East End remembers a man of many talents
St George’s Cricket Club, and the East End sports community as a whole, lost a dedicated worker on the weekend with the passing of Mansfield “Bojangles” Smith at the age of 82.
From his early days as a goalkeeper with the Wellington Rovers, Mr Smith served the East End community with pride, also playing cricket with St George’s Cricket Club as a wicketkeeper and playing one year (1958) in Cup Match as an opening batsman.
However, it was as an administrator and organiser of events that Mr Smith made his biggest contribution to St George’s, serving as president, secretary, chairman of selectors and head groundsman of the cricket club.
He was one of the key figures behind the setting up of the Eastern Soccer League, a league that catered to teams from St George’s, St David’s, Bailey’s Bay and Devil’s Hole. Back in the late 1960s he was instrumental in taking two young teams from Wellington Rovers on tours to New Jersey and Philadelphia.
Mr Smith also served as a referee with the Bermuda Football Association and as an umpire, often hours after cutting the grass and preparing the wicket for matches at Wellington Oval. He also organised boxing events at Wellington Oval, a seven-a-side football tournament that ran there during the summer for several years and was even instrumental in helping to set up the table tennis league in the 1980s, serving as vice president of that association and also a player for Eastern Stars.
“Any sport that was played in St George’s he was a part of,” said Noel “Sub” Smith, a former veteran footballer for St George’s Colts, who remembered Smith giving tirelessly to the club and the community.
“He was involved in football long before me, but when cricket started we knew him as the organiser of the cricket programme, the registration of players, organising of training. Then, in the winter time, it was football for Wellington Rovers. I don’t how he split up his time, going from one sport to the next, and for a period of time he was still playing.
“I played in the Bermuda Table Tennis Association with him, I played softball for Wellington Rovers and he was a part of that and I’m sure he was a major contributor to softball, cricket, football, table tennis and was one of the main organisers of the Eastern Soccer League.
“He was St George’s through and through. He is going to be a big miss for St George’s Cricket Club. He’s one of the few who you could call Mr St George’s.”
Anthony Trott was a member of that Wellington Rovers tour and started playing cricket for the club when Mr Smith oversaw the youth programme. “On many occasions we’d see him out there rolling the wicket in the evening and he probably hadn’t even been home from work yet, still wearing his work shorts and socks,” he recalled. “He gave his life to the youth and for the betterment of all the sports he was involved in.
“He would be out there rolling the wicket or marking the field and after that he would stand in the middle as an umpire or referee. You never heard him complain, he was one of the most reliable people the club had.”
Smith, the father of former Cup Match players Wendell and Clay Smith, started to take a keen interest in boxing after older son Ray, who died in 2006, took up the sport and became a super middleweight champion in the 1970s. Living next to the club meant that Smith spent a lot of time at the club, including working tirelessly often by himself to prepare the wicket during cricket season. One year in Cup Match he even took on the task of explaining the game of cricket to the tourists at Wellington Oval, using a bat and a stump as a teaching aid.
Smith received a sports citation during the Government Sports Awards in 1995.
Willis Dill, president of Western Stars and who worked with Mr Smith as a customs officer, extended his sympathy to the family on behalf of his club where son Wendell Smith is the cricket coach. “On behalf of the Western Stars family, I want to express our sympathy to Wendell, Clay and the rest of the family on his passing,” said Mr Dill.
“Everybody will remember him as the man who did so much for St George’s in Cup Match and at that time he was the key man, president, groundsman, everything. I worked with him down at the No 7 dock and he taught me how to run things down there.”
Mr Smith passed away on Friday night and less than twelve hours after his passing, sons Wendell and Clay were both at the Eastern Counties game in St David’s on Saturday, Wendell as part of the ZBM commentary team and Clay as coach of champions Cleveland.
“That’s what he would have wanted us to do,” said Wendell on the radio.
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