Football, cricket and 100 years of Warwick Workmen’s Club
Gary Fray was 20 when he joined the board of Warwick Workmen’s Club.
Shy, and “not used to club life”, he recalls how he kept his mouth shut during their regular meetings around a long, wooden table.
“The only things I said were ‘good evening’ and ‘good night’,” the 73-year-old said.
It gave him time to learn from club elders such as Henry Swan, Erskine Adams, Lloyd Battersbee and Lloyd James.
“Those old-timers were seasoned club officials,” he said. “You had to pay attention.”
That same table now sits in his office at the club. Over the years he has been secretary, treasurer and president.
He tried to retire three years ago but was asked to stay on and manage the club “temporarily”.
He is there at least three hours every day, six days a week.
“I don’t mind,” he said. “I like doing it. I have the club’s wellbeing at heart, like a lot of others. It is nice to see the fruits of my labour carried on in the right way. My job is to make sure that everything is running smoothly and in order.”
At the moment, he is focused on the club’s 100th-anniversary celebrations on Saturday when a gala dinner will take place at the Warwick landmark.
It was created as a place for Black people to socialise at a time when the island was segregated.
Members initially met in a house on Spring Hill. A few years later, the current property at the foot of Cobbs Hill Road was bought. Some members took out mortgages on their homes to make that happen.
“Practically all the sports clubs throughout Bermuda have similar formations,” Mr Fray said.
He joined at 16. At the time he was playing with the Bombardiers, a football team affiliated with the club.
“We had players like Granville Nusum. We called him ‘The Cat’, because he was one of the best goalkeepers in Bermuda. He went the furthest in the national team.”
Warwick Workmen’s was a men’s club at that time. Women have since been accepted; the club membership sits at about 200.
To join, people go through an application process that includes a background check. Once in, members must abide by a behaviour code.
The field on the property is mainly used for cricket practice. It had been parking for Friday night bingo until the arrival of the pandemic. The hope is that the games will resume next year.
Apart from that the club offers pool, billiards, snooker, darts and a bar.
Mr Fray was the fifth of nine children. Apart from football he loved cricket and, in 1967, became the first member of Warwick Workmen’s Club to play in Cup Match.
“A lot of people think it was Lloyd James, but when he first made it to Cup Match, he was playing for the Southampton Rangers,” said Mr Fray, who played for Somerset.
St George’s trounced them that year.
“In those days St George’s had Clarence Parfitt, Cal ‘Bummy’ Symonds, Lionel Thomas and Reuben Scotland,” he said. “They had a top-notch team, really. It was a tremendous experience playing in front of all those people. You do get the jitters.”
He thinks he got his love for cricket from his mother Madelyn’s family. Her brother, Alfred “Fleas” Hall was a well-known cricketer.
Mr Fray’s brother Terry also played in Cup Match; his nephew Terryne was the vice-captain for Somerset this year.
Mr Fray’s father, Albert, was the assistant director of Public Transportation. As the family lived on Dock Hill in Devonshire, Mr Fray started out playing football with the Dock Hill Rangers until his family moved to Warwick.
“Then I switched to playing with the Bombardiers, because it was a long way to pedal to play with the Rangers,” Mr Fray said.
He attended Harrington Sound Primary, where he excelled at mathematics.
“It was called arithmetic in my day,” he said. “I did not go to high school, but I did go to the Jean Jacques Commercial School for two years.”
The school was on Dundonald Street, across from what is now the Diabetes Centre.
“In those days there was a two-storey building there, and the school was on the ground floor,” Mr Fray said. “There was a funeral home next door.”
He remembered how Mr Jacques, a native of Dominica, would read from the textbook, without actually opening it.
“We had our books open, and whatever he said was word for word what was in the book as we were following,” Mr Fray said. “That is how I got my accountancy and all of that.”
He worked in the accounts department of Butterfield & Vallis for 52 years until he retired in 2018.
These days he enjoys watching sports on television and painting his house.
He met his wife, Paula, at a football game. The couple, who celebrated their 54th anniversary in June, have two sons, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Warwick Workmen’s Club’s 100th-anniversary celebration takes place on Saturday from 6pm. Tickets are $50. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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