance of every employee, however junior, to the business. It was the background of cricket that would have contributed to his elevation to the office of Company Secretary and Director of Caribbean Container Inc.

But for Colin, cricket had been a lifelong passion, accommodating only his family and his work. The famous DCC, Guyana and West Indies player and captain, Clive Lloyd had said that Colin was an inspiration to his generation of cricketers at DCC. 'Colin', he said, 'was blessed with the virtues of honesty and integrity, adding that on and off the field, he played with a straight bat.'

Clive’s recollection of Colin playing with a straight bat on the field is not supported by an examination of the way Colin got out frequently; for as Clive said, he was one of the finest exponents of the on-drive but it was a favouring of the onside that prompted him too often to play across the line, losing his wicket by the leg-before-wicket route.

The GCB some years ago took advantage of his willingness to serve off the field, hence he was made Secretary of the Board,” said Holder who was addressing an audience which included former Guyana and West Indies Test players Basil Butcher, Ivor Mendonca and Roger Harper, Leader of the Opposition Robert Corbin, Attorneys-at-Law Nigel Hughes and Burchfield Moore.

"You would understand and appreciate the demands on the Secretary of the GCB, who had to be travelling between the three counties, coordinating their programmes, ensuring that the grounds are fit for play, organising trial matches and ensuring that things like accommodation, meals and transportation are available when touring teams arrive. Colin had the interest, the experience and the energy to get things done and he executed those tasks easily, much to the admiration of many.

After demitting the Secretary’s Office, he continued to demonstrate interest in the game, attending regional and international matches and giving pointers to those who he recognised needed them. There was still, he felt, a contribution that he could make, until we got the tragic news.

Colin had travelled to neighbouring Trinidad to play what he must have known was the most critically important innings of his career. He must have been brimming with confidence. After all, when an experienced and talented batsman passes 50, he takes a new guard and sets out on the other half. So at 74, Colin would have been seeing the ball as big as ever.

But he must have fallen into the old bad habit of playing across the line. Up went the appeal. The umpire, who we say is always in the best position to make the decision, raised the dreaded finger. There was no referral system in place. No third umpire to review and worse yet, unlike in his time, this was a limited-over game, a 20/20 sprint where there is only one innings. No second innings, no second opportunity to reach that century.

Colin Francis Wiltshire who served as a director on the board at DDL, as well as Human Resources Manager of Seals and Packaging Industries Limited (SAPIL), was given out at 74, an innings well played, admired and applauded by many.”

Other tributes were made by chairman and managing director of Caribbean Containers Incorporated (CCI) Mr Ron Webster, who described the late Wiltshire as a hardworking and very dedicated worker, who was simple and easy to get along with. According to Webster, Wiltshire was a standout and esteemed individual who loved his now widowed wife Sibyl and son Garfield a lot, had a number of attributes and rarely lost his cool.

“He was a people’s person and one who sets companies rolling on their feet with his presence. He had a positive view on life and even if he was depressed, no one could tell he was in that mood and few words can capture the mind, with regard to his loss at CCI - in shock at the news of his death,” said Webster.

Following a thanksgiving service which was conducted by Rev. Terry Davis, the body of the late Colin Francis Wiltshire, a husband and father who was respectful to all, hated none, but loved by many was laid to rest in the St James-the-Less church cemetery on David Street, Kitty.