The countdown is on ...
A week on Friday, the camps of Somerset or St George’s will enter the second day of Cup Match feeling pretty good about their chances of winning the 2018 classic. Last year, inclement weather put paid to chances of a result, despite the challengers seemingly going out of their way to lose in a little more than a day’s play.
That has been the way of recent times in the East End, beginning with the pre-teatime, day two capitulation of St George’s in 2015. However, they were decidedly better in Somerset a year later, even though the champions held the upper hand for the most part in a drawn match.
The 2016 Cup Match was marked by a farewell century from Janeiro Tucker, Mr Cup Match. It was, astonishingly, his first in the West End and fifth overall on the way to retiring as the leading scorer in the history of the event.
As long as we had to wait for Wendell Smith to overhaul Lloyd James in 1995, only then to be passed in short order by Charlie Marshall and “JT”, it will be some time before anyone can entertain putting a dent into Tucker’s record aggregate of 1,491 — especially given the modern lack of appreciation for the art of batting (see Sunday’s Eastern Counties Cup first round for the most recent example of batsmanship in decline).
The quality of the cricket will ebb and flow, whether or not through generational blips, but what should never be allowed to waver is the appreciation of Cup Match, and why it is the focal point of conversation as Bermuda’s premier event.
Thanks to the kind assistance of Leopold Mills Jr, it is right to remind, as it is every year, how Cup Match came about and the spirit of celebration that it was meant to embody. Not the spite, not the poor sportsmanship that has been seen at times on our fields — the refusal of Derrick Brangman to accept his dismissal in a league match has meant a year-long ban that rules him out for Somerset this year — not the enmity between rival fans.
The true spirit of Cup Match is to be seen through the eyes of those who have held firm to the principles of brotherhood and fair play. It is what is seen when the clubs come together for the annual R.O. Smith Veterans All-Star Game. In its infancy by comparison with Cup Match, the football event captures everything that is good about the human spirit: fellowship, compassion, understanding, respect.
There is no hate.
Those who suggest people from St George’s have an intense dislike for people from Somerset, and vice versa — and those to whom such description is accurate — have sailed in on a different ship to that which gave birth to this most cherished festival. This match was rooted in celebrating freedom, love and friendliness.
Now, lest we forget, this from the aforementioned Mr Mills, first submitted in 2004:
“Friendly Societies and other helping organisations have their origins far back in the history of mankind. From these traditions, initially found in the Great Societies of Africa, many trade guilds and societies formed in Europe, whose objective was to, likewise, safeguard the welfare of their members and friends.
“After the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, freeing enslaved peoples around the world, the Friendly Society Movement, as a vehicle of opportunity, began to fill the needs of the emerging group of free men of African descent. These needs revolved around the provision of social, financial and cultural enrichment and care for its members. This was especially necessary after emancipation where many Bermudians began to rebuild their communities and, naturally, community organisations formed all around the island.
“The Friendly Societies were integral in providing financial support for the sick, widows and orphans, and providing assistance and facilities for churches, theatres and other community organisations. Most societies were united in their core principles, such as friendship, love, truth and purity, and also believed in the outward application of these principles by providing for members, friends, fraternal brothers and sisters, widows, sick persons and orphans.
“This major growth in the Friendly Society Movement began with the founding of the Young Men’s Friendly Institution in 1832. Many other Friendly Societies were founded during the 19th and early 20th century; some were exclusively Bermudian in affiliation, while others joined fellowship with international orders. These societies included Lodges of the Independent Order of Good Samaritans, Lodges of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows, Lodges of the Independent Order of Oddfellows, Hamilton Parish Friendly Society and others.
“The tradition of the Annual Cup Match Classic started as a friendly gathering and cricket match by two Friendly Societies who were part of the Lodges of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows to celebrate their freedom from enslavement. These lodges were the Somers Pride of India Lodge #899, which originally formed in St George’s Parish in 1848 and its brother, Victoria and Albert Lodge #1027, established in 1852 in Somerset.
“So interesting did the games become that several lodge members became star players and, in 1901, it was suggested by John ‘Hotter’ Symonds that the teams play for a trophy. This idea was adopted and the first Cup Match was played in St George’s in 1902. Thus began a tradition that continued through two world wars and is unique in origin and expression.
“Cup Match is now the premier celebration in Bermuda, is renowned internationally and is at the centre of what it means to be Bermudian.
“In May 2001, the Bermuda Friendly Societies Association was formed to forge unity among the remaining societies and to engage our community. The association was built on the tradition of mutual friendship, which began decades previously with the formation of the Friendly Societies Council.
“In August 2004, the Sportsmanship Award was revealed, which is an honour bestowed upon the Cup Match player who exemplifies the best sportsmanship at the Cup Match Classic, therefore being an example to our island of the principles of friendship, love and truth. Principles that the Friendly Societies hold dear.
“The Orders of the Friendly Societies of Bermuda hope that you continue to keep the spirit of Cup Match growing into the 21st century.”
There you have it — and a big thank you to Brother Mills.
This year’s presentation will again be held at the Manchester Unity Lodge Building on the corner of Victoria and Union Streets, at a date to be confirmed.
We can only hope that all are guided by the principles set forth for this great occasion, as first the clubs set about the selection process on Saturday night, then as the match is played and, finally, as revellers at the match or elsewhere make merry on the back of the early descendants of slaves.
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