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Remembering a ‘real role model’

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By Ira Philip

It is with utmost humility that this columnist confesses to an extraordinary career in the media extending more than seven decades — give or take a month or two here and there.

Yours truly has tried to cover the total Bermuda scene, first and foremost for the now defunct Bermuda Recorder newspaper; as a radio and television broadcaster, trade union leader, political strategist and for a couple of years as an Opposition Member of the Bermuda Senate.

We have always lamented the fact that it has so often taken the death of a giant or iconic personality to bring their contributions to the fore. Today we turn the spotlight on a couple of giants who are still very much with us and should be saluted.

There's Quinton Williams, a quiet, unassuming carpenter now in his 90s in the West End of the Island. In the St George's spectrum there's his friend, fellow star Leroy “Tubby” Richardson.

Those guys were BEC-UPs, not just plain BACK-UPS. Notice the difference in the spelling. Often the BEC-UPS were more stupendous than the stars they were backing up. This may be gleaned from my main feature today, which highlights a tribute to the late “Cheesey” Hughes, written by my contemporary and friend Leroy Dowling and forwarded by young Norris Dowling.

Austin, better known as “Cheesey” by friends and fans in the sporting world, was a class football star of the Pembroke Juniors Sports Club, the team that dominated the Bermuda Football League (BFL) in the 1940s and '50s and became known as the “Kings of the BFL”.

His distinguished playing career was one of excellence, thrilling thousands throughout the Island with his speed and skilful play from the mid-1940s to the early 1960s.

He was a great controller of the ball and had the ability to score goals out of nothing. He was a good passer and a very clever player at finding and making space with his off-the-ball runs.

“Cheesey” was also a great header of the ball and a master of the over-the-head kick, which left goalkeepers stranded many a time.

It was these attributes that made Cheesey a first-class centre-forward, helping the Juniors to continue the success which they had begun in the early 1940s.

He played a part in the Juniors' League titles of 1946 and 1947, and then this versatile gentleman contributed greatly at the other end of the pitch when he switched from goal-scorer to goal-stopper, playing goalkeeper for the next two seasons.

The team continued to be unbeatable, remaining the BFL Champions in 1948 and 1949, establishing a powerful football dynasty.

As a matter of fact, “Cheesey” and the Juniors did not taste defeat in league play until March 12, 1950 when arch-rivals Key West Rangers finally achieved the feat with a 4-3 win.

That defeat ended a phenomenal 56-game unbeaten streak for the Juniors, stretching back to 1943, and also resulted in Key West dethroning them for the first time as League Champions.

The Juniors were back with a vengeance the following season, and “Cheesey” and his team-mates regained the league title and added their second Knockout Cup.

The battle for supremacy with Key West Rangers continued for the rest of the decade with Key West being crowned champions for the next three seasons, and the Juniors then responding with another four League titles — in 1955, 1956, 1957 and 1958.

“Cheesey” was instrumental in all of these successes and there were many personal highlights for this striker, too numerous to mention. One of these highlights occurred in 1956 in the Knockout Final. The Knockout Shield was donated to the Bermuda Football League by Dr King after the Pembroke Juniors had retired the Knockout Cup, having won it consecutively the three previous years.

In that Knockout Final, the Juniors were in a nip-and-tuck battle with the Somerset Eagles, with the score tied at 4-4 in overtime. With only a minute to go, “Cheesey” beat Eagles goalkeeper Kenneth Thompson with his famous over-the-head special to win a thrilling contest. They would capture the Knockout Trophy again in 1958, for the seventh time in 11 seasons.

Under the lights at BAA Field on March 28, 1957, the champions of the Bermuda Football Combination (BFC), the BAA Greens, met the Pembroke Juniors, reigning champions of the BFL in a match-up that had been eagerly awaited by the fans of both clubs, as it would determine the Island's best team — these were, unfortunately, the days of segregated Leagues.

The newspaper had stated that the winner would prove who were the true champions of Bermuda. Playing before thousands on a pleasant evening, the Pembroke Juniors, displaying terrific speed and skill, outplayed and outclassed BAA in a thrilling and tough encounter.

After the dust had settled, the Juniors emerged with a 2-0 victory, thus giving them the honour of becoming the true champions of Bermuda and indisputably the Island's best team.

“Cheesey”, playing centre-forward, was once again in on the act as he was involved in the first goal and scored the second in a fine performance. He led the Juniors in scoring that season with 15.

It was not uncommon for “Cheesey” to score hat-tricks. In 1951, the Juniors played HMS Burghhead Bay at Boaz Island, in which he scored all five goals, claiming his treble before half-time.

Fans will recall the numerous matches between the Juniors and the various Navy ships, which brought out the best in the local boys.

On November 24, 1957 the skilled marksman found the net seven times in leading the Juniors to an 11-0 drubbing of Southampton Rangers. It is this game that he considers the highlight of his football career.

In 1963 he even scored hat-tricks on consecutive Sundays, the second one coming in a 7-0 thrashing of PHC.

My congratulations to a fine gentleman and a real role model, who set a fine example of sportsmanship and conduct on and off the field.

His vast contribution to the success of the Pembroke Juniors — stopping goals, creating goals, and scoring goals — will never be forgotten.

The former players and fans of the Pembroke Juniors thank you for all your dedicated service through the years and the thrills given to Bermuda's football fans in general.

Caption Photo Photographs Courtesy Atlantic Publishing House Volume 1 The Glorious Years
Local legends: Pembroke Juniors 1943 to 1957, left to right, back, Cyril “Scorchy” Baxter, Clarence “Bussey” Butterfield, Sam Seymour, “Spice Cookir” Francis, Kitchener “Gits” Simmons, David Augustus, George “Tootaloo” Francis, Noel Stevens. Front, Alpheaus “Artie” Black, Austin “Cheesey” Hughes and Oscar Francis

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Published December 06, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated December 06, 2014 at 12:44 am)

Remembering a ‘real role model’

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