Codrington College, Barbados, showing the playing fields (from a drawing by the Bishop of Barbados)
Codrington College, Barbados, showing the playing fields (from a drawing by the Bishop of Barbados)

This seeds of this narrative had had been sown on Good Friday, April 7, 1710, when one Christopher Codrington III had passed away, beloved and revered by all. A relatively wealthy man, he had left behind two large estates and 10,000 in cash. In his will, he had left to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, the estates at Society and Consetts. One of the purposes of the bequest was that there should be maintained a number of professors who should be obliged to teach medicine, surgery and divinity. The construction of the college that bears the name of the generous benefactor began in 1715, being completed in 1743. Codrington College, Saint John Parish of Bridgetown, Barbados, was officially opened on September 9, 1745, and later affiliated to the University of Durham in 1875, after which, the College began to offer courses in the Classics as well as in Theology.

The Reverend EP Smith, MA of Pembroke College, Oxford, was a Tutor of Codrington College in the 1830s. A male child was born into the household on the College premises on Mar 31, 1837, and was subsequently named Frederick Bonham. Fred Smith grew up in the environs of the College where his father taught. He studied at the Lodge School (a Grammar School set up in 1745 in the Chaplain s Lodge hence the name). His academic career being fairly good in school, he had obtained an Island Scholarship to complete his education at Codrington College. Having completed his College education, Frederick Bonham Smith entered the Public Service of Barbados in 1859 as a bright and enterprising young man, 22 years of age.

Being born and bred in the Caribbean ambience, it was not long before the cricket cast its spell on him and his brother Augustus, seven years his junior.Fred gradually developed into a right hand bat and a right arm fast bowler.The archives tell us that Smith played only 3 First-Class games. Unfortunately, in those early, pioneering days of Caribbean cricket, there was no protocol for systematic documentation with regard to local cricket.

A trailblazing and historic event took place at the local Garrison Savannah ground, Bridgetown, when a two-day game, nevertheless, granted First-Class status, began February 15, 1865 between hosts Barbados and visitors Demerara. It was the first ever First-Class and inter-colonial game played in the West Indies. All 22 combatants (all of them white-skinned, it may be added) made their individual First-Class debuts in this game. As per the prevalent practice in local cricket at the time (cricket is thought to have begun as early as 1806 in the Caribbean islands), the overs consisted of 5 balls each. It is not known who won the toss, but it is on record that the hosts batted first.

Outside the Cricket Ground at Barbados, circa late 1800s. Credit     International Centre of Photography
Outside the Cricket Ground at Barbados, circa late 1800s. Credit International Centre of Photography

In many ways, this game is remembered by posterity as a classical jugalbandi by the brothers Smith, skipper Frederick and Augustus. They opened the innings for Barbados; Fred was dismissed for a duck but Augustus scored 13. The top score of the innings was 21 by George Whitehall. The only other double-digit contribution in the innings was from the 19 extras. Barbados were all out for 74, Renwick Tucker taking 4 wickets.

The Demerara first-innings total of 22 contained 6 ducks and was boosted by 7 extras. Skipper George Oliver remained unbeaten on 8, easily the top score. Barbados employed only two bowlers, the brothers Smith. In the incomplete scorecard of the game, we only know that Fred took 6 wickets the first man to capture 5 wickets in an innings in First-Class cricket in the West Indies. Augustus took 3 wickets, with one man being run out.

Already carrying a substantial 52-run lead, the home team put together a total of 124. Fred Smith carried his bat for a round 50, in the process becoming the first batsman from the Caribbean islands to carry his bat in a First-Class innings, and the first man to score a First-Class 50 in the West Indies.

Faced with a winning target of 177, the visitors were all out for 30, extras top-scoring with 10. Augustus became the second man from the Caribbean islands to take 5 wickets in an innings. The skipper picked up 4 wickets, becoming the first man to take 10 wickets in a First-Class match in the history of West Indies cricket. When one recalls that this was his debut in First-Class cricket, it can safely be said that Fred Smith had made a pioneering and explosive debut. The icing on the cake was the fact that Barbados won the match by an imposing margin of 138 runs.

The return match was played at the Parade Ground of Georgetown from September 11, 1865, a three-day affair this time. Fred Smith was again the skipper of Barbados. The home team was again led by Oliver. Barbados won the toss and scored 111. Samuel Brown top scored with 33. For the home team, Thomas Daly took 4 wickets. In the home team s 82, the 34 extras did better than anyone. The Smith brothers captured 3 wickets each, and George Whitehall took 4 for 16. Between the three of them the bowlers sent down 11 wides. In their second knock Barbados were all out for 116, Charles Webb top scoring with 28 with Fred Smith not far behind (20). Needing 146 to win, Demerara scored the requisite runs to win the game by 2 wickets. Opener William Watson remained not out on 39. Augustus Smith took 5 for 26, his best figures till then, and Fred Smith had 3 for 40.

Fred Smith played his next First-Class game six years later, for Barbados against Demerara at Georgetown in 1871. This was the last First-Class game for both brothers. Skipper Fred won the toss but decided to put the home team in first. Demerara, under Oliver (who batted at No. 11) scored 115 thanks to the 23 extras. Robert Alleyne (5 for 52) and Thomas Clarke (4 for 29) did the team proud with their bowling.

The Barbados total of 148 was dominated by another debutant, Walter Outram (42*), extras adding 27, and the skipper 22. Linford Cox took 4 for 35. The home team bowlers bowled 12 wides between them. Demerara s second-innings total of 91 included a heroic effort of 51 (run out) by Herbert Unwin. Alas, it was not enough to prevent Barbados from winning by 8 wickets.

Meanwhile, Fred Smith s career in Public Service was on the ascendency. He became a Senior Police Magistrate of Bridgetown and St Michael in 1878, and served as Inspector of Prisons in the Island of Barbados in the same year. He was Acting Judge Assistant in the Court of Appeal from 1878 to 1880; Acting Colonel Secretary, Barbados, in 1879; Provost Marshall from 1882; and as Legal Staff Officer from 1903.

This Barbados born British national, holder of pioneering cricket records for West Indies, and of various posts in the Public Legal services of Barbados, passed away on March 27, 1923 at Tweedside, St Michael, Barbados, the most easterly of the Caribbean chain of islands, aged just 4 days shy of his 86th birthday.