By Rita Pemberton
Sporting activities have played an important role in the shaping of Tobago’s society. Because the island’s population existed in isolation, sports were organised through the schools and communities. Up to the 1950s, these were the only competitions in which sports men and women in Tobago were able to participate. These activities provided more than leisure time amusements because they facilitated community strengthening and cohesion through the training, preparation and support mechanisms involved in preparing the teams for the friendly (but serious) rivalry which occurred on weekends and holidays.
These sporting activities were of particular significance for providing opportunities for some individuals to recognise and demonstrate their natural talent and for others to develop skills, in particular sports, but there was no facility for recognition and further development of this talent in the wider community. Prominent among the popular sports in Tobago were swimming, netball, basketball, athletics, cricket and horseracing and goat racing.
Swimming developed as a spontaneous pastime for people who lived close to the island’s beaches and the seafaring families. Most swimmers taught themselves to swim as there was neither a public swimming pool nor swimming instruction on the island. Netball, basketball and athletics were introduced in the schools through inter school competitions. Horseracing and cricket which were introduced by the British in the 19th century, were initially the preserve of the upper class. The working class substituted donkey and goat racing but there were instances when communities lent their support to particular horses whose owners belonged to the black middle-class residents of their districts. However, unable to afford the specialised equipment required for the game of cricket, the spirit of creativity enabled the working population to fashion bats from coconut branches and use small fruit as balls and cricket became an immensely popular game which was played on the beaches, the streets and any open space in a heavily community based activity in which both men and women were involved.
The community tournaments produced a number of distinguished players on the island many of whom were never able to gain sufficient attention to be allowed to feature as players to represent Trinidad and Tobago. This issue features two Tobagonians who were the first to gain the distinction of a place on the country’s representative sports team. It is ironic that one of them occurred in the unlikely sport of swimming and the other was a super talented homegrown cricketer.
CARLOS BERREMEO DILLON
There was no formal organisation for swimming in Tobago until the 21st century. Many Tobagonians to swim in the sea which was a major avenue of recreation on the island especially for those who lived in communities near the sea, so it did not seem possible that a Tobagonian would earn a place to represent the country in this sport. Against the odds, Carlos Dillon achieved this in 1957. Born and raised in Buccoo to a seafaring family, Dillon learned to swim at the age of four and was as comfortable at sea as he was on land. His father owned fishing boats and was one of the pioneers in Buccoo Reef excursions so young Carlos was nurtured to handle boats and to understand the sea. He sat and passed the entrance examination for Fatima College which he entered in September 1951. At school he befriended boys from St James with whom he went swimming at the beaches in Carenage, Dean’s Bay and at the YMCA-run Benbow Pool on Wrightson Road where he had his first exposure to a swimming pool and where he learnt the rudiments of competitive swimming. ‘
He became a member of a water polo team named “Ocean Giants,” which was formed by his group of friends and they played games at the Trinidad Yacht Club against teams such as Devil Fish, Copper Fins, Barracudas and Harlequins. During this time, John Humphrey, former Government Minister under the NAR government, who had just returned from university abroad, swam competitively and was a water polo player, encountered the young Dillon and was so impressed with his swimming ability that he offered to coach him. These sessions enabled him to master the butterfly and breast strokes. He caught the attention of members of the swimming fraternity, was called for trials and selected to the team that played against Barbados in 1957. Trinidad won the series and Dillon earned a silver medal in the closely contested 100-yard Butterfly stroke event. Carlos Dillon was the first Tobagonian and the first swimmer to earn a place on a representative team of Trinidad and Tobago. He was later posted to work in Tobago which terminated his involvement in water sports.
ALSTON EMMANUEL DANIEL
The seventh of eight siblings, and the last of four boys, Alston Emmanuel Daniel aka “Pet” was born on July 16, 1960, in Daniel Trace, Carnbee, Tobago, to Leon and Beatrice Daniel. He attended Montgomery Government Primary School where under the tutelage of Mr Bertil Sinclair, then a teacher at that school, he honed his cricket career. He was distinguished as a left arm spinner who regularly returned five to eight wickets per game and a right-handed batsman. He quickly rose to captain the school’s team which he led to win the Leeward District Schools’ Cricket Competition twice. Daniel was one of the first to be awarded a scholarship to attend the Tobago Institute of Education (TIE) run by Mr Lionel P Mitchell, where he obtained his secondary education and was offered further opportunities to develop his sporting skills. As a student at TIE, Daniel excelled in cricket, football and athletics but he chose to specialize in cricket and was appointed captain of the school’s team. Because of his consistently outstanding performances at TIEwhere he normally took five to eight wickets per game, at age 15, he was selected to represent Tobago in the Tobago Under 19 team in 1976, and was later selected to captain the Tobago Team in the national inter-zone cricket competition. Then he was called for trials and was selected to the National Under-19s Youth team in 1978. After a superlative performance in the Trinidad & Tobago youth series in 1978, when he claimed 41 wickets and set a new record for wickets in a tournament, beating the previous highest of 37 by R Gangadeen. For his efforts, he was rewarded with a spot on the national Under-19 team, and was awarded the Peter Roberts Trophy for WITCO ‘Youth Cricketer of the Year.’ This was a first, and so far unmatched, achievement for a Tobagonian cricketer at any level. In the following year, Daniel maintained his outstanding performance, taking 29 wickets, the largest number by any player in the 1979 National Inter Zone Competition. He was again selected as part of the National Under-19 Team, to tour Guyana, in the Benson and Hedges West Indies Under19 Competition. In his inimitable style, the seasoned spinner took 13 wickets, the most for Trinidad and Tobago, and attained the best bowling figures of 7 for 72, against hosts, Guyana. The selectors were convinced of his ability and he was selected for the Senior National Team.
In 1981, Daniel was the first Tobagonian to represent Trinidad and Tobago at the senior regional level when a Trinidad and Tobago thrashed Jamaica for 200, in front of the latter’s bewildered home crowd at Chedwin Park, Spanish Town.
In that same year, he again created history by becoming the first Tobagonian to play International ICC-sanctioned cricket, when he was selected on the West Indies President’s XI Team to play against a touring English Team. In this tournament, he played against famous West Indies cricketers such as Roger Harper, Jeffery Dujon, and the late Malcolm Marshall.
Daniel was subsequently appointed captain of a Trinidad and Tobago Under 25 Cricket Team that played against West Africa in 1982 which included Phillip Simmons, former West Indies opening batsman and previous coach of the West Indies senior team and Robin Singh, the former Trinidad youth player and bowling coach for India Test team.
In his senior debut for Tobago against East Trinidad in the Texaco Cup at the Sir Frank Worrell Grounds, UWI, St Augustine, he took two wickets, and the match ended in a tame draw. In 1985, he toured England with the Tobago cricket team and in 1990 was part of another Tobago team that visited St. Vincent. After this, he continued playing for Tobago, until 1993, capturing over 200 wickets.
After playing at venues such as Sabina Park in Jamaica, and Arnos Vale in St Vincent, bowling to batsmen the likes of Jeff Boycott, Graham Gooch, Mike Gatting, Lawrence Rowe and Collis King, and capturing the prize wickets of Sir Ian Bothams and the David Gowers of the world, this distinguished cricket pioneer shifted his focus to coaching. He was head coach at St Clair Coaching School from 1994 – 2010 and managed Tobago Youth cricket teams from 1998 to 2004. He has contributed significantly to the development of many top Tobago cricketers, including Aka George, Iraq Thomas, Shaquil Duncan, Kelsea Alleyne, Quincy Trim and Dwayne Henry. Daniel is now a certified West Indies Cricket Board Level 11 Cricket Coach and continues to encourage and mentor upcoming cricketers in the community.