This article was taken from our archives. It first appeared in the May 1976 issue of The Bermudian. It appears here exactly as it did originally.
In 1933 the only way to get from Bermuda to Jamaica was by sea, so the young Bermudian whose 21st birthday present was an invitation to try out for the West Indies cricket team, had no alternative but to hop on the next “slow boat”. One can only imagine his feelings as the steamer dawdled her way towards what the eager young cricketer considered his appointment with destiny, as the first Bermudian to play for the formidable West Indies on their 1933 tour of England.
To his anguish, delay followed delay, until the boat docked in Kingston at 11:00 a.m., just two hours before the trials match was to start. History records that the young man walked briskly to the ground and proceeded to make a sensational debut, scoring 50 and 36 runs and taking 5 for 10 wickets in the first match. It says much for the young man that when, in a an even more sensational move, he was mysteriously rejected from the West Indies team, he appeared to be the least put out by the decision. The rest of Bermuda, on the other hand, were furious.
But then one does not associate anger with the benign, dignified and unperturbable personality of Mr. Alma “Champ” Hunt, MBE, one of the most extraordinary goodwill ambassadors that the Island has ever produced. Small wonder that when the Bermuda Cricket Board of Control, of which he is chairman, gave a testimonial banquet in his honour, the invited guests came willingly and proudly from every walk of life that there is.
The Premier, the Hon. Jack Sharpe, and, no mean cricketer himself, the Minister of Labour and Immigration, the Hon. C.V. Woolridge attended and past and present Governors sent letters of congratulations. Bermuda may be prone to idolize its sons too easily, but this clearly was no ordinary son.
To visit his home on the North Shore, Pembroke, is to quickly see why. There can’t be a more impressive shrine to the game of cricket in the world, and one appreciates at once why this man claims that cricket was “an idea of the gods.” Somewhere in that incredible study filled with cricket balls, bats, scoreboards, photographs and massive scrapbooks, there is the letter from the Marylebone Cricket Club, the most prestigious governing body of cricket in the world, announcing hat Alma “Champ” Hunt has been elected a life member of the body in recognition of his contribution to the sport. And on the wall of his drawing-room hangs the Royal proclamation from Her Majesty the Queen appointing him a Member of the British Empire for his services to the community.
What has transpired since that balmy morning in 1933 when a slim, light-skinned Bermudian set off from the dockside at Kingston? To obtain the answer, one would have to set the clock back even further, to 1927, when a certain young lad turned out for Somerset Cricket Club in the annual Cup Match with St. George’s CC even though technically he was underage.
In that first match he scored six runs on one day and 36 on the other, the highest score ever by a colt. “Champ” had started breaking records in his first Cup Match and he was to play continuously in the cricket classic for the next six years. He came to the attention of the British cricket world and in 1934 was appointed professional for the Aberdeenshire County Cricket Club in Scotland. He returned to Bermuda late in 1940 and naturally played in the 1941 and 1942 Cup Matches. He missed the next two encounters because he was studying at Columbia University’s Teachers College. “Champ” was recalled to Scotland in 1946 for a two-year stint and then in 1947 he retired from professional cricket to concentrate on a career in the local education system.
As the first schools physical education officer, he tramped the Island from one end to the other inspecting and marking out the fields that the Department of Education either owned, rented or borrowed. A particularly good insight into the man’s character was given by Dr. Kenneth Robinson of the Department in his speech at the testimonial banquet. “If I told you that Champ Hunt accepted these conditions without complaining you would not believe me, and you would be right,” said the speaker. “He was always agitating for better facilities and competent staff.
As a member of the Bermuda Union of Teachers he agitated and petitioned for better school buildings, facilities, salaries and career opportunities. As the Hon. “Jim” Woolridge revealed at the banquet, he brought the same sense of purpose to his most recent work as manager of the Government Employment Office. But it was left to Mr. Alfred Simmons to speak on behalf of the Bermuda Cricket Board of Control about “Champs” cricketing career.
He revealed, for instance, that “Champ” Hunt is one of the few players in the world to score over 100 centuries, 111 to be exact, and that Bermuda only became aware of this attainment when Sir Alec Douglas-Hume, president of the MCC and the former Prime Minister of Britain, mentioned it in a speech at the BCBC’s annual banquet in 1973. He became the first Cup Match player to reach a century for Somerset CC and between 1927 and 1931 he scored more runs than any other player, game after game, season after season.
On one historic game in 1932, “Champ” scored 82 and then went on to take three wickets with three balls when the time came to bowl. His best bowling performance in Bermuda was six wickets for 19 runs and it was hardly surprising that around this time, he came to the notice of Aberdeenshire.
“In Scotland,” Mr. Simmons continued, “Alma Hunt twice performance the coveted double, 100 wickets and a thousand runs, in 1934 and 1935, which was a record. He also holds the world’s match and the record for the highest aggregate runs in a season and most centuries in Scottish Counties.
“He also held the record for twenty years of the highest professional score, 157 not out in 1939, but that record was broken some 21 years later by Rohan Kanhai. History tells us that he was the first person from the Caribbean area to play in Scotland and the first to play for Scotland.
The Scottish Daily Record on September 10th, 1947, headline a story “Scots will miss this big hitter.” The story went on to say: “Today Alma Hunt passes from the Scottish scene when he plays his last game for Aberdeenshire in the county championships. Aberdeenshire and Scottish cricket as a whole will reflect upon the man whose place may never be filled in the hearts of spectators. When Hunt came to Scotland in 1934, his joyful stroke-play and powerful hitting for his own and spectators enjoyment earned a following in his own country and elsewhere that no professional had ever commanded…” The power of his shots, the manner of their execution and his left-handedness helped him even soar to the popular heights. But his right-mindedness helped him even more. HIs modesty and impeccable character on and off the field has won him friendship wherever he has gone. From 1934 onward he blunted the pencils of scorers and sharpened the hilarity of the crowd.
“In 1938 came his proudest moment, when he played with distinction against Australia and Yorkshire. Through the years, he has covered the bowling, taken wickets and held catches, steering his team to the County Championships. Shrewdness has backed his strength, experience tempered his ardor. Best remembered for his glorious hooking, he leaves us today with our grateful thanks and reluctant farewell. Well played, Alma, we’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
And that surely goes for a proud Bermuda, too.
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