By Nelson A. King
Frank “Monty” Clarke, a Washington, D.C.-based tax accountant and former treasurer/public relations officer of the Sion Hill Sports and Cultural Club in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has paid tribute to the late, popular former manager of the Sion Hill Cricket Club and long-standing curator of the Sion Hill Playing Field, Lloyd Eli Lewis.
Lewis, renowned as “manager” and “Barber Lloyd,” died at his home in the Roseau section of Sion Hill in the Vincentian capital, Kingstown, on Jan. 22. He was 81.
Lewis, a former Customs Officer in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and popular barber, spearheaded the establishment of the Sion Hill Playing Field before it was re-developed for the 2007 International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup in the West Indies.
Lewis was “the most dedicated and committed curator” of the Sion Hill Playing Field “until advancing age forced him to step down,” according to NBC Radio in Kingstown.
Clarke, a former counselor and alternative representative of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the Washington, D.C.-based Organization of American States (OAS), said Lloyd’s “energetic behavior was exhibited repeatedly in the manner he devoted a significant amount of his time to the development of the Sion Hill Playing Field.
“Every year, from when he began taking care of the matting wicket to the introduction of turf wickets, he would present his plans to the management team of the Sion Hill United Cultural and Sports Club for consideration and possible approval,” he said about Lewis, who he affectionately called “manager.” “After approval, he was relentless at implementing these development plans.
“’Manager’ must be commended for the leadership role he played in transforming the ground,” Clarke added. “By the addition of turf wickets, and increasing the acreage of the facility, from the time he took the baton from those who came before him, to the current curator(s), it was quite a significant effort on his part and a study in best practices for other Vincentian communities.”
But Clarke said the Sandy Bay-born Lewis did not limit himself to the curator and infrastructural work at the playing field, “because he was equally involved in the fundraising aspect of the development.
“He led by example, in leading one of many teams of young men and women from the community, in traversing the towns and villages of the mainland — from Chateaubelair to Fancy, and the Grenadine islands of Bequia and Union Island – to sell raffle tickets to assist in generating revenue for the club, including playing field development,” Clarke said.
He said another area of revenue generation, where Lewis provided leadership, was in the selling of national lottery “scratchy” tickets, “which also provided employment for some youngsters of the popular Sion Hill community.
“’Manager not only ‘talk the talk’, but he poured his maximum physical effort into whatever fundraising project was on deck,” said Clarke in his tribute, read at the Lewis’s funeral on Monday at the Kingstown Methodist Church. “He was an inspiration and a cheerleader to all of us, young men and women coming of age in the Sion Hill community, who observed his work ethic from the close proximity we all had.”
In addition, Clarke said Lewis was very tenacious, stating that this was “on full display whenever his ideas and plans did not receive initial approval from the club or anyone else.
“Such outcomes would refresh him,” Clarke said. “His tactic was to retreat, then recalibrate his efforts by adjusting his methods and procedures to satisfy the necessary requirement to obtain future approval.”
He said that Lewis, who he described as having “a big heart,” was also “a great visionary,” stating that this trait was borne out in the manner in which he focused on individual player development in the club, playing field development at Sion Hill and, later on, playing field development island-wide.
In the early 1970s, when Lewis began his campaign to re-invent Sion Hill Cricket, after the days of veterans, such as Irvin Millington and the late, Kerwin Webb, Clarke said Lewis was instrumental in having two teams from Sion Hill compete in the Narvo Shield (2nd Division) Competition in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
But, within a few years, Clarke said the stronger of these teams – including former West Indies fast bowler Winston Davis, Jerome Samuel, and Carlos and Monty Sealey – gained promotion to compete in the Frazer-Neckles Cup (1st Division).
“This strategic decision to expose more young men to domestic cricket was vindicated by a steady stream of talented young men from the community representing the national team during the 1980s and 90s,” said Clarke, adding that Lewis’s proudest moment came on Thursday, April 28, 1983, when Davis made his West Indies test debut at the Recreation Ground in St. John’s, Antigua.
“It was one of the few times I saw him shed a tear, because it was quite emotional for him,” Clarke said about Lewis.
But he said the high point of Lewis’s “journey, another proud moment, came on March 9, 2007, after the warm-up 50 overs match, in preparation for the ICC Cricket World Cup across the Caribbean. England played Australia at the Sion Hill Playing Field.
“He told me by telephone afterwards how contented and gratified he felt to be told by Michael Vaughan, the English captain, of his satisfaction with the match wicket, and the encouraging words he received from Ricky Ponting, the Australian skipper,” Clarke said.
He said Lewis was a “self-made cricket ground curator,” who “had no formal training but he picked up bits and pieces from the likes of the late Frankie Thomas [cricket administrator], and also Mike Findley [former West Indies wicket keeper and manager] and Lennox John [former president of the Windward Islands Cricket Board].”
Lewis was interred Monday after the funeral. He is survived by wife, Ethel “Chemist” Lewis, children and grand-children, and the cricket fraternity.