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It’s 90 not out for Cup Match vet

Samuel Paynter will tell you he started playing cricket as soon as he figured out how to throw a ball. According to the 90-year-old it was something everybody did then — or at least anybody who didn't play football.

“Even the women played cricket,” he said. “They played from one end of the island to the other.”

In this late teens he joined St George's Cricket Club and, in 1949 at the age of 19, played his first Cup Match.

A milestone for the island, it was the first time the annual event was played at Cricket Lane, the new home of Somerset Cricket Club.

With a record-breaking 12,000 people in attendance over the two-day period, it was the social event of the year.

“In those days many people dressed up for Cup Match,” Mr Paynter said. “The men would wear suits; some of the older men, linen suits.”

The St George's cricket team was transported to Sandys on the Corona, a rickety coal-powered steam ferry. “From Watford Bridge we were taken in a horse-drawn bus the rest of the way,” Mr Paynter said.

People lined the route to see Alec “Cocky” Steede, who was to play in his 24th Cup Match.

“The people along the way were yelling out to Cocky: ‘Who's them byes you got there?',” Mr Paynter said, explaining that people were curious about him and three other St George's colts.

As the game kicked off, things seemed to be going well for his team. “St George's made the first 300 runs on Somerset's new field,” said Mr Paynter, who was reputed to be a good batsman and active fielder, but not much of a bowler. “I didn't get any of those runs.”

Somerset then went in to bat, and made 408 runs.

“On the second day, after Somerset was out and we were going to bat, St George's was six for 33,” he said. “We were in serious trouble.”

He and Irving Pascoe were instructed to bat defensively for as long as possible to take up the time left in the game and stop Somerset from winning.

“Clarence Simmons came in and said, ‘You are not to spread your legs this afternoon',” Mr Paynter said, explaining that doing so would have made it easier for Somerset to get them out.

“This was at 3pm. If we got out before 6pm there was no way we could make their runs.”

They achieved their goal — Cup Match was a draw — but Mr Pascoe paid the price.

Having to hold the stance for so long gave him such a cramp he had to be carried off the field and taken to hospital.

For Mr Paynter it marked the beginning of his success at Bermuda's most popular sporting event.

“In 1956, I had the best batting average for St George's that ever played in Cup Match,” he said proudly.

He grew up on Wellington Road. His father, John, was a butcher who died when Mr Paynter was 15 leaving his mother, Primrose, to take care of the family.

He was 13 when his mother decided he needed a job.

“She was a small woman, but mighty,” Mr Paynter said. “I was outside and my mate said, ‘Here comes your mother!'.

“She handed me a brown paper bag with my lunch and said to meet my godfather at the Meyer & Company dock.”

Dutifully, he followed her instructions. “He drove a motorboat for Meyer & Company,” Mr Paynter said. “This was wartime. Meyer was servicing the steamships that came in. He said, ‘Today you're my deckhand'.”

Mr Paynter was thrilled because he loved being on boats.

That day they were tasked with ferrying crew from shore to a Navy ship waiting in the harbour.

Mr Paynter impressed his godfather by following his instructions carefully and ended up working with him for three years.

It was during that time he met his wife, Ethelyn, who was working in a restaurant in St George's.

They married in 1951 and moved into a wooden house in St David's, near the lighthouse.

It was not until he had lived there for three years that Mr Paynter was eligible to represent St David's in the County Cup matches.

Mrs Paynter died more than 40 years ago. “The old wooden house we lived in is falling down now,” he said.

His current home — only a short distance from his first — is called Thank You Cottage.

The name is a nod to all that he and his wife had to be grateful for over the years.

One of his early jobs was a temporary one, working for Esso.

“They were building new tanks and putting up wire between the Esso installation and the Prison Farm,” he said. “I guess someone had their eyes on me. When that was completed I got a job with the permanent staff.

“I had a cousin who worked there who was plant superintendent.; maybe he put in a good word for me. I ended up driving a truck for them.”

In 1950 Mr Paynter was presented with a Safe Driving Award by Esso.

Ironically he was caught speeding, at 25mph, only a short time later.

“The speed limit was 20mph,” he said. “I lost my licence and job. It was harsh, but that was the way things were in those days.”

From there he worked for a number of different companies servicing and refuelling aircraft.

His last job was at Shell where he worked in the dispatching office for 18½ years.

Today Mr Paynter is not as steady on his feet as he once was and hasn't been to Cup Match in a while. He feels that as time has marched on, many of his cricket exploits have been largely forgotten. “I am the forgotten soldier,” he said.

He has five children — John, Uriel, Calvin, Ethelyn and David — and several grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Work hard, play hard: Samuel Paynter remembers his glory days as a cricket player and his dedication to work (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published September 30, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated September 30, 2020 at 9:12 am)

It’s 90 not out for Cup Match vet

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