(In my column today, I will feature an excerpt from Chapter II of my book, SPORTS, SIN AND SUBVERSION, published in 2008. This chapter was entitled, “Edwards Park,” and this excerpt is partly by way of paying respect to the legendary Denton “Sharkey” Fairweather, who has been living in Belize City since he returned from the United States last December. As the chapter explains later on, Sharkey was not a Dunlop original, but when the Dunlop football stars moved on to basketball at the old Holy Redeemer Parish Hall, Sharkey was their basketball captain. Then some of the Dunlop stars moved on to BEC football, where they became Sharkey’s teammates.)
I was the eldest of nine children. My mother did everything right to raise me the “proper” way. She sent me to piano lessons when I was seven. I was forbidden to play ball in the streets or in other people’s yards. I was pretty much a protected child. My first real peek at the real world, the “forbidden” world, took place at Edwards Park. This forbidden world was the Dunlop football team, and where they came from I hadn’t the slightest idea.
Mr. Cassian Aspinall (he’s now a proofreader at Amandala), a teacher in the Methodist school system from those days in the 1950’s, has told me that the core of the Dunlop football team came from Ebenezer, a Methodist primary school in the Freetown area of Northside Belize City.
When Dunlop emerged, the senior championship team in the old capital was Diamond A, a team sponsored by Mr. George August, a man who had his meat business right across the street from where we lived on West Canal. So he was on East Canal, at its corner with Regent Street West. This would have been around 1957, maybe 1958.
Diamond A featured grown men like “Wete” Waite, Peeto Haylock, Herbert Goldson, Tannico. To become the champions, they would had to have beaten Landivar, and at that time the best player in the old capital played for Landivar. That was George “Rough Tough” Young. I know that Mr. August was proud of his team, and he was my neighbor, but I never really identified with Diamond A. I respected the team.
The guys on Dunlop seemed like they were just a few years older than me. And they were clean. Their pants were lily white, and their black football boots glittered. (Dunlop was sponsored by Nord’s. Their jerseys were yellow and white stripes.) They were the junior champions, and then someone entered them in the senior Knockout tournament, which always followed the regular season in those days. And Diamond A, the senior champions, couldn‘t beat them. It was sensational. And I, a child, was seeing this history in the making at Edwards Park!
When I reached this precise part of this book, I stopped writing for many months. I resumed the work when I realized what my problem was. It was that, even though I was only 10 or so at the time, this team made an impact on me which was more than I would have understood as a young boy. It seemed the players were all black, not brown, and none of them were high school graduates. The only picture I have of the team includes an older brown player named Bernard Pickwoad, but honestly, for the life of me I cannot remember him on the Dunlop I knew.
I’m saying to you that, strictly speaking, because I was a brown child from the middle class of British Honduras, these young men were not supposed to become my role models. And they did not, but they gave me a sense of how I wanted to look, how I wanted to “flex.” I wanted to “flash.” I wanted to wear a “bebop” cap; I wanted a “mark” (square or tapered) at the back of my hair; I wanted to look cool, which is to say, confident. I guess it was the African DNA in me.
There are people like Rabbi Dead (Robert Flowers) who say that one time Dunlop went down to Stann Creek and gave Queen’s Park Rangers six on the billiards table at Pomona. I don’t know about that. Statistically, I know little about Dunlop, because football records are not kept in Belize, as they were not kept in British Honduras. I always wonder why, and it frustrates and angers me, but we have the memories, and some oral history.
The Edwards Park Dunlop that I knew featured Ernest “Reds” Wilson at center forward. He was short, chunky, and very fast. Reds scored most of the Dunlop goals. Gilbert “Pine” Hernandez was the center half, and the undisputed leader of the team. In the middle of the defence was Conrad “Attila” Vaughan. In those days, all the center defenders were large, brawny men. They “cleared” the ball far downfield as soon as they gained possession. Attila was completely different. He was slim, and when he gained possession he began to dribble. He would beat men several at a time, and would drift past midfield on occasion before he decided, when it finally pleased him, to give someone else the ball and return to protecting his goalkeeper.
I remember one day eavesdropping on a conversation between Pine and a fan/critic, who complained about Attila’s dribbling. Pine responded, “You eva si den get weh di ball fran hin yet?” (You ever see them get the ball away from him yet?) There was no rebuttal to this. Attila was perfection. It was said that he had grown up in Honduras, the republic to our south.
“Saddler” Ebanks was the right wing. I believe he is Kenny Morgan’s father. My personal favorite player was the left back, Britton. I always thought it was “Britain” they were calling him, which would have made it a nickname. But no, his surname was Britton. I found that out because one of my Geritol (1982) basketball players, Mark “Fiddle” Richards, married Britton’s daughter. Britton died in Chicago a couple years ago. He was clean, Jack.
Two Dunlop players who became much more famous after Dunlop, were the left wing, Louis Garbutt, who was first known as “Bembe,” and the inside left, Gilbert “Chico” Ellis. When he became a legend as the leader of Independence in the 1960’s, Garbutt became known as “Antonio” and “The Mugger.” Chico Ellis was a sublime star on Dunlop, but Reds had dominated the Dunlop spotlight. In the 1960’s on BEC, however, Chico became an icon, a legend.
I am positive that the very, very gifted Wilfred “Palma” Davis was not the first Dunlop goalkeeper. In fact, I believe Palma was the Diamond A goalkeeper during those first epic Dunlop-Diamond A confrontations. I know that the very famous Nelson “The Roo” Robinson was the goalkeeper for the Dunlop junior team.(Dunlop Junior was formed after the original Dunlop became the talk of the town.)
In the beginning, Bobby Moore, who is always described as an “old gambler,” was the Dunlop manager/coach. During games there was very little he did, from what I could see. Pine ran things, and on the forward line Reds did all the talking. In the defensive line, Attila was a genius who led by his style and elan.
Every action has a reaction, and my love affair with Dunlop, which segued later into a passion for Mugger’s Independence, meant that I lost my connect with Angus “Rusty” Vernon, a Unity Club member and a close friend of my uncle, George “Beaver” Hyde, and a man who would have been a more “appropriate” role model for myself. I have a distinct memory of accompanying my aunt, Grace Hyde Grant, to the football game which opened the MCC Grounds (1960). It was a Belize All Star selection, on which Angus featured prominently, against Queen’s Park Rangers, led by Stann Creek’s hero, “Tubuk” Martinez.
During the years I have written in Amandala about football, I have never given enough respect to Angus. I am always writing about Dunlop and Independence. What can I say? Angus’ records speak for themselves. He was one of the greatest ever. Angus wasn’t tall and he wasn’t fast, and he couldn’t kick down walls like Bullet Bob. But he always got the job done. Angus was a brilliant thinker between the white lines, cool under pressure.
I know that I love underdogs, as opposed to champions. This is how I explain to myself losing track of Dunlop after they became the unbeatable senior champions. I had begun high school, where I spent all my afternoons/evenings after school playing basketball. So I stopped going to Edwards Park during the week.
(NOTE: I intend to complete this chapter very soon. The above excerpt is from pages 7 to 11 of SPORTS, SIN AND SUBVERSION.)