Tribute To Fred Trimmingham By Mike Findlay

Fred was a humble person who lived a simple life throughout his 76 years. He had tremendous cricket and football talent. Combined with an intense passion for the sports, he almost singlehandedly developed his skills to such a high level, that he represented St Vincent and the Grenadines with distinction at both Football and cricket for many years. His value to the teams was more significant in that his selection as an off-spinner and hard-hitting, lower order batsman in cricket, and as a defender and mid-fielder in football, was never in doubt during those years. In other words, for many, many years, Fred Trimmingham was a certainty on the teams. When the time came to select the National cricket and football teams, every arm-chair selector at the time included Fred in their starting XIs, and they were never wrong.

Most of us involved in sports at any level, have our favourite international player who become our inspiration, our role model, our idol. We patterned the way we played the sport from that person, and we would tell our team-mates: “I am so and so,” or we would so remind our own fans of that international player, that before long we would be cloned with the player’s name.

I am not sure how Fred acquired the nickname “Garrincha”. The real Garrincha was a Brazillian football star who overcame birth defects to become one of his country’s greatest footballers, who starred for Brazil’s 1958 World Cup-winning team, and was named the best player of the tournament when Brazil retained the World Tile in 1962. A right-winger and forward, his name was Manuel Francisco dos Santos. He was born in1933 and died in 1983, aged 49, his body ravaged by the effects of alcoholism. A series of birth defects had left Manuel with a deformed spine and a left leg that was six centimetres shorter than his right leg, prompting his sister to nickname him “Garrincha”, the Portuguese word for wren, several kinds of small singing birds, having short wings and a short tail that stands up. Garrincha developed a great skill for dribbling. He is regarded as the best dribbler in football history and became famous for his dazzling dribbling displays and confounding moves that left defenders helpless.

Our Fred Trimmingham did not have the birth defects that the real Garrincha had, but he and Garrincha came from a similar economic and social background.

Fred was short in stature and slim. He had a slight knock knee and he walked with his feet pointed outwards which gave the impression that he had two left feet as we say in local parlance. Far from the case with Fred Trimmingham. In football, he used his left foot and his right foot with the same dexterity, and was as equally effective with either. He dribbled quite well, and his robust tackles brought down, within the laws of the game, many opposing forwards who were much taller, and had more body mass than he did.

As a cricketer, Fred Trimmingham bowled what can only described as “a wicked off-break” that almost turned ninety degrees. He was capable of pitching the ball outside the off-stump. Imparted so much spin that the ball turned and missed all three stumps in going through to the wicket-keeper way outside the leg-stump, invariably beating the keeper by inches and going for byes. He also had a straighter delivery which he pitched just about off-stump, that had many good batsmen confused and in trouble.

As a lower-order batsman, Fred could be depended on to play some aggressive innings. He believed that if his team was dismissed for 12 runs, the opponents could be bowled out for less. Whenever Fred came to the crease with his team in trouble, his first words to the other batsman was “Old Soldiers never die”. That meant that come hell or high water, he and his partner were going to fight to the bitter end to take the team’s total beyond that of the opponents. Similarly be felt that if his team had to defend 12 runs in the final innings, it was possible to dismiss the opponents for less. That’s was Fred’s magnificent fighting spirit. It was a reflection of his life. Economically, he struggled throughout his life. Many people may not have realised it because Fred was not one to complain. He would quietly mount a struggle. Fred persevered and endured. It was on this very Grammar School Playing Field that Fred fine-tuned his football and cricket skills. The street in front of the Thomas Saunders Secondary School to our right, and the concrete cricket pitch which at the time was just to the right of the tents, were where Fred practiced his skills for hours on end each afternoon after regular work. When the light became too poor to bat, the emphasis turned to close catching.

Eventually when the natural light went, the cricketers stayed on and discussed every aspect of cricket. During the football season, the discussion in the dark was on that game.

I had the distinct honour of being Fred’s captain at both football and cricket. He was full of confidence. He was committed. He had considerable knowledge of sports strategy and those who did not know him would have thought that he was formally educated and qualified as a cricket coach and a football coach. He did coach the St Vincent and the Grenadines Senior Football team, all because of his vast experience in the game, and the passion, love and commitment he had for the sport. One of the qualities that impressed me most about Fred was his approach to sports. Whether he was playing for one of the many Clubs he represented in the national Football and Cricket Championships or he was playing for the National Teams, he played with the same intensity. He gave it his all. To him all sports had to be contested as if your very life depended on it.

All the brilliance of Fred Trimmingham’s football and cricket careers could not earn him sufficient money to lift his economic status. It was the same story with the late Tyrone “Tweety” Spence and Keith “Slick” Bonadie. They give their very lives to sports. However, sports in St Vincent and the Grenadines and the Windward Islands could not compensate them for half of the value of their enormous talents, nor for their long and worthwhile service to this country. The trophies they won were appreciated, but all together their worth could not come close providing these sportsmen with food on the table nor a roof over their heads. In the final analysis, all the praise and admiration they received from their many fans, could not provide them with a comfortable standard of living in their declining years of live, especially in the cases of Keith Bonadie and Tyrone Spence who were afflicted with health problems.

What a great pity, that in these modern times, we are unable to recognize the acute need to establish a fund here and in the region, to help people like Fred, Tweety, Slick and others here and in the region, who have given yeoman service to sports in their countries without any just rewards; people who have received absolutely no payment for their God-given talents, or for the joys and entertainment they brought to thousands of fans over the years; people who have fallen on hard times in the twilight of their years, mostly for reasons over which they have absolutely no control.

God in his infinite mercy eventually takes care of his people by calling them to his Kingdom and taking them away from the hard times they endured. As a society, we need to be able to make live easier for such people while they are alive. Do not leave them to the mercy of God.

My colleague Fred was never able to derive economic benefits from his football and cricket skills. He gave of himself and his talents because of his love for sports, and out of the goodness of his heart. Many a young footballer and cricketer will long remember him for this, and will be eternally grateful to him for inspiring them.

Rest in peace dear friend.