Cup Match recollections: the spirit of the game remains unchanged
Thirty-three years ago I began interviewing seniors on Cup March, one of the foremost events of our Bermudian heritage. Their memories ranged over the years leading up to the 1930s.
Much has been written on the history of the game, but I have chosen to focus on other activities surrounding the celebration of our Emancipation.
In the early 1930s, the Somerset Cricket Club rented the lower floor of Fairview on Main Road, Somerset. The owner, Henrietta Durrant, ran a boarding house on the upper floor where West End School principals C.A. Isaac Henry and Victor Scott were boarders. The Royal Naval Field adjoined the building. In recent years it has been renamed the Warren Simmons Field, in memory of the historic Somerset Cup Match captain and later president of Somerset Cricket Club. It was during his presidency in 1946 that land was purchased, and by 1948 the existing club was completed.
Warren Simmons also owned Simmons Ice Cream Factory. Before the game, he worked the entire night making sherbet and ice cream for his customers and his own refreshment stand. Early in the morning, he made his deliveries then went off to play the game. If there was a shortage, he used his break time to replenish supplies and rejoin the team.
The club rented the shaded hillside for their grandstand. The seating comprised long planks of wood, nailed together. Other plots were rented to Annie Riley and Howard Wingood for their light-refreshment stalls
The enterprising Mrs Durrant was renowned for catering to touring American teams as well as England’s Sir Gillian Barnes’s team. Cup Match, however, was her speciality.
The Cup Match team was selected the week before the game, usually on a Thursday evening. For Mrs Durrant, this was the signal for preparations to begin. There was a pig to be slaughtered, chickens to be killed, puddings to be made, cassava and coconuts to be grated. Dried apricots and apples to be soaked for fruit pies. The ginger beer was made in large casks, which were later transferred to clear, fifth bottles purchased from Gosling’s. The bottles were corked and tied down with string to prevent explosions.
On a plot of land opposite St Joseph’s Church, Eugene Whitecross slaughtered the pig and killed the chickens. The pig was skinned and the chickens plucked. Once ready, the pork and chicken were cut into small pieces and generously seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg. This was added, uncooked, to the traditional cassava pie batter. Mrs Durrant believed that precooked meat changed the flavour of the pie and caused it to spoil quickly. Wood was burnt in the brick oven until the bricks on the top and sides became white-hot. To test the oven’s temperature, egg shells were placed into the oven. Baking time was dependent on how long it took the shells to brown.
Mrs Durrant had the contract to feed police officers. They dined on the veranda while other customers ate inside. There was no refrigeration. Everything had to be fresh. The menu consisted of roast lamb with potatoes and vegetables, fricassee chicken and rice, cassava pie, baked ham, potato and green salad. For desert there was baked custard, plain cake, plum and bread pudding, fruit and coconut pies. Lemonade and ginger beer.
The home of Mr and Mrs Andrew Simmons was located on the corner opposite Somerset Primary School. They catered to the men of Maria Hill, Dockyard and local fans. Before dawn, with the assistance of their children, preparations began. The ice man began his rounds around 6am. The ice was placed in a crocus bag, in sawdust and placed in a galvanised tub. Buckets of water for washing the dishes were set out on the water tank to warm in the sun. Long tables were covered with white linen tablecloths. China and silver were laid out. Mrs Simmons prepared the food on a German stove and in her brick oven. The menu included cassava pie, roast beef with mashed potatoes and vegetables. There was bread pudding for desert. Dishes were washed in Sunlight soap, rinsed and left to dry in the sun. At 4pm. English people gathered for tea with ham and hot mustard sandwiches. The Simmons family described the day as gruelling, but profitable.
One year, Edward “Bosun” Swainson was so excited after scoring a century that he scaled the fence surrounding the naval field, jumped a wall and sat down among the food preparations on the Simmons lawn.
While the wife prepared the food, her husband rented space to carriage drivers in the shady, grassy area where the Somerset MarketPlace is now located. He provided the water for the horses, but the drivers had to bring the oats. His prices ranged for 2/6 to 5/-.
After her marriage, Mrs Durrant’s granddaughter, Henrietta, and her husband, Edmund, ran a large food stall. They were known for their snowballs. They made their own syrup from a mixture of boiled sugar, colouring and essence purchased from the Phoenix. There was an extra charge to have evaporated milk poured over the top. To collect the money, she wore an apron with pockets across the front. Her husband designed a special carrying tray with holes the size of the cups. This enabled his wife to move freely about the field. Three hundred pounds of ice was purchased and stored in a large ice box purchased from the Dockyard. Campbell Richardson delivered the sodas from Sterling’s Mineral Water Factory at about 1am. There were a variety of flavours — sarsaparilla, root beer, orange, lime, pineapple and Sterling’s stone ginger beer. He delivered at this hour because it was cooler for the horses, and the load was heavy.
The Harneys also sold sandwiches and hot dogs prepared in a special steamer with a section to keep the buns warm.
Refreshment stands were also located where the horses and carriages parked. Others were located where the Esso Service Station is today. These stands sold sandwiches, roasted peanuts, coconut cakes, glass candy, ice cream and sherbet.
Mr and Mrs James Wellman erected a marquee at their home located where Arnold’s supermarket once operated. They sold lemonade — made in large, disused salt beef kegs — and codfish cakes. Making codfish cakes was not a simple process, as codfish was sold with skin and bones. A glass of lemonade and a codfish cake cost a penny each.
Clevie Jones, a blind man, assisted by his friend, Mr Gray, could be heard selling his wares — Cracker Jacks, popcorn, chewing gum, coconut cakes, roast peanuts. “You name it, um got it.”
The scorekeepers were located in a long wooden pavilion. At lunchtime, umpires, scorekeepers and cricketers dined inside the building. Walter Smith, with the assistance of family, prepared meals shaded by a canvass awning. Some preferred a heavy meal while others preferred potato salad, turkey, ham or sandwiches. Fielding Swan never ate very much, but he preferred beef. Kitchener Johnson preferred sandwiches.
On the day before Cup Match, friends and relatives from outside the parish arrived to spend time in Somerset. The population of Somerset tripled overnight. Tensions were high when St George’s supporters came to stay with Somerset fans. There was little sleep as they debated the anticipated results of the game.
Cup Match day arrived before dawn. Enthusiastic fans arrived by hired carriages, horse-drawn express, train, bicycle and on foot. Men wore doeskin pants and blazers. Some wore heavily starched linen suits, long-sleeved shirts and ties; others wore seersucker suits They wore white helmets, Panama or biscuit hats with team colours displayed around the crown. Some wore caps displaying team colours. Their white bucks were cleaned to perfection. Men strutted around the field using walking sticks with team colours plaited around them. These were purchased from the master cedar craftsman John Davis. Shorts where worn only by the English. Bermudians never removed their jackets or ties during the game. They were gentlemen, dressed for a gentleman’s game.
Women wore dresses made of silk, satin, lace, sharkskin and pongee. Crepe de chine was never a wise choice; it shrank when wet. In Somerset, fabric was purchased from Robinson’s or Bradford’s. In Hamilton, fabric was purchased from the Woman’s Shop or Bon Marche. High-heeled shoes and silk stockings in every colour but red were worn. Many wore straw hats and some dyed them to match their outfits — a disastrous practice on a rainy day. A parasol and a picnic basket completed the outfit. Children were dressed in their Sunday best.
One year, E.F. Gordon, a staunch Somerset supporter, arrived in an eye-catching jacket of red and blue. So spectacular was the outfit that he stopped the show.
Brownlow Place, who is 105, recalls leaving home in Hamilton with his mother to catch the 6am Corona. That ferry was mainly for Dockyard workers. They then caught the horse-drawn bus to relatives in Somerset. When the bus was crowded, they walked. He also recalled a ferry disembarking passengers in an area to the northern side of Long Bay opposite the Salvation Army Citadel.
The Corona left Meyer’s Dock in St George’s at 8am. Passengers began to gather as early as 4.30am. It was a fast boat taking about one hour to reach Watford and cost 5/-. Many described the Corona as dangerous. It had a round bottom which caused it to tilt when passengers crowded to one side.
As it entered Somerset waters, the captain gave several blasts of the whistle. This signalled the arrival of the St George’s team in the west. Prior to the building of the dock at Watford, passengers described climbing down the rocks to the gang plank.
When the game was in St George’s, the Corona had food concessions on board. They sold potted meat sandwiches, beef pies shaped like your hand and fish cakes. Many Somerset seniors took their lunch and remained on the boat for the entire day.
The teams arrived at the field, smartly dressed in doeskin pants and blazers of blue and blue or red and blue. They wore caps with their team insignia on the front. The game began promptly at 10am.
It cost 1/- to enter the field and for those who sought spots early, the gate-fee collector made his rounds. The Royal Gazette was sold and scorebooks, printed by Charles Trott, named every cricketer participating.
Crown & Anchor, known as “the stock market”, was run by “Grin” Bassett. It was located out of sight of the police on the northern end of the Reliance Bar behind the Wellmans’ stall. The cricket club had “open house”, so anyone could purchase liquor.
The peacefulness of the game was often interrupted by violent fighting among the spectators. Police officers, dressed in their grey, long-trousered summer uniforms with white helmets displaying a spike on the top, would dash around to settle disputes or cart the offenders to Somerset Police Station.
Around 1918, there was a blind man named Tacklyn who played an accordion and composed game-related songs. One year he made up this song, “St George’s thought they could make Somerset wait, but they brought a score of 28“. The match finished at 2pm and the fans fought a running battle on the field. The disruption was fuelled by alcohol and the number of men who gambled on the game.
If you lived in Pembroke and could not attend, the results were telephoned to the Phoenix Drug Store. It was then written on to a large blackboard, which was placed outside. Reid Street was crowded with children on bicycles who had been sent to report the results to their neighbourhoods.
Normally at about 6pm, the game was completed. On the final day, the Somerset Brigade Band marched the St George’s team — win, lose or draw — back to the Corona for the voyage back east.
During the 1920s and 1930s, bazaars were arranged by the Grand United Lodge, the Victoria and Albert Lodge and the Somerset Cricket Club. They were held on both nights after the game. The North Village Band entertained. There were coconut shies, refreshments, drills and plaiting of the Maypole. At Manchester Unity Hall Theatre, there were silent movies, usually a double feature. This was always followed by a dance on the patio with an orchestra. Cup Match has always been very busy, exciting and festive occasion. Let us never forget its historical significance.
Modernisation has changed many things, but the spirit and the camaraderie of the game remains unchanged.
• Many thanks for this invaluable history to Brownlow Place, Ambrose Scott and Ellen-Kate Horton as well as the late Louise, Alice and Sinclair Simmons, Henrietta Harney, Hilda Bean-Sharpe, Faith Ratteray, Fielding Swan, Kitchener Johnson, Enid Darrell, Thelma Packwood and Howard Dowling